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Nightingale

(752 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The name ἡ ἀηδών/ aēdṓn (‘singer’, other derivations ἀηδονίς/ aēdonís, ἀηδονιδεύς/ aēdonideús, among others) and Latin luscinia, luscinius or lusciniola in Varro, Rust. 3,5,14 (perhaps ‘twilight singer ’[1. 1,838]), or poetic aedon, aedonius and philomela in general describe the nightingale ( Luscinia megarhynchos Brehm), from the subfamily of the thrushes, which is very widespread around the Mediterranean. The grey-brown bird, which lives inconspicuously and hidden, is not more closely described. Only Aristot. Hist. an. …

Badger

(196 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A predator of the marten family ( Mustelidae), called meles ( maeles, Varro, Rust. 3,12,3; melo, Isid. Orig. 12,2,40) by the Romans; it was nocturnal and probably unknown to the Greeks [1]. Pliny maintains wrongly (HN 8,138) that it could defend itself against humans and dogs by puffing itself up, and otherwise only mentions it in comparison with other animals. Without taking into consideration the notes of the physician Marcellus Empiricus (36,5) who under the name of adeps taxoninus (which was Celtic) according to Isidore, Orig. 20,2,24, with a quotation …

Swan

(655 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Κύκνος/ kýknos, Latin cygnus or olor) is the term not only for the mute swan., Cygnus olor, which breeds in Europe, but also for the Nordic whooper swan, C. cygnus (L.), which migrated as a winter visitor, probably occasionally as far as Greece and Italy. Hom. Il. 2,460-463 has them gather with geese and cranes in Lydia on the 'Asian meadow' (cf. Str. 14,1,45). Homer's Hymn 21 to Apollo locates them on the river Peneius in Thessaly, Aristoph. Av. 768 on the Hebrus in Thrace, Ov. Epist. 7,1 on the Maeander [2]…

Aerugo

(118 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( aeruca in Vitr. De arch. 7,12, or aerugo [1.136], Greek ἰός; iós). The poisonous verdigris produced by the effect of damp air or acids, copper acetate, was scratched off (ξυστός; xystós) or as type σκώληξ ( skṓlēx), sometimes adulterated with other substances like pumice, and used as an astringent remedy, among other references in Dioscorides 5,79 [2.3.49 ff.] = 5,91-92 [3. 511 ff.] externally for ulcers and for eye ointments (Plin. HN 34,113). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 D. Goltz, Studien zur Gesch. der Mineralnamen in Pharmazie, Ch…

Eagle-stone

(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…

Acus

(128 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek βελόνη ( belónē), also ῥαφίς ( rhaphís) or ἀβλεννής ( ablennḗs), Ath. 7,305d; 319cd; 8,355 f.). A saltwater fish that lives in a school (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),2,610 b 6) (Plin. HN 32,145), the pipefish [1. 9] of the syngnathus family or the garfish (Thompson and Jones in [1]) with an interesting spawning behaviour, i.e. the laying of large eggs in winter (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,11,543b11) by reversible bursting open of the abdomen (6,13,567b22-26; Plin. HN 9,166: reference to pouch of…

Divers

(118 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] It is doubtful whether representatives of the two orders of the grebes ( Podicipidae) or the northern European loons ( Colymbidae) were known to antiquity. In any case almost all grebes spent the winter at the Mediterranean. The οὐρία/ ouría (Ath. 9,395e), which is about the size of a duck and dirty brown in colour, has been interpreted as a diver [1. 220], the κολυμβίς/ kolymbís (Ath. 9,395d; cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 1,1,487a 23 and 7(8),3,593b 17) as a little grebe ( Podiceps ruficollis) [1. 158] and the καταρράκτης/ katarrháktēs (Aristot. ibid. 2,17,509a 4 and 8(9)…

Casia

(119 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( cassia, κασσία; kas〈s〉ía) was the name originally given to species of Cinnamomum, especially C. zeylanicum ( Cinnamon, κιννάμωμον in Hdt. 3,107) and C. cassia (from southern China, cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,5,1 and 3; Dioscorides 1,13 [1. 1,17f.] = 2.1,12 [2. 35ff.]), but also, already in antiquity, to species of the genus of leguminosae Cassia, especially the black husks of C. fistula ( C. solutiva, κασσία μέλαινα, γλυκοκάλαμος) introduced via Alexandria. Their edible pith that acts as a laxative (called senna pulp) was used frequently also in the Middle Ages. Hü…

Dog

(1,444 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] An animal (κύων/ kýōn, κυνίδιον/ kynídion, κυνίσκος/ kynískos, σκύλαξ/ skýlax, σκυλάκιον/ skylákion, canis, canicula, catellus). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) [German version] A. Breeds One of the oldest domestic animals, bred in various parts of the world, probably starting in the Mesolithic era, from varieties of wild dogs that have now died out. The theory of its descent from the golden jackal ( Canis aureus) [2] has now been abandoned. From bone remains and from graphic representations several early breeds can be identified as the a…

Nuthatch

(135 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This colourful songbird (σίττη/ síttē, ὄρνις ποιός/ órnis poiós, οἱ δὲ δρυοκολάπτης/ dryokoláptēs: Hesych. s.v.) which is related to the tit-mouse and behaves in a similar manner to the woodpecker is found in Greece as the lighter coloured rock nuthatch, Sitta syriaca, which likes to break open almond kernels. In Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),17,616b 21-25 the síttē  is quarrelsome but caring towards her many chicks. On the basis of her adroitness she is considered skilled in the art of healing. On account of the alleged destruction of the e…

Paeonia

(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. …

Ochre

(254 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὤχρα/ ṓchra, Latin ochra, sil: Plin. HN 33,158), weathered clayey iron oxide compound, which was the most widely used brownish yellow paint in antiquity, sometimes resembling oxblood in appearance. There were four common types of ochre (Plin. HN 33,158-160), the best of which was no longer available after the Laurium silver mines in Attica were depleted (cf. Vitr. De arch. 7,7,1). The second-best type, a grainy ochre containing marble that could withstand etching with burnt lime, was…

Chicory

(236 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κιχόριον, κιχόρη, κίχορα; kichórion, kichórē, kíchora in Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,10,7; 7,7,3 and passim; cichorium, cichoreum, cichora in Plin. HN 21,88, and ἐντύβιον, ἔντυβον, intybus or intubus Columella 11,3,27; Plin. HN 19,129). The endive, the name for two related composite species native to the Mediterranean Sea: 1) the mainly perennial wild succory ( Cicorium intybus L.) with its hirsute shoot that are more than one metre high; it has many names in common with the plantain ( plantago) that grows in the same location and was likewise made into syrup an…

Rhinoceros

(520 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The Indian rhinoceros ( Rhinoceros unicornis L.) and the two African species, the Black rhinoceros ( Diceros bicornis L.) and White rhinoceros ( Ceratotherium simum Burch.), were referred to without distinction as ῥινόκερως/ rhinókerōs, more rarely μονόκερως/ monókerōs (literally 'unicorn' and translated as unicornis in Isid. Orig. 12,2,12), Latin rhinoceros, monoceros. 1. Indian rhinoceros: in literature, the Indian rhinoceros was known only from Ctesias (fr. 14; Phot. Bibl. 72,48b 19ff. Bekker), used by Aristot. Hist. an. 2,1,49…

Ephedra

(198 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐφέδρα, ἐφέδρον; ephédra, ephédron). Type of shrub that has been identified with the almost leafless gymnospermous birch shrub Ephedra campylopoda C.A. Mey, which climbs up trees and cliffs in the Balkan countries. This is supported not only by the alternative name ( anábasis, ἀνάβασις) but also by Pliny's description of the plant (HN 26,36 scandens arborem et ex ramis propendens). There, rubbed into dark wine, it is recommended for coughing and shortness of breath, and is supposed to help against stomach-ache when boiled as a broth and …

Laurel

(888 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (δάφνη/ dáphnē, Lat. laurus, from which ‘laurel’), Laurus nobilis L., from the mostly tropical family of the Lauraceae. Through cultivation, the bush (demonstrated by fossils since the Tertiary) developed into an evergreen forest tree in the Mediterranean region. In Homer (Od. 9,183), laurel formed a roof over the cave of the Cyclops. Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 1,9,3) distinguishes the cultivated laurel (ἥμερος/ hḗmeros) in many varieties (1,14,4; cf. the types distinguished by name in Plin. HN 15,127-130) from the wild (ἀγρία/ agría) species, erroneously assume…

Bees

(564 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A. Zoology According to our sources, it was the Greeks and Romans who first bred bees for honey in antiquity ( Apiculture). They called the honey or worker bee δάρδα, μέλισσα, apis, the male drone ἀνθρήνη, κηφήν, θρώναξ, fucus and the queen bee βασιλεύς, ἡγεμῶν, rex, dux or imperator. In Greece this applied to the uniformly coloured, dark brown Apis cecropia, in Italy mainly to the A. ligustica with two orange rings on its abdomen. The zoological information about them was often incorrect. According to Pliny (HN 11,1 and 5) they had no blood, a…

Lynx

(312 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λύγξ/ lýnx, λυγκίον/ lynkíon, according to Ael. NA 7,47, the young was called σκύμνιος/ skýmnios; Latin lynx or chama). The swamp lynx, a small species of cat [1. 1,81f.], and the desert lynx or caracal ( Lynx caracal; probably meant in Plin. HN 8,72) are attested on Egyptian representations (e.g. a swamp lynx? on a middle Minoan fresco from Hagia Triada on Crete together with a cormorant [1. 1,66, Fig. 17]). The northern lynx ( Lynx lynx) from the predatory family of the cats is mentioned by Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,1,499b 24f.: has only half of the cuboi…

Marten

(148 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Since there are no descriptions, we can not know whether the two species, beech marten ( Martes foina, with white throat patch) and pine marten ( Martes martes, with yellow throat patch), were known in antiquity. Hom. Il. 10,335 and 458 κτιδέην κυνέην/ ktidéēn kynéēn could be translated as ‘helmet of marten fur’ [1. 1,160].ἴκτις/ íktis (Aristot. Hist. an. 2,1,500b 24; cf. Plin. HN 29,60: mustelarum genus silvestre) may be a weasel. Aristoph. Ach. 880 mentions íktis pelts on the market in Athens; Nik. Ther. 196 speaks of them killing poultry, which suggest…

Biremis

(109 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] Ship with two oars A ship with two oars (δίκωπος; díkōpos), Eur. Alc. 252; Pol. 34,3,2; Luc. 8,565; 10,56). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) [German version] [2] A ship with two protruding banks of oars A ship with two protruding banks of oars, of different length, on the sides (διήρης/ diḗres) and accordingly two synchronous stroke patterns (δίκροτος/ díkrotos). Each oar was serviced by a galley convict (Caes. B Civ. 3,40,4). The Phoenicians were familiar with these ships of two banks of oars as early as around 700 BC.  Ships Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliogra…
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