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Conger

(117 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γόγγρος; góngros, sometimes, e.g., Ath. 8,356a: γρύλλος; grýllos), a marine eel, a sea fish that was popular like the  eel and, therefore, expensive (Plaut. Mil. 760; Persa 110; cf. information in Ath. 7,288c). Aristotle mentions two species that differ in colour (Hist. an. 8,13, 598a13), their unusual length, thickness and smoothness, the large stomach and the tallow-like fat. The conger feeds on fish including its own species and octopuses but, in turn, is the prey of moray eels and c…

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…

Hawthorn

(257 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Greek κράταιγος/ krátaigos or κραταιγῶν/ krataigôn, Lat. spina alba are names for various thorny plants (cf. Plin. HN 24,108; Columella 3,11,5; 7,7,2 and 7,9,6); in Plin. HN 21,68 spina alba, for instance, obviously means the edible Carline thistle ( Carlina). This also includes ὄα/ óa or ὄη/ óē, Lat. sorbus, the mountain ash. An exact identification of what is meant in ancient texts with crataegus and sorbus is not possible. In Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,15,6, the Azarole/Crete hawthorn ( Crataegus azarolus) is probably being described, which Plin. HN 27,63 incorr…

Umber

(100 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Named after Umbria, their place of origin, this breed of dog was highly favoured, primarily as a  tracking hound (Grattius, Cynegetica 171 ff.; Sen. Thy. 497 ff.; Verg. Aen. 12,753-55: hound baits deer; Sil. Pun. 3,295 ff.). We do not know its appearance. The Umbrian sheepdogs, mentioned in Varro Rust. 2,9,6, that returned of their own accord to their flocks were certainly not of this breed. An illustration on an aes grave coin from Hatria in Picenum could represent an umber [1. 124, fig. 49; 2. 95]. Dog Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Keller 2 Toynbee…

Medlar

(202 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μεσπίλη/ mespílē, μέσπιλον/ méspilon, ἀρωνία/ arōnía: Dioscorides; Lat. mespilus or -a, the fruit mespilum). Mespilus germanica L. (family Rosaceae), a bush or tree probably native to southern Europe, was cultivated in Greece as a wild apple tree at least since about 370 BC on account of its small, three-cored, sweet fruits (Middle Comedy, Eubulus [2] in Ath. 14,640c). Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 3,12,5f. = Plin. HN. 15,84) describes three thorn-bushes under this name, of which only μεσπίλη ἡ σατάνειος/ mespílē hē satáneios is recognized as medlar. Dioscorides (…

Plane tree

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πλάτανος/ plátanos, poet. πλατάνιστος/ platánistos, Lat. platanus) is the tree Platanus orientalis L., found in southern Europe at least since the time of Homer (Il. 2,307-13). According to Plin. HN 12,6, the plane tree crossed the Ionian Sea to Sicily, and thence to Italy. It was later naturalized in northern Europe. The broad (πλατύς/ platýs, 'broad, wide') leaves, after which it is named, provided goodly shade for rest, as in Plato's Phaedrus (Plat. Phdr. 229a-230b). In antiquity, the tree was favoured as a graft stock for slips of e.g. pear (Pal…

Acipenser

(96 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἀκιπήσιος; akipḗsios = (h)elops). Rare delicacy saltwater fish (Plin. HN 9,60 and 32,145; Macrob. Sat. 3,16,1-9; Ath. 7,294f), only very highly valued until the time of the caesars (Plautus in Macrobius; Lucil. 1240 M; Mart. 13,91; cf. Plinius and Hor. Sat. 2,2,46 f.). As early as antiquity the zoological classification was contentious (Plin. HN 32,153 according to Ovid Hal. 96 and Ath. loc. cit.); now it is sometimes regarded as a sturgeon [1. 7; 2. 2,375 and passim] and sometimes as a sterlet ( elops [1; 3]).  Fishes Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliograp…

Jackal

(290 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This wild dog ( Canis aureus), principally found in Africa, still occurs today in Eurasia from the Balkans eastwards. It hunts at night, often in packs, preying mainly on small mammals and birds, but it also eats carrion. An earlier theory that it, together with the wolf, was a progenitor of the domestic dog ([1]; cf. [2. 70-72]), has now been abandoned. The θώς/ thṓs, as distinct from the  wolf, was well known to Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,17,507b 17: internal organs resemble those of the wolf; 6,35,580a 26-31: gives birth to two to four blind w…

Fern

(271 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pliny names three species of fern ─ felix, dryopteris, and polypodium ─, all of which are characterized by the absence of flowers and seeds. Plin. HN 27,78-80 describes two varieties of felix, one of which the Greeks on account of its pinnae referred to as πτέρις ( ptéris) or respectively βλάχνον ( bláchnon) and male (perhaps Aspidium filix mas L., the Male or Shield Fern, cf. Dioscorides 4,184 p. 2,332f. Wellmann = 4,183 p. 471f. Berendes), the other as female fern θηλυπτερίς ( thēlypterís) or respectively νυμφαία πτέρις ( nymphaía ptéris; Dioscorides 4,185 p. 2,333 W…

Aristolocheia

(141 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ἀριστολόχεια ( aristolócheia) in Nicander and Dioscorides 3,4 [1.2.6 ff. = 2.263 ff.], ἀριστολοχία ( aristolochía) in Hippocrates, Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,20,4 (effect against snake bite) and Plin. HN 25,95 ff. etc. was identified as today's genus Aristolochia. Its three more common species in the Mediterranean area, Aristolochia clematitis, longa and rotunda, were already differentiated by Dioscorides and Pliny. Both derive their name, distorted in German to Osterluzei, from their relieving effect on births. According to Dioscorides and other…

Vertragus

(188 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (οὐέρτραγος/ o uértragos). Greyhound, which is particularly prized for hare coursing because of its speed; the Latin name vertragus is derived from a Celtic word. The accurate description in Arr. Cyn. 3-6 of a powerful but slim dog with pointed muzzle and long ears enabled [1] to identify ancient depictions of vertragi. When hunting, the dogs which were kept in large compounds were led on leashes by slaves and released only when the prey had been flushed out and was in view. Hunters used to accompany them on horseback. Usually two vertragi were set on each hare, which t…

Radish

(213 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥαφανίς/ rhaphanís, ῥάφανος/ rháphanos, etymologically related to ῥάπυς/ rhápys, ῥάφυς/ rháphys, 'beet'; Lat. rhaphanus, radix), the species of crucifer probably bred in Asia Minor from the wild, jointed charlock ( Raphanus raphanistrum L., Rhaphanus sativus L., with the edible, thickened storage root; cultivated in Egypt from the 2nd millennium. The Greeks (from Aristoph. Plut. 544 and other comic writers, cited in Ath. 2,56d-57b) valued the salted root as an appetite-stimulating food and extracted oil from it. T…

Rock partridge

(252 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ, ἡ πέρδιξ/ ho, hē pérdix, its young περδίκιον/ perdíkion, also περδικεύς/ perdikeús and κακκαβίς/ kakkabís after its mating call: κακκαβίζειν/ kakkabízein or τρίζειν/ trízein in Aristot. Hist. an. 4,9,536b 13 f.; Lat. perdix). The scientific name Alectoris graeca Meisner indicates that the bird is still common today, primarily in Greece (but also in Italy) [1. 195 f.], whereas it has been supplanted in other countries by the smaller, browner and synanthropic partridge. Aristotle describes their breeding behaviour, …

Sea urchin

(179 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐχῖνος ὁ θαλάσσιος/ echînos ho thalássios; Latin echinus). This echinoderm (member of the class of Echinodermata) is considered by Aristotle (Hist. an. 4,4,528a 7) to be crustaceous (ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma) and described in several species, including the edible Echinus esculentus L., (ibid. 4,5,530a 32-b 20). Their eggs, which were eaten particularly by the Romans as a delicacy (Plaut. Rud. 297; Hor. Sat. 2,4,33 on the best being from Misenum; Sen. Epist. 95,26), are mentioned in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,12,544a 18-23…

Mannus

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( mannulus) or buricus (according to Porph. Hor. comm. epod. 4,14; Veg. Mulomedicina 3,2,2; for the name [1. 2, 29]) was the name given to the small horse or pony imported from Gaul (for the origin [2. 289]) in the 1st cent. BC to Rome as a luxury animal (Lucr. 3,1063; Plin. Ep. 4,2,3: mannulus; Jer. Ep. 66,8), particularly for ostentatious ladies (Hor. Carm. 3,27,7; Prop. 4,8,15; Ov. Am. 2,16,49f.). People would harness the small, fast and temperamental animal to a two-wheeled coach (‘gig, parva esseda, carpentum, covinnus; [3. 416, 464]: Mart. 12,24,8) or ride it …

Aconitum

(171 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀκόνιτον; akóniton). It is not known for certain which poisonous plants are meant by ἀκόνιτον λυκοκτόνον ( akóniton lykoktónon) and κυνοκτόνον ( kynoktónon) in Dioscorides 4,77 [1. 2,238 f.] = 4,78 [2. 412 f.], Nic. Alex. 13,41 and aconitum, scorpion and myoctonon, Plin. HN 27,4-7. The ‘Wolfesgelegena’ of Hildegard of Bingen [3. 1,156 = 4. 47], used as a hazardous aphrodisiac, is probably not the arnica but rather like the ‘alexandria’ of Konrad of Megenberg V. 36 (in ch. Eleborus = veratrum) [5. 399] a species of the poisonous ranunculaceae genus Aconitum (monk…

Cabbage

(185 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥάφανος, κράμβη, καυλός; rháphanos, krámbē, kaulós; Latin brassica, crambe, caulis, from this Italian cavolo, French chou, German Kohl) is a European vegetable plant ( Brassica oleracea L.) from the Cruciferae family that today is grown in numerous culture strains. It is first mentioned as the heptaphyllous krámbē by Hipponax 40 Diehl (quoted in Ath. 9,370b). Within the rháphanos, Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,4,4 (related by Plin. HN 19,80 to the radish rhaphanís, Latin raphanus) distinguishes, like Cato Agr. 157,1-3 and Ath. 9,369e-f, three varieties of cab…

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 …

Mullus

(460 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The striped mullet ( Mullus surmuletus) and red mullet ( M. barbatus), popular for eating, were called τρίγλη/ tríglē or Latin m. (for an ocean fish μύλλος/ mýllos: [1]). Mention is made of the red colouring (Sen. Q Nat. 3,18; Opp. Hal. 1,130; Athen. 4,135b and 7,325e), the beard strands on the lower lip (Plin. HN 9,64; Cic. Parad. 5,38: barbatulus; Cic. Att. 2,1,7; Varro Rust. 3,17,7: barbatus) as well as a gluttony that does not shrink even from floating corpses (Ael. Nat. 2,41; Opp. Hal. 3,432-442; Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8), 2,591a 12f.). Aristo…

Cricket

(109 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] German ‘Grille’, Pliny's gryllus (HN 29, 138) probably is the field cricket, Gryllus campestris, which runs backwards (thus Nigidius Figulus), digs into the ground and chirps at night with its wings ( stridere). As a paste, a cricket (dug out with its earth) helps against ear aches. It is drawn from its earthen hole using an ant tied to a hair as bait [1. 132]. Isid. Orig. 12,3,8 conveyed this information to the Middle Ages. It is uncertain if the wingless, locust-like insect trixalis in Plin. HN. 30,49 is a cricket because Ael. NA 6,19 only says that the trōchallís is ‘not si…
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