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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 …

Weasel

(403 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γαλῆ/ galê, also γαλέα/ galéa; Latin mustela, the 'mouse-hunter', in Isid. Orig. 12,3,3 interpreted with a false etymology as a 'long mouse'; usually the weasel ( Mustela nivalis L.), but also other members of the Mustelidae = marten-like family). The galê is sometimes identified with the ἰκτίς/ iktís (schol. Nic. Ther. 196; Plin. HN 29,60; cf. Polecat, Marten); Aristot. Hist. an. 2,1,500b 24 and 8(9),6,612b 10 contradicts this, however. Weasels hunt mice, moles (Pall. Agric. 4,8,4), snakes, lizards and birds. People caught them with live-catch traps (γαλεάγρα/ gal…

Achates

(297 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Graf, Fritz (Columbus, OH)
[German version] [1] Precious stone According to Theophr. De lapidibus 31 [1.68], a precious stone ( gemma) named after the river of the same name in Sicily (today's Carabi or Canitello), and which, along with 11 others, adorned the official escutcheon of the High Priest Aaron (Ex 39,10-13) [2.204 f.]. According to Plin. HN 37,5, King Pyrrhus of Epirus owned a specimen whose naturally occurring streaks ( maculae) depicted Apollo and the nine Muses. According to Plin. HN 37,139-142, the achates and its many variants, whilst having decreased in value owing to ma…

Water nut

(152 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The only representative of the Trapaceae (formerly Hydrocaryaceae) family is called, from the shape of the nut, ὁ τρίβολος/ tríbolos sc. ἔνυδρος/ énhydros ('tricorn'), βουκέφαλος/ boképhalos ('ox's head'), ταυροκέρας/ taurokéras ('bull's horn') in Greek, and tribulus sc. aquaticus in Latin. The plant grows primarily in marshy places in soft-water rivers in the climatically favourable zones of Europe and Asia, with all but the leather-like serrated floating leaves under water (good description in  Theophr. Hist. pl. 4…

Kneoron

(86 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κνέωρον; knéōron). By κνέωρος Theophr. (Hist. pl. 6,1,4) understands, as does Dioscorides (4,172 [1. 2,320ff.] = 4,170 [2. 464f.]) several small shrubs of the Thymelaeaceae with a poisonous sap that causes itching (cf. Plin. HN 21,55), namely Thymelaea tartonraira and hirsuta, Daphne gnidium (Southern daphne) and oleifolia. The red berries used for medicinal purposes (Plin. HN 13,114 grana Cnidia) were still prescribed in the 19th cent., as semina Coccognidii, as a laxative. Poisonous plants Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Wellmann 2 2 Berendes

Tortoise

(984 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Klose, Dietrich (Munich)
[German version] [1] Animal (χελώνη/ chelṓnē, ἐμύς/ emýs: Aristot. Hist. an. 5,33, 558a 7-11, cf. Arr. Ind. 21; Latin testudo, in Plin. HN 9,71 and 166 mus marinus, literally 'sea mouse'). The following are known: 1.) the Hermann's Tortoise, χελώνη (χελών, χελύς, χελύνη) χερσαία/ chelṓnē ( chelṓn, chelýs, chelýnē) chersaía; 2.) the very similar Spur-Thighed Tortoise, χ. ὄρειος ( ch. óreios) in Ael. Nat. 14,17 and Plin. HN 9,38: chersinae; 3.) the Pond Terrapin, ἐμύς ( emýs) or χ. λιμναία ( ch. limnaía); 4.) the Loggerhead Sea-Turtle, Thalassochelys caretta, χ. θαλαττία ( ch. thalattía) …

Strychnos

(163 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ὁ/ἡ στρύχνος/ strýchnos, Latin solanum and strumus). Various species of the nightshade family ( Solanaceae). They comprise (1) the edible vegetable plants (=ἐδώδιμος/ edṓdimos; ἥμερος/ hḗmeros = 'tame, cultivated', κηπαῖος/ kēpaîos = 'belonging to the garden') and those used as medicinal herbs (e.g. externally for itching, Plin. HN 26,120), such as Black Nightshade ( Solanum nigrum; Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,18,11; 7,7,2 and 7,15,4; Dioscorides 4,70 Wellmann = 4,71 Berendes; Plin. HN 27,132) and its varieties (including the tomato, w…

Cantharides

(168 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κανθαρίδες; kantharídes) are slim, metallic-green oil beetles, such as the so-called Spanish fly ( Lytta vesicatoria), that were used for medicines; when taken orally, their active ingredient -- cantharidin -- leads to poisoning, as Plin. HN 29,93-96 (cf. [1. 70f.]) shows with reference to one case. Externally applied to wounds together with e.g. mutton suet, the cantharidae were said to be useful because of their blistening, caustic effect which the Middle Ages learnt about through Isid. Orig. 12,5,5. The beetles -- that lived on pl…

Anchousa

(167 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄγχουσα; ánchousa). Identified as the Mediterranean boraginaceae Alkanna tinctoria (L.) Tausch used for red dye (because of the alizarine content of the root) and as an astringent medicinal plant; in Aristophanes, Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,9,3 (with red rhizome), Dioscorides 4,23 [1.2.187 f. = 2.378] (cf. 4,24-26), Plin. HN among others [3.158]. Among other plants, the ox tongues, on the other hand, belong to the current genus Anchusa L. (βούγλωσσον; boúglōsson). The olive tree-like leaves of the bushy officinal (cf. Dioscorides 1,95 [1.1.86] = 1,124 …

Violet

(435 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἴον/ íon, ἰωνία/ iōnía; Latin viola). The ancient names referred not only to the various types of Violaceae, but also to certain cruciferous plants with yellow and white blossoms (wallflower: Cheiranthus cheiri L., gillyflower: Mathiola incana R. Br., dame's rocket: Hesperis matronalis L.) that are not the focus of interest here. The word íon in Hom. Od. 5,72 may refer not to a violet, but more generally to a ‘flower with a dark blossom’ [1]. Theophrastus (H. plant. 6,6,7) describes the fragrant violet with blue-violet blossoms called Viola odorata (ἴον μέλαν/ íon méla…

Strawberry tree

(269 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Walde, Christine (Basle)
[German version] In the macchia shrubland of Mediterranean countries the genus Arbutus L. of the Ericaceae family is represented by two of its total of 20 evergreen species, namely a) the ST Arbutus unedo L. (κόμαρος; kómaros) with its strawberry-like sour-tasting drupes ( arbuta Verg.  G. 3,301 and 4,181), which ripen in a year, and b) the andrachle, Arbutus andrachle L. (ἀνδράχνη; andráchn ē), spread from Greece to the east as far as the coast of the Black Sea, with small orange-yellow inedible fruits. The fruits of the arbutus, which grows as far west as the Atlantic coast of Ir…

Sulphur

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (θεῖον/ theîon, Epic θέειον/ théeion or θήιον/ thḗion, Latin sulphur). Because of its alleged power to ward off evil, derived from theîos ('divine'), mentioned as early as in Homer (Od. 14,307; 22,481 f. and 493 f.: as a means of purification after the killing of the suitors by Odysseus). Aristotle (Mete. 3,6, 378a 23) mentions it as an example of fossil substances burnt by dry exhalation (ξηρὰ ἀναθυμίασις/ xērá anathymíasis) [1. 42 f.]. Sulphur was mined, primarily in Sicily, and was used to combat vermin and to preserve wine ('sulphuration' of …
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