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Taxus

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἡ [σ]μῖλος/ [s]mîlos, σμῖλαξ/ smîlax: Dioscorides, τὸ θύμαλλον/ thýmallon; Latin taxus, f.), a fir-like evergreen (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3; Plin.  HN 16,80) and long-lived (cf. Plin. ibid.  16,212) forest tree, the yew ( Taxus baccata L.). In Antiquity the cold-insensitive taxus (Verg. G 2,113) was widespread. Homer does not mention it, but Theophrastus knows the  mîlos well (Hist. Pl. 3,4,2 and 3,10,2; 4,1,3 and 5,7,6;   cf.  Plin.  HN 16,50 f.). Its needles and seeds (within the red berries) were already known to be poisonous…

Cedrus

(235 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κέδρος, kédros, Cedar). This evergreen genus of conifer was common throughout the northern hemisphere during the Cretaceous and Tertiary, but largely died out during the second to last ice age. Only in the Himalayas ( C. deodara), in Lebanon (only approximately 400 trees left) and Asia Minor ( C. libani = libanotica, in the Taurus and the Antitaurus), on Cyprus ( C. brevifolia) and in the Atlas (below 2,700 m, C. atlantica) do related species still grow. As early as c. 2750 BC, the aromatic and durable wood of the cedar was being exported to Egypt from the T…

Pearl

(970 words)

Author(s): Rehm, Ellen (Frankfurt/Main) | Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] I. Near East and Egypt The pearl known as the 'Orient pearl' (true pearl) develops in an oyster as a result of the encasing of a foreign body with mother-of-pearl. This process takes several years. Early evidence (beginning of 3rd millennium BC) of the Orient pearl comes from Uruk [1]. After this, there no finds until those from Babylon [2] of the Neo-Babylonian period and from a tomb in Susa [3] of the Achaemenid period and also from the Pasargadae [4] treasure. The fact that the mate…

Raven

(590 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The common raven, Corvus corax (κόραξ/ kórax, apparently derived from korós, 'black'; the juvenile, κορακῖνος/ korakînos, e.g., in Aristoph. Equ. 1053; Lat. corvus), originally distributed throughout Europe and Egypt (Ael. NA 2,48; smaller in Egypt, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 9(8),28, 606a 23 f.) and at least as large as a buzzard, is the largest of the European songbirds. Its characteristic call is 'kronk' or 'prrruk', but its vocalizations are otherwise highly varied (64 sounds, according to Ful…

Ferret

(222 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A domesticated form of the polecat ( Mustela putorius furo), specially bred to hunt for rabbits in their underground burrows, a member of the genus Mustela of the weasel family ( Mustelidae). Plin. HN 8,218 mentions the existence of ferrets (under the name of viverra) on the Balearic Islands. Isid. Orig. 12,2,39 is the first to transmit the description furo, derived from furvus (‘dark’). The earliest detailed description is provided by Thomas of Cantimpré 4,42 ([1. 135f.] c. AD 1240). He notes the similarity of the furunculus (popularly known as furetus) with the pole…

Hemlock

(274 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek κώνειον/ kṓneion due to its conical ovary κῶνος; kônos, Lat. cicuta, other names were derived from its poisonous effect, e.g. in Dioscorides 4,78 Wellmann = 4,79 Berendes), the umbellifer which grows wild in Europe in two species (the spotted hemlock, Conium maculatum and water hemlock, Cicuta virosa). Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 1,5,3) mentions the fleshy and hollow (ibid. 6,2,9) stem of the plant which is similar to devil's dung ( Ferula asafoetida) ( Narthex [1]). The root, when brewed, leaves a residue stronger than that of the umbel (differin…

Mackerel

(265 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκόμβρος/ skómbros, σκομβρίς/ skombrís, Latin scomber, κολίας/ kolías with unexplained etymology according to [1], Latin colias), the predatory marine fish, Scomber scombrus L. of the sub-species of the Scombroidea, that is often confused with the tuna because of its kinship with it. The mackerel, which according to Plin. HN 9,49 has a sulphury yellow colour in the water ( sulpureus color), comes, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),13,599a 1-3, in large schools to spawn on the sea coasts. Its catch (details in Opp. Hal. 3,576-595) was p…

Ginger

(80 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Through Plin. HN 12,28 we know that the Romans did not import the rhizome of the zingiber or zimpiber (Zingiber officinalis L.), a bitter-tasting spice, from Asia like today but from Arabia and Troglodytia (southern Egypt). Palladius used it to spice preserved quinces (Agric. 11,20,2). Dioscorides attributes to the zingíberi a warming, stomach-friendly effect (2,160 Wellmann = 2,189 Berendes). It helped with cataracts and in antidotes. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography R. Stadler, s.v. Ingwer, RE IX 2, 1554.

Pine

(406 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Mediterranean region there are about 12 species of the coniferous genus P inus (cf. p icea spruce): In the west, 1) p inus pinea L ., the stone pine (Italian: pino domestico cf. πεύκη ἥμερος; peúkē hḗmeros) with cones (στρόβιλοι / stróbiloi, θύρσοι / thýrsoi) containing edible seeds (κόκκιλοι / kókkiloi, κόκκωνες / kókkōnes); 2) the maritime pine, Pinus maritima (= p inaster Sol.); In the east, 3) the fine-needled aleppo pine, Pinus halepensis; 4) Pinus peuce Grisebach, which grows only on a few mountains of the northern Balkans along with various sp…

Cinnamon

(241 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κιννάμωμον/ kinnámōmon, κασσία/ kassía; Lat. cinnamomum, -a, cinnamum, cas(s)ia). In antiquity as now, the aromatic bark of various varieties of the cinnamon bush (esp. C. zeylanicum Br., C. cassis Br., C. Burmanni Bl.) was dried and sold in the form of rolled sticks. The  Phoenicians passed the knowledge (Hdt. 3,111) on to the Greeks, but the spice's real origin from south or south-eastern Asia ( India II.) remained unknown. Thus it was generally assumed that cinnamon grew in the south-west of the Arabian peninsula and the opposing shores of eastern Africa (  kinnamōm…

Moss

(164 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] was evidently neither noticed nor unambiguously given a name by the Greeks. In Dioskurides (1,21 Wellmann) βρύον ( brýon), actually means, amongst other things, lichens on oak trees. The Latin muscus describes not only this lower plant but also often algae or lichens. In order to improve a poor meadow, Columella 2,17,2 and Pall. Agric. 10,10,3 recommend pulling out moss or eradicating it by scattering ashes. Moss should also be removed from the base of grape vines in order to promote their growth (Columella. 4…

Delphinium

(153 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Member of the crowfoot plant family (Ranunculaceae) delphínion in Dioscorides 3,73 (only RV; [1. 84] = 3,77 [2. 310]). Because of the dolphin-like or pony-like nectaries on the larkspur, it is probably identical with D. ajacis L. (Modern Greek καπουτσῖνος) and consists of about 200 varieties, of which eight are to be found in Greece and Italy. That includes the common field weed D. staphisagria L. (στάφις ἀγρία in Dioscorides 4,152 [1. 84] = 4,153 [2. 451f.], Modern Greek ψειρόχορτο, ψειροβότανο, Lat. astaphis agria in Plin. HN 23,17, herba pedicularis, passula m…

Woad

(201 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἰσάτις/ isátis, Lat. vitrum and glastum, e.g. Plin. HN 22,2) the dye-plant 'Dyer's Woad', L. Isatis tinctoria. This genus of Brassicaceae thrives in Europe in a number of species. Until the discovery of the dye indigo in the 19th cent., it was used for colouring textiles blue (Dyeing). It is a perennial plant, growing up to 1.4 m in height, with yellow flowers [1. 157, colour photograph 326] developing into single-seed pods which are violet when ripe. A mash of ground dried leaves (flowers acco…

Umbilicus

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] Plant (κοτυληδών/ kotylēdṓn, κυμβάλιον/ kymbálion, σκυτάλιον/ skytálion, γῆς ὀμφαλός/ gȇs omphalós; Latin umbilicus Veneris, cotyledon), genus of the Crassulaceae family: navelwort with two species ( Umbilicus erectus and Umbilicus horizontalis) still growing on rocks and walls in the Mediterranean area, mentioned in Dioscorides (4,91-92 Wellmann = 4,90-91 Berendes) and Pliny (HN. 25,159). Its small fleshy leaves, sap pressed from them and it roots were prescribed for rashes, inflammations (primarily of th…

Rock hyrax

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Procavia capensis) is the only family representative from the mammal order Hyracoidea which is still found today in Palestine and the Middle East. These hare-sized herbivores are probably identical to the rabbits ( Hare) of the Luther Bible, χοιρόγρυλλος/ choirógryllos, Latin choerogryllus, chyrogryllius or middle-Latin cirogrillus, which are unclean according to the Mosaic food laws (Lv 11:5; Dt 14:7). At Thomas of Cantimpré 4,24 [1. 124] it is maintained by implied use of Hesychius (commentary in Lv 3:11, PG 93,906) that …

Nightjar

(90 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Caprimulgus europaeus L.). The curious earth-coloured bird has its name αἰγοθήλας/ aigothḗlas (Lat. caprimulgus, i.e. 'goat-milker') from the statement in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),30,618b 2-9 (= Plin. HN 10,115; Ael. NA 3,39) that it sucks the udder of goats at night [1. 72], causes their milk to dry up and makes the animals blind. In reality the bird flies about at night catching insects with its rather wide beak. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner. Keller 2, 68 f.  D'Arcy W. Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds, 1936 (repr. 1966), 24 f.

Silphion

(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek σίλφιον/ sílphion, word of non-Greek origin, from σίλφι/ sílphi or σίρφι/ sírphi; Latin sirpe, laserpicium from lac sirpicium). An as yet unidentified plant, imported from the 6th cent. BC from Cyrenaeca in northern Africa, and the resinous milky juice obtained from its stem and root (Latin laser, main citation in Plin. HN 19,38-46 and 22,100 f. according to Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,1,6; 6,3,1; 6,3,3; 6,4). It seems to have been related to asafoetida ( Ferula asa-foetida L.). The plant is supposed to have had a strong but pleasant smell. Theophr. (Hi…

Jay

(213 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κίσσα/ kíssa or κίττα/ kítta, Garrulus glandarius). It was often confused in Greek with the  Magpie [1. 146] and, as garrulus, in the Middle Ages (among others in Isid. Orig. 12,7,45) with either the graculus, the Alpine chough ( Jackdaw), or the rook (e.g. in Thomas of Cantimpré 5,62; [2. 209]). The colourful crow shows characteristic coloration and behaviour. Plin. HN 10,119 already admires the talkativeness of the related magpies and of the acorn eaters ( earum quae glande vescantur). Aristot. Hist. an. 9(8),13,615b 19-23 describes the changeability o…

Alum

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (στυπτηρία; styptēría, alumen). Name for a group of earth salts already known to the Babylonians [1.76 f.] ( salsugo terrae, Plin. HN 35,183), namely the salts of sulphuric acid that, in so-called alum works (μέταλλα τῆς στυπτηρίας; métalla tês styptērías) were, according to Dioscorides 5,106 [2.3.75] = 5,122 [3.532], mined in Egypt, Macedonia and, i.a., on Greek islands and proved lucrative because of their rarity and the strong demand for alum (cf. Diod. Sic. 5,10; Str. 6,2,10). Use of alum e.g. as an impregnating a…

Grass­hoppers

(438 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The word ἀκρίς/ akrís (from κρίζειν, ‘to scream’) attested since Hom. Il. 21,12 describes all species of Saltatoria same as locusta (since Naevius in Varro, Ling. 7,39 basic meaning ‘equipped with joints’ or ‘jumping’). This also applies to the synonyms βροῦχος/ broûchos = bruc(h)us, βρύκος/ brýkos, μάσταξ/ mástax, πάρνοψ/ párnops (Aristoph. Ach. 150 and Av. 588; Ael. NA 6,19; Paus. 1,24,8) or κόρνοψ ( kórnops; Str. 13,1,64 [613]) and ἀττέλαβος ( attélabos; Hdt. 4,172) = attelebus (Plin. HN 29,92). Regarding their biology, Aristot. Hist. an. 5,28,555b 18…
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