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Whale

(245 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Employing a term originally used for large marine animals in general, the whale, he largest marine mammal and related to dolphins [1], was called τὸ κῆτος/ kêtos (first in Hom. Od. 12,97; Latin loanword cetus, plural cete(a): Ambrosius, Exameron 5,10,28 and 5,11,32; Isid. Orig. 12,6,8); there also is the term φάλαινα/ phálaina (Aristot. Hist. an. 1,5,489b 4 f.), Latin ballaena (Plaut. Rud. 545; Ov. Met. 2,9; Plin.  HN 9,4; 9,8 and 9,16) for the supposedly female animal, and for the male the ironic term musculus ('little mouse', Isid. Orig. 12,6,6). Furthermore, …

Hemp

(320 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The dioecious (with smaller male form) fibrous plant Cannabis sativa L. (κάνναβις/-ος/ kánnabis/-os, cannabis/-us) is from the Urticaceae family, 2-4 m tall with finger-shaped long-stemmed leaves. Around 500 BC hemp probably grew in the area from the Caspian Sea to China. The Scythians are said to have used the seeds, which both grew wild and were cultivated, for ritual sweat baths and ecstatic states of intoxication (Hdt. 4,74f.). This suggests hashish, which is won from the subspecies Cannabis Indica (cf. Hsch. s.v. κάνναβις). The Thracians are said to h…

Argemone

(116 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀργεμώνη; argemṓnē), in Dioscorides 2,177 [1. 1.245 f.] = 2,208 [2.253], which is supposed to be named after the use of its milky sap (ὀπός; opós) against leucoma (ἀργεμα; árgema) etc. Just as with μήκων ῥοιάς ( mḗkōn rhoiás) in Dioscorides 4,63 [1.2.217 f.] = 4,64 [2.397] and argemonia in Plin. HN 25,102 (medical use e.g. for angina in Plin. HN 26,23) there is identification with the club-like poppy Papaver argemone L., by others with the similarly flowering pheasant's eye ( Adonis autumnalis L.; cf. adonium Plin. HN 21,60).  Poppy Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bib…

Bees

(564 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A. Zoology According to our sources, it was the Greeks and Romans who first bred bees for honey in antiquity ( Apiculture). They called the honey or worker bee δάρδα, μέλισσα, apis, the male drone ἀνθρήνη, κηφήν, θρώναξ, fucus and the queen bee βασιλεύς, ἡγεμῶν, rex, dux or imperator. In Greece this applied to the uniformly coloured, dark brown Apis cecropia, in Italy mainly to the A. ligustica with two orange rings on its abdomen. The zoological information about them was often incorrect. According to Pliny (HN 11,1 and 5) they had no blood, a…

Swede

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The words βουνιάς/ bouniás, νᾶπυ/ nâpy, Latin napus probably refer to the swede ( Brassica napus L. var. napobrassica). According to Ath. 9,369b Theophrastus was not familiar with it, while Nicander fr. 70 Schn. was. In Greece, according to Plin. HN 19,75 (five local varieties distinguished by Greek physicians) and 20,21 (two kinds: boúnion and boúnias), it is supposed to have been used only as a medicine; Ath. 1,4d knows swedes from Thebes. Diod. Sic. 3,24,1 describes it as similar to the food plants of the Hylophagi people on the Re…

Cuckoo

(317 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κόκκυξ/ kókkyx, since Hes. Op. 486; Suda s.v. κοῦκκος/ koûkkos, Lat. cucul(l)us first at Plaut. Trin. 245, then at Plin. HN 18,249; 28,156 and 30,85; coccyx: Plin. HN 10,25), the well-known brood parasite and migratory bird that appears early in Greece (Dionysius, Ixeutika 1,13, [1. 11]). The cry that gives rise to its name (verb: κοκκύζειν/ kokkýzein, Hes. loc. cit.) was just as striking as its practise of depositing an egg (rarely are there two) in the nests of various small birds (in Aristot. Hist. an. 6,7,564a 2 the ὑπολαΐς/ hypolaḯs, probably a warbler). Aristot…

Cormorant

(118 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Phalacrocorax carbo (L.), a dark-feathered, fish-eating, goose-sized member of the web-footed group ( steganopodes), mentioned in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),593b 18-22 as the so-called ‘raven’ (κόραξ; kórax), and as breeding in trees. The phalacrocorax (‘bald-headed raven’) in Plin. HN 10,133, at that time native to the Balearics, used to be identified as the cormorant [1. 196f.], but is nowadays thought to be the hermit ibis or crested ibis ( Comatibis eremita), now extinct in Europe. A synonym found in Plin. HN 11,130 is corvus aquaticus. The Middle Minoan Hagia …

Parrot-fish

(215 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκάρος/ skáros, Latin scarus). In the 1st cent. AD this up to 490 mm long colourful Scarus cretensis (= Sparisoma cretense) was the saltwater fish most prized for its taste by the Romans according to Plin. HN 9,62f., and was also noticed by Greek poets (Athen. 7,319f-320c). Pliny mentions as a zoological peculiarity its exclusively vegetable diet (φυκίον/ phykíon, seaweed, in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,591a 14f.; herbae in Plin. HN 9,62) and - connected with that - its alleged rumination (Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,591b 22: μηρυκάζειν/ mērykázein = ruminare; cf. Ael. …

Sparrow hawk

(712 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (and other birds of prey). In Antiquity many species of the Falconidae family of birds of prey were grouped under the name ἱέρακες/ hiérakes, Latin accipitres. In Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),36,620a 17-29 there are 10 species, in Plin. HN 10,21 f. as many as 16, but the information is often too vague for a more precise determination. The most important of them are: 1) The universally common Buzzard ( Buteo buteo), Greek τριόρχης/ triórchēs (allegedly with three testicles), Latin buteo. This plump and allegedly strong (Aristot. ibid. 17) hiérax was an important bird of a…

Ephedra

(198 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐφέδρα, ἐφέδρον; ephédra, ephédron). Type of shrub that has been identified with the almost leafless gymnospermous birch shrub Ephedra campylopoda C.A. Mey, which climbs up trees and cliffs in the Balkan countries. This is supported not only by the alternative name ( anábasis, ἀνάβασις) but also by Pliny's description of the plant (HN 26,36 scandens arborem et ex ramis propendens). There, rubbed into dark wine, it is recommended for coughing and shortness of breath, and is supposed to help against stomach-ache when boiled as a broth and …

Ammoniacum

(89 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀμμωνιακόν; ammōniakón). According to Dioscorides 3,84 [1.2.100 ff.] = 3,88 [2.322 f.], name for a plant gum resin (cf. Plin. HN 12,107) of the umbellate plant Ferula tingitana L. from Libya that is said to have warming, antispasmodic and even abortive powers. In other authors it is also a rock salt from the same region with astringent and purifying effects. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii Dioscuridis de materia medica vol. 2, 1906 repr. 1958 2 J. Berendes (ed.), Des Pedanios Dioskurides Arzneimittellehre, tran…

Arum

(226 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄρον; áron), in Hippocrates, Aristotle, Theophr. Hist. pl.7.12.2 and Dioscorides 2.167 [1. 1. 233ff.] = 2.197 [2. 245], also ὄρον ( óron), ὀρόντιον ( oróntion), aron in Plin. HN 19.96; 24.142 and passim, represents several species of the Araceae genus Arum (esp. Arum italicum), Arisarum (ἀρισάρον; arisáron, Dioscorides 2.168 [1. 1. 234] = 2.198 [2. 245]), Dracunculus (δρακόντιον; drakóntion, Dioscorides 2.166 [1. 1. 231ff.] = 2,195-196 [2. 243ff.]: rotting carcass smell of the inflorescence kills the embryo [3rd fig. 365ff., 371])…

Spruce

(159 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This name (πεύκη/ peúkē, picea, derived from pix = pitch) encompasses three genera of conifer, namely (a) the Common or Norway Spruce Picea abies [L.] Karst. = excelsa Link, which is found hardly anywhere in the Mediterranean, (b) the Fir ( abies, ἐλάτη, in some species on Mediterranean uplands) and (c) the Pine ( pinus, πίτυς/ pítys, πεύκη/ peúkē). Spruce and fir wood, felled on a large scale in the southern Alps and mountains of the Balkans, was used from Antiquity  for wood for building - including ships and masts [1. 38] - and for fi…

Wasps

(359 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ σφήξ/ sphḗx, Latin vespa). Wasps occur in the Mediterranean region in several families of Hymenoptera. In  ancient sources it is almost always the eusocial (Aristot. Hist. an. 1,1,488a 10; 5,23,554b 22-29; 8(9),41,627b 23-628b 31; Aristot. Gen. an. 3,9,758b 18-759a 3) paper wasp that is meant. Aristotle [6] (Hist. an. 8(9),41, 627b 23 ff.) distinguishes between wild and tame wasps; of these the former are rarer and larger, and live on rocks, perhaps of the genus Polistes. Since tra…

Willow

(416 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In ancient sources, Greek ἰτέα/ itéa and its related forms, ἡ οἰσύα/ oisýa (Poll. 7,176), ἡ ἑλίκη/ helíkē (especially in Arcadia, according to Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,13,7) and Latin salix each designate in a non-specific way (cf. the descriptions in Theophr. l.c.; Plin. HN 16,174-177) one of the species of the Salicaceae family growing around the Mediterranean. Its many forms include the white willow ( S. alba L.), crack willow ( S. fragilis L.), basket willow ( S. viminalis L.), goat willow ( S. caprea L.), almond-leafed willow ( S. triandra L.) and purple willow ( S. purpure…

Sulphur

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (θεῖον/ theîon, Epic θέειον/ théeion or θήιον/ thḗion, Latin sulphur). Because of its alleged power to ward off evil, derived from theîos ('divine'), mentioned as early as in Homer (Od. 14,307; 22,481 f. and 493 f.: as a means of purification after the killing of the suitors by Odysseus). Aristotle (Mete. 3,6, 378a 23) mentions it as an example of fossil substances burnt by dry exhalation (ξηρὰ ἀναθυμίασις/ xērá anathymíasis) [1. 42 f.]. Sulphur was mined, primarily in Sicily, and was used to combat vermin and to preserve wine ('sulphuration' of …

Minium

(216 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (‘red lead’). Latin equivalent for the red mineral cinnabar (κιννάβαρι/ kinnábari, ‘dragon's blood’, cf. Plin. HN 33,115f. and his source Theophr. De lapidibus 58f. [1. 78, 80]), mercury sulphide (HgS). According to Plin. HN 33,4 and 33,111 it was found in the search for silver in ‘red earth’ ( rubens terra). By about 400 BC, it was being mined in Spain, in Colchis and above Ephesus by grinding and washing sand. According to Q. Verrius Flaccus (in Plin. HN. 33,111f.) minium even enjoed religious respect, because the face of the s…

Lynx

(312 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λύγξ/ lýnx, λυγκίον/ lynkíon, according to Ael. NA 7,47, the young was called σκύμνιος/ skýmnios; Latin lynx or chama). The swamp lynx, a small species of cat [1. 1,81f.], and the desert lynx or caracal ( Lynx caracal; probably meant in Plin. HN 8,72) are attested on Egyptian representations (e.g. a swamp lynx? on a middle Minoan fresco from Hagia Triada on Crete together with a cormorant [1. 1,66, Fig. 17]). The northern lynx ( Lynx lynx) from the predatory family of the cats is mentioned by Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,1,499b 24f.: has only half of the cuboi…

Fenugreek

(146 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (βούκερας, αἰγόκερας, τῆλις; boúkeras, aigókeras, têlis) is an annual cultivar of the Mesopotamian species Tr. Haussknechtii (not the Mediterranean Trigonella gladiata), with a tangy fragrance that was used medicinally and as fodder. As seed finds of c. 3000 BC near Cairo show, fenugreek was cultivated in ancient Babylonia and Egypt, (Egyptian šbt, Arabic ḥulba) from where it was exported. Dioscurides 2,102 ([1. 176f.] = 2,124 [2. 206f.]) recommends the meal produced from the seed as a tonic and for cleansi…

Woodpecker

(284 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek δρυ(ο)κολάπτης/ dry(o)koláptēs, 'wood-pecker' at Aristoph. Av. 480 and 979, πιπώ/ pipṓ at Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,593a 4, πελεκᾶς/ pelekâs at Aristoph. Av. 884 and 1155; Latin picus at Plaut. Asin. 260, cf. Ov. Met. 14,314). Aristotle (Hist. an. 7(8),3,593a 3-12) is familiar with two spotted woodpeckers of different sizes (probably Dendrocopos major and minor) and the green woodpecker (κελεός/ keleós, Picus viridis), which is about the size of a turtle dove and is widespread, particularly in the Peloponnesus. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9)…
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