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Granite

(146 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This widespread primary rock from the interior of the earth only received its name in the modern age, derived from the Italian ‘granito’ (from Lat. granum, ‘grain’). The Greeks took their name lithotomíai Thēbaikṓn from its source in quarries in Egyptian Thebes (Theophr. De lapidibus 6 [1. 58]; according to Plin. HN 36,63 suited to the manufacture of small hand mortars, coticulae). According to Hdt. 2,127 the lowest level of Chefren's pyramid consists of granite. Because of its colourful nature, competing terms were πυρροποίκιλος ( pyrrhopoíkilos; pyrrhopoecilos, …

Insects

(591 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This class of animals was first named by Aristotle (Hist. an. 1,1,487a 32-34; 4,1,523b 13-15) for the notches (ἐντομαί/ entomaí) on their ventral side or on both the ventral and dorsal sides ἔντομα/ éntoma (sc. ζῷα; zôa), from which the modern term ‘entomology’ and the German word ‘ Kerbtier’ (notched animal) are derived. The other most important characteristics listed by Aristotle are: insects do not breathe in air (Hist. an. 1,1,487a 30-32; 4,9,535b 5; obviously he was not familiar with the tracheal system, which differs from…

Volturnus

(583 words)

Author(s): Vanotti, Gabriella (Novara) | Bendlin, Andreas (Erfurt) | Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] River in southern Italy River in southern Italy (approximately 185 km in length) with a catchment area of approximately 5,677 km2. It rises on the south-eastern slopes of Monte Metuccia (near Aesernia) from a large karst spring, absorbs tributaries from the Monti del Matese and ultimately the Calor (modern Calore) to the west of mons Taburnus, before breaking to the north of the Tifata mons through to the Mare Tyrrhenum, where its alluvial deposits have created the plain of Campania (Str. 5,4,4;…

Casia

(119 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( cassia, κασσία; kas〈s〉ía) was the name originally given to species of Cinnamomum, especially C. zeylanicum ( Cinnamon, κιννάμωμον in Hdt. 3,107) and C. cassia (from southern China, cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,5,1 and 3; Dioscorides 1,13 [1. 1,17f.] = 2.1,12 [2. 35ff.]), but also, already in antiquity, to species of the genus of leguminosae Cassia, especially the black husks of C. fistula ( C. solutiva, κασσία μέλαινα, γλυκοκάλαμος) introduced via Alexandria. Their edible pith that acts as a laxative (called senna pulp) was used frequently also in the Middle Ages. Hü…

Dog

(1,444 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] An animal (κύων/ kýōn, κυνίδιον/ kynídion, κυνίσκος/ kynískos, σκύλαξ/ skýlax, σκυλάκιον/ skylákion, canis, canicula, catellus). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) [German version] A. Breeds One of the oldest domestic animals, bred in various parts of the world, probably starting in the Mesolithic era, from varieties of wild dogs that have now died out. The theory of its descent from the golden jackal ( Canis aureus) [2] has now been abandoned. From bone remains and from graphic representations several early breeds can be identified as the a…

Lark

(288 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Classical antiquity knew only one species each from two genera of the Alaudidae family: the crested lark ( Galerida cristata L.), ἡ κόρυδος/ kórydos, κορύδαλος/ korýdalos; Latin corydalus (Marcellus, De medicamentis 29,30), galerita (Plin. HN 10,137), cassita (Gell. NA 2,29,3), Celtic alauda (Plin. HN 11,121; Marcellus, ibid. 28,50), is distinguished from the skylark ( Alauda arvensis L.), which appears in Greece only as a winter visitor, by the feather crest according to Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),25,617b 19-23. The crested lark is the s…

Agnos

(204 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄγνος; ágnos). Like Greek λύγος ( lýgos; Homeric), Latin vitex for the shrub or tree Vitex agnus-castus L. from the tropical genus of the verbenaceae that is the only species common around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea on coasts and river banks. Popular etymological interpretation as early as antiquity sometimes as ἅγιος ( hágios) = holy (Dioscorides), sometimes as ἄγονος ( ágonos; Galen) = castus = chaste and in the Middle Ages as agnus = lamb (Albertus Magnus) and castus ( Agnus castus in the 13th cent. [2. lib. 10,5 = 1. lib. IV. A. 1 among others]. Th…

Seal

(565 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φώκη/ phṓkē, Latin vitulus marinus, 'sea-calf', or phoca, Manil. 5,661) was the term in Antiquity for the monk seal, Monachus monachus, up to 4 m long with a whitish underside  and rare in the Mediterranean. Only Tac. Germ. 17 seems to allude to the pelt of the common seal ( Phoca vitulina). The monk seal is known as early as Homer (Hom. Od. 4,404-06, cf. H. Hom. 3,77 φῶκαί τε μέλαιναι/ phôkaí te mélainai, 'the black seals'), but also in Aristophanes (Vesp. 1035; Pax 758) and Theocritus 8,52. Despite their innocuousness  (Diod. 3,41) they were hunted…

Worms

(623 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As late as the 18th cent., Carl von Linné combined the different phyla of Plathelminthes (flatworms), Nemertini (ribbon worms) and Nemathelminthes (roundworms) into the single phylum of Vermes. Only a very few representatives were known in Antiquity, almost all parasites, with confusion between true worms and worm-like maggots and larval forms being common. By σκώληξ/ skṓlēx, τερηδών/ terēdṓn, εὐλή/ eulḗ, ἴψ/ íps and ἡ ἕλμι(ν)ς/ hē hélmi(n)s both insect larvae or maggots as well as worms can therefore be meant. 1. Common Earthworms ( Lumbricus terrestris), ἔντερα …

Silphion

(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek σίλφιον/ sílphion, word of non-Greek origin, from σίλφι/ sílphi or σίρφι/ sírphi; Latin sirpe, laserpicium from lac sirpicium). An as yet unidentified plant, imported from the 6th cent. BC from Cyrenaeca in northern Africa, and the resinous milky juice obtained from its stem and root (Latin laser, main citation in Plin. HN 19,38-46 and 22,100 f. according to Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,1,6; 6,3,1; 6,3,3; 6,4). It seems to have been related to asafoetida ( Ferula asa-foetida L.). The plant is supposed to have had a strong but pleasant smell. Theophr. (Hi…

Squill

(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκίλλη/ skíllē, Latin scilla), Urginea maritima of the Liliaceae family. In the Mediterranean area, metre-high flowering stems with numerous white and red blooms issue from its large bulb [1. 114f. and figs. 190-192] in autumn before leaf-formation (Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,13,6). According to Dioscorides 2,171 Wellmann = 2,202 Berendes the spicy-flavoured bulb was roasted on a fire wrapped in clay or wheat dough, or stewed in a lidded pot. It was then cut up and dried in portions on line…

Gurnard

(245 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Seven of the probably 15 identified representatives of the family of the Cottidae are of major significance: 1) The armed gurnard (Peristedion cataphractum C.) that growls after being caught is ─ according to Aelianos (NA 13,26), who calls it τέττιξ ἐνάλιος/ téttix enálios (‘Sea Cicada’) ─, darker than the κάραβος/ kárabos, the lobster. The inhabitants of Seriphus are said to have spared it because it was dedicated to Perseus. 2) The flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans L.) is said, as ἱέραξ ὁ θαλάττιος/ hiérax ho thaláttios, Latin accipiter (‘Marine goshawk’), t…

Gum (kommi)

(105 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As a loan-word from Egyptian, κόμμι ( kómmi) first appears in Hdt. 2,86 as an adhesive for the linen bandages of embalmed corpses. It was extracted from the so-called Egyptian thorn Acacia arabica = nilotica ( Acacia) that is already described by Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,2,8 (cf. spina nigra, Plin. HN 13,63). Plin. HN 13,66 mentions further suppliers of gum. Dioscorides 1,133 p. 1, 205 Wellmann = 1,160 p. 225 Berendes knows gum from the skeletonweed, Chondrilla iuncea L. ( Compositae). The medical importance of various cummi, for eyes and wounds among other things, is…

Pine

(406 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Mediterranean region there are about 12 species of the coniferous genus P inus (cf. p icea spruce): In the west, 1) p inus pinea L ., the stone pine (Italian: pino domestico cf. πεύκη ἥμερος; peúkē hḗmeros) with cones (στρόβιλοι / stróbiloi, θύρσοι / thýrsoi) containing edible seeds (κόκκιλοι / kókkiloi, κόκκωνες / kókkōnes); 2) the maritime pine, Pinus maritima (= p inaster Sol.); In the east, 3) the fine-needled aleppo pine, Pinus halepensis; 4) Pinus peuce Grisebach, which grows only on a few mountains of the northern Balkans along with various sp…

Quince

(218 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The identification of the 'Cydonian apples' (μῆλα κυδώνια/ mêla kydṓnia) or the Lat. mala cotonea - Italian cotogna denotes quince - with the quince ( Cydonia oblonga) is at the very least dubious. The features of the fruits mentioned in the descriptions since Alcman (fr. 90 Bergk) and Stesichorus (fr. 27 Bergk) (pleasant odour, suitability for making jam and the comparison between their round shape and female breasts) can also refer to other species of apple. Even Solon's prescription (Plut. Mor. 138d 1; …

Andrachle

(169 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀνδράχλη, -νη; andráchlē, - ). By this Dioscorides 2,124 [1.196 f.] = 2,150 [2.219 f.] meant on the one hand the purslane ( Portulaca oleracea) and on the other hand 2,186-187 [1.1.254 f.] = 2,217 [2.259] the waxflower Cerinthe aspera L. (τηλεφώνιον; tēlephṓnion) and then 4,168 ([1.2.316 f.] = 4,166 [2.462] = Plin. HN 20,210) the sea spurge Euphorbia Peplis L.; Plin. HN 13,120 (following Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,16,5) describes the andrachle as an evergreen (cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3 = Plin. HN 16,80) species of the eastern strawberry tree with…

Alcyonides

(282 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Graf, Fritz (Columbus, OH)
[German version] [1] Kingfisher (Ἀλκυονίδες [ Alkyonídes] = ἀλκυόνες [ alkyónes], also ἁλκ-, therefore ‘halcyon days’), kingfisher, alcedines, colourful fish-eating coraciiformes (cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),14,616 a 14-18; Plin. HN 10,89). In Greece they were only winter guests and their brooding (at that time actually unknown) was said to take place during the calm of 14 days (ἀλκυονί(τι)δες, ἀλκυόνειοι ἡμέραι [ alkyoní(ti)des, alkyóneioi hēmérai], alcyonii dies, Alcedonia, Plur.) [1; 2] that can occur on many seas during winter solstice (as an exception! cf…

Mackerel

(265 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκόμβρος/ skómbros, σκομβρίς/ skombrís, Latin scomber, κολίας/ kolías with unexplained etymology according to [1], Latin colias), the predatory marine fish, Scomber scombrus L. of the sub-species of the Scombroidea, that is often confused with the tuna because of its kinship with it. The mackerel, which according to Plin. HN 9,49 has a sulphury yellow colour in the water ( sulpureus color), comes, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),13,599a 1-3, in large schools to spawn on the sea coasts. Its catch (details in Opp. Hal. 3,576-595) was p…

Boreas

(305 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(Boρέας; Boréas) [German version] A. Meteorology According to Ps.-Aristot. De mundo 4,394b20, the winds blowing from the north towards Greece were called Βορέαι οἱ ἀπὸ ἄρκτου ( Boréai hoi apò árktou) [1]. When the compass rose was developed in the 5th cent., that term was applied -- instead of to the true north wind ( Aparctias) -- to its eastern neighbours, the north-north-east and the north-east, especially on monuments where the Roman term Aquilo also appears. The Boreas is the stormy ‘king of winds’ (Pind. Pyth. 4,181), bringing darkness, cold and snow. It is o…

Ochre

(254 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὤχρα/ ṓchra, Latin ochra, sil: Plin. HN 33,158), weathered clayey iron oxide compound, which was the most widely used brownish yellow paint in antiquity, sometimes resembling oxblood in appearance. There were four common types of ochre (Plin. HN 33,158-160), the best of which was no longer available after the Laurium silver mines in Attica were depleted (cf. Vitr. De arch. 7,7,1). The second-best type, a grainy ochre containing marble that could withstand etching with burnt lime, was…
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