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Myrrh

(265 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μύρρα/ mýrrha, σμύρνα/ smýrna or σμύρνη/ smýrnē as a loan word from the Semitic; Latin murra, murrha, myrrha). The aromatic resin of the true myrrh tree Commiphora abyssinica Engl., which grows to an altitude of 300 to 2000 metres, is imported from Southern Arabia, Eritrea and Northern Abyssinia and obtained by tapping young branches. When heated, it gives off a pleasant aroma that has been prized since time immemorial by the peoples of the Southeastern Mediterranean region (cf. for example Prov. 7,17; HL 1,12 et passim; Mt 2,11). Theophr. H. plant. 9,4,2-9 provi…

Pumice

(101 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κίσ(σ)ηρις/ kís(s)ēris, pumex). The relatively soft eruptive rock from volcanic eruptions or porous dripstone. It was used as a building material. In cosmetics it served as an exfoliant agent to smooth the skin (cf. Plin. HN 36, 154-156). A powder made of thrice-burnt pumice helped with eye ulcers and was used for dental care and as a stopper for fermenting wine (cf. Dioscorides 5,108 [1. 78f.] = 5,124 [2. 534f.]). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii Dioscurides de materia medica, vol. 3, 1914, repr. 1958 2 J. Berendes (ed.),…

Swan

(655 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Κύκνος/ kýknos, Latin cygnus or olor) is the term not only for the mute swan., Cygnus olor, which breeds in Europe, but also for the Nordic whooper swan, C. cygnus (L.), which migrated as a winter visitor, probably occasionally as far as Greece and Italy. Hom. Il. 2,460-463 has them gather with geese and cranes in Lydia on the 'Asian meadow' (cf. Str. 14,1,45). Homer's Hymn 21 to Apollo locates them on the river Peneius in Thessaly, Aristoph. Av. 768 on the Hebrus in Thrace, Ov. Epist. 7,1 on the Maeander [2]…

Fly

(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 (…

Taxus

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἡ [σ]μῖλος/ [s]mîlos, σμῖλαξ/ smîlax: Dioscorides, τὸ θύμαλλον/ thýmallon; Latin taxus, f.), a fir-like evergreen (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3; Plin.  HN 16,80) and long-lived (cf. Plin. ibid.  16,212) forest tree, the yew ( Taxus baccata L.). In Antiquity the cold-insensitive taxus (Verg. G 2,113) was widespread. Homer does not mention it, but Theophrastus knows the  mîlos well (Hist. Pl. 3,4,2 and 3,10,2; 4,1,3 and 5,7,6;   cf.  Plin.  HN 16,50 f.). Its needles and seeds (within the red berries) were already known to be poisonous…

Monkey

(339 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πίθηκος/ píthēkos, simia, Vulgar Latin clura), only in Africa and southern Asia; earlier instances on Pithecusa (Ischia) (Xenagoras fr. 13) disputed by Plin. HN 3,82 (cf. the legend Ov. Met. 14,92 ff.). Those known in antiquity (Aristot. Hist. an. 2,8,502 a 16-b 24; Plin. HN 8,216) were: 1. the tailless Turkish monkey (πίθηκος), 2. the tailed guenon (κῆβος/ kȇbos, κερκοπίθηκος/ kerkopíthēkos), 3. grey baboon (κυνοκέφαλος/ kynoképhalos, Latin satyrus). Species 1 and 2 were popular, often portrayed [cf. 1, ch. 3 and figs. 13-15] and (because of th…

Anise

(107 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄνισον; ánison), Pimpinella anisum L. was, like other herbs of the family of the umbelliferous plants (e.g. ἄνηθον; ánēthon, Anethum, dill, and ἄμμι; ámmi, Ammi), introduced to Greece via Egypt. Dioscorides 3,56 (ἄνησσον; ánēsson) [1.2.69 f.] = 3,58 [2.301 f.] considered Cretan aniseed to be the best. According to Plin. HN 20,185-195, Pythagoras in particular and also several Greek doctors praised anesum as a herb and remedy, e.g. for epilepsy. Later it was also a component of theriaca. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedani…

Duck

(576 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Athenaeus (9,395D-E, drawing on Alexander from Myndus, Περὶ ὀρνίθων; Perì ornithōn, ‘On birds’) recorded that several varieties of the family of Anatidae, widely dispersed throughout the world , were found in the Mediterranean region. These were: 1) the very common stock duck (or wild duck, mallard) ( Anas platyrhynchos), νῆττα; nêtta, lat. anas (diminutive form νηττάριον; nēttárion, lat. aneticula); 2) the smaller βοσκάς; boskás, perhaps the migratory garganey (or querquedule) ( Anas querquedula), but according to Gossen [1. 418] the red-crested pochard ( Nett…

Moray

(544 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In antiquity (σ)μύραινα/ (s)mýraina, Latin murena mostly meant the Mediterranean moray, Muraena helena L., a long, eel-like (cf. Aeschyl. Choeph. 994f.) edible fish, distinguished from the related σμῦρος ( smŷros, M. christini) by its markings. The latter kind of moray ( smŷros) is admittedly considered to be the male (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,10,543a 24-28; Plin. HN 9,76). Others believed in a mating of morays with snakes (Plin. l.c. and ibid. 32,14; detailed description in Opp. Hal. 1,554-579: Ael. Nat. 1,50), but Andreas …

Hawthorn

(257 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Greek κράταιγος/ krátaigos or κραταιγῶν/ krataigôn, Lat. spina alba are names for various thorny plants (cf. Plin. HN 24,108; Columella 3,11,5; 7,7,2 and 7,9,6); in Plin. HN 21,68 spina alba, for instance, obviously means the edible Carline thistle ( Carlina). This also includes ὄα/ óa or ὄη/ óē, Lat. sorbus, the mountain ash. An exact identification of what is meant in ancient texts with crataegus and sorbus is not possible. In Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,15,6, the Azarole/Crete hawthorn ( Crataegus azarolus) is probably being described, which Plin. HN 27,63 incorr…

Fishes

(425 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Aristotle had a knowledge of fish (ἰχθύς; ichthýs, Pl. ἰχθύες; ichthýes), the modern class of vertebrates, as a sub-group of aquatic animals (ἔνυδρα; énydra) that was almost even better than his knowledge of birds, and he provides about 133 names in the Historia animalium. Of these however many sea fish must remain unidentified. He was informed by experienced fishermen whom he questioned, for example, at the rich fish market in Athens. He clearly distinguishes the cartilagenous fish that are phosphorescent in the dark as σελάχη ( seláchē; of σέλας, sélas, ‘light’) [1.…

Nitrum

(179 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (νίτρον/ nítron, λίτρον/ lítron, Latin nitrum). Collective name for the sodium and potassium salts obtained from brine. Pliny (HN 31,106-122) deals with them in detail on the basis of a lost work of Theophrastus. Some nitrum-releasing waters (e.g. at Clitae in Macedonia) and mines, e.g. in Egypt at Naucratis and Memphis (e.g. Nitria), were known. Nitrum could also, however, refer to potash (Plin HN 31,107) obtained from burnt oak wood. Its property of destroying leather shoes was known (ibid. 31,115). Owing to its heating, thinning, c…

Rhinoceros

(520 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The Indian rhinoceros ( Rhinoceros unicornis L.) and the two African species, the Black rhinoceros ( Diceros bicornis L.) and White rhinoceros ( Ceratotherium simum Burch.), were referred to without distinction as ῥινόκερως/ rhinókerōs, more rarely μονόκερως/ monókerōs (literally 'unicorn' and translated as unicornis in Isid. Orig. 12,2,12), Latin rhinoceros, monoceros. 1. Indian rhinoceros: in literature, the Indian rhinoceros was known only from Ctesias (fr. 14; Phot. Bibl. 72,48b 19ff. Bekker), used by Aristot. Hist. an. 2,1,49…

Garden rocket

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (εὔζωμον / eúzōmon, Latin eruca), of the Cruciferae family with few species, the most important being the common rocket ( Eruca sativa), cultivated in the Mediterranean region, with a lignified stem (Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,2,8). According to Plin. HN 19,117 the seeds open after only three days (cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,1,3). Its popularity as a spice gave rocket its Greek name according to Plin. HN 20,126 (literally ‘good for soups’). It was enjoyed raw and with onions and was considered an aphrodisiac for which the only antidote was to simultaneously eat lettuce (  lactuca…

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…

Ocimum

(115 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὤκιμον/ ṓkimon, Lat. ocimum) was identified as the labiate sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum L., that bloomed for a long time and was probably introduced to Greece and Italy from the Orient (first mentioned in Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,2,1 and passim; Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,3,1 = Plin. HN  19,100). Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,1,2-3 and passim and Caus. pl. 1,4,3 as well as Plin. HN 19,119-123 describe how it is sown. Pliny - as also Dioscorides (2,141 Wellmann = 2,170 Berendes) - review both negative assessments (Plin. HN 20,119-120; [1. 76-78]) by …

Beaver

(385 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κάστωρ; kástōr, fiber, Old Latin feber and as a loan word castor). The amphibian marsh dweller is slightly broader than the otter (ἔνυδρις), has strong teeth for night-time cutting of aspens (κερκίδαι) and a hard pelt. It was described also under the name of σαθέριον/ sathérion or σατύριον/ satýrion and λάταξ/ látax, by Aristot. Hist. an. 8,5,594b31-595a6 (= Plin. HN 8,109; Ael. NA 6,34). In antiquity it was apparently eradicated early in Italy and Greece. In Gaul, Spain, and Central and Eastern Europe, especially on the Black Se…

Tithymal(l)os

(83 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (τιθύμαλ(λ)ος/ tithýmal(l)os, Latin herba lactaria). The genus Euphorbia (Spurge), with a characteristic milky sap, of many species which were well described in Antiquity (e.g. three species in Theophr. H. plant. 9,11,7-9; seven species in Dioscorides 4,164 Wellmann = 4,162 Berendes and Plin.  HN 26,62-71). Despite being slightly poisonous it was used in a variety of ways as a purge and  an emetic [1. 122, figs. 228 and 233]. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 H. Baumann, Die griechische Pflanzenwelt, 1982. A. Steier, s. v. T., RE 6 A, 1524-1531.

Jackdaw

(306 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The smallest species of crow. Pliny (HN 10,77) mentions this flocking bird of upper Italy, with its characteristic proverbial predilection for shiny objects like gold and coins, calling it monedula ( Coloeus monedula, probably identical to κολοιός/ koloiós, attested since Hom. Il. 16,583 and 17,755; atypical statements about the bird in Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,12,504a 19; 2,17,509a 1; 9(8),9,614b 5 and 9(8),24,b 16); common in Aristophanes ([1. 155; 2. 2. 109ff.]). In addition, Pliny knows the graculus, probably the Alpine chough ( Pyrrhocorax alpinus, κορακία…

Juniper

(252 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] For the Greeks, the name κέδρος/ kédroscedrus ) described, among other things, various species of juniper, such as the prickly juniper (also ὀξύκεδρος/ oxýkedros: Juniperus oxycedrus L.) and the common juniper ( J. communis L.) which grows in the higher mountains of Greece. The latter is also called κεδρίς; kedrís (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,4; 1,10,6; 1,12,1), while ἄρκευθος/ árkeuthos is thought to refer to the Phoenician juniper ( J. phoenicea), whose berries only ripen in the second year (ibid. 1,9,3; 3,12,3 f.). Six species occur in Greece today…
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