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Moss

(164 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] was evidently neither noticed nor unambiguously given a name by the Greeks. In Dioskurides (1,21 Wellmann) βρύον ( brýon), actually means, amongst other things, lichens on oak trees. The Latin muscus describes not only this lower plant but also often algae or lichens. In order to improve a poor meadow, Columella 2,17,2 and Pall. Agric. 10,10,3 recommend pulling out moss or eradicating it by scattering ashes. Moss should also be removed from the base of grape vines in order to promote their growth (Columella. 4…

Delphinium

(153 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Member of the crowfoot plant family (Ranunculaceae) delphínion in Dioscorides 3,73 (only RV; [1. 84] = 3,77 [2. 310]). Because of the dolphin-like or pony-like nectaries on the larkspur, it is probably identical with D. ajacis L. (Modern Greek καπουτσῖνος) and consists of about 200 varieties, of which eight are to be found in Greece and Italy. That includes the common field weed D. staphisagria L. (στάφις ἀγρία in Dioscorides 4,152 [1. 84] = 4,153 [2. 451f.], Modern Greek ψειρόχορτο, ψειροβότανο, Lat. astaphis agria in Plin. HN 23,17, herba pedicularis, passula m…

Woad

(201 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἰσάτις/ isátis, Lat. vitrum and glastum, e.g. Plin. HN 22,2) the dye-plant 'Dyer's Woad', L. Isatis tinctoria. This genus of Brassicaceae thrives in Europe in a number of species. Until the discovery of the dye indigo in the 19th cent., it was used for colouring textiles blue (Dyeing). It is a perennial plant, growing up to 1.4 m in height, with yellow flowers [1. 157, colour photograph 326] developing into single-seed pods which are violet when ripe. A mash of ground dried leaves (flowers acco…

Umbilicus

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] Plant (κοτυληδών/ kotylēdṓn, κυμβάλιον/ kymbálion, σκυτάλιον/ skytálion, γῆς ὀμφαλός/ gȇs omphalós; Latin umbilicus Veneris, cotyledon), genus of the Crassulaceae family: navelwort with two species ( Umbilicus erectus and Umbilicus horizontalis) still growing on rocks and walls in the Mediterranean area, mentioned in Dioscorides (4,91-92 Wellmann = 4,90-91 Berendes) and Pliny (HN. 25,159). Its small fleshy leaves, sap pressed from them and it roots were prescribed for rashes, inflammations (primarily of th…

Rock hyrax

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Procavia capensis) is the only family representative from the mammal order Hyracoidea which is still found today in Palestine and the Middle East. These hare-sized herbivores are probably identical to the rabbits ( Hare) of the Luther Bible, χοιρόγρυλλος/ choirógryllos, Latin choerogryllus, chyrogryllius or middle-Latin cirogrillus, which are unclean according to the Mosaic food laws (Lv 11:5; Dt 14:7). At Thomas of Cantimpré 4,24 [1. 124] it is maintained by implied use of Hesychius (commentary in Lv 3:11, PG 93,906) that …

Nightjar

(90 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Caprimulgus europaeus L.). The curious earth-coloured bird has its name αἰγοθήλας/ aigothḗlas (Lat. caprimulgus, i.e. 'goat-milker') from the statement in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),30,618b 2-9 (= Plin. HN 10,115; Ael. NA 3,39) that it sucks the udder of goats at night [1. 72], causes their milk to dry up and makes the animals blind. In reality the bird flies about at night catching insects with its rather wide beak. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner. Keller 2, 68 f.  D'Arcy W. Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds, 1936 (repr. 1966), 24 f.

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…

Jay

(213 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κίσσα/ kíssa or κίττα/ kítta, Garrulus glandarius). It was often confused in Greek with the  Magpie [1. 146] and, as garrulus, in the Middle Ages (among others in Isid. Orig. 12,7,45) with either the graculus, the Alpine chough ( Jackdaw), or the rook (e.g. in Thomas of Cantimpré 5,62; [2. 209]). The colourful crow shows characteristic coloration and behaviour. Plin. HN 10,119 already admires the talkativeness of the related magpies and of the acorn eaters ( earum quae glande vescantur). Aristot. Hist. an. 9(8),13,615b 19-23 describes the changeability o…

Alum

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (στυπτηρία; styptēría, alumen). Name for a group of earth salts already known to the Babylonians [1.76 f.] ( salsugo terrae, Plin. HN 35,183), namely the salts of sulphuric acid that, in so-called alum works (μέταλλα τῆς στυπτηρίας; métalla tês styptērías) were, according to Dioscorides 5,106 [2.3.75] = 5,122 [3.532], mined in Egypt, Macedonia and, i.a., on Greek islands and proved lucrative because of their rarity and the strong demand for alum (cf. Diod. Sic. 5,10; Str. 6,2,10). Use of alum e.g. as an impregnating a…

Grass­hoppers

(438 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The word ἀκρίς/ akrís (from κρίζειν, ‘to scream’) attested since Hom. Il. 21,12 describes all species of Saltatoria same as locusta (since Naevius in Varro, Ling. 7,39 basic meaning ‘equipped with joints’ or ‘jumping’). This also applies to the synonyms βροῦχος/ broûchos = bruc(h)us, βρύκος/ brýkos, μάσταξ/ mástax, πάρνοψ/ párnops (Aristoph. Ach. 150 and Av. 588; Ael. NA 6,19; Paus. 1,24,8) or κόρνοψ ( kórnops; Str. 13,1,64 [613]) and ἀττέλαβος ( attélabos; Hdt. 4,172) = attelebus (Plin. HN 29,92). Regarding their biology, Aristot. Hist. an. 5,28,555b 18…

Henbane

(177 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Knowledge of Hyoscyamus L., a member of the Solanacaea family (ὑοσκύαμος; hyoskýamos, named after cramps which pigs apparently get from eating the poisonous herb), can be demonstrated in Dioscorides 4,68 [1. 224ff.; 2. 402f.]. According to Plin. HN 25,35, Hercules discovered the plant. According to Dioscorides, of the varieties found in Greece, the first two Hyoscyamus niger (ὑοσκύαμος μέλας) and aureus (ὑοσκύαμος λευκός), are not usable due to their poisonous nature. A juice pressed from the plant or seeds of the third, Hyoscyamus albus, a ruderal plant, was …

Amygdale

(322 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀμύγδαλος, -η, -ον; amýgdalos, - ē, - on) is the almond tree, ἀμυγδαλέα ( amygdaléa) etc. the fruit (almond, it. mandorla) of Amygdalus communis L. of the stone fruit genus Amygdalus L. comprising c. 40 Asian species, previously only regarded as a subgenus of Prunus. In addition to the A. communis of the Near East that has been cultivated in southern Europe since antiquity and the fruits of which Cato (Agr. 8,2 according to Plin. HN 15,90) calls nuces graecas, the wild variety ( Prunus webbii) was also used [1.135 and fig. 279]. Pall. Agric. 2,15,6-13 in particul…

Beech

(71 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Mediterranean, beeches propes such as Fagus silvatica and orientalis (φηγός; phēgós) only grow on relatively high mountains, but are often confused with hornbeams ( Carpinus) or even oaks (δρῦς; drŷs), although mainly with Quercus aegilops and the edible oak Quercus ilex var. ballota ( aesculus), supposedly the main food plant of prehistoric times.  Trees Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography K. Koch, Die Bäume und Sträucher des Alten Griechenlands, 21884, 55ff.

Beans

(232 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pulses ( legumina) such as peas (πίσον; píson, pisum), chickpeas (ἐρέβινθος; erébinthos, cicer) and lentils (φακός; phakós, lens) have been cultivated in the Mediterranean region, as crops of Middle Eastern origin, for at least as long as cereal crops, i.e. for about 6,000 years. Nicknames of reputable Roman families (Fabius, Lentulus, Cicero) are derived from them. The original small-seed varieties (κύαμος; kýamos, πύανος; pýanos, faba, Slav. bob), that were being cultivated over 4,000 years ago, originated from Vicia faba L., from which the large-seed hors…

Titmouse

(156 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (αἰγίθαλ(λ)ος/ aigíthal(l)os, αἰγιθάλος/ aigithálos; Latin vitiparra). The Paridae family of songbirds in which Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,592b 17-21 distinguishes three worm-eating (σκωληκοφάγα/ skōlēkophága) species, with many eggs (8(9),15,616b 2f.), enemies of bees (8(9),40,626a 8;  Ael. NA 1,58): 1. the Great Tit ( Parus maior), the size of a finch (σπιζίτης/ spizítēs), 2. a medium-sized titmouse with a long tail (ὀρεινός/ oreinós), perhaps the Long-Tailed Tit ( Aegithalos caudatus), and 3. an unspecified small titmouse with no particular nam…

Opobalsamum

(203 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὀποβάλσαμον/ opobálsamon, Latin balsamum, properly balsam sap, or βάλσαμον/ bálsamon) was the name of the balsam tree Commiphora opobalsamum, famous for its valuable resin, which was known by the Greeks only from plantations in Syria (at Jericho and En Gedi). In fact, however, the origin was southwestern Arabia and Somalia. Theophrastus describes the plants in Syria (Theophr. H. plant. 9,6,1-4) and the careful extraction of the fragrant resin, which he never knew in a pure state (ibid. 9,1,7). Pli…

Orache

(229 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀδράφαξυς/ adráphaxys: Theophrastus, ἀνδράφαξυς/ andráphaxys: Dioscorides, ἀνδράφαξις/ andráphaxis: Hippocr.; Latin atriplex), a spinach-like vegetable of the goose-foot family ( Chenopodiaceae), of which only one species (Theophr. H. plant. 7,4,1 = Plin. HN 19,123), i.e. Atriplex rosea L., is cultivated in Greece. According to Theophr. H. plant. 1,14,2 and 7,3,4 it formed its broad leaf-like seeds, which were viable for only two to three years, (Theophr. H. plant. 7,5,5 = Plin. HN 19,181) inside a pericarp (Theop…

Mint

(299 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] There were several names for the pleasantly smelling members of the genus Mentha of the family Labiatae not precisely described by the Greeks: μίνθη/ mínthē (Theophr. H. plant. 2,4,1), καλαμίνθη/ kalamínthē, σισύμβριον/ sisýmbrion, ἡδύσμον/ hēdýsmon (e.g. in Theophr. ibid. 7,7,1), βλήχων/ blḗchōn or γλήχων/ glḗchōn and among the Romans as menta, mentastrum, pule(g)ium and nepeta. Watermint, horsemint, pennyroyal and catmint were cultivated in antiquity, but peppermint ( Mentha Piperita), which apparently arose spontaneously from watermint ( Mentha Aquatic…

Carnation

(212 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As we do not know of any ancient name, we cannot clarify whether the carnation was found in ancient times. Possibly it is meant by the name Διὸς ἄνθος/ Diòs ánthos, ‘flower of Zeus’ Latin Iovis flos, from which the modern name of the genus, Dianthus, is also derived. At any rate, of the 65 representatives that grow in Greece from among the 120 wild European species of carnation, 20 are regarded as endemic [1. 81]. In the shrub-like Cretan carnation, Dianthus arboreus, archaeologists see the model for wall paintings in the palace of Knossos. As Zeus is said to …

Carrot

(199 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This biennial vegetable, Daucus carota L., that grew wild in Europe and belonged to the family of the umbelliferous plants σταφυλῖνος ( staphylînos), was called καρωτόν ( karōtón), δαῦκον ( daûkon: Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,15,5), Latin pastinaca, daucus. Through cultivation the originally dry and woody root became pleasant-tasting, nutritious and sweet. Dioscorides (3,52,1 Wellmann and Berendes) describes the one purple-coloured ornamental flower of the staphylínos ágrios in the middle of the otherwise white umbel and recommends (cf. Plin. HN 20,30…
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