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Karyotos Phoinix

(121 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (καρυωτὸς φοῖνιξ; karyōtòs phoînix) is a not precisely identifiable species of date palm with tasty fruit (Latin caryotae, derived from the nut κάρυον/ káryon), therefore not Caryota urens L. Plin. HN 13,44f. praises the juice of the fruit, from which outstanding, but intoxicating, wines were made in the Orient. Best of all were the dates from Jericho with their fatty, milk-like juice and very sweet taste. Additional passages: Plin. HN 14,102 and 23,52; Varro, Rust. 2,1,27; Mart. 13,27; Dioscorides 1,10…

Anchovy (Sardine)

(242 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The small, cheap, edible fish found in large shoals in the Mediterranean, Engraulis encrasicholus L., ἡ ἀφύη/ aphýē (ἀφύα/ aphýa), the ‘foam fish’, Lat. apua (Apicius) and sardina (Colum. 8,17,12 as fish-food), but not sarda (since according to Plin. HN 23,46 and 151 the sarda is identical with pelamys,  tuna, [1. 193]; Isid. Orig. 12.6.38 on the other hand equates sarda with sardina). Aristot. Hist. an. 6,15,569a 30-b 28 (= Plin. HN 9,160 and 31,95) claims that the aphýe is generated asexually from sandy soil or from the foam of rain on the surface of the…


(217 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek τὸ σήσαμον/ tò sḗsamon, from Semitic, Latin sesamum). The oleiferous seeds of Sesamum indicum L. of the Pedaliaceae family, which grows around the Mediterranean, in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, according to Plin. HN 18,96 originally introduced from  India (Greek σησάμη/ sēsámē or σησαμίς/ sēsamís). Solon 40 West and Aristoph. Vesp. 676 record its early use in Greece. Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 8,3,1-4) describes the leaves, the stem, the (white) foxglove-like flowers and the seeds in the elongated bilocular capsules (ibid.…

Thistle finch

(161 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀκανθίς/ akanthís, Latin acanthis and carduelis). A heat-loving bird, which, because of its colourful plumage and beautiful song, people still like to keep in cages in Mediterranean countries today. Its small size (Plin. HN 10,175) and enmity with the ass owing to competition for the thistles they eat are variously mentioned (Plin. HN 10,205 = Ps.-Aristot. 9,1,610 a 4). This interpretation of akanthís (Aristot. Hist. an. 8,3,592 b 30; Ps.-Aristot. 9,1,610a 4; 9,17,616b 31), however, is as disputed as the identification with acanthyllis ( agathillis Codd.) in Pli…


(607 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In Greece and southern Italy today the following species occur: 1. Barn Swallow ( Hirundo rustica), 2. Crag Martin ( Ptyonoprogne rupestris), 3. Red-Rumped Swallow ( Cecropis daurica), 4. Sand Martin ( Riparia riparia) and 5. House Martin ( Delichon urbica). Whether ancient accounts of the χελιδών/ chelidṓn, Latin hirundo, refer to species other than 1 or 5 or the swift ( Apus apus L.) is almost always uncertain. For the most part broods are raised in skilfully constructed mud nests (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),7,612b 23; Varro Rust. 3,5,6; Ov. Fa…


(327 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κίχλη/ kíchlē, Doric κιχήλα/ kichḗla, Latin turdus). Collective name for several species: according to Ps.-Aristot. Hist. an. 9,20, 617a 8-22 (cited in Ath. 2,64f) the Mistle Thrush (ιξοβόρος; ixobóros), the smaller Song Thrush (τριχάς; trichás) and perhaps the Redwing [1. 243] (ἰλίας, ἰλλάς; ilías, illás: Ath. 2,65a). After the first occurence (Hom. Od. 22,468), mentions are quite frequent from the 6th cent. BC onwards. Of the way of life of thrushes, which do not breed in Greece and Italy, apart from the mistle-thrush (…


(102 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This conifer, Larix europaea or Larix decidua Mill., which loses its needles in autumn, does not occur in Greece but was imported by the Romans from the Alps and the Carpathians as larix and cultivated in upper Italy. The larch did not reach western central Europe until the 18th cent. Vitr. 2,9,14 mentions for the first time its wood for being resistant to rotting and fire (cf. Pall. Agric. 12,15,1), after that Plin. HN 16,43 and 45. Its solid, resin-rich, reddish wood was used for housebuilding and shipbuilding. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography R. Stadler, s.…


(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…


(244 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The dorcas gazelle ( Gazella dorcas, formerly Antilope dorcas or Gazella africana) represents the antilope subfamily, which also includes the wildebeest and the oryx), in North Africa and the Middle East (ζορκάς, δορκάς, δόρκων, δόρκος, δόρξ, or ζόρξ; zorkás, dorkás, dórkōn, dórkos, dórx or zórx, damma or dorcas). The gazelle is a typical desert dweller (Hdt. 4,192), e.g. in Libya (Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,3,5), and lives in harmony with partridges (πέρδικες; pérdikes) and in herds together with wild asses (ὄναγροι; ónagroi, Timothy of Gaza c. 17 [1. 27f.]). Gazelles…

Africus ventus

(144 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Latin name for the wind Λίψ ( Líps) or νότος ( nótos) that blows from the south-west from Africa (Libya) to southern Europe. In Plin. HN 2,119 the Africus ventus, characterized by Sen. Q. Nat. 5,16,5 and Hor. Carm. 1,3,12; 3,29,57; Epod. 16,22 and Verg. Aen. 1,85 f. as wild and stormy, is considered to be west-south-west between the west wind Favonius and the south-south-west Austroafricus (Λιβόνοτος; Libónotos) on the astronomical point rose (cf. Vitr. De arch. 1,6,10 and 12) with a total of 15 winds. In Hor. Carm. 3,23,5 it is called pestilens. According to Isid. Nat. …


(103 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χαμαίμηλον; chamaímēlon, chamomilla, camomile). Certainly the composite Matricaria chamomilla L. that was cultivated as a medicinal plant from Neolithic times onwards. Plin. HN 22,53 knew not just its name,  anthemis, but also the nomenclature allegedly based on its apple smell ( quod odorem mali habeat, but in reality probably the result of its hemispherical thalamus), and emphasized its anti-inflammatory healing power (Plin. HN 22,53; Dioscorides 3,137 [1. II.145ff.] = 3,144 [2. 352ff.]). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.…


(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…


(260 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥοδοδένδρον/ rhododéndron or ῥοδοδάφνη/ rhododáphnē, in Latin for the first time in Ps.-Verg. Culex 402, νήριον/ nḗrion e.g. in Dioscorides 4,81 Wellmann = 4,82 Berendes, Latin nerium, rododafne in Pall. Agric. 1,35,9), the rosebay, the oleander ( Nerium oleander) or the alpenrose ( R. ferrugineum and hirsutum L.), appears only in the 1st cent. AD in Plin. HN 16,79 (and Dioscorides, see below) with all three names ( rhododendron, rhododaphne and nerium) and hence is presumably of Greek origin. This evergreen plant with rose-like flowers,  which grow…


(47 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἱππομανές; hippomanés). Plant identified by Dioscorides 2,173 Wellmann = 2,204 Berendes as the caper (κάππαρις; kápparis), whose fruit was considered to be diuretic. According to Theoc. 2,48f. and Serv. Georg. 3,280 Thilo in Arcadia it drove mares and foals mad. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)


(224 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Family of the Cyprinidae). (1.) The carp that lives in rivers and ponds (Ath. 7,309a) ( Cyprinus carpio L.; κυπρῖνος/ kyprînos, Latin cyprinus or carpa) was a popular edible fish (Cassiod. Var. 12,4,1; cf. Nep. Themistocles 10,3). Aristotle describes its fleshy palate, οὐρανός/ uranós, that simulates a tongue (Hist. an. 4,8,533a 28-30), and mentions that thunderstorms drive it into a daze (Hist. an. 7(8),20,602b 23f.; Plin. HN 9,58). Supposedly it spawns five to six times a year (Aristot. Hist. an. 6,14,568a 16f.; Plin. H…


(688 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] It is almost impossible to distinguish exactly whether ἱέραξ/ hiérax (ἴρηξ, in Homer) in each individual instance refers to the goshawk ( Accipiter gentilis), the sparrowhawk ( A. nisus) or a species of the Falconidae. A commonly used synonym was κίρκος/ kírkos (e.g. Hom. Il. 22,139). The pigeon-killer φασσοφόνος/ phassophónos in Hom. Il. 15,237 apparently refers to the goshawk, írēx, however, to the sparrowhawk. In popular etymology, the Latin name accipiter ( acceptor in Lucil. 1130) is derived from accipere (Isid. Orig. 12,7,55, cf. Plaut. Persa 406f.). Aristot. …


(231 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἡ νάρδος/ hē nárdos or τὸ νάρδον/ tò nárdon, Latin nardus, -i f. and nardum, from Hebrew nērd from Sanskrit nalada(m) [1. 657]). Nardos in antiquity designates not only the true Indian spikenard ( Nardostachys jatamansi), but also (according to Plin. HN 13,16 and 12,45-47) as many as nine other plants (cf. inventory [2. 209f.]), including the two aromatic kinds of grass from the Near East, namely Syrian or Assyrian nard, the Valeriana Gallic and Cretan or wild nard, hazelwort, cyprus, etc. From the true nard of the central Himalayas the valuable scented oi…


(91 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λαγώπους/ lagṓpous, ‘hare foot’) was the name for the ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus ( Montin), due to its feathered legs. It was highly esteemed as game (Hor. Sat. 2,2,22: lagois; Plin. HN 10,133). In its brown summer plumage (Plin. HN 10,134) it was considered to be a different species. The plant of the same name (Plin. HN 26,53 = Ps.-Apul. de herbis 61,6: herba leporis pes) was said to cure diarrhoea when taken in wine or (in cases of fever) water. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography H. Steier, s.v. L., RE 12,461.


(368 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Capreolus capreolus). A small genus of deer, spread as far as southern Europe, whose way of life was hardly known in Antiquity. Capreolus in Columella describes not only the roe deer (9,1,1) but also a two-tined gardening tool (11,3,46) and the shoots of a vine (e.g. 4,14,1 and 5,6,26). Its short and slightly branching antlers, which are allegedly not shed, are mentioned in Plin. HN 11,124. In Roman authors the usual Latin name was probably caprea (e.g. in Varro Rust. 3,3,3; Ov. Met. 1,442; Columella 9 pr.; Hor. Carm. 3,15,12: lasciva caprea; Plin. HN 8,228: absent in …

Cherry Tree

(234 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κέρασος; kérasos, Latin cerasus with unclarified etymology, as the name of the town  Cerasus, contrary to explanations in Isid. Orig. 17,7,16, is derived from the cherry tree; the cherries are called κεράσια; kerásia, Latin cerasia). The wild cherry existed in Europe at least from the Middle Stone Age onwards [1. 112]. The grafted sweet cherry was introduced to Italy from the Black Sea in 74 BC by  Licinius Lucullus (Plin. HN 15,102ff.). It quickly spread all the way to Britannia. Pliny already knew several varie…
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