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Flamingo

(176 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Phoenicopterus ruber L., φοινικόπτερος; phoinikópteros, phoenicopterus). Wader named after its partly scarlet red wings; distinctive, shy brooding bird in north Africa and southern Asia, today also in the Camargue (southern France). It was first mentioned as a rare import by Aristophanes (Av. 270ff.) and also by Cratinus (fr. 114 Kock = 108 Edmonds). The observation of huge flocks made by the Alexander-historian Cleitarchus (FGrH 137 F 21) is reflected tendency (without naming the fla…

Wryneck

(306 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A grey-brown bird, related to the woodpecker, which can turn its neck 180 degrees around like a snake and has two forward pointing and two backward pointing claws on each foot (Aristot. Hist. an. 2,12,504a 11-19; Aristot. Part. an. 4,12,695a 23 f.; Plin. HN 11,256), and was called ἴυγξ/ íynx or κίναιδος/ kínaidos (literally 'lewd person') or κιναίδιον/ kinaídion (Hesych. s.v.), with the Latin loanwords iunx (Laevius fr. 27,3) or iynx. Ael. NA 6,19 has a flute imitate its unique call. With its long tongue and thin beak it catches insects. According…

Menestor

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Μενέστωρ; Menéstōr). A Pythagorean from Sybaris, contemporary of Empedocles (5th cent. BC) and according to Iambl. VP 267 the earliest Greek botanist. Three citations in Theophr. Hist. pl., and the four in C. plant. [1. 375f.] show that he distinguished warm plants, i.e. evergreen ones such as ivy and laurel and water plants such as rushes and reeds ( Kalamos [2]) from the other cold ones. He even took into account ecological factors such as different habitats, climate (see esp. Theophr. Caus. pl. 1,21,6) and maturation times. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliogra…

Guineafowl

(284 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ancient names (μελεαγρίς/ meleagrís, Latin meleagris, synonym: gallinae Africanae or Numididae) actually only meant the common guineafowl ( Numida meleagris L.) ─ in spite of Columella 8,2,2 (cf. [1. 19]) ─ among the total of 23 species spread over southern Asia and the Middle East as well as North and West Africa. The guineafowl was probably introduced to Greece in the 4th cent. BC and only in the 1st cent. BC to Italy (Varro, Rust. 3,9,18, cf. Plin. HN 10,74: ‘the last of the southern birds brou…

Quail

(524 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ὁ, ἡ ὄρτυξ/ ho, hē órtyx, Lat. coturnix). The quail ( Coturnix coturnix) is a very small poultry bird which flies poorly against the wind, seeming to murmur in complaint (cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),12,597b 14; Plin. HN 10,33). It was believed, on its spring and autumn migrations in the northern Mediterranean region (Aristot. ibid. 597a 22-27), to follow the lead of the landrail ( Crex crex), the 'mother of the quails' (ὀρτυγομήτρα/ ortygomḗtra; Plin. HN 10,33). While migrating, it was caught with nets (Diod. Sic. 1,60) into which it was driven w…

Alaternus

(103 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Latin a. (Plin. HN 16,108: with leaves between holly oak, Ilex, and olive tree, oliva) means evergreen trees and shrubs of the Mediterranean Sea area with stone fruit (Pliny: without fruit!) from the families of the rhamnaceae (especially Rhamnus alaternus L., buckthorn) and the oleaceae ( Phillyrea media L. and angustifolia L.). In Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3 κήλαστρος ( kḗlastros; celastrus) seems to belong to Phillyrea because the celastreae genus Celastrus L. is not found by the Mediterranean Sea. Hort [1] translates the φιλύκη ( philýkē) that follows there as a. Hünem…

Lizard

(498 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σαύρα/ saura or σαῦρος/ sauros, Latin lacerta and lacertus, possibly connected with ‘upper arm’, cf. [1. 1,743]). Genus name for various species of reptiles native to the Mediterranean: 1. the common wall lizard ( Lacerta muralis), 2. the green lizard ( L. viridis, χλοροσαύρα/ chlorosaúra), 3. the ocellated lizard that occurs especially in south-western Europe and North Africa ( Lacerta lepida; perhaps mentioned for the first time by Hdt. 4,183), 4. probably the monitor lizard ( Varanus) that is more than 20 cm long and is mentioned by Plin. HN 8,141 ( lacertus Arabiae …

Glykyrrhiza

(148 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γλυκύρριζα; glykýrriza, liquorice). This thirst-quenching asthma, throat and cold medication was produced from the rootstock of certain representatives of the 12-species liquorice genus (Leguminosae), especially G. glabra L. and echinata L. As Σκυθική ( Skythikḗ) or γλυκεῖα ( glykeīa) (sc. ῥίζα; ríza) it supposedly came from Scythia (Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,13,2). Dioscurides 3,5 p. 2,8-10 Wellmann = p. 265 Berendes also recommended it for chest and liver ailments. According to Plin. HN 22,24-26, who knew several prescriptions (cf. 25,82 Scythice = Theophr. ib…

Owls

(1,020 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
Along with the eagles and falcons, the family of night predator birds is given five main varieties in Aristotle. These were also known to the Romans. [German version] A. Eagle-owls 1. Eagle-owl ( Bubo bubo, βύας/ býas or βρύας/ brýas, derived from the onomatopoeic βύζειν/ býzein, as bubo is from bubulare), the largest, almost eagle-sized kind (Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,592b 9-10). It lives in wastelands, in eerie and inaccessible places (Plin. HN 10,34), on tombs and in caves (Isid. Orig. 12,7,39). Plin. HN 10,35 mentions its imprecise, seeming…

Rose

(386 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek τὸ ῥόδον/ rhódon, Latin rosa). The first references to the plant, famed for its blossoms and, according to Hehn [1. 253 f.], introduced from Media, are in the Homeric hymn to Demeter (Hom. h. 2,6) and - citing its purple colour - Pind. Isthm. 3/4,36b. According to Hdt. 8,138 (cf. Nic. in Ath. 15,683a-b), the celebrated sixty-petalled scented roses in the so-called 'Garden of Midas' in Macedonia grew in the reign of King Perdiccas [1]. Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 6,6,4) knew a full double rose, allegedly hundred-petalled (cf. Rosa centifolia), from Philippi in th…

Maple

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( acer). Depending on how one classifies them, there are 100-200 species of the hardwood genus Acer L., the names for which in most European languages, including Greek ἄκαστος (ákastos) and Latin acer and ornus, are derived from an Indo-European tree name beginning with an a - not from the adjective acer (with an ā). Apart from the Central European A cer pseudoplatanus L. (sycamore maple), platanoides L. (Norway maple) and campestre L. (field or common maple), in southern Europe one finds, among other species, Acer opalus Mill., monspessulanum L. and orientale L. As deci…

Salamander

(362 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σαλαμάνδρα/ salamándra from Persian, Lat. salamandra, identified at an early stage with the gecko, Lat. stellio), presumably the nocturnal fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra, an amphibian of the order Caudata ( Urodela), which is black with large yellow spots. The yellow spots led to the superstition that because of its coldness it could not only live in fire (e.g., Aug. Civ. 21,4) but even extinguish it (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,19,552b 15-17; Plin. HN 10,188; Gp. 15,1,34; cf. Theophr. fr. 3,60 and Ael. NA 2…

Lepidoptera

(816 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἡ ψυχή/ psychḗ, literally ‘soul’ e.g. in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,19,551a 14; νύμφη/ nýmphē, literally ‘young girl’ in Aristot. Gen. an. 3,9,758b 33; Lat. papilio and papiliunculus in Tert. De anima 32). Butterflies and moths is the collective term for the insect order of the Lepidoptera. Despite their certainly large spread in the Mediterranean region, they were not often recorded in scientific treatises in antiquity. Aristot. Hist. an. 5,551a 13-27 (cf. Aristot. Gen. an. 1,18,723b 5f. and 2,1,733b 13-16) correctly assigns them to the insects (ἔντομα/ éntoma, cf. In…

Agrostis

(149 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄγρωστις; ágrōstis, Latin gramen). Already substantiated in Homer for fodder grasses but not the same as the genus of paniculate grasses of the same name that includes more than 100 species. According to the botanical descriptions (Dioscorides 4,29 [1. 2,192] = 4,30 [2. 381], Apuleius among others), the term refers to cereal plants like couch grass ( Agropyron = Triticum repens L. according to Sprengel [in 2. 381]) or luxuriantly growing cinquefoil ( Cynodon Dactylon, Panicum Dactylum L.), according to Fraas [2. 381] the hippagrostis of the herbal books of t…

Wolf

(1,451 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(ὁ λύκος/ lýkos, ἡ λύκαινα/ lýkaina, diminutive λυκιδεύς/ lykideús, occasionally σκύλαξ/ skýlax, 'young animal'; Latin lupus, lupa and lupus femina, e.g. Enn. Ann. 1,68; Etym.: leo + pes, 'lion-foot', in Isid. Orig. 12,3,23). Large and feared land predators, wolves were known by first-hand experience to all peoples in Antiquity. Only Opp. Cyn. recognizes five species. Plin. HN 8,84 and 11,202 mentions a Gaulish lupus cervarius and distinguishes it from the Aethiopian wolf, in reality a jackal (cf. θῶες/ thôes in Aristot. Hist. an. 6,35,580a 26-31). The lycaones (Plin. HN 8,123; M…

Shrew

(449 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek μυγαλῆ/ mygal, Lat. sorex or Old Latin saurex and mus araneus, 'spider mouse'). Due to its secretive habit, this insectivore family of mammals with various species was hardly known in Antiquity. It was often confused with the ordinary mouse. Pliny describes the ears of the sorex as hairy (HN 11,136) and the tip of the tail as similar to that of the cow or lion (ibid. 11,265). Their hibernation is correctly mentioned by Plin. HN 8,223 (referring only to the garden shrew [1. 175]). Much superstition and magic was reported: supposedly, egrets ( ardeola) and shrews pre…

Fig

(523 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The fig has been indigenous to southern Europe since at least the Neolithic period, as documented by fruit discoveries from Lerna, the Argolid and the Bronze Age at the Mincio. The first literary references are in the Odyssey (e.g. Hom. Od. 11,588; 12,103). The fig is represented by two deciduous species of the genus Ficus of the Moraceae: (a) Ficus carica L. as ἐρινεός ( erineós), the goat fig as a wild form besides to the συκῆ ( sykê), the cultivated eating fig that was pollinated by a male plant ( caprificus) of (a). (b) the sycamore or mulberry fig, Ficus sycomorus L. (συκόμορ…

Ranunculus

(157 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βατράχιον/ batráchion = σέλινον ἄγριον/ sélinon ágrion in Dioscorides), buttercup, crowfoot. The widespread family of the Ranunculaceae has more than 100 species in Greece and Italy. The Greek and Latin names for the plant seem to be derived from' frog' (βάτραχος/ bátrachos, Lat. rana), owing to its preference for damp locations. Dioscorides (2,175 Wellmann = 2,206 Berendes) and Pliny (HN 25,172 f.) describe the appearance of four species; it is impossible today to determine exactly which. The leaves and stems in poultice…

Cynamolgus

(215 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pliny (HN 10,97 = Sol. 33,15) reports -- taking up the work of Ps.-Aristotle (Hist. an. 9,13 p. 616a 6-13 = 8,5 of the Arabic-Latin translation of Michael Scotus) -- about the cinnamon bird cinnamolgus (κιννάμωμον ὄρνεον; kinnámōmon órneon) in Arabia that builds its nest in high trees of twigs from the  cinnamon and which the inhabitants shot down with lead arrows for profit. Through Isid. Orig. 12,7,23 this fairytale went into the extended Latin  Physiologus of Ps.-Hugo of St. Victor (3,30 [1. 95], cf. [2. 103f.]) an…

Channe

(93 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χάννη, χάννα; chánnē, chánna). A fish of the perch family, perhaps the comber ( Serranus cabrilla), according to Aristot. Hist. an. 8,13,598a 13 a saltwater fish that, according to 8,2,591a 10, was carnivorous. Ath. 7,327f emphasizes its large mouth, the black and red stripes as well as, in 8,355c, its tender flesh. As no males were known -- the channe indeed is a hermaphrodite -- it was thought that the female fertilized itself (Aristot. Hist. an. 4,11,538a 19; Plin. HN 9,56 and 32,153, according to Ov. Halieutica 108). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography L…
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