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Arachnids

(897 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Of the genus of arthropods, only the two orders of web-spiders ( Araneae; spiders) and scorpions were commonly known in Antiquity. The third order, that of the very poisonous barrel spiders ( Solifugae/ Solpugida), a scourge in Arabia and tropical Africa (Agatharchides mare Eythraeum 59 = GGM 151), was apparently found only in Greece (φαλάγγια/ phalángia) and Spain ( salpugae, Plin. HN 29,92). Plin. HN 29,87 [1. 36 f.] makes a clear distinction between two types. Of the fourth order, mites ( Acari), only the castor-bean tick ( ricinus = tick, Ixodes ricinus L.) is signi…

Pepper

(240 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (τὸ πέπερι/ tò péperi, Latin piper) in Hippoc. Gynaikia 1,81 (cf. Hippocr. Epidemiai 4,40; 5,67; 6,6,13; 7,64) is the name of the costly spice Piper with two species ( P. album and P. nigrum) which is imported from India. The inadequate descriptions in Theophr. H. plant. 9,20,1, (cited in Athen. 2,66e), Dioscorides (2,159 Wellmann = 2,188 Berendes) and Plin. HN 12,26f. divulge that the seed grains of what is called P. longum grow in small pods, and this has been connected with African pepper ( Xylopia aethiopica A. Rich.), which is common in Africa. Theophrastus deri…

Anemo­ne

(127 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀνεμώνη; anemṓnē). In Theophr. Hist. pl. 6,8,1 and passim, Dioscorides 2,176 [1.1.244 f.] = 2,207 [2.252 f.] with medicinal significance e.g. for cleaning ulcers. Plin. HN 21,164-166 names the early blossoming ranunculaceae Anemone coronaria L. [3.76 and fig. 121] and hortensis L. cultivated in many types of garden forms as well as their wild varieties. According to Plin. HN 21,165, the name is derived, like the German Windröschen (wind rose), from the flowers opening in the spring wind. The genuses pasque flowers ( Pulsatilla) and liverworts ( Hepatica) are rela…

Peach

(165 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Prunus persica Batsch from Persica sc. malus, Greek Περσικὸν μῆλον/ Persikòn mȇlon or Latin Persicum malum, i.e. literally 'Persian apple-tree', for the fruit), introduced to Italy from Persia or Armenia only in the 1st cent. AD (Plin. HN 12,14 and 15,44f.). Plin. HN 15,39f. distinguishes several kinds according to origin, including the supernatia, i.e. the one from the Adriatic Sea. It is likely that early peaches ( praecocia) meant apricots, which were initially very expensive. Peaches, which were rated particularly innocuous (cf. Dioscorides …

Dictamnus

(212 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] An uncommon subshrub growing in Crete, properly called Dittany in English (δίκταμνος; díktamnos or δίκταμνον; díktamnon in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),6,612a 3-5 and Mir. ausc. 4,830b 20-22, Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,16,1, Dioscorides 3,32 [1. 41f.] = 3,34 [2. 284ff.] and dictamnus in Verg. Aen. 12,412 and Pliny HN 25,92). It is considered to be not our native Rutacea the aromatic Burning Bush, Dictamnus albus L., the diptam or diptamnus of the Middle Ages, whose leaves have a lemon-like fragrance when rubbed, but rather the Mediterranean labiate Amaracus (Amarakos) dict…

Argemone

(116 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀργεμώνη; argemṓnē), in Dioscorides 2,177 [1. 1.245 f.] = 2,208 [2.253], which is supposed to be named after the use of its milky sap (ὀπός; opós) against leucoma (ἀργεμα; árgema) etc. Just as with μήκων ῥοιάς ( mḗkōn rhoiás) in Dioscorides 4,63 [1.2.217 f.] = 4,64 [2.397] and argemonia in Plin. HN 25,102 (medical use e.g. for angina in Plin. HN 26,23) there is identification with the club-like poppy Papaver argemone L., by others with the similarly flowering pheasant's eye ( Adonis autumnalis L.; cf. adonium Plin. HN 21,60).  Poppy Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bib…

Anastatica

(99 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The true rose of Jericho, Rosa hierochontea, Rosa de Hiericho, Rosa Sanctae Mariae, the year-old crucifer Anastatica hierochuntica L. of the deserts of the Near East and north Africa and the small or false rose of Jericho, the composite Odontospermum pygmaeum (= Asteriscus aquaticus), found as far as southern Europe, have been considered since the Crusades to be a symbol of the Resurrection because of the infructescences unrolling in the presence of moisture [1. 38 f.]. The plants spread their seeds by rolling in the wind. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliograph…

Fenugreek

(146 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (βούκερας, αἰγόκερας, τῆλις; boúkeras, aigókeras, têlis) is an annual cultivar of the Mesopotamian species Tr. Haussknechtii (not the Mediterranean Trigonella gladiata), with a tangy fragrance that was used medicinally and as fodder. As seed finds of c. 3000 BC near Cairo show, fenugreek was cultivated in ancient Babylonia and Egypt, (Egyptian šbt, Arabic ḥulba) from where it was exported. Dioscurides 2,102 ([1. 176f.] = 2,124 [2. 206f.]) recommends the meal produced from the seed as a tonic and for cleansi…

Capercaillie

(192 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (τέτραξ, tétrax). Plin. HN 10,56 distinguishes between a smaller black variety (i.e. the black grouse) and one living in the north and in the Alps, similar in colour to but much bigger than a vulture, which because of its weight could be caught on the ground [1. 234f.]. When kept in a cage, their meat supposedly lost its taste, and the birds stopped breathing and died. Whether the bird from Mysia in Ath. 9,398e-f refers to the capercaillie remains uncertain. Other mentions of its n…

Xenocrates

(2,016 words)

Author(s): Meister, Klaus (Berlin) | Stanzel, Karl-Heinz (Tübingen) | Zimmermann, Bernhard (Freiburg) | Neudecker, Richard (Rome) | Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Et al.
(Ξενοκράτης/ Xenokrátēs). [German version] [1] X. of Acragas, mentioned by Pindar, c. 500 BC Brother of the tyrant Theron of Acragas. Pind. Pyth. 6 refers to X.' victory in chariot-racing at the Pythian Games (Pythia [2]) in 490 BC, and Pind. Isthm. 2 to his charioteering victory at the Isthmian Games (Isthmia) in c. 470 BC. The latter ode was written after X.' death. Meister, Klaus (Berlin) Bibliography H. Berve, Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen, 1967, 133; 135. [German version] [2] X. of Chalcedon Academic philosopher, 4th cent. BC Academic philosopher (Academy), 4th cent. BC. Stanzel, Ka…

Apricot

(194 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The apricot ( Armeniaca vulgaris Lam. = Prunus armeniaca L.) comes from a stone fruit genus represented in eastern and central Asia by eight to nine species that are often regarded, like the peach and the almond, as just (like Plin. HN 15,41-43) a subgenus of Prunus. In its Chinese homeland it has been cultivated since at least the 3rd cent. BC. The early flowering tree (Plin. HN 16,103) reached Greece and Italy via Armenia through the campaign in AD 63 and so was called μῆλον ἀρμενιακόν ( mêlon armeniakón), malum Armeniacum (Isid. Orig. 17,7,7), Armenia(ca). Dioscorides 1,…

Bal­sam

(197 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βάλσαμον; bálsamon), also balsam sap or inferior wood balsam (ὀποβάλσαμον or ξυλοβάλσαμον), the aromatic resin of the Burseracea Commiphora (= balsamodendron) opobalsamum (including gileadensis), which is tapped in the summer. Balsam was only known since Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,6 only as a product of two gardens from Palestine (Judea near Jericho) and from Arabia (Str. 16,2,763). Dioscorides (1,19,1-5 [1. 1.24ff.] = 1,18 [2. 45ff.]; following Theophrastus) describes the small bush, which resembles the vin…

Caurus

(64 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Χῶρος; Chôros, Plin. HN 2,119). The turbulent north-west wind that blows from 30° from west to north. It is sometimes (as in Vitr. De arch. 1,6,10) distinguished from the Corus.  Winds Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography R. Böker, s.v. Winde, RE 8 A, 2294,45ff., 2352 (fig. 14), 2356,16 ( corus!), 2373 (fig. 26: wind star of Vitruvius) and 2375 (fig. 27: wind-rose of Pliny).

Molluscs

(186 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Aristotle (Hist. an. 1,1,487b 15 f.) defines molluscs (μαλάκια/ malákia; Lat. mollia sc. animalia, e.g. Plin. HN 9,73; 11,133 and 11,267) as bloodless (marine) animals that are capable of floating and have a rigid internal structure (στερεόν/ stereón = σήπιον/ sḗpion or ξίφος/ xíphos, ‘sword’, here the mostly calcareous shell, well described in ibid. 4,1,524b 22-27), having eight tentacles, each with two rows of suckers (δικότυλοι/ dikótyloi), a head and a body (κύτος/kýtos; ibid. 4,1,523b 1-5 and 21-29) enclosed by a fin (πτερύγια/ pterýgia). Today we refer to…

Anthyllis

(93 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀνθυλλίς, ἀνθύλλιον, ἄνθυλλος; anthyllís, anthýllion, ánthyllos) was, according to Dioscorides 3,136 [1.2.144 f.] = 3,143 [2.351 f.] and Plin. HN 21,175, the name given to two medicinal herbs used i.a. in gynaecology that are hard to classify, namely the Cretan cress ( Cressa cretica L., Convolvulaceae) and perhaps the labiate Ajuga Iva Schreb. Since the 16th cent. anthyllis has been used for the kidney vetch. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii Dioscuridis de materia medica vol. 2, 1906, repr. 1958 2 J. Berendes (ed.),…

Carbasus

(49 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κάρπασος, καρπήσιον; kárpasos, karpḗsion). Phoenician or previously Indian term for  cotton, such as that from Tarraco (modern Tarragona) in Spain (Plin. HN 19,10). Plants used as antidotes ( Alexipharmaka) such as species of Helleborus and Valeriana were also thus described (cf. Colum. 10,17). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)

Aloe

(83 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The name ἀλόη ( alóē) of the liliaceae genus with succulent leaves precisely described by Dioscorides 3,22 [cf. 1. 276 ff.] and Plin. HN 27,14-20 along with the healing powers (as a laxative, among other effects) of its wood sap is said to be derived from Syrian alwa, elawa (meaning: colastrum). The main species A. vera L. was introduced from Egypt and southern Asia (especially India). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 J. Berendes, Des Pedanios Dioskurides Arzneimittellehre translation and with a commentary, 1902, repr. 1970.

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…

Sponge

(311 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Hurschmann, Rolf (Hamburg)
[German version] I. Science Σπόγγος/ spóngos, σπογγία/ spongía (Attic σπογγιά/ spongiá), Latin spongia (with the special names peniculus in comedies of such as Plautus and Terence, penicillus in Colum. 12,18,5 and Pliny) is the Bath Sponge ( Euspongia officinalis Bronn.), which grows in the Mediterranean. Four geographical subspecies, three black and one white (ἀπλυσία/ aplysía of the genus Sarcotragus Schmidt), are distinguished by Aristotle in his accurate description (Hist. an. 5,16,548a 30-549a 13; cf. Plin. HN 9,148-150) and a further one by Diosco…
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