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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…


(203 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀετίτης; aetítēs). According to Plin. HN 36.149 (cf. Plin. HN 10.12) a so-called rattle stone found in both sexes in eagles nests, which like a pregnant woman contained a further stone inside it, of which Pliny according to Sotacus (3rd cent. BC) [1.468] distinguished a total of four kinds in Africa, Arabia, Cyprus and near Leucas. Without its presence the eagle would not produce any progeny. According to the stone book of Evax ch. 1 [2.234-236], the eagle brought it from the peri…


(524 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ὁ, ἡ ὄρτυξ/ ho, hē órtyx, Lat. coturnix). The quail ( Coturnix coturnix) is a very small poultry bird which flies poorly against the wind, seeming to murmur in complaint (cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),12,597b 14; Plin. HN 10,33). It was believed, on its spring and autumn migrations in the northern Mediterranean region (Aristot. ibid. 597a 22-27), to follow the lead of the landrail ( Crex crex), the 'mother of the quails' (ὀρτυγομήτρα/ ortygomḗtra; Plin. HN 10,33). While migrating, it was caught with nets (Diod. Sic. 1,60) into which it was driven w…


(414 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (the easily tameable gallinaceous bird Pavo cristatus, indigenous to India). According to unresolved etymology [1.vol. 2, 862; 2.vol. 2, 267] it was called ὁ ταώς/ taṓs, ταῶς/ taôs and Latin pavo or pava. Its introduction occurred probably in the 7th/6th cents. BC via Babylon (peacock throne) to Palestine and via Iran (hence Μηδικὸς ὄρνις/ Mēdikòs órnis, 'Median/Persian bird'; Diod. Sic 2,53 et passim) and the Middle East to Samos. There the peacock was the sacred animal in the temple of Hera (Antiphanes in Athens 14,655b; but on S…


(147 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (παιωνία/ paiōnía, Latin paeonia or glycyside, cf. Isid. Orig. 17,9,48, Paeonia officinalis Rtz.). The red- or white-flowered peony was cultivated not for its beautiful blooms but for its alleged therapeutic effect. According to Dioscorides (3,140 Wellmann = 3,147 Berendes) the plant was called e.g. γλυκυσίδη ( glykysídē), but the root was called paiōnía, perhaps after the god of healing Apollo Paionios (cf. [1. 100]). The root is eaten to promote menstruation and post-natal purification, drunk in wine it is allegedly helpful e.g. …


(352 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The large annual varieties of the generally tropical family of Cucurbitaceae with sizeable berries all come from the Near East. In antiquity the different varieties were often confused with one another. The real cucumber Cucumis sativus L. (σίκυς; síkys, σίκυος; síkyos, ἀγγούριον; angoúrion, Lat. cucumis) is encountered in Plin. HN 19,64-66 as a vegetable grown in hothouses ( intra specularium munimenta) to ensure a constant fresh supply for Tiberius. Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,1,6 describes the process of leaving the seeds in milk mead ( lac mulsum) for two days before…


(1,283 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Lepus europaeus Pallas). The hare can be found from Central Europe to the Near East and South Africa in cultivated steppe lands and in forests. Its name: λαγωός ( lagōós; Homeric), λαγώς, λαγῶς ( lagṓs, lagôs; Attic), λαγός ( lagós; Ionian, Doric), λέπορις ( léporis; Aeolian, Sicilian: Varro, Rust. 3,12,6), Latin lepus or the derivatives thereof λαγίον; lagíon, λαγίδιον; lagídion, λαγιδεύς; lagideús, furthermore special appellations according to characteristic features such as ‘ducker’ (πτώξ; ptṓx; Hom. Il. 17,676; Aesch. Eum. 326; Theophr. Hist. pl. …


(209 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βολβός; bolbós, bulbus). Name of the underground, tuberous roots, like onions and potato tubers, of various plants, especially the Allium varieties (cf. Dioscorides 2,214ff. = 2,178-182 [2. 232-235]) (leek, πράσον), namely Allium cepa (onion, κρόμμυον), Allium scorodoprasum (garlic, σκόροδον) and Allium schoenoprasum (chives, σχοινόπρασον). The magical herb μῶλυ of the Odyssey, the leaves of which Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,15,7 compares to the σκίλλα (squill, Urginea maritima), belongs to the broadleaf Allium varieties, as also the false mandrake ( Allium vict…

Leguminous plants (pulses)

(237 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( ervum, Columella 2,10,34 et passim, Plin. HN 18,57; 18, 139 et passim; ervilia, Plin. HN 18,58 et passim; Columella 2,13,1; ὄροβος/ órobos, related to ἐρέβινθος/ erébinthos ‘peas’). Collective name for small-seed legumes. These belong to the following genera: a) Vicia with the subgenus Ervum L. (among these V. ervilia (L.) Willd., the bitter vetch, cf. Columella 8,8,6); b) lens, lentil ( lens, Cato Agr. 35,1; 116; 132,2; 158,1; Columella 2,10,15 et passim; Plin. HN 18,57 et passim; lenticula, Plin. HN 18,123; Columella 2,7,1; 11,10; 8,8,6; φακός/ phakós, Hebrew ʿaḏā…


(204 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ἀσφόδελος ( asphódelos) is said to refer to that of the seven white- and pink-flowering species of the Liliaceae genus Asphodelus most frequent around the Mediterranean, Asphodelos microcarpus, which has been mentioned since Homer (Od. 11,539. 573; 24,13) and Hesiod (Op. 41) among others as native to the meadows of the earth and the underworld [1. 68 and fig. 108-111]. With reference to Greek authors, Dioscorides 2,169 ([2. 1. 234ff.] = 2,199 [3. 245f.]) and Plin. HN 22,67-72 praise it as a medicinal plant of manifold use. The albucus of Plin. HN 21,109 has been…


(449 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek μυγαλῆ/ mygal, Lat. sorex or Old Latin saurex and mus araneus, 'spider mouse'). Due to its secretive habit, this insectivore family of mammals with various species was hardly known in Antiquity. It was often confused with the ordinary mouse. Pliny describes the ears of the sorex as hairy (HN 11,136) and the tip of the tail as similar to that of the cow or lion (ibid. 11,265). Their hibernation is correctly mentioned by Plin. HN 8,223 (referring only to the garden shrew [1. 175]). Much superstition and magic was reported: supposedly, egrets ( ardeola) and shrews pre…


(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐρείκη; ereíkē is first mentioned in Aesch. Ag. 295 and Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,14,2). The genus Erica comprises c. 500 species, most of all African shrubs and trees. In the maquis of Greece, however, only three species of the Ericaceae family are represented, amongst them the brier Erica arborea l. which grows like a tree and flowers in spring; in contrast, the popular honey flora, mentioned by Pliny (HN 11,42) and Dioscorides (1,88 [1. 82] and 1,117 [2. 106]), belongs to the autumn flowering ones. In Italy, on the other hand, el…


(200 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The seeds of several legumes of the Vicieae group of genera of the order Leguminosae are called peas (Old High German arawiz, related to ὄροβος, órobos, and ἐρέβινθος, erébinthos). They have been cultivated for food in the Near East since the Mesolithic and in southern and central Europe since the Neolithic. Primarily they are Pisum sativum L. (also elatius and arvense, πίσ(σ)ον/ pís(s)on or πίσος/ písos, from which proper names such as Pisa and Piso derive), and also several varieties of chickpea, Cicer arietinum L., common in the East, named after the similarit…


(176 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Phoenicopterus ruber L., φοινικόπτερος; phoinikópteros, phoenicopterus). Wader named after its partly scarlet red wings; distinctive, shy brooding bird in north Africa and southern Asia, today also in the Camargue (southern France). It was first mentioned as a rare import by Aristophanes (Av. 270ff.) and also by Cratinus (fr. 114 Kock = 108 Edmonds). The observation of huge flocks made by the Alexander-historian Cleitarchus (FGrH 137 F 21) is reflected tendency (without naming the fla…


(103 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χαμαίμηλον; chamaímēlon, chamomilla, camomile). Certainly the composite Matricaria chamomilla L. that was cultivated as a medicinal plant from Neolithic times onwards. Plin. HN 22,53 knew not just its name,  anthemis, but also the nomenclature allegedly based on its apple smell ( quod odorem mali habeat, but in reality probably the result of its hemispherical thalamus), and emphasized its anti-inflammatory healing power (Plin. HN 22,53; Dioscorides 3,137 [1. II.145ff.] = 3,144 [2. 352ff.]). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.…


(431 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὄνος/ ónos, πολύπους/ polýplous, ὀνίσκος/ onískos, κούβαρις/ koúbaris, κύαμος/ kýamos, τύλον/ týlon, centi-, mille- (or mili-) and multipedium). The common woodlouse, rough woodlouse or pill bug (mentioned as early as Soph. fr.363 N2) of the Crustacea subphylum, at Aristot. Hist. an. 5,31,557a 24f. (on similarities between fish lice and many-legged ὄνοι/ ónoi), Dioscorides 2,35 [1. 1. 133] (on many-legged ὄνοι which curl up under water containers when disturbed as helpful against e.g. jaundice and as a component of injections aga…


(161 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Of the Salmonidae family, Antiquity was familiar with: 1. the salmon proper, Salmo salar L., as ἴσοξ/ ísox ( isox Isid. Orig. 20,2,30), mentioned in Plin. HN 9,44 for the Rhine and Sulp. Sev. Dialogi 2,10,4 for the Liger (Loire). Auson. Mos. 97-105 describes it accurately; 2. the sea trout, Salmo trutta trutta, as fario (Auson. Mos. 128-130 and Isid. Orig. 12,6,6: varii) or salmo marinus (Plin. HN 9,68, but according to [1. 119] no. 1); 3. the brown trout, Salmo trutta fario, may be meant by salmo fluviatilis (Plin. HN 9,68) in Aquitania. Auson. Mos. 88 characterizes the sala…


(81 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( unionum conchae). The pearl oyster ( concha, Plin. HN 9,106; cf. Shells D. 3.), imported from India (Plin. HN 9,106), provided the valuable pearl (μαργαρίτης/ margarítēs, margarita), but its shell covered with the same substance was scarcely used. We know only that Nero (Suet. Nero 31) had the walls in his palace in Rome, the domus aurea -- still partially traceable -- decorated with mother-of-pearl. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography A. Schramm, s.v. P., RE 19, 867  Blümner, Techn. 22, 380.

Thistle finch

(161 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀκανθίς/ akanthís, Latin acanthis and carduelis). A heat-loving bird, which, because of its colourful plumage and beautiful song, people still like to keep in cages in Mediterranean countries today. Its small size (Plin. HN 10,175) and enmity with the ass owing to competition for the thistles they eat are variously mentioned (Plin. HN 10,205 = Ps.-Aristot. 9,1,610 a 4). This interpretation of akanthís (Aristot. Hist. an. 8,3,592 b 30; Ps.-Aristot. 9,1,610a 4; 9,17,616b 31), however, is as disputed as the identification with acanthyllis ( agathillis Codd.) in Pli…


(103 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Latin a. (Plin. HN 16,108: with leaves between holly oak, Ilex, and olive tree, oliva) means evergreen trees and shrubs of the Mediterranean Sea area with stone fruit (Pliny: without fruit!) from the families of the rhamnaceae (especially Rhamnus alaternus L., buckthorn) and the oleaceae ( Phillyrea media L. and angustifolia L.). In Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3 κήλαστρος ( kḗlastros; celastrus) seems to belong to Phillyrea because the celastreae genus Celastrus L. is not found by the Mediterranean Sea. Hort [1] translates the φιλύκη ( philýkē) that follows there as a. Hünem…
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