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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…

Equisetum

(150 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Because of their mode of growth, since antiquity four different leafless or small-leaved species of plant bear the name equisetum, equisaeta, cauda equina or caballina, ἱπποχαίτη ( hippochaítē) or ἵππουρις ( híppouris), horsetail or mare's-tail. This is true of: Equisetum L. and Hippochaete Milde, equisetum, shave grass or scouring rush; of Ephedra L., ἔφεδρον ( éphedron) or ἵππουρις, the jointfir members of the Gymnospermae, some of them climbers; also of water-plants in the case of the candelabra alga Chara, still called E. foetidum in the 16th cent. by C. Ba…

Cloves

(130 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The dried, peppercorn-like flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum (earlier known as Caryophyllus aromaticus L.) reached Rome from the Moluccas by way of India and Greece as garyophyllon (Plin. HN 12,7). With doctors of late antiquity such as Aetius Amidenus, i.a., the term karyóphyllon (Arab. karanful, It. garofalo or garofano), probably derived from the Old Indo-Aryan katuphalam (‘acrid fruit’), was quickly extended to carnations, especially Dianthus caryophyllus L. In the Middle Ages the gariophili were prescribed in the pharmaceutical book of Salerno Circa inst…

Plum

(180 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (derived from Lat. prunus for the tree and prunum for the fruit, from Greek προύμνη/ proúmnē instead of the earlier name κοκκύμηλον/ kokkýmēlon, 'cuckoo-apple'). While the tree was evidently indigenous to central Europe, the Greeks and Romans probably learned of its cultivation in the Near East. Growing only poorly in Greece, it was cultivated in many varieties in Italy (according to Plin. HN 15,44 only after Cato [1]). Grafting on to apple, nut and almond stock yielded varieties no longer ascertainable with any certainty such as apple-plums ( malina pruna, Plin. HN 1…

Falcons

(175 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] While ἱέρακες generally denotes goshawks and ἰκτῖνοι harriers, only the kestrel ( Falco tinnunculus) is identifiable among falcons. Aristophanes calls it Κερχνῇς (Av. 1181 in Ael. NA 12,4), Aristotle κεγχρίς (Hist. an. 6,2,559a 26; cenchris, Plin. HN 10,143f.). According to Aristot. Hist. an. 6,1,558b 28-30, it lays four or more red eggs (as well Plin. HN 10,143f.), has a crop (Hist. an. 2,17,509a 6) and drinks a fair bit (8,3,594a 1f.). Pliny claims that the tinnunculus is a friend of domestic pigeons whom it defends against goshawks (HN 10,109). Like P…

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])…

Mallow

(189 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μαλάχη/ maláchē, μολόχη/ molóchē in Dioscorides, Lat. malva). In antiquity there were various species (cf. Plin. HN 20,222) from the family of the Malvaceae with rose-like flowers as well as the marshmallow ( althaea [2], Althaea officinalis, ἀλθαία/ althaía, ἐβίσκος/ ebískos, Lat. hibiscus, althaea malva agrestis, Isid. Orig. 17,9,75) with white or pink flowers. Being harsh on the stomach (Dioscorides 2,118 Wellmann = 2,144 Berendes), the garden mallow was not much in use, but it was (since Hes. Op. 41) used as a remedy un…

Aiorai

(41 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Αἰῶραι; aiôrai). According to Poll. 4,131, a theatre machine consisting of cables with which the gods or heroes were able to float forth in flight, obviously a Hellenistic invention [1.291]. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 H. Bulle, in: ABAW 1928.

Tiger

(447 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Felis tigris L., Greek ὁ/ἡ τίγρις/ tígris, Latin tigris), a large striped (cf. Plin. HN 8,62) cat, widespread in Asia originally from Hyrcania to India (incorrectly in Ptol. 4,8,4: Ethiopia). According to Varro Ling. 5,100 and Str. 11,14,8 (term τόξευμα/ tóxeuma; cf. Isid. Orig. 12,2,7: sagitta for the Medes and Persians) the name is derived from Iranian tigra = 'pointed', 'sharp'. The Greeks first learned of the animal through Alexander's campaign (Curt. 9,30,1; Ps.-Callisthenes 3,17,32; Arr. Ind. 15,1 f.). Based on Indian sources Cte…

Pike

(166 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This Central European predatory fish ( Esox lucius L.), wide-mouthed with many teeth, was unknown to the Greeks. Auson. Mos. 120-124 by contrast mentions the pike ( lucius) as an enemy of frogs that lurks in ponds in the algae and is not valued in the kitchen. The Greek physician Anthimus [1] (De Observatione Ciborum 40; [1. 18]), on the other hand, gives a Germanic recipe. Thomas of Cantimpré 7,48 [2. 264f.], following a contemporary 13th-cent. source ( Liber Rerum, cf. Alexander Neckam 2,32 [3. 147]), identifies the pike with lupus marinus and describes it as a pa…

Bean trefoil/Buckbean

(117 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A gentian plant ( Menanthes trifoliata L.), unknown in antiquity, wrongly described in 16th- and 17th-cent. books on herbs as bog bean or water trefoil ( Trifolium fibrinum). It is widespread in marsh flats and, because of its bitter qualities, is today used i.a. to combat fever and worms. What was called μινυανθές ( minyanthés) in Dioscorides 3,109 [1. 119f.] = 3,113 [2. 336f.] and Plin. HN 21,54 (used for tying wreaths) and ἀσφάλτιον ( aspháltion) was in fact the leguminous plant Psoralea bituminosa L.  Clover varieties Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1…

Woodlouse

(431 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὄνος/ ónos, πολύπους/ polýplous, ὀνίσκος/ onískos, κούβαρις/ koúbaris, κύαμος/ kýamos, τύλον/ týlon, centi-, mille- (or mili-) and multipedium). The common woodlouse, rough woodlouse or pill bug (mentioned as early as Soph. fr.363 N2) of the Crustacea subphylum, at Aristot. Hist. an. 5,31,557a 24f. (on similarities between fish lice and many-legged ὄνοι/ ónoi), Dioscorides 2,35 [1. 1. 133] (on many-legged ὄνοι which curl up under water containers when disturbed as helpful against e.g. jaundice and as a component of injections aga…

Crow

(565 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In antiquity seven varieties of the crow family (Corvidae) were identified: 1. the common raven (κόραξ/ kórax, Lat. corvus; Corvus corax L.); 2. the carrion crow and hooded crow (κορώνη/ korṓnē, Lat. cornix, cornicula; C. corone L. and C. cornix L.) and probably also the gregarious nester, the rook ( C. frugilegus L.); 3. the  jackdaw (κολοιός/ koloiós, βωμωλόχος/ bōmōlóchos, Lat. monedula or graculus; Coloeus monedula); 4. the  jay (κίσσα/ kíssa, κίττα/ kítta, Lat. pica; Garrulus glandarius); 5. the  magpie ( Pica pica), linguistically not distinguished from n…

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…

Ants

(453 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μύρμηξ; mýrmēx; formica, for etymology see Walde/Hofmann). As social insects almost solely observed transporting their food on their tracks (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),38,622b 24-27; Plin. HN 11,108-110) and otherwise mentioned only rarely (Ael. NA 6,43 [cf. 1.2.417 f.] and passim), but highly regarded because of their supposed abilities and their behaviour, particularly Plut. de sollertia animal. 11 ( terrestriane an aquatilia animalia 967d-968b [cf. 1.2.417 f.]) and in Greek Physiol. cap. 12 ([2.44-50], cf. Byzantine redaktor cap. 27 [2.25…

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.…

Louse

(194 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Insect; φθείρ/ phtheír, Latin pediculus, late Latin also tinea (Isid. Orig. 12, 5,11: vestimentorum vermis). Of the supposedly 53 species [1], only three parasites of humans are important. 1. The crab louse, Phirus pubis (L.), (φθείρ ἄγριος/ phtheir ágrios: Aristot. Hist. an. 5,31,557a 4-10; cf. Hdt. 2,37 on the shaving of body hair among the Egyptian priests), which is said to be responsible for φθειρίασις βλεφάρων/ phtheiríasis blephárōn (louse-infestation of the eyelids) (Cels. 6,6,15). 2. The clothes louse, Pediculus humanus, which likes to sit in sheep'…

Bulrush

(101 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ancient term σχοῖνος ( schoînos), Latin iuncus covers today's false grasses of the Juncaceae (especially Juncus) and Cyperaceae ( Schoenus and Scirpus among others) families -- the bulrushes and club-rushes, as well as sedges. In antiquity, bulrushes were commonly used for making mats and, in the case of papyrus Cyperus papyrus ( book,  papyrus), as writing materials. The bulbous root of the Mediterranean species C. esculentus provided edible oil [1. 18]. Sweet-tasting leaves were boiled in beer and eaten (μαλιναθάλλη in Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,8,12; cf. anthaliu…

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…

Lily

(318 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The lily, which was already used as a decorative flower in Cretan-Mycenaean art, λείριον/ leírion - from this Latin lilium - or κρίνον/ krínon (Dioscorides; Theophr.) and κρινωνία/ krinōnía (Theophr. Hist. pl. 2,2,1). The adjective λειριόεις/ leirióeis (‘lily-like’ or ‘tender’) is used by Homer Il. 13,830 ironically for the skin of Ajax and 3,152 for the song of the cicadas, as well as Hes. Theog. 41 for that of the Muses. Persephone picks a lily (H. Hom. 2,427). Hdt. 2,92, however, calls the Egyptian Lotus krínon. In Plin. HN 21,22-26 (according to Theophr. 6,6,8…
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