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Polygonon

(83 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πολύγωνον/ polýgōnon), literally 'multi-fruit', knot-grass ( Polygonaceae family), according to Plin. HN 27,113 Lat. sanguinaria, in four species (cf. Plin. HN 27,113-117); provides a blood-staunching sap because of this plant's astringent and cooling power (Plin. HN 27,114, similarly  Dioscorides 4,4-5 Wellmann and Berendes). The seeds allegedly have i.a. purgative and diuretic effects. According to Columella 6,12,5 polýgōnon also heals cuts; sheep that consume it become seriously ill (ibidem 7,5,19). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography H. G…

Chicken (Rooster)

(957 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The domestic chicken, that was originally bred in southern Asia from several wild species of chicken, particularly the Bankiva chicken of the Sunda Islands and India, was introduced to China around 1400 BC and to Bactria and Iran before 1200 (hence Cratinus' name ‘Persian bird’ in Ath. 9,374d and Aristoph. Av. 485; 707; also ‘Median bird’ Aristoph. Av. 276), and from there to Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. There the Greeks encountered it and brought it to their motherland, also to Si…

Stork

(600 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ πελαργός/ ho pelargós, according to EM 659,8 derived form πελιός/ peliós 'black' and ἀργός/ argós 'white', diminutive πελαργιδεύς/ pelargideús in Aristoph. Av. 1356 et passim, Latin ciconia, conea in Plaut. Truc. 691), the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia L.; see Verg. G. 2,319: candida avis, cf. Ov. Met. 6,96). The Black Stork (Ciconia nigra L.), which comes into contact with the Mediterranean area only during migration, was evidently unknown in Antiquity. In terms of size storks were compared to cormorants (Aristot. Hist. …

Chrysophrys

(155 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χρυσόφρυς or χρυσωπός; chrysóphrys, chrysōpós in Plut. Soll. anim. 26,977f), aurata, sea bream, the genuine dorado. The popular edible fish that is up to 60 cm in size is often mentioned in comedies (Ath. 7,328a-b) and frequently portrayed (Keller II, fig. 120,124 and 147). According to Aristotle, it lives in the sea close to land (hist. an. 8,13,598a10), spawns in rivers, maintains a prolonged sleep throughout the summer (Plin. HN 9,58: 60 days), eats flesh and is harpooned with a trident…

Chondros

(101 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χόνδρος; chóndros, alica). Groats of grain or spelt. The exact species cannot be established. Galen (Facult. nat. 1,6) relates it to wheat and describes the production of gruel (ῥόφημα) for people with stomach and gall bladder diseases (cf. Dioscorides 2,96 [1. I.73] = 2,118 [2.203f.] and Plin. HN. 18,112-113). Ps.-Hippoc. περὶ παθῶν ( perì pathôn, 6,250 Littré) mentions it together with πτισάνη ( ptisánē), κέγχρος ( kénchros) and ἄλητον ( álēton).  Special diet Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii Dioscuridis de mater…

Ticks

(243 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Ixodides family of  eyeless parasitic mites, chiefly the sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus, ὁ κροτών/ krotṓn (or κρότων; krótōn) in Hom. Od. 17,300, in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,31,557a 17 f. κυνορραιστής/ kynorrhaistḗs, Latin ricinus, according to Plin. HN 30,82 the ' the most hideous of animals' ( foedissimum animalium). The female buries itself into the skin of infested mammals such as dogs, sheep and goats (Cato Agr. 96,2; Gp. 18,16), oxen (Colum. 6,2,6) and pigs (Plin. HN 30,84), as well as humans (cf. Hom. Od. 17,300; Columel…

Insects

(591 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This class of animals was first named by Aristotle (Hist. an. 1,1,487a 32-34; 4,1,523b 13-15) for the notches (ἐντομαί/ entomaí) on their ventral side or on both the ventral and dorsal sides ἔντομα/ éntoma (sc. ζῷα; zôa), from which the modern term ‘entomology’ and the German word ‘ Kerbtier’ (notched animal) are derived. The other most important characteristics listed by Aristotle are: insects do not breathe in air (Hist. an. 1,1,487a 30-32; 4,9,535b 5; obviously he was not familiar with the tracheal system, which differs from…

Lithika

(682 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λιθικά/ lithiká, Lat. lapidaria from líthos or lapis, ‘stone’). Books composed of mineralogical information as well as of special magical-medical effects attributed to precious stones. They are part of the physiká-literature that began its expansion in the 2nd cent. BC, and were influenced by Oriental ideas, describing the magical powers of organic and inorganic nature affecting man in terms of sympathy and antipathy. The generally apocryphal collected works appeared under the names of legendary magicians suc…

Knot-grass

(112 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Polygonum aviculare) For Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,6,11 the numerous thick roots were typical of the so-called rock partridge plant (περδίκιον/ perdíkion). Its name has supposedly been derived from the fact that rock partridges allegedly roll around in them and dig them up. This is an allusion to Polygonum maritimum. In Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,18,5 (reference not in Hort!) Κραταιγόνος/ krataigónos is called the κραταιόγονον/ krataiógonon of Dioscorides (3,124 Wellmann = 3,129 Berendes). It has been defined as Polygonum Persicaria. Its name is derived from the fact…

Etesiai

(203 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The cool, strong winds blowing from the north to the north-east each year from the middle of July (rising of Sirius) for about 40 days (different duration [1. 714]) were called ἐτησίαι (or βορέαι, boréai). These winds blowing from the  Propontis were then a considerable obstacle to navigation on the Black Sea. Isidorus (Orig. 13,11,15) mentions them as north winds that return each year, though without giving any specific timeframe. They were characterized as lashing the waves of the sea, making the sea dark, heal…

Oats

(123 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Unlike barley (Grain), wild and cultivated oats ( Avena sativa L., / brómos, avena) were used only occasionally in human diet in antiquity, for example as flour for pearl barley and dietary porridge (Hippoc. De victu 2,7(= 43) and Plin. HN 22,137); oats were used most frequently as animal fodder (green or as hay: Columella 2,10,32). Dioscorides (with a good description in 2,94 p. 1, 172f. Wellmann = 2,116 p. 203 Berendes) recommends the porridge against diarrhoea and the gruel obtained from it…

Mushrooms

(291 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μύκης, -ητος or -ου/ mýkēs, Latin mucus, mucor, -oris or σφόγγος/ sphóngos, σπόγγος/ spóngos, Latin fungus) are rarer in Greece than in Italy, where they were used as food despite the possibility of poisoning (Plin. HN 22,97: cibus anceps, ‘doubtful food’, and 22,92: temere manduntur, ‘they were eaten rashly’). They were considered to be produced by fermentation of the earth after heavy rainfall (cf. Plin. HN 22,94 and 100) or generated by tree roots (from their sticky sap, ex pituita: Plin. HN 22,96). Some trees, such as oaks, allegedly produce edible mush…

Antimony

(197 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Since the 11th cent. in Constantinus Africanus, de gradibus simplicium 4,4 [1. 381 f., cf. 2.138], the name given to this metallic element, said to be warm and dry at four degrees, that was the same as the ancient στίβι ( stíbi) or στίμμι ( stímmi; stibium, from orig. Eg. ṣtim [2.138]), supposedly a type of lead extracted from the silver mines.Use of black antimony trisulphate as eye make-up as well as for an astringent and cooling remedy, the extraction of which was described precisely (Dioscorides 5,85 [3.55 f.] = 5,99 [4.516…

Rosemary

(214 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Lat. ros marinus or rosmarinum, derived from ῥὼψ μύριος/ rhṑps mýrios; ῥουσμαρῖνος/ rhousmarînos; also λιβανωτίς/ libanōtís, Dioscorides 3,75 Wellmann = 3,(89) Berendes, Lat.

Gum (kommi)

(105 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As a loan-word from Egyptian, κόμμι ( kómmi) first appears in Hdt. 2,86 as an adhesive for the linen bandages of embalmed corpses. It was extracted from the so-called Egyptian thorn Acacia arabica = nilotica ( Acacia) that is already described by Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,2,8 (cf. spina nigra, Plin. HN 13,63). Plin. HN 13,66 mentions further suppliers of gum. Dioscorides 1,133 p. 1, 205 Wellmann = 1,160 p. 225 Berendes knows gum from the skeletonweed, Chondrilla iuncea L. ( Compositae). The medical importance of various cummi, for eyes and wounds among other things, is…

Leopard

(357 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πάρδαλις/ párdalis or πόρδαλις/ pórdalis; Lat. panthera). This large cat is found not only in Africa, but also in Asia. Thirty leopards ( pardáleis) and cheetahs ( pánthēroi) were led in the procession of Ptolemy II (3rd cent. BC; Ath. 5,201c). Plin. HN 8,62f. describes the eye-like spots of the panthera and claims that they lure other quadrupeds as prey with their pleasant odour. He claimed the second name for the male animals was pardus (cf. Luc. 6,183). Out of zoological ignorance, Isid. Orig. 12,2,11 has the leopardus spring from the crossing of a lioness and a pardus. T…

Helenium

(197 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἑλένιον; helénion, helenium). According to Plin. HN 21,59 and 159, the name is derived from the tears of Helena (rather differently Ael. NA. 9,21). Roman authors meant by the (h)enula or inula in general the elecampane ( Inula helenium L.), a large Composita growing in western Asia and eastern Europe. Since late antiquity it had been grown in gardens as a medicinal plant (cf. Columella 11,3,17 and 35). In particular the bitter root (description of how to preserve it with sweet additives: Columella 12,48,1-5; Plin. HN 19,…

Birch

(78 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This northern and central European tree genus, of which there are also dwarf varieties ( betulla or betulus, late Latin betula) is represented by only three species in Italy, among these the betula aetnensis that is native to Etna. Only the weeping birch ( betula pendula = verrucosa) colonized the mountains of Greece and the Crimea. In Gaul (Plin. HN 16,75) the flexible twigs were used as weaving materials (cf. Plin. HN 16,176). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)

Rue

(277 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥυτή/ rhytḗ in Nic. Alex. 306, πήγανον/ pḗganon e.g. in Aristoph. Vesp. 480; Latin ruta). A Mediterranean genus of the Rutaceae family comprising some 60 species of aromatic, evergreen (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,4) subshrubs. The leaves, fruits and roots of Ruta graveolens were a favourite condiment, generally in combination with menta (mint) [1. 62] (and sometimes pickled in a solution of vinegar and salt, cf. Columella 12,7,1 f.), and were prescribed internally and externally (esp. in Plin. HN 20,134-143) against gynaecological c…

Eupatorium

(178 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (εὐπατόριος; eupatórios, Dioscorides 4,41; [1. 198f.] and [2. 386]; eupatoria, Plin. HN 25,65). This plant of the Rosaceae species Agrimonia eupatoria L., the agrimony with yellow inflorescence (cf. [3. fig. 222]), was considered by Dioscorides to be a valuable medicine for dysentery, liver complaints and snake bites. Pliny does not support the name variant hepatoria being derived from liver complaints [4] (nor the synonymous description ἡπατῖτις ( hēpatîtis) in the recensio Vind…
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