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Magpie

(232 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Because in Greek the same name (κίσσα/ kíssa or κίττα/ kítta) is used for the magpie ( Pica candata) and the jay, and because these two corvids can be trained to talk, the respective context, as in Plin. HN 10,78 with the mention of the long tail, must ensure the designation. Plin. HN 10,98 reports on their removal of the eggs as a reaction to disruptive observation by humans. Actually, magpies build several nests to protect themselves. However, his description of how they hang two eggs stuck to a …

Apheliotes

(166 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Ion. ἀπηλιώτης; apēliṓtēs, e.g. Thuc. 3,23 and Aristotle, later ἀφηλιώτης; aphēliṓtēs) was the name given to the wind blowing from the east which the Romans translated as subsolanus (Sen. Q. Nat. 5,16,4; Plin. HN 2,119; Gell. NA 2,22,8) or solanus (Vitr. De arch. 1,6,4 f.). On Ephorus' map of the world it comes from the land of the ‘Indoi’, on the wind-rose of the author of the work on the number seven (end of the 5th cent.) it is positioned between the Βορέης ( Boréēs; north-east point) and the Εὖρος ( Eûros; south-east point) [1]. According to Aristot. Met. 2,6,363b…

Gypsum

(425 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γύψος; gýpsos, gypsum) is the name both for the mineral anhydrite and for the mass manufactured from it by heating until red-hot and mixable with water. Quarrying was carried out in many places, according to Theophrastus (De lapidibus 64, [1. 82]), who also provides details on the properties of gypsum, among these on Cyprus, in Phoenicia and Syria, in Thurii, Tymphaia and Perrhaebia, and according to Plutarch (Mor. 914c) also on Zacynthus. Theophr. l.c. 69 and Plin. HN 36,182 descr…

Boreas

(305 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(Boρέας; Boréas) [German version] A. Meteorology According to Ps.-Aristot. De mundo 4,394b20, the winds blowing from the north towards Greece were called Βορέαι οἱ ἀπὸ ἄρκτου ( Boréai hoi apò árktou) [1]. When the compass rose was developed in the 5th cent., that term was applied -- instead of to the true north wind ( Aparctias) -- to its eastern neighbours, the north-north-east and the north-east, especially on monuments where the Roman term Aquilo also appears. The Boreas is the stormy ‘king of winds’ (Pind. Pyth. 4,181), bringing darkness, cold and snow. It is o…

Hippopotamus

(540 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Hippopotamus amphibius L., ὁ or ἡ ἵππος ποτάμιος/ híppos potámios, literally ‘river horse’, Latin hippopotam(i)us or equus fluvialis (Ambr. Hexaemeron 5,1,4), equus Nili (Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum 6,19), known from the  Nile (Plin. HN 8,95 and 28,121), from west African rivers (Plin. HN 5,10) and from Palestine. That the animal was found in the Indus, as alleged by Onesicratus, was rejected by Str. 14,1,45 and Paus. 4,34,3. In Egypt, the hippopotamus was nearly extinct in late antiquit…

Styrax

(279 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἡ στύραξ/ stýrax, e.g. Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,7,3: the styrax tree or shrub; τὸ στύραξ/ tò stýrax, Latin styrax or later storax: the balsamic resin extracted from it is called Styrax officinalis). The fragrant resin was much in demand in Rome in the Imperial Period, and because of its high price, it was often adulterated (including with cedar resin, honey or bitter almonds, Plin. HN 12,125). It was imported (at the time of Hdt. 3,107 with the help of the Phoenicians) from Syria and Asia minor ( e.g. Cilicia), rolled in leaves of reeds (hence the earlier name Storax calam…

Cypress

(344 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Of the conifer genus Lat. cupressus (since Enn. Ann. 262 (223) and 490 (511); late Lat. cyparissus, Isid. Orig. 17,7,34; κυπάρισσος/ kypárissos, probably from the pre-Indogermanic, already in Hom. Od. 5,64) with 14 species, only the wild form C. sempervirens L. with the variant C. horizontalis ( C. mas in Plin. HN 16,141) occurred in south-east Europe. However, the old culture strain [1. 34 ff.] of the variant C. pyramidalis ( C. femina: Plin. HN 16,141; it was already sown by Cato: Cato Agr. 48,1; 151), widespread and well known on Cyprus and Crete…

Pinus (Stone pine)

(174 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πίτυς/ pítys, Lat. pinus, Pinus pinea L.). This striking broad-crowned conifer, related to the spruce, is common along the coastal fringes of the Mediterranean Sea. Because a wreath of stone pine was awarded to victors in the Isthmian Games (Isthmia), poets from Hom. Il. 13,390 on mention the pinus. Pall. Agric. 12,7,9-12 and, much more briefly, Gp. 11,11 describe its cultivation. In many cases, a cone of pinus crowned Roman funerary monuments (Funerary architecture). Its wood useful for shipbuilding, its bark, needles and cones (κῶνος/ kônos) were used in medici…

Wax

(290 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κηρός/ kērós, Lat. cera ). On melting (Plin. HN 21,83), the honeycombs of bees yielded cheap (Colum. 9,16,1) wax, which was bleached by boiling in sea water, adding bicarbonate of soda and then drying in the air (Plin. HN 21,84; cf. Dioscurides 2,83 Wellmann = 2,105 Berendes). In medicine it was used to make salves, patches (Plin. HN 22,117 and 30,70) and suppositories (Pharmacology). Small moulded items (κηροπλαστική/ kēroplastikḗ: Poll. 7,165) as toys for children (Aristoph. Nub. 878), toy figures (Plin. HN 8,215; Children's games, Dolls), household gods ( Lares: J…

Anagyris

(110 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀνάγυρις, -ρος, ἄκοπον; anágyris, - ros, ákopon in Dioscorides 3,150 [1. 158 f.] = 3,157 [2. 360], Plin. HN 27,30 etc., modern Greek ἀνδράβανα; andrávana) is the common Mediterranean leguminous malodorous bush A. foetida L. with a tangy odour and cabbage-like flower, in antiquity used as a medicinal plant, e.g. the leaves as a laxative and the seed to induce vomiting. The proverb ἀνάγυριν κινεῖς [ anágyrin kineîs; 3.109] means to touch something unpleasant (cf. Zenob. 2,55 and 3,31). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii D…

Bedbug

(240 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ, ἡ κόρις/ kóris, Lat. cimex; especially Cimex lectularius, the common bedbug, a troublesome bloodsucking parasite). Aristophanes was the first to refer to the bedbug as a typical inhabitant of the bedsteads of poor people in a work of literature (Nub. 634, Ra. 115, and Plut. 541). That is the origin of the expression ‘not even to own a bedbug’ ( nec tritus cimice lectus, Mart. 11,32,1; cf. Catull. 23,2). As a bad parasite, the bedbug was also used synonymously for a matchmaker or literary critic (Plaut. Curc. 500; Anth. Pal. 11,322,6; Hor. …

Incense

(307 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λίβανος; líbanos, λιβανωτός; libanōtós as a Semitic loan-word, Lat. tus). Especially frankincense, the resin from bushes of the Boswellia species (e.g. B. Carteri), burnt for its aromatic smell. The actual appearance of the bushes was unknown in Graeco-Roman antiquity (cf. Plin. HN 12,55-57). These bushes also grew in India and the coast of Somalia, but the Greeks only knew them from Arabia (Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,4,2; Plin. HN 12,51). In the eastern Mediterranean, incense was used for cathartic and apo…

Sparrow

(398 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek στρουθός/ strouthós or στρουθίς/ strouthís, diminutive στρουθίον/ strouthíon, also as a name for hetairai, Elean δειρητής/ deirētḗs: Nic. fr. 123; Latin passer, diminutive passerculus: Plaut. Asin. 666 and 694; Cic. Div. 2,65; Arnob. 7,8). Strouthós is a term for the House Sparrow ( Passer domesticus) and every other kind of small songbird, which in Antiquity were not distinguished. Hom. Il. 2,311-317 ( strouthós) is interpreted to some extent as a 'little bird' [1. 269; 2. 73 f.] and to some extent as a sparrow [3. 27 ff.]. Lesbia's f…

Dove/Pigeon

(1,215 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] I. Species The pigeon and dove family, περιστεροειδῆ/ peristeroeidê (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,13,544a 33-b 11 and also 6,4, 562b 3-563a 4), includes several species: 1) Wild pigeons: a) Πέλεια/ péleia (derived from πολιός/ poliós = ‘dark, blueish grey’), the rock dove ( Columba livia L.), the wild progenitor of the domestic pigeon. Homer only speaks of this species, which he labels ‘fearful’ because of its shyness towards people (τρήρων/ trḗrōn; e.g., Hom. Il. 5,778; Hom. Od. 12,62). Its enemies are birds of prey (Hom. Od. 15,525-527 and passim). Aristot. Hist. an. 5,13…

Byssos

(105 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βύσσος; býssos). Plant and animal fibres that were made into mainly see-through garments (βύσσινος, βύσσινον πέπλωμα). These are probably especially linum (λίνον, linen, flax), later (obviously already in Hdt. 2,86) seed hairs of  cotton, perhaps of the Asclepiadacea Gomphocarpus fruticosus introduced from Africa, as well as fibres of mushrooms and lichens. Still called byssus today, the adhesive fibers of seashells clinging to the bottom of the sea, such as the large Mediterranean Pinna nobilis, also supplied 3-8 cm long fibres used for making ropes,…

Glow-worm

(164 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Thomas of Cantimpré 9,11 [1. 300] clearly described the glow-worm with the name cicendula (= firefly) as a beetle ( scarabeus) the size of a small fly that occurs mainly in Italy and flies 15 days before and after the summer solstice. The glowing, which is only visible at night as sparks ( scintillarum modo), is especially noticeable at the tail but not after the wings have been folded. He adopted the name and etymology ( cicindela ... quod volans vel gradiens lucet) from Isid. Orig. 12,8,6, but the remainder of the context from Plin. HN 11,98 and 18,250. There, cicindela is eq…

Purple swamphen

(157 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Porphyrio porphyrio, πορφυρίων/ porphyríōn, Lat. porphyrio). The particularly splendid, blue-coloured purple swamphen with red bill and long red legs belongs to the rail family. Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),6,595a 12 knew it for its peculiar snatching of water when drinking (Plin. HN 10,129: “solus morsu bibit”). Its neck is rather long (Aristot. Hist. an. 2,17,509a 10 f.). Pliny intimates that it breaks up its food in water and moves it towards its bill with its feet. A good description, …

Jellyfish

(274 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (zoological: Medusa). The swimming reproductive form of polyp from the seanettle subspecies ( Cnidaria) of zoophytes. Aristot. Hist. an. 4,6,531a 32-b 17 describes very well their stinging tentacles, the ἀκαλήφη/ akalḗphē sc. θαλασσία/ thalassía ‘stinging nettle’ (nettle-jellyfish) or, synonymously, κνίδη/ knídē (ibid. 5,16,548a 22-27) (The comic passages quoted by Ath. 3,90a-b mean by akalḗphē not the jellyfish, but the stinging nettle). In Latin the urtica marina corresponds to the knide (Plin. HN 32,146). Aristotle classes jellyfish as molluscs …

Apple

(261 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Crab apples ( Malus silvestris, pumila, tomentosa etc., ἀγριομηλέα; agriomēléa, e.g. in Dioscorides 1,115,4 [1.1.108] = 1,163 [2.136]) were collected as early as the Asian and European Stone Age. Cultivated strains with larger fruits reached the Alpine and Baltic area in the Neolithic period [3.94-104]. In imperial Rome about 30 varieties of apples (cf. Plin. HN 15,51 f. and passim) were known and these were achieved, among other ways, through various grafting procedures (cf. Colum. De arb…

Moray

(544 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In antiquity (σ)μύραινα/ (s)mýraina, Latin murena mostly meant the Mediterranean moray, Muraena helena L., a long, eel-like (cf. Aeschyl. Choeph. 994f.) edible fish, distinguished from the related σμῦρος ( smŷros, M. christini) by its markings. The latter kind of moray ( smŷros) is admittedly considered to be the male (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,10,543a 24-28; Plin. HN 9,76). Others believed in a mating of morays with snakes (Plin. l.c. and ibid. 32,14; detailed description in Opp. Hal. 1,554-579: Ael. Nat. 1,50), but Andreas …
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