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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…

Lark

(288 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Classical antiquity knew only one species each from two genera of the Alaudidae family: the crested lark ( Galerida cristata L.), ἡ κόρυδος/ kórydos, κορύδαλος/ korýdalos; Latin corydalus (Marcellus, De medicamentis 29,30), galerita (Plin. HN 10,137), cassita (Gell. NA 2,29,3), Celtic alauda (Plin. HN 11,121; Marcellus, ibid. 28,50), is distinguished from the skylark ( Alauda arvensis L.), which appears in Greece only as a winter visitor, by the feather crest according to Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),25,617b 19-23. The crested lark is the s…

Agnos

(204 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄγνος; ágnos). Like Greek λύγος ( lýgos; Homeric), Latin vitex for the shrub or tree Vitex agnus-castus L. from the tropical genus of the verbenaceae that is the only species common around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea on coasts and river banks. Popular etymological interpretation as early as antiquity sometimes as ἅγιος ( hágios) = holy (Dioscorides), sometimes as ἄγονος ( ágonos; Galen) = castus = chaste and in the Middle Ages as agnus = lamb (Albertus Magnus) and castus ( Agnus castus in the 13th cent. [2. lib. 10,5 = 1. lib. IV. A. 1 among others]. Th…

Seal

(565 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φώκη/ phṓkē, Latin vitulus marinus, 'sea-calf', or phoca, Manil. 5,661) was the term in Antiquity for the monk seal, Monachus monachus, up to 4 m long with a whitish underside  and rare in the Mediterranean. Only Tac. Germ. 17 seems to allude to the pelt of the common seal ( Phoca vitulina). The monk seal is known as early as Homer (Hom. Od. 4,404-06, cf. H. Hom. 3,77 φῶκαί τε μέλαιναι/ phôkaí te mélainai, 'the black seals'), but also in Aristophanes (Vesp. 1035; Pax 758) and Theocritus 8,52. Despite their innocuousness  (Diod. 3,41) they were hunted…

Worms

(623 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As late as the 18th cent., Carl von Linné combined the different phyla of Plathelminthes (flatworms), Nemertini (ribbon worms) and Nemathelminthes (roundworms) into the single phylum of Vermes. Only a very few representatives were known in Antiquity, almost all parasites, with confusion between true worms and worm-like maggots and larval forms being common. By σκώληξ/ skṓlēx, τερηδών/ terēdṓn, εὐλή/ eulḗ, ἴψ/ íps and ἡ ἕλμι(ν)ς/ hē hélmi(n)s both insect larvae or maggots as well as worms can therefore be meant. 1. Common Earthworms ( Lumbricus terrestris), ἔντερα …

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…

Squill

(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκίλλη/ skíllē, Latin scilla), Urginea maritima of the Liliaceae family. In the Mediterranean area, metre-high flowering stems with numerous white and red blooms issue from its large bulb [1. 114f. and figs. 190-192] in autumn before leaf-formation (Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,13,6). According to Dioscorides 2,171 Wellmann = 2,202 Berendes the spicy-flavoured bulb was roasted on a fire wrapped in clay or wheat dough, or stewed in a lidded pot. It was then cut up and dried in portions on line…

Gurnard

(245 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Seven of the probably 15 identified representatives of the family of the Cottidae are of major significance: 1) The armed gurnard (Peristedion cataphractum C.) that growls after being caught is ─ according to Aelianos (NA 13,26), who calls it τέττιξ ἐνάλιος/ téttix enálios (‘Sea Cicada’) ─, darker than the κάραβος/ kárabos, the lobster. The inhabitants of Seriphus are said to have spared it because it was dedicated to Perseus. 2) The flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans L.) is said, as ἱέραξ ὁ θαλάττιος/ hiérax ho thaláttios, Latin accipiter (‘Marine goshawk’), t…

Gum (kommi)

(105 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As a loan-word from Egyptian, κόμμι ( kómmi) first appears in Hdt. 2,86 as an adhesive for the linen bandages of embalmed corpses. It was extracted from the so-called Egyptian thorn Acacia arabica = nilotica ( Acacia) that is already described by Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,2,8 (cf. spina nigra, Plin. HN 13,63). Plin. HN 13,66 mentions further suppliers of gum. Dioscorides 1,133 p. 1, 205 Wellmann = 1,160 p. 225 Berendes knows gum from the skeletonweed, Chondrilla iuncea L. ( Compositae). The medical importance of various cummi, for eyes and wounds among other things, is…

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…

Quince

(218 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The identification of the 'Cydonian apples' (μῆλα κυδώνια/ mêla kydṓnia) or the Lat. mala cotonea - Italian cotogna denotes quince - with the quince ( Cydonia oblonga) is at the very least dubious. The features of the fruits mentioned in the descriptions since Alcman (fr. 90 Bergk) and Stesichorus (fr. 27 Bergk) (pleasant odour, suitability for making jam and the comparison between their round shape and female breasts) can also refer to other species of apple. Even Solon's prescription (Plut. Mor. 138d 1; …

Andrachle

(169 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀνδράχλη, -νη; andráchlē, - ). By this Dioscorides 2,124 [1.196 f.] = 2,150 [2.219 f.] meant on the one hand the purslane ( Portulaca oleracea) and on the other hand 2,186-187 [1.1.254 f.] = 2,217 [2.259] the waxflower Cerinthe aspera L. (τηλεφώνιον; tēlephṓnion) and then 4,168 ([1.2.316 f.] = 4,166 [2.462] = Plin. HN 20,210) the sea spurge Euphorbia Peplis L.; Plin. HN 13,120 (following Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,16,5) describes the andrachle as an evergreen (cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3 = Plin. HN 16,80) species of the eastern strawberry tree with…

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…

Boreas

(305 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(Boρέας; Boréas) [German version] A. Meteorology According to Ps.-Aristot. De mundo 4,394b20, the winds blowing from the north towards Greece were called Βορέαι οἱ ἀπὸ ἄρκτου ( Boréai hoi apò árktou) [1]. When the compass rose was developed in the 5th cent., that term was applied -- instead of to the true north wind ( Aparctias) -- to its eastern neighbours, the north-north-east and the north-east, especially on monuments where the Roman term Aquilo also appears. The Boreas is the stormy ‘king of winds’ (Pind. Pyth. 4,181), bringing darkness, cold and snow. It is o…

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…

Ibex

(146 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ibex ( Capra ibex L.), which belongs to the genus of goats, lives in the high mountains of Europe (Alps, Pyrenees) and in Palestine. It was not known to the Greeks; the Romans mention it as ibex only since Pliny (HN 8,214). Where Isidore (Orig. 12,1,17) got the nonsensical claim that the ibex would throw themselves from the peaks when enemies approached and catch themselves unharmed by their horns is unknown. Mass capture and use in arena fights is recorded for the emperors Gordianus (SHA Gord. 3,7) and Probus (S…

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…

Verbenaca

(130 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Late Antiquity verbena; Greek ἱερὰ βοτάνη/ hierà botánē, 'sacred herb', or περιστερεών/ peristereṓn, 'dove herb'), the Common Vervain ( Verbena officinalis L.) in the Verbenaceae family. It grows as a herbaceous plant, chiefly on walls and paths, and has small purple flowers on branched panicles. The modern scientific name indicates its great medicinal significance, primarily as an astringent for haemorrhage, fever, headaches and hyperhidrosis (Dioscorides 4,59 f. Wellmann = 4,60 f. Berendes;  cf. Plin.  HN 25,105 f.). Among the Romans, verbenaca was used…

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…

Myrrh

(265 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μύρρα/ mýrrha, σμύρνα/ smýrna or σμύρνη/ smýrnē as a loan word from the Semitic; Latin murra, murrha, myrrha). The aromatic resin of the true myrrh tree Commiphora abyssinica Engl., which grows to an altitude of 300 to 2000 metres, is imported from Southern Arabia, Eritrea and Northern Abyssinia and obtained by tapping young branches. When heated, it gives off a pleasant aroma that has been prized since time immemorial by the peoples of the Southeastern Mediterranean region (cf. for example Prov. 7,17; HL 1,12 et passim; Mt 2,11). Theophr. H. plant. 9,4,2-9 provi…

Pumice

(101 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κίσ(σ)ηρις/ kís(s)ēris, pumex). The relatively soft eruptive rock from volcanic eruptions or porous dripstone. It was used as a building material. In cosmetics it served as an exfoliant agent to smooth the skin (cf. Plin. HN 36, 154-156). A powder made of thrice-burnt pumice helped with eye ulcers and was used for dental care and as a stopper for fermenting wine (cf. Dioscorides 5,108 [1. 78f.] = 5,124 [2. 534f.]). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii Dioscurides de materia medica, vol. 3, 1914, repr. 1958 2 J. Berendes (ed.),…

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]…

Fly

(508 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As μυῖα (μῦα; myîa, mŷa; Lat. musca), which Aristotle attributed to the dipterans (δίπτερα; díptera), not only the housefly, but also the gadfly or blind fly (also κυνόμυια; kynómyia) and the bluebottle were conceived. In Aristotle, Pliny and Lucian ( Muscae Encomium = ‘Praise of the Fly’) usually the housefly is referred to, but the sting of the gadfly (Aristot. Hist. an. 1,5,490a 20; 4,7,532a 21; Plin. HN 11,100; Lucian. Muscae Encomium 6) and its buzzing during flight (Aristot. Hist. an. 4,9,535 b 9-11; Plin. HN 11,266) are also mentioned. Homer (…

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…

Monkey

(339 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πίθηκος/ píthēkos, simia, Vulgar Latin clura), only in Africa and southern Asia; earlier instances on Pithecusa (Ischia) (Xenagoras fr. 13) disputed by Plin. HN 3,82 (cf. the legend Ov. Met. 14,92 ff.). Those known in antiquity (Aristot. Hist. an. 2,8,502 a 16-b 24; Plin. HN 8,216) were: 1. the tailless Turkish monkey (πίθηκος), 2. the tailed guenon (κῆβος/ kȇbos, κερκοπίθηκος/ kerkopíthēkos), 3. grey baboon (κυνοκέφαλος/ kynoképhalos, Latin satyrus). Species 1 and 2 were popular, often portrayed [cf. 1, ch. 3 and figs. 13-15] and (because of th…

Anise

(107 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄνισον; ánison), Pimpinella anisum L. was, like other herbs of the family of the umbelliferous plants (e.g. ἄνηθον; ánēthon, Anethum, dill, and ἄμμι; ámmi, Ammi), introduced to Greece via Egypt. Dioscorides 3,56 (ἄνησσον; ánēsson) [1.2.69 f.] = 3,58 [2.301 f.] considered Cretan aniseed to be the best. According to Plin. HN 20,185-195, Pythagoras in particular and also several Greek doctors praised anesum as a herb and remedy, e.g. for epilepsy. Later it was also a component of theriaca. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedani…

Duck

(576 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Athenaeus (9,395D-E, drawing on Alexander from Myndus, Περὶ ὀρνίθων; Perì ornithōn, ‘On birds’) recorded that several varieties of the family of Anatidae, widely dispersed throughout the world , were found in the Mediterranean region. These were: 1) the very common stock duck (or wild duck, mallard) ( Anas platyrhynchos), νῆττα; nêtta, lat. anas (diminutive form νηττάριον; nēttárion, lat. aneticula); 2) the smaller βοσκάς; boskás, perhaps the migratory garganey (or querquedule) ( Anas querquedula), but according to Gossen [1. 418] the red-crested pochard ( Nett…

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 …

Hawthorn

(257 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Greek κράταιγος/ krátaigos or κραταιγῶν/ krataigôn, Lat. spina alba are names for various thorny plants (cf. Plin. HN 24,108; Columella 3,11,5; 7,7,2 and 7,9,6); in Plin. HN 21,68 spina alba, for instance, obviously means the edible Carline thistle ( Carlina). This also includes ὄα/ óa or ὄη/ óē, Lat. sorbus, the mountain ash. An exact identification of what is meant in ancient texts with crataegus and sorbus is not possible. In Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,15,6, the Azarole/Crete hawthorn ( Crataegus azarolus) is probably being described, which Plin. HN 27,63 incorr…

Fishes

(425 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Aristotle had a knowledge of fish (ἰχθύς; ichthýs, Pl. ἰχθύες; ichthýes), the modern class of vertebrates, as a sub-group of aquatic animals (ἔνυδρα; énydra) that was almost even better than his knowledge of birds, and he provides about 133 names in the Historia animalium. Of these however many sea fish must remain unidentified. He was informed by experienced fishermen whom he questioned, for example, at the rich fish market in Athens. He clearly distinguishes the cartilagenous fish that are phosphorescent in the dark as σελάχη ( seláchē; of σέλας, sélas, ‘light’) [1.…

Nitrum

(179 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (νίτρον/ nítron, λίτρον/ lítron, Latin nitrum). Collective name for the sodium and potassium salts obtained from brine. Pliny (HN 31,106-122) deals with them in detail on the basis of a lost work of Theophrastus. Some nitrum-releasing waters (e.g. at Clitae in Macedonia) and mines, e.g. in Egypt at Naucratis and Memphis (e.g. Nitria), were known. Nitrum could also, however, refer to potash (Plin HN 31,107) obtained from burnt oak wood. Its property of destroying leather shoes was known (ibid. 31,115). Owing to its heating, thinning, c…

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…

Garden rocket

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (εὔζωμον / eúzōmon, Latin eruca), of the Cruciferae family with few species, the most important being the common rocket ( Eruca sativa), cultivated in the Mediterranean region, with a lignified stem (Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,2,8). According to Plin. HN 19,117 the seeds open after only three days (cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,1,3). Its popularity as a spice gave rocket its Greek name according to Plin. HN 20,126 (literally ‘good for soups’). It was enjoyed raw and with onions and was considered an aphrodisiac for which the only antidote was to simultaneously eat lettuce (  lactuca…

Fig

(523 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The fig has been indigenous to southern Europe since at least the Neolithic period, as documented by fruit discoveries from Lerna, the Argolid and the Bronze Age at the Mincio. The first literary references are in the Odyssey (e.g. Hom. Od. 11,588; 12,103). The fig is represented by two deciduous species of the genus Ficus of the Moraceae: (a) Ficus carica L. as ἐρινεός ( erineós), the goat fig as a wild form besides to the συκῆ ( sykê), the cultivated eating fig that was pollinated by a male plant ( caprificus) of (a). (b) the sycamore or mulberry fig, Ficus sycomorus L. (συκόμορ…

Ocimum

(115 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὤκιμον/ ṓkimon, Lat. ocimum) was identified as the labiate sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum L., that bloomed for a long time and was probably introduced to Greece and Italy from the Orient (first mentioned in Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,2,1 and passim; Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,3,1 = Plin. HN  19,100). Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,1,2-3 and passim and Caus. pl. 1,4,3 as well as Plin. HN 19,119-123 describe how it is sown. Pliny - as also Dioscorides (2,141 Wellmann = 2,170 Berendes) - review both negative assessments (Plin. HN 20,119-120; [1. 76-78]) by …

Beaver

(385 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κάστωρ; kástōr, fiber, Old Latin feber and as a loan word castor). The amphibian marsh dweller is slightly broader than the otter (ἔνυδρις), has strong teeth for night-time cutting of aspens (κερκίδαι) and a hard pelt. It was described also under the name of σαθέριον/ sathérion or σατύριον/ satýrion and λάταξ/ látax, by Aristot. Hist. an. 8,5,594b31-595a6 (= Plin. HN 8,109; Ael. NA 6,34). In antiquity it was apparently eradicated early in Italy and Greece. In Gaul, Spain, and Central and Eastern Europe, especially on the Black Se…

Tithymal(l)os

(83 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (τιθύμαλ(λ)ος/ tithýmal(l)os, Latin herba lactaria). The genus Euphorbia (Spurge), with a characteristic milky sap, of many species which were well described in Antiquity (e.g. three species in Theophr. H. plant. 9,11,7-9; seven species in Dioscorides 4,164 Wellmann = 4,162 Berendes and Plin.  HN 26,62-71). Despite being slightly poisonous it was used in a variety of ways as a purge and  an emetic [1. 122, figs. 228 and 233]. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 H. Baumann, Die griechische Pflanzenwelt, 1982. A. Steier, s. v. T., RE 6 A, 1524-1531.

Jackdaw

(306 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The smallest species of crow. Pliny (HN 10,77) mentions this flocking bird of upper Italy, with its characteristic proverbial predilection for shiny objects like gold and coins, calling it monedula ( Coloeus monedula, probably identical to κολοιός/ koloiós, attested since Hom. Il. 16,583 and 17,755; atypical statements about the bird in Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,12,504a 19; 2,17,509a 1; 9(8),9,614b 5 and 9(8),24,b 16); common in Aristophanes ([1. 155; 2. 2. 109ff.]). In addition, Pliny knows the graculus, probably the Alpine chough ( Pyrrhocorax alpinus, κορακία…

Juniper

(252 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] For the Greeks, the name κέδρος/ kédroscedrus ) described, among other things, various species of juniper, such as the prickly juniper (also ὀξύκεδρος/ oxýkedros: Juniperus oxycedrus L.) and the common juniper ( J. communis L.) which grows in the higher mountains of Greece. The latter is also called κεδρίς; kedrís (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,4; 1,10,6; 1,12,1), while ἄρκευθος/ árkeuthos is thought to refer to the Phoenician juniper ( J. phoenicea), whose berries only ripen in the second year (ibid. 1,9,3; 3,12,3 f.). Six species occur in Greece today…

Pistachio

(166 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πιστάκη/ pistákē from the Aramaic fustaqā, Arabic fustuq; Lat. pistacia). The fruit-tree Pistacia vera, of the family Anacardiaceae, originated in Mesopotamia and Syria, and produces flavoursome drupes (πιστάκια/ pistákia). The pistachio became known to the Greeks through the conquests of Alexander [4] the Great. Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,4,7 mentions it as being similar to the 'terebinth' (τέρμινθον/ términthon) - still unnamed - which grew in Bactria. According to Plin. HN 15,91, L. Vitellius introduced it to Italy from Syria in AD 35 under Tiberius, and the eques Po…

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, …

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 …

Broom

(206 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( ginestra) includes several mostly yellow-flowering genera of bushes of Tribus Genistae of the leguminosae. These are Genista L., the two kinds of prickly broom, Ulex and Calycotome ( Aspalathos), and especially the Spanish broom Spartium junceum L. (σπάρτον/ spárton: Hom. Il. 2,135; σπαρτίον/ spartíon and σπάρτη/ spártē: Dioscorides, 4,154 p. 2,300 Wellmann = 4,155 p. 454 Berendes; on its cultivation: Columella 4,31,1 and 11,2,19). From this species people have, since antiquity, been using the long branches with few leaves …

Equisetum

(150 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Because of their mode of growth, since antiquity four different leafless or small-leaved species of plant bear the name equisetum, equisaeta, cauda equina or caballina, ἱπποχαίτη ( hippochaítē) or ἵππουρις ( híppouris), horsetail or mare's-tail. This is true of: Equisetum L. and Hippochaete Milde, equisetum, shave grass or scouring rush; of Ephedra L., ἔφεδρον ( éphedron) or ἵππουρις, the jointfir members of the Gymnospermae, some of them climbers; also of water-plants in the case of the candelabra alga Chara, still called E. foetidum in the 16th cent. by C. Ba…

Gypsum

(425 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γύψος; gýpsos, gypsum) is the name both for the mineral anhydrite and for the mass manufactured from it by heating until red-hot and mixable with water. Quarrying was carried out in many places, according to Theophrastus (De lapidibus 64, [1. 82]), who also provides details on the properties of gypsum, among these on Cyprus, in Phoenicia and Syria, in Thurii, Tymphaia and Perrhaebia, and according to Plutarch (Mor. 914c) also on Zacynthus. Theophr. l.c. 69 and Plin. HN 36,182 descr…

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.),…

Iuglans

(243 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] or iugulans. Etymology according to Varro, Ling. 5,102: a Iove et glande appellata (‘named after Jupiter and the acorn’; cf. Isid. Orig. 17,7,21 according to Serv. Ecl. 8,29f. and Plin. HN 15,91, translated from Διὸς βάλανος/ Diòs bálanos, which otherwise designates the edible chestnut), the walnut ( Iuglans regia L.). Introduced into Italy from Persia on the Black Sea via Greece (according to Pall. Agric. 2,15,14-19, sown from the end of January onwards, according to Columella 5,10,14 in March), it was already known to Theophra…

Mullus

(460 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The striped mullet ( Mullus surmuletus) and red mullet ( M. barbatus), popular for eating, were called τρίγλη/ tríglē or Latin m. (for an ocean fish μύλλος/ mýllos: [1]). Mention is made of the red colouring (Sen. Q Nat. 3,18; Opp. Hal. 1,130; Athen. 4,135b and 7,325e), the beard strands on the lower lip (Plin. HN 9,64; Cic. Parad. 5,38: barbatulus; Cic. Att. 2,1,7; Varro Rust. 3,17,7: barbatus) as well as a gluttony that does not shrink even from floating corpses (Ael. Nat. 2,41; Opp. Hal. 3,432-442; Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8), 2,591a 12f.). Aristo…

Origanon

(117 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὀρίγανον/ oríganon or ὀρείγανον/ oreíganon, also ὁ/ἡ ὀρίγανος/ ho/hē oríganos, Modern Greek ρίγανη, Lat. origanum) referred to a not positively determinable species of the labiate genus origanum or marjoram. Its seed was (and still is today) a popular spice for foods which was also used with the addition of wine in decoction for medical purposes because of its warming and dissolving effects. It served (Dioscorides 3,27 Wellmann = 3,29 Berendes, cf. Plin. HN 20,175) especially as a remedy against poisoning…

Helenium

(197 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἑλένιον; helénion, helenium). According to Plin. HN 21,59 and 159, the name is derived from the tears of Helena (rather differently Ael. NA. 9,21). Roman authors meant by the (h)enula or inula in general the elecampane ( Inula helenium L.), a large Composita growing in western Asia and eastern Europe. Since late antiquity it had been grown in gardens as a medicinal plant (cf. Columella 11,3,17 and 35). In particular the bitter root (description of how to preserve it with sweet additives: Columella 12,48,1-5; Plin. HN 19,…

Elm

(312 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Latin ulmus, f.). Several species of this genus of trees in the Ulmaceae family grow in the Mediterranean region, notably the smooth-leaved elm ( Ulmus carpinifolia Gled., Greek πτελέα/ pteléa) and the wych elm ( U. scabra Mill.), which only grows as a shrub in Greece. It is already encountered in Homer (Il. 6,419 f.; 21,242-245 and 350). Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 3,14,1) differentiates in his excellent description a ὀρειπτελέα/ oreipteléa ( Ulmus scabra; atinia in Plin. HN 16,72; cf. Columella 5,6,2 and De arboribus 16,1) from the shrubby common elm, probably U. nemora…

Guineafowl

(284 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ancient names (μελεαγρίς/ meleagrís, Latin meleagris, synonym: gallinae Africanae or Numididae) actually only meant the common guineafowl ( Numida meleagris L.) ─ in spite of Columella 8,2,2 (cf. [1. 19]) ─ among the total of 23 species spread over southern Asia and the Middle East as well as North and West Africa. The guineafowl was probably introduced to Greece in the 4th cent. BC and only in the 1st cent. BC to Italy (Varro, Rust. 3,9,18, cf. Plin. HN 10,74: ‘the last of the southern birds brou…

Bear

(419 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The brown bear ( Ursus arctos; ἄρκτος/ árktos, Lat. ursus) occurred widely in southern and central Europe into the Roman imperial period. Aristotle [6] is very familiar with it: mating in December, birth of usually one-two cubs during hibernation (until March; Aristot. Hist. an. 6,30,579a 18-28), possible owing to reserves of fat; the bear eats everything (it even likes honey), but above all meat, such as that of deer, wild boar and cattle (ibid. 7(8),5,594b 5-17). Aristotle also gives a d…

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 …

Lobster

(185 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This superior species of crab ( Homarus vulgaris) belonged, according to Aristotle (Hist. an. 1,6,490b 12), under the name ἀστακός/ astakós (according to Frisk ‘provided with bones’) to the soft-shelled species (μαλακόστρακα/ malakóstraka), but according to Aelianus (NA 9,6) it was one of the crustaceans (ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma). Its precise description (black speckles on a white background, eight feet, large claws with teeth on them, a tail composed of various parts) in Aristot. Hist. an. 4,2,526a 11-b 18 facilitates ide…

Aiorai

(41 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Αἰῶραι; aiôrai). According to Poll. 4,131, a theatre machine consisting of cables with which the gods or heroes were able to float forth in flight, obviously a Hellenistic invention [1.291]. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 H. Bulle, in: ABAW 1928.

Alausa

(79 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] From Celtic tree names alausa, aliza or alisa the Roman and Germanic names for two genuses of rosaceae are probably derived, namely the whitebeam and the serviceberry ( Sorbus aria and torminalis) and the bird cherry or racemosa ( Prunus padus = Padus racemosa). It is uncertain whether ἄλιζα ( áliza; Hesychius) that is said to also mean alnus (alder) and populus (poplar) also belongs to this. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography Bertoldi, in: Zschr. für Celtische Philol. 17, 1927.

Plantago

(123 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The names ἀρνόγλωσσον/ arnóglōsson, κυνόγλωσσον/ kynóglōsson, ἑπτάπλευρον/ heptápleuron, πολύπλευρον/ polýpleuron, προβάτειον/ probáteion, ψύλλιον/ psýllion and Lat. plantago, all descriptive of appearance, indicate various species of the plantain ( plantago). Pliny, by virtue of its familiarity, compares it in habit with many other plants. Plin. HN 25,80, citing his contemporary  Themison, praises two species as excellent in desiccating and solidifying the body. Dioscorides (2,126 Wellmann = 2,152 Berendes)…

Lizard

(498 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σαύρα/ saura or σαῦρος/ sauros, Latin lacerta and lacertus, possibly connected with ‘upper arm’, cf. [1. 1,743]). Genus name for various species of reptiles native to the Mediterranean: 1. the common wall lizard ( Lacerta muralis), 2. the green lizard ( L. viridis, χλοροσαύρα/ chlorosaúra), 3. the ocellated lizard that occurs especially in south-western Europe and North Africa ( Lacerta lepida; perhaps mentioned for the first time by Hdt. 4,183), 4. probably the monitor lizard ( Varanus) that is more than 20 cm long and is mentioned by Plin. HN 8,141 ( lacertus Arabiae …

Whale

(245 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Employing a term originally used for large marine animals in general, the whale, he largest marine mammal and related to dolphins [1], was called τὸ κῆτος/ kêtos (first in Hom. Od. 12,97; Latin loanword cetus, plural cete(a): Ambrosius, Exameron 5,10,28 and 5,11,32; Isid. Orig. 12,6,8); there also is the term φάλαινα/ phálaina (Aristot. Hist. an. 1,5,489b 4 f.), Latin ballaena (Plaut. Rud. 545; Ov. Met. 2,9; Plin.  HN 9,4; 9,8 and 9,16) for the supposedly female animal, and for the male the ironic term musculus ('little mouse', Isid. Orig. 12,6,6). Furthermore, …

Hemp

(320 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The dioecious (with smaller male form) fibrous plant Cannabis sativa L. (κάνναβις/-ος/ kánnabis/-os, cannabis/-us) is from the Urticaceae family, 2-4 m tall with finger-shaped long-stemmed leaves. Around 500 BC hemp probably grew in the area from the Caspian Sea to China. The Scythians are said to have used the seeds, which both grew wild and were cultivated, for ritual sweat baths and ecstatic states of intoxication (Hdt. 4,74f.). This suggests hashish, which is won from the subspecies Cannabis Indica (cf. Hsch. s.v. κάνναβις). The Thracians are said to h…

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…

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…

Swede

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The words βουνιάς/ bouniás, νᾶπυ/ nâpy, Latin napus probably refer to the swede ( Brassica napus L. var. napobrassica). According to Ath. 9,369b Theophrastus was not familiar with it, while Nicander fr. 70 Schn. was. In Greece, according to Plin. HN 19,75 (five local varieties distinguished by Greek physicians) and 20,21 (two kinds: boúnion and boúnias), it is supposed to have been used only as a medicine; Ath. 1,4d knows swedes from Thebes. Diod. Sic. 3,24,1 describes it as similar to the food plants of the Hylophagi people on the Re…

Cuckoo

(317 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κόκκυξ/ kókkyx, since Hes. Op. 486; Suda s.v. κοῦκκος/ koûkkos, Lat. cucul(l)us first at Plaut. Trin. 245, then at Plin. HN 18,249; 28,156 and 30,85; coccyx: Plin. HN 10,25), the well-known brood parasite and migratory bird that appears early in Greece (Dionysius, Ixeutika 1,13, [1. 11]). The cry that gives rise to its name (verb: κοκκύζειν/ kokkýzein, Hes. loc. cit.) was just as striking as its practise of depositing an egg (rarely are there two) in the nests of various small birds (in Aristot. Hist. an. 6,7,564a 2 the ὑπολαΐς/ hypolaḯs, probably a warbler). Aristot…

Cormorant

(118 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Phalacrocorax carbo (L.), a dark-feathered, fish-eating, goose-sized member of the web-footed group ( steganopodes), mentioned in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),593b 18-22 as the so-called ‘raven’ (κόραξ; kórax), and as breeding in trees. The phalacrocorax (‘bald-headed raven’) in Plin. HN 10,133, at that time native to the Balearics, used to be identified as the cormorant [1. 196f.], but is nowadays thought to be the hermit ibis or crested ibis ( Comatibis eremita), now extinct in Europe. A synonym found in Plin. HN 11,130 is corvus aquaticus. The Middle Minoan Hagia …

Parrot-fish

(215 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκάρος/ skáros, Latin scarus). In the 1st cent. AD this up to 490 mm long colourful Scarus cretensis (= Sparisoma cretense) was the saltwater fish most prized for its taste by the Romans according to Plin. HN 9,62f., and was also noticed by Greek poets (Athen. 7,319f-320c). Pliny mentions as a zoological peculiarity its exclusively vegetable diet (φυκίον/ phykíon, seaweed, in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,591a 14f.; herbae in Plin. HN 9,62) and - connected with that - its alleged rumination (Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,591b 22: μηρυκάζειν/ mērykázein = ruminare; cf. Ael. …

Sparrow hawk

(712 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (and other birds of prey). In Antiquity many species of the Falconidae family of birds of prey were grouped under the name ἱέρακες/ hiérakes, Latin accipitres. In Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),36,620a 17-29 there are 10 species, in Plin. HN 10,21 f. as many as 16, but the information is often too vague for a more precise determination. The most important of them are: 1) The universally common Buzzard ( Buteo buteo), Greek τριόρχης/ triórchēs (allegedly with three testicles), Latin buteo. This plump and allegedly strong (Aristot. ibid. 17) hiérax was an important bird of a…

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 …

Ammoniacum

(89 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀμμωνιακόν; ammōniakón). According to Dioscorides 3,84 [1.2.100 ff.] = 3,88 [2.322 f.], name for a plant gum resin (cf. Plin. HN 12,107) of the umbellate plant Ferula tingitana L. from Libya that is said to have warming, antispasmodic and even abortive powers. In other authors it is also a rock salt from the same region with astringent and purifying effects. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (ed.), Pedanii Dioscuridis de materia medica vol. 2, 1906 repr. 1958 2 J. Berendes (ed.), Des Pedanios Dioskurides Arzneimittellehre, tran…

Arum

(226 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄρον; áron), in Hippocrates, Aristotle, Theophr. Hist. pl.7.12.2 and Dioscorides 2.167 [1. 1. 233ff.] = 2.197 [2. 245], also ὄρον ( óron), ὀρόντιον ( oróntion), aron in Plin. HN 19.96; 24.142 and passim, represents several species of the Araceae genus Arum (esp. Arum italicum), Arisarum (ἀρισάρον; arisáron, Dioscorides 2.168 [1. 1. 234] = 2.198 [2. 245]), Dracunculus (δρακόντιον; drakóntion, Dioscorides 2.166 [1. 1. 231ff.] = 2,195-196 [2. 243ff.]: rotting carcass smell of the inflorescence kills the embryo [3rd fig. 365ff., 371])…

Spruce

(159 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This name (πεύκη/ peúkē, picea, derived from pix = pitch) encompasses three genera of conifer, namely (a) the Common or Norway Spruce Picea abies [L.] Karst. = excelsa Link, which is found hardly anywhere in the Mediterranean, (b) the Fir ( abies, ἐλάτη, in some species on Mediterranean uplands) and (c) the Pine ( pinus, πίτυς/ pítys, πεύκη/ peúkē). Spruce and fir wood, felled on a large scale in the southern Alps and mountains of the Balkans, was used from Antiquity  for wood for building - including ships and masts [1. 38] - and for fi…

Wasps

(359 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ σφήξ/ sphḗx, Latin vespa). Wasps occur in the Mediterranean region in several families of Hymenoptera. In  ancient sources it is almost always the eusocial (Aristot. Hist. an. 1,1,488a 10; 5,23,554b 22-29; 8(9),41,627b 23-628b 31; Aristot. Gen. an. 3,9,758b 18-759a 3) paper wasp that is meant. Aristotle [6] (Hist. an. 8(9),41, 627b 23 ff.) distinguishes between wild and tame wasps; of these the former are rarer and larger, and live on rocks, perhaps of the genus Polistes. Since tra…

Willow

(416 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In ancient sources, Greek ἰτέα/ itéa and its related forms, ἡ οἰσύα/ oisýa (Poll. 7,176), ἡ ἑλίκη/ helíkē (especially in Arcadia, according to Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,13,7) and Latin salix each designate in a non-specific way (cf. the descriptions in Theophr. l.c.; Plin. HN 16,174-177) one of the species of the Salicaceae family growing around the Mediterranean. Its many forms include the white willow ( S. alba L.), crack willow ( S. fragilis L.), basket willow ( S. viminalis L.), goat willow ( S. caprea L.), almond-leafed willow ( S. triandra L.) and purple willow ( S. purpure…

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 …

Minium

(216 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (‘red lead’). Latin equivalent for the red mineral cinnabar (κιννάβαρι/ kinnábari, ‘dragon's blood’, cf. Plin. HN 33,115f. and his source Theophr. De lapidibus 58f. [1. 78, 80]), mercury sulphide (HgS). According to Plin. HN 33,4 and 33,111 it was found in the search for silver in ‘red earth’ ( rubens terra). By about 400 BC, it was being mined in Spain, in Colchis and above Ephesus by grinding and washing sand. According to Q. Verrius Flaccus (in Plin. HN. 33,111f.) minium even enjoed religious respect, because the face of the s…

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…

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…

Woodpecker

(284 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek δρυ(ο)κολάπτης/ dry(o)koláptēs, 'wood-pecker' at Aristoph. Av. 480 and 979, πιπώ/ pipṓ at Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,593a 4, πελεκᾶς/ pelekâs at Aristoph. Av. 884 and 1155; Latin picus at Plaut. Asin. 260, cf. Ov. Met. 14,314). Aristotle (Hist. an. 7(8),3,593a 3-12) is familiar with two spotted woodpeckers of different sizes (probably Dendrocopos major and minor) and the green woodpecker (κελεός/ keleós, Picus viridis), which is about the size of a turtle dove and is widespread, particularly in the Peloponnesus. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9)…

Carp

(224 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Family of the Cyprinidae). (1.) The carp that lives in rivers and ponds (Ath. 7,309a) ( Cyprinus carpio L.; κυπρῖνος/ kyprînos, Latin cyprinus or carpa) was a popular edible fish (Cassiod. Var. 12,4,1; cf. Nep. Themistocles 10,3). Aristotle describes its fleshy palate, οὐρανός/ uranós, that simulates a tongue (Hist. an. 4,8,533a 28-30), and mentions that thunderstorms drive it into a daze (Hist. an. 7(8),20,602b 23f.; Plin. HN 9,58). Supposedly it spawns five to six times a year (Aristot. Hist. an. 6,14,568a 16f.; Plin. H…

Precious stones

(236 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Greek world, archaeological excavations have yielded jewellery but not PS, detectable only from the 5th cent. on. Mineralogical knowledge was almost absent in Antiquity. Plato (Plt. 303e) considers diamonds, for example, as a constituent of gold. The names of PS, such as ἀδάμας ( adámas, 'the invincible'), ἀμέθυστος ( améthystos, 'that which does not make one drunk') and ὀφίτης ( ophítēs, 'that which wards off snakes') reveal the magical effect ascribed to them. Theophrastus is the author of the first scholarly treatment, Περὶ λίθων ( Perì líthōn, 'On Stones' …

Far

(373 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Originally probably ‘corn’ in the sense of grain [1]. In the historical period, however, the name applied especially to spelt as opposed to common wheat ( triticum). Synonyms are ador and alicastrum; evidently a short form of far adoreum. Plin. HN 18,82 maintains that the zones of cultivation for far (emmer) and ζειά/ zeiá (ζέα/ zéa) are mutually exclusive. According to Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 2,25,2, however, these two kinds of grain, along with arinca (ὄλυρα; ólyra) as grown in Gaul, Italy and elsewhere, are identical. 3 kinds of the highly cold-resistant …

Orache

(229 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀδράφαξυς/ adráphaxys: Theophrastus, ἀνδράφαξυς/ andráphaxys: Dioscorides, ἀνδράφαξις/ andráphaxis: Hippocr.; Latin atriplex), a spinach-like vegetable of the goose-foot family ( Chenopodiaceae), of which only one species (Theophr. H. plant. 7,4,1 = Plin. HN 19,123), i.e. Atriplex rosea L., is cultivated in Greece. According to Theophr. H. plant. 1,14,2 and 7,3,4 it formed its broad leaf-like seeds, which were viable for only two to three years, (Theophr. H. plant. 7,5,5 = Plin. HN 19,181) inside a pericarp (Theop…

Rhododendron

(260 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥοδοδένδρον/ rhododéndron or ῥοδοδάφνη/ rhododáphnē, in Latin for the first time in Ps.-Verg. Culex 402, νήριον/ nḗrion e.g. in Dioscorides 4,81 Wellmann = 4,82 Berendes, Latin nerium, rododafne in Pall. Agric. 1,35,9), the rosebay, the oleander ( Nerium oleander) or the alpenrose ( R. ferrugineum and hirsutum L.), appears only in the 1st cent. AD in Plin. HN 16,79 (and Dioscorides, see below) with all three names ( rhododendron, rhododaphne and nerium) and hence is presumably of Greek origin. This evergreen plant with rose-like flowers,  which grow…

Asbestos

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄσβεστος; ásbestos), according to [1. 171] in Dioscorides 5,115 [2. 85f.] = 5,132 [3. 539] the name for burnt lime, also λίθος ἀμίαντος, or, according to the main site of discovery, Καρύστιος, is the well known fibrous variety of the hornblende that, being fire-resistant, was made into fabrics and lamp-wicks. According to Plin. HN 19,19f. this supposed species of flax from India was very precious; according to Dioscorides 5,138 [2. 99] = 5,155 [3. 550] the amiantus stone from Cypr…

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…

Argestes

(123 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Ἀργεστής; Argestḗs). The north-west wind, e.g. in Aristot. Mete. 2,6,364a 14, that is set on the astronomical wind rose as the middle wind between the north and west (ζέφυρος; zéphyros) winds at the sunset point of the summer solstice. It was considered to be strong, cool, clearing and dry. Other names: Skiron in Attica, among the Greeks sailing to Sicily Iapyx and on the Italian west coast Κερκίας ( Kerkías). In Plin. HN 2,119, Vitr. De arch. 1,6,1 and Sen. Q. Nat. 5,16,5 it is called Corus. Aristot. Ανέμων θέσεις ( Anémōn théseis), 973b 13-15 cites for the Ἰάπυξ ( Iápyx) the …

Bulrush

(101 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ancient term σχοῖνος ( schoînos), Latin iuncus covers today's false grasses of the Juncaceae (especially Juncus) and Cyperaceae ( Schoenus and Scirpus among others) families -- the bulrushes and club-rushes, as well as sedges. In antiquity, bulrushes were commonly used for making mats and, in the case of papyrus Cyperus papyrus ( book,  papyrus), as writing materials. The bulbous root of the Mediterranean species C. esculentus provided edible oil [1. 18]. Sweet-tasting leaves were boiled in beer and eaten (μαλιναθάλλη in Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,8,12; cf. anthaliu…

Mint

(299 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] There were several names for the pleasantly smelling members of the genus Mentha of the family Labiatae not precisely described by the Greeks: μίνθη/ mínthē (Theophr. H. plant. 2,4,1), καλαμίνθη/ kalamínthē, σισύμβριον/ sisýmbrion, ἡδύσμον/ hēdýsmon (e.g. in Theophr. ibid. 7,7,1), βλήχων/ blḗchōn or γλήχων/ glḗchōn and among the Romans as menta, mentastrum, pule(g)ium and nepeta. Watermint, horsemint, pennyroyal and catmint were cultivated in antiquity, but peppermint ( Mentha Piperita), which apparently arose spontaneously from watermint ( Mentha Aquatic…

Bedbug

(240 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ, ἡ κόρις/ kóris, Lat. cimex; especially Cimex lectularius, the common bedbug, a troublesome bloodsucking parasite). Aristophanes was the first to refer to the bedbug as a typical inhabitant of the bedsteads of poor people in a work of literature (Nub. 634, Ra. 115, and Plut. 541). That is the origin of the expression ‘not even to own a bedbug’ ( nec tritus cimice lectus, Mart. 11,32,1; cf. Catull. 23,2). As a bad parasite, the bedbug was also used synonymously for a matchmaker or literary critic (Plaut. Curc. 500; Anth. Pal. 11,322,6; Hor. …

Sesame

(217 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek τὸ σήσαμον/ tò sḗsamon, from Semitic, Latin sesamum). The oleiferous seeds of Sesamum indicum L. of the Pedaliaceae family, which grows around the Mediterranean, in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, according to Plin. HN 18,96 originally introduced from  India (Greek σησάμη/ sēsámē or σησαμίς/ sēsamís). Solon 40 West and Aristoph. Vesp. 676 record its early use in Greece. Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 8,3,1-4) describes the leaves, the stem, the (white) foxglove-like flowers and the seeds in the elongated bilocular capsules (ibid.…

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,…

Ranunculus

(157 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βατράχιον/ batráchion = σέλινον ἄγριον/ sélinon ágrion in Dioscorides), buttercup, crowfoot. The widespread family of the Ranunculaceae has more than 100 species in Greece and Italy. The Greek and Latin names for the plant seem to be derived from' frog' (βάτραχος/ bátrachos, Lat. rana), owing to its preference for damp locations. Dioscorides (2,175 Wellmann = 2,206 Berendes) and Pliny (HN 25,172 f.) describe the appearance of four species; it is impossible today to determine exactly which. The leaves and stems in poultice…

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…

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…

Asphodelos

(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…

Shrew

(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…

Ereike

(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…

Peas

(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…
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