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(178 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This dyeing, fine-textured earthy limestone was formed in the sea in the Cretaceous period from foraminifera and coccolites. Greek: γύψος, λευκὴ γή ( gýpsos, leukḗ gḗ. The Latin name creta is derived perhaps from cerno ‘sieved (earth)’[1]. In antiquity, chalk was needed to make paints and coloured pencils. Plin. HN 35,44 knew of both silver chalk ( creta argentaria) and chalk mixed with  purple paint ( purpurissimum) as a by-product of the dyeing of cloth. Seven colours, including white lead ( cerussa), bond, according to Plin. HN 35,49, with dry, but not with…


(292 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Both the black poplar (αἴγειρος/ aígeiros, Hom. Il. 4,482-87; Od. 7,106; 10,510 and 17,208, Lat. populus nigra) and the silver poplar (ἀχερωίς/ acherōḯs in Hom. Il. 13,389 and 16,482, then λευκή/ leukḗ, Lat. populus alba) are frequently encountered in ancient literature. Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 3,14,2) and Pliny (HN 16,85f.) provide good descriptions, the latter even including the woolly seeds. Medicinal use is to be found for the bark, the resin and the leaves. Dioscorides (1,83 Wellmann = 1,110 Berendes) mention…


(82 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Νεπουάλιος/ Nepouálios). The work of this otherwise unknown author, Perì tôn katà antipátheian kaì sympátheian, perhaps from the 2nd cent. AD, belongs,  with its medical-magical conception of nature, to the field of ‘Physika ’literature around Ps.-Democritus (= Bolus of Mendes). Only an edition could clarify whether sympathy and antipathy are here to be understood magically or rationally. The MSS are listed in [1. 68]. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 H. Diels, Die Handschriften der antiken Ärzte, vol. 2 (ADAW), 1906 (repr. 1970).

Mulberry tree

(452 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἡ or ὁ συκάμινος/ sykáminos with the fruit συκάμινον/ sykáminon; σ. Αἰγυπτία/ s. Aigyptía = sycamore (fig): Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,2,1-2 = Plin. HN 13,56, from Hebrew šiqmah, cf. Dioscorides 1,27 Wellmann = 1,181 Berendes; or μορέα/ moréa, μόρον/ móron; acc. to Ath. 2,51b, the Alexandrians called it μῶρον/ môron; Lat. morus, morum, the same name they used for the blackberry bush). The tree of the Moraceae family has white catkins and came to Greece from the Near East; according to the quotes at Ath. 2,51c-d, it was first mentioned …


(158 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Several evergreen bushes make up the genus Buxus (πύξος; pýxos), among them Buxus sempervirens (cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,5,4 and passim), widespread in the macchia of southern Europe (on Mount Olympus up to heights 2,200 m). Like the  cypress ( Cupressus sempervirens) and the yew ( Taxus), it is a cemetery plant that has been popular since antiquity. The hard wood was used for carvings: from it were made, for example, the boxes (πυξίς; pyxís) named after it for medicines (used e.g. in Dioscorides praef. 9 [1. I.5; = 2. 21], also the Apollo image of Olympia, cheese moulds ( buxe…


(122 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( rubicapra). Like the  mountain goat ( ibex) the chamois, which belongs to the bovine family, lives in the Alps (Plin. HN 8,214). Its horns are bent backwards ( cornua in dorsum adunca) in contrast to those of the dammae ( Gazelles) that are directed forwards; Plin. HN 11,124, perhaps from his own experience. For the supposed healing of consumption through chamois fat mixed in equal proportions with milk, Plin. HN 28,231 refers, however, to an author who possibly confused chamois with wild goats. This confusion is to …


(199 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As ébenos (ἔβενος) or ebénē (ἐβένη; since Hdt. 3,97: 200 logs of ebony as tribute of the Ethiopians to the Persian Great King) and hebenus (since Verg. G. 2,115f.), the precious and very long lasting (Plin. HN 16,213) heartwood imported from India (cf. Str. 15,1,37) and black Africa (cf. Str. 17,2,2) was famous in antiquity; it was derived from various deciduous trees of the genus Diospyros ( D. ebenum in India, hirsutum and haplostylis in Africa) belonging to the family of the Ebenaceae. In his report on Indian trees, Pliny (HN 12,20), like his source…


(206 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Haematite (αἱματίτης; haimatítēs, haematites) is seen today as a form of red iron ore. Theophrastus (De lapidibus 37, [1. 70]) derives its name from the appearance of dried blood ( haîma). In the ancient kingdoms of the Orient it was highly valued as a precious stone. Pliny recommends it among other things for treating blood-shot eyes (HN 36,144-148), and for staunching blood flow in consumptives and women. Following Sotacus, a Greek lithologist of the 4th cent. BC, he distinguishes five kinds, and referring …


(235 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πελεκάν/ pelekán, gen. -ᾶνος/ -ânos, not to be confused with πελεκᾶς, -ᾶντος/ pelekâs, -ántos = 'woodpecker' in Aristoph. Av. 884 and 1155; also πελεκῖνος/ pelekînos). Many take the name to refer not to the pelican, but to the spoonbill ( Platalea leucorodia). The Latin loan-word pelicanus is used first in Vulg. Ps 101,7. Unlike the Romans, the Greeks knew the bird as a breeding bird in the Danube delta (as it still is today) (e.g. Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),12,597a 9-13) and a predator of mussels (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),10,6…


(166 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The name sciurus of the rodent Sciurus vulgaris, an excellent climber, derives from its long bushy tail, which is allegedly supposed to provide shade in summer (σκίουρος/ skíouros, from σκιά/ skiá, 'shade' and οὐρά/ ourá, 'tail',  cf. Plin.  HN 8,138 and Opp.  Cyn. 2,586-588). According to Pliny, it is sensitive to the weather and blocks up the entrance to its hole against storms [1. 218]. In winter squirrels live on the provisions they have collected. Pliny (HN 11,245) is familiar with its sitting up and using it…


(195 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(Ἄρακος; Árakos). Spartan, eponymic ephor 409/408 BC; 406 elected to nauarch, he actually ceded this office 405 to  Lysander (Xen. Hell. 2,1,7; Plut. Lys. 7,3), who now functioned as epistoleus, as it was not permitted to repeat the nauarchy [1. 76,80]. Early in 398 he was sent with two Spartans by the ephors to join  Dercylidas at Lampsacus, in order to become acquainted with the situation and to admonish discipline amongst the troops there (Xen. Hell. 3,2,6-9). In the winter of 370/369 A., together with other Spartan envo…


(118 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κύανος; kýanos) in Hom. Il. 11,24 (on the cuirass of Agamemnon) and in Hom. Od. 7,87 (on a wall frieze at Alcinous' palace), as well as in Hes. Sc. 143 (on the shield of Hercules) does not designate blueish steel, but the azure stone or Lapis lazuli (Theophr. De lapidibus 55), which was produced artificially especially in Egypt. In medicine, the kyanos that, according to Dioscorides 5,91 Wellmann = 5,106 Berendes, was mined on Cyprus was prescribed for ulcers. The blue colour also gave the name kyanos to the male of the blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius) a so…


(154 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Prickly composite herbaceous plant of the Cynareae family with some 70 species in 15 genera. Various species are discussed by Theophr. Hist. pl. 6,4,3-11 (= Plin. HN 21,94-97) under names such as ἄκανθα ( ákantha) or κάκτος ( káktos) (Latin carduus or cactus), including the artichoke ( cynara). Dioscorides 3,12 ([1. 19f.] and [2. 270f.]) recommends the roots of a white thistle e.g. to be taken for haemoptysis and stomach ache. Somewhat similar plants of other families such as the Umbelliferae ( Eryngium, etc.), Acanthaceae (Acanthus) and Dipsaceae are also co…

Electric ray

(62 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Aristotle sufficiently clearly described this electric marine fish (Torpedo spec.), a representative of the flat cartilagenous fish known to him, as νάρκη/ nárkē with reference to eye witnesses (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),37,620b 19-23; cf. Plin. HN 9,143: torpedo; Ael. NA 9,14 and Plut. Mor. 878b-d; [1. 238 f.]). Pliny (loc.cit.) praises the tenderness of its liver. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner.


(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἔποψ/ épops, named after its characteristic call upupa in Lat., Varro, Ling. 5,75; cf. Aristoph. Av. 57 ff., 227 and 260), common in the Mediterranean and the only European representative of the hoopoes ( Upupidae). Paus. 10,4,8 and Plin. HN 10,86 describe its appearance, especially the impressive folding crest (Ov. Met. 6,672-674) and its long beak. Ael. NA 3,26 exaggerates the bird's uncleanliness (alleged use of faeces for nest building; cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),15,616a 35 f.). Despite its beauty - which i…


(311 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The various ancient names do not admit reliable classification into particular species. Nevertheless, based on Aristot. Hist. an. 5,9,542b 17, Plin. HN 10,91 suggests gavia as the Latin equivalent of λάρος/ láros (λαρίς/ larís) and mergus of αἴθυα/ aíthya ( mergulus, mergunculus with the etymology in Varro, Ling. 5,78: "because it catches its food by diving into the water"). However, since the habit of diving is far more typical of the grebe family, which likewise has several species, these may be what both Pliny and Alb…


(103 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄργυρος χυτός; árgyros chytós, ἀργύριον ὕδωρ; argýrion hýdōr, Latin argentum vivum). First mentioned in Aristot. An. 1,3,406b 19. Theophr. De lapidibus 60 [1. 80] reports on its usual synthesis at the time in a copper vessel by pounding cinnabar (κιννάβαρ/ kinnábar) with vinegar (ὄξος/ óxos). Because of its toxicity, which was already known in ancient times, it was not used in medicine but it was used quite commonly in alchemy to separate gold and silver for jewellery. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 D. E. Eichholz (ed.), Theophrastus De lapidibus…


(99 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The composite flowers ( Compositae) of today's genus Anthemis L. (ἀνθεμίς; anthemís) comprising about 150 species were not clearly distinguished by authors like Dioscorides 3,137 [1.2.145 ff.] = 3,144 [2. 352 f.] from the related genuses Chrysanthemum and Chamomilla. A. nobilis L. (Roman camomile), with its anti-inflammatory effect, was highly regarded by Dioscorides and Asclepiades according to Plin. HN 22,53 f. A. tinctoria L. (golden marguerite) was an important provider of yellow dye. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.)…


(508 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As μυῖα (μῦα; myîa, mŷa; Lat. musca), which Aristotle attributed to the dipterans (δίπτερα; díptera), not only the housefly, but also the gadfly or blind fly (also κυνόμυια; kynómyia) and the bluebottle were conceived. In Aristotle, Pliny and Lucian ( Muscae Encomium = ‘Praise of the Fly’) usually the housefly is referred to, but the sting of the gadfly (Aristot. Hist. an. 1,5,490a 20; 4,7,532a 21; Plin. HN 11,100; Lucian. Muscae Encomium 6) and its buzzing during flight (Aristot. Hist. an. 4,9,535 b 9-11; Plin. HN 11,266) are also mentioned. Homer (…


(430 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The pheasant, the male of which is splendidly colourful, ( Phasianus colchicus, φασιανός/ phasianós sc. ὄρνις/ órnis, phasianus or phasiana sc. avis) comes originally from the region in Colchis around the river Phasis it is named after (modern Rioni, to the south of the Caucasus) (Agatharchides fr. 15 Jacoby FGrH 86 in Athen. 9,387c, cf. Mart. 13,72). From the 5th cent. BC it was introduced - with unique success for a galliform - into the wild in the Graeco-Roman cultural area. Aristophanes, who is th…
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