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Castor bean

(278 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σιλλικύπριον/ sillikýprion, κίκι/ kíki, κρότων/ krótōn, Lat. ricinus, the latter however also the name of a species of louse, e.g. in Columella 6,2,6 and 7,13,1), i.e. Ricinus communis ( Euphorbiacea arbor mirabilis or Palma Christi), originating from Africa. It grew wild in Greece, but in Egypt, several species were cultivated along the shores of lakes and rivers (cf. Diod. Sic. 1,34,11). Hdt. 2,94 provides information on the extraction of the oil, suitable for lamps but of unpleasant smell, either by cold pressing the cracked fruits of the kíki or by roasting and…

Arsenicum

(123 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀρρενικόν or ἀρσεν-; arrhenikón, arsen-). In antiquity the yellow orpiment, identical to the auripigmentum, different from the red arsenic sulphide σανδαράκη [ sandrákē; 1. 158-160] also found in mines, called realgar in the Middle Ages. According to Dioscorides 5s 5,104 and 105 [2. 74f.] = 5,120 and 121 [3. 531 f.], both were used not only as paints but also, burned and crushed, as cauterizing and astringent agents, especially for hair removal and also for ulcers etc. (cf. Plin. HN 34,177f.). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 D. Goltz, Studien z…

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…

Elk

(229 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Alces alces, American ‘moose’) A large northern species of deer, originally common across all of Central Europe [1]; its earliest ancient reference is found in Pliny (HN 8,39). He describes it similar to a mule ( iumentum), but with a long neck and ears. He only knows of this species from hearsay, as with the related Scandinavian achlis with its protruding upper lip, forcing the animal to walk backwards while grazing. Its (slender) legs without knee joints supposedly forced the achlis to lean against trees when sleeping. To catch an achlis in the  Hercynia silva , one need…

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…

Eagle

(715 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀετός; aetós, aquila). Most distinguished bird of antiquity (Il. 8,247; 24,315; Aesch. Ag. 112; Pind. Pyth. 1,6 al.; Plin. HN 10,6). Description of the six types in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),32,618 b 18-619 b 12 and with alterations in Plin. HN 10,6-8. (1) πύγαργος, νεβροφόνος ( pýgargos, nebrophónos; ‘deer calf killer’) (in Plin. no. 2), with white tailfeathers, living on plains, in forests, mountains and in towns, perhaps snake eagle [1. 208]. (2) πλάγγος, νηττοφόνος ( anataria) or μορφνός, Homer. (= περκνός, Il. 24,316), in damp lowlands or by lakes,…

Fennel

(189 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( feniculum first in Plaut. Pseud. 814, MLat. feniculum or fenuclum, μάραθ(ρ)ον; márath(r)on). An umbellifer ( Umbelliferae) introduced from the eastern Mediterranean. It differs from the closely related  dill ( anethum ) because of its size and its being perennial. As a vegetable and an astringently scented herb (cf. e.g., Plin. HN 19,186), it was particularly grown in the wine-growing areas of Germany [1. 26] (sown in February in Italy according to Pall. Agr. 3,24,9). The well-known Attic v…

Celery

(202 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The name given to umbellate plants from the Araliaceae family that had large, shiny leaves and were suitable for making wreaths, namely the  ivy (κισσός, ἕλιξ, hedera), sacred to Dionysus/Bacchus, and several umbelliferous plants. The following pot-herbs are meant in particular: 1) Celery ( apium graveolens L.), as σέλινον ( sélinon) mentioned already in Hom. Il. 2,776 and Od. 5,72; as garden celery, σέλινον κηπαῖον ( sélinon kēpaîon), celery is referred to in Dioscorides for its cooling, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect (3,64 [1. 75f.…

Bittersweet

(110 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] One of the few members of the Solanacea family indigenous to Europe, this plant, Solanum dulcamara L. (γλυκύπικρον, dulcamara or amaradulcis), is so called because of the taste of its red, slightly toxic berries. It is not so much the berries, whose bitter-sweet qualities have a mildly narcotic effect, as the twigs that are used: their decoction induces sweating; in Dioscorides 4,72 (1. 230f.) = 4,73 [2. 406f.], though called στρύχνον ὑπνωτικόν ( strýchnon hypnōtikón), used for pain relief.  Solanacea Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (…

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…

Pear tree

(168 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The pome genus Pyrus L. (pears, Latin pirus, pirum) consists of around 20 wild species (ἀχράς/ achrás, ἄχερδος/ ácherdos), which occur in the areas of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and many cultivated breeds (ὄγχνη/ ónchnē, in Homer ἄπιος/ ápios), developed by hybridization since the Neolithic Age. Mainly imported into Greece from the Levant, they were cultivated especially in the Peloponnese, which was for this reason called Ἀπία/ Apía (Ath. 14,63,650bc), for the production of must. Pears were consecrated to Hera, Aphrodite, Venus and Pomon…

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…

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…

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. …

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…

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…

Cucumber

(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…

Blackberry bush

(174 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Of the genus Rubus (blackberry, βάτος; bátos, cf. Dioscorides 4,37 [1. 196f.; 2. 384f.], μόρον, μορέα; móron, moréa) that is rich in species and tends towards hybridization, the most common in the Mediterranean are Rubus ulmifolius and tomentosus. The raspberry Rubus idaeus is only found up to the mountains of Macedonia and Thessaly; it does not grow on the Ida. The fruit resembles the mulberry, particularly the Morus nigra (μορέα, μορέη) that was introduced to Greece from the Caucasus around 400 BC, the colour of which, according to Ovid (Met. …

Lime-tree

(188 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φιλύρα/ philýra, Latin tilia, perhaps derived from πτελέα/ pteléa, ‘elm’). Three species, namely the summer, winter and silver lime tree, were known to the Greeks and Romans from their mountains and they described them very precisely. Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,10,4-5 and Plin. HN 16,65 were certainly wrong to differentiate a male form from a female one. The fairly soft wood (Plin. HN 16,207) served ‘1,000 purposes’ (Plin. HN 18,266), namely for boxes of all kinds, goblets, measures of volume …

Cuttle­fish

(622 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
The class of cuttlefish called Cephalopoda (‘Cephalopod’) belongs to the μαλάκια/ malákia that live in the sea (cf. Plin. HN 32,149), Lat. mollia, modern molluscs, and to the subphylum Conchifera. Today's system differentiates the two orders of the ten-armed cuttlefish ( Decabrachia) and eight-armed cuttlefish ( Octobrachia). [German version] I. Decabrachia Of the Decabrachia that have, in addition to the eight tentacles on the head (πλεκτάναι/ plektánai: Aristot. Hist. an. 4,1,524a 3 f.), two longer, retractable tentacles (προβοσκίδες/ proboskídes: ibid. 523b 29-33), Ar…

Cockroach

(253 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] English name for the representatives of the Blattaria order of insects which can be found throughout the world in c. 3,000 types since the Carboniferous, one of them the German cockroach Blatella germanica. The Latin name is usually blatta; in Isid. Orig. 12,8,7, however, this name is used for a type of butterfly ─ actually a moth whose name was derived from its colour: when touched, its wings leave a blackish-blue spot on the hand ( blatteum colorem, ‘crimson’). In this text, the only zoological piece of information about the animal is its aversion to lig…

Elder

(217 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Two shrubs of the genus Sambucus in the family Caprifoliaceae occur in Europe, the common elder ( Sambucus nigra L., sa(m)bucus, ἀκτῆ; aktê) and the red-berried elder ( Sambucus racemosa L.; Verg. Ecl. 10,27: Pan was said to be red because of the berries of the ebulum, according to Serv. ad loc. a comparable plant). A third type is the herbaceous, black-fruited dwarf elder ( Sambucus ebulus L., ebulus/um, χαμαιάκτη; chamaiáktē in Dioscorides 4,173,2 Wellmann = 4,172 Berendes; Plin. HN 24,51: chamaeactis or helion acte). A good description of the species is found …

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…

Tuna

(670 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The fairly large Common Tuna ( Thynnus thynnus L., Greek ὁ θύννος/ thýnnos, Attic also ἡ θυννίς/ thynnís - primarily the female: Aristot. Hist. an. 5,9,543a 9; Ath. 7,303c-304b - or ἡ θύννη/ thýnnē: e.g. Opp. Hal. 1,756; Latin thynnus or thynnis) and the smaller Albacore ( Albacora thynnus L., perhaps αὐλωπίας/ aulōpías, Ael. NA 13,17) were the economically most important edible fish of the Mediterranean and Black Seas and were therefore given many names. The young (under 1 year) were called πηλαμύς/ pēlamýs or πηλαμίς/ pēlamís (Aristot. Hist. an. 6,17,571a 11, from pēlós…

Mullein

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φλόμος/ phlómos, Latin verbascum), a member, according to a good description in Dioscorides 4,103 Wellmann = 4,102 Berendes (cf. Plin. HN 25,120f.; Isid. orig. 17,9,94), of the Scrophulariaceae family, occurring in two kinds, one with white and one with black leaves ( Verbascum sinuatum L.). Of the white one Dioscurides distinguishes a male form ( V. thapsus L., Common Mullein) from a female one ( V. plicatum Sibthorp). Their roots are said to be effective e.g. as an astringent for diarrhoea. According to Plin. HN 26,23, drunk with water it help…

Camara [I]

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (καμάρα; kamára), the correct version for camera, related to camurus (‘curved’), describing the curvature of a room or a barque or indeed the barque itself. This type of small round-bottomed sailing vessel with inward-curving side walls, which could travel in a circle and in both directions, was used on the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea, particularly by pirates (Str. 11,2,12, 495f.; Tac. Hist. 3,47,3). The side walls could be raised in such a way that they formed a closed canopy in …

Conger

(117 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γόγγρος; góngros, sometimes, e.g., Ath. 8,356a: γρύλλος; grýllos), a marine eel, a sea fish that was popular like the  eel and, therefore, expensive (Plaut. Mil. 760; Persa 110; cf. information in Ath. 7,288c). Aristotle mentions two species that differ in colour (Hist. an. 8,13, 598a13), their unusual length, thickness and smoothness, the large stomach and the tallow-like fat. The conger feeds on fish including its own species and octopuses but, in turn, is the prey of moray eels and c…

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…

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…

Umber

(100 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Named after Umbria, their place of origin, this breed of dog was highly favoured, primarily as a  tracking hound (Grattius, Cynegetica 171 ff.; Sen. Thy. 497 ff.; Verg. Aen. 12,753-55: hound baits deer; Sil. Pun. 3,295 ff.). We do not know its appearance. The Umbrian sheepdogs, mentioned in Varro Rust. 2,9,6, that returned of their own accord to their flocks were certainly not of this breed. An illustration on an aes grave coin from Hatria in Picenum could represent an umber [1. 124, fig. 49; 2. 95]. Dog Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Keller 2 Toynbee…

Medlar

(202 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μεσπίλη/ mespílē, μέσπιλον/ méspilon, ἀρωνία/ arōnía: Dioscorides; Lat. mespilus or -a, the fruit mespilum). Mespilus germanica L. (family Rosaceae), a bush or tree probably native to southern Europe, was cultivated in Greece as a wild apple tree at least since about 370 BC on account of its small, three-cored, sweet fruits (Middle Comedy, Eubulus [2] in Ath. 14,640c). Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 3,12,5f. = Plin. HN. 15,84) describes three thorn-bushes under this name, of which only μεσπίλη ἡ σατάνειος/ mespílē hē satáneios is recognized as medlar. Dioscorides (…

Plane tree

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πλάτανος/ plátanos, poet. πλατάνιστος/ platánistos, Lat. platanus) is the tree Platanus orientalis L., found in southern Europe at least since the time of Homer (Il. 2,307-13). According to Plin. HN 12,6, the plane tree crossed the Ionian Sea to Sicily, and thence to Italy. It was later naturalized in northern Europe. The broad (πλατύς/ platýs, 'broad, wide') leaves, after which it is named, provided goodly shade for rest, as in Plato's Phaedrus (Plat. Phdr. 229a-230b). In antiquity, the tree was favoured as a graft stock for slips of e.g. pear (Pal…

Acipenser

(96 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἀκιπήσιος; akipḗsios = (h)elops). Rare delicacy saltwater fish (Plin. HN 9,60 and 32,145; Macrob. Sat. 3,16,1-9; Ath. 7,294f), only very highly valued until the time of the caesars (Plautus in Macrobius; Lucil. 1240 M; Mart. 13,91; cf. Plinius and Hor. Sat. 2,2,46 f.). As early as antiquity the zoological classification was contentious (Plin. HN 32,153 according to Ovid Hal. 96 and Ath. loc. cit.); now it is sometimes regarded as a sturgeon [1. 7; 2. 2,375 and passim] and sometimes as a sterlet ( elops [1; 3]).  Fishes Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliograp…

Jackal

(290 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This wild dog ( Canis aureus), principally found in Africa, still occurs today in Eurasia from the Balkans eastwards. It hunts at night, often in packs, preying mainly on small mammals and birds, but it also eats carrion. An earlier theory that it, together with the wolf, was a progenitor of the domestic dog ([1]; cf. [2. 70-72]), has now been abandoned. The θώς/ thṓs, as distinct from the  wolf, was well known to Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,17,507b 17: internal organs resemble those of the wolf; 6,35,580a 26-31: gives birth to two to four blind w…

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…

Fern

(271 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pliny names three species of fern ─ felix, dryopteris, and polypodium ─, all of which are characterized by the absence of flowers and seeds. Plin. HN 27,78-80 describes two varieties of felix, one of which the Greeks on account of its pinnae referred to as πτέρις ( ptéris) or respectively βλάχνον ( bláchnon) and male (perhaps Aspidium filix mas L., the Male or Shield Fern, cf. Dioscorides 4,184 p. 2,332f. Wellmann = 4,183 p. 471f. Berendes), the other as female fern θηλυπτερίς ( thēlypterís) or respectively νυμφαία πτέρις ( nymphaía ptéris; Dioscorides 4,185 p. 2,333 W…

Aristolocheia

(141 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ἀριστολόχεια ( aristolócheia) in Nicander and Dioscorides 3,4 [1.2.6 ff. = 2.263 ff.], ἀριστολοχία ( aristolochía) in Hippocrates, Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,20,4 (effect against snake bite) and Plin. HN 25,95 ff. etc. was identified as today's genus Aristolochia. Its three more common species in the Mediterranean area, Aristolochia clematitis, longa and rotunda, were already differentiated by Dioscorides and Pliny. Both derive their name, distorted in German to Osterluzei, from their relieving effect on births. According to Dioscorides and other…

Vertragus

(188 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (οὐέρτραγος/ o uértragos). Greyhound, which is particularly prized for hare coursing because of its speed; the Latin name vertragus is derived from a Celtic word. The accurate description in Arr. Cyn. 3-6 of a powerful but slim dog with pointed muzzle and long ears enabled [1] to identify ancient depictions of vertragi. When hunting, the dogs which were kept in large compounds were led on leashes by slaves and released only when the prey had been flushed out and was in view. Hunters used to accompany them on horseback. Usually two vertragi were set on each hare, which t…

Radish

(213 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥαφανίς/ rhaphanís, ῥάφανος/ rháphanos, etymologically related to ῥάπυς/ rhápys, ῥάφυς/ rháphys, 'beet'; Lat. rhaphanus, radix), the species of crucifer probably bred in Asia Minor from the wild, jointed charlock ( Raphanus raphanistrum L., Rhaphanus sativus L., with the edible, thickened storage root; cultivated in Egypt from the 2nd millennium. The Greeks (from Aristoph. Plut. 544 and other comic writers, cited in Ath. 2,56d-57b) valued the salted root as an appetite-stimulating food and extracted oil from it. T…

Rock partridge

(252 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ, ἡ πέρδιξ/ ho, hē pérdix, its young περδίκιον/ perdíkion, also περδικεύς/ perdikeús and κακκαβίς/ kakkabís after its mating call: κακκαβίζειν/ kakkabízein or τρίζειν/ trízein in Aristot. Hist. an. 4,9,536b 13 f.; Lat. perdix). The scientific name Alectoris graeca Meisner indicates that the bird is still common today, primarily in Greece (but also in Italy) [1. 195 f.], whereas it has been supplanted in other countries by the smaller, browner and synanthropic partridge. Aristotle describes their breeding behaviour, …

Sea urchin

(179 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐχῖνος ὁ θαλάσσιος/ echînos ho thalássios; Latin echinus). This echinoderm (member of the class of Echinodermata) is considered by Aristotle (Hist. an. 4,4,528a 7) to be crustaceous (ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma) and described in several species, including the edible Echinus esculentus L., (ibid. 4,5,530a 32-b 20). Their eggs, which were eaten particularly by the Romans as a delicacy (Plaut. Rud. 297; Hor. Sat. 2,4,33 on the best being from Misenum; Sen. Epist. 95,26), are mentioned in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,12,544a 18-23…

Mannus

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( mannulus) or buricus (according to Porph. Hor. comm. epod. 4,14; Veg. Mulomedicina 3,2,2; for the name [1. 2, 29]) was the name given to the small horse or pony imported from Gaul (for the origin [2. 289]) in the 1st cent. BC to Rome as a luxury animal (Lucr. 3,1063; Plin. Ep. 4,2,3: mannulus; Jer. Ep. 66,8), particularly for ostentatious ladies (Hor. Carm. 3,27,7; Prop. 4,8,15; Ov. Am. 2,16,49f.). People would harness the small, fast and temperamental animal to a two-wheeled coach (‘gig, parva esseda, carpentum, covinnus; [3. 416, 464]: Mart. 12,24,8) or ride it …

Aconitum

(171 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀκόνιτον; akóniton). It is not known for certain which poisonous plants are meant by ἀκόνιτον λυκοκτόνον ( akóniton lykoktónon) and κυνοκτόνον ( kynoktónon) in Dioscorides 4,77 [1. 2,238 f.] = 4,78 [2. 412 f.], Nic. Alex. 13,41 and aconitum, scorpion and myoctonon, Plin. HN 27,4-7. The ‘Wolfesgelegena’ of Hildegard of Bingen [3. 1,156 = 4. 47], used as a hazardous aphrodisiac, is probably not the arnica but rather like the ‘alexandria’ of Konrad of Megenberg V. 36 (in ch. Eleborus = veratrum) [5. 399] a species of the poisonous ranunculaceae genus Aconitum (monk…

Cabbage

(185 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥάφανος, κράμβη, καυλός; rháphanos, krámbē, kaulós; Latin brassica, crambe, caulis, from this Italian cavolo, French chou, German Kohl) is a European vegetable plant ( Brassica oleracea L.) from the Cruciferae family that today is grown in numerous culture strains. It is first mentioned as the heptaphyllous krámbē by Hipponax 40 Diehl (quoted in Ath. 9,370b). Within the rháphanos, Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,4,4 (related by Plin. HN 19,80 to the radish rhaphanís, Latin raphanus) distinguishes, like Cato Agr. 157,1-3 and Ath. 9,369e-f, three varieties of cab…

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 …

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…

Cricket

(109 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] German ‘Grille’, Pliny's gryllus (HN 29, 138) probably is the field cricket, Gryllus campestris, which runs backwards (thus Nigidius Figulus), digs into the ground and chirps at night with its wings ( stridere). As a paste, a cricket (dug out with its earth) helps against ear aches. It is drawn from its earthen hole using an ant tied to a hair as bait [1. 132]. Isid. Orig. 12,3,8 conveyed this information to the Middle Ages. It is uncertain if the wingless, locust-like insect trixalis in Plin. HN. 30,49 is a cricket because Ael. NA 6,19 only says that the trōchallís is ‘not si…

Hare

(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. …

Charadrios

(181 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χαραδριός; charadriós). A water bird, perhaps a shearwater, nesting in holes in the ground and in cliffs, and seldom seen by day (Aristoph. Av. 266). It was held to be gluttonous (Aristoph. Av. 1140f.), of ugly colour and cry (Ps.-Aristot. Hist. An. 9,11,615a1-3), and said to be white (9,3,593b 17; Pl. Grg. 494 b). Sight of it was supposed to heal jaundice, and accordingly it was sold covered (Ael. NA 17,13; Plut. Symp. 5,7,2; Heliodor 3,8 i.a.). In Plin. HN 30,94 it is called avis icterus or galgulus, owing to its yellow colour. In the Greek Physiologus (c. 3) an…

Dill

(131 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (OHG tilli, related to NHG Dolde [umbel], Lat. anetum). Probably identical with the umbellifera ( Anethum graveolens L., ἄ[ν[ν]ηθον; á[n[n]ēthon, Aeolic ἄνητον; ánēton, Alc. in Ath. 15,674d), which was introduced from Asia Minor in antiquity. This popular kitchen herb (sown according to Palladius, Opus agriculturae 3,24,5 and 4,9,5 or 10,13,3 and 11,11,4, in February/March and September/October) with bare seeds (Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,3,2 = Plin. HN 19,119) is mentioned in Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,11,2 and P…

Dormouse

(166 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Lat. glis). The biggest central and southern European species of the nocturnal rodent family of dormice with a body length of 13-20 cm and a tail length of 10-18 cm. From the 2nd cent. BC onwards the dormouse was fattened for gourmet consumption by the Romans in special breeding enclosures ( gliraria, description in Varro, Rust. 3,15) with beech nuts, chestnuts and walnuts (example of the high return: Varro, Rust. 3,2,14; roasted and coated with honey and sprinkled with poppy: Petron. Sat. 31,10; Apicius 8,408). In 115 BC this …

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…

Cedrus

(235 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κέδρος, kédros, Cedar). This evergreen genus of conifer was common throughout the northern hemisphere during the Cretaceous and Tertiary, but largely died out during the second to last ice age. Only in the Himalayas ( C. deodara), in Lebanon (only approximately 400 trees left) and Asia Minor ( C. libani = libanotica, in the Taurus and the Antitaurus), on Cyprus ( C. brevifolia) and in the Atlas (below 2,700 m, C. atlantica) do related species still grow. As early as c. 2750 BC, the aromatic and durable wood of the cedar was being exported to Egypt from the T…

Raven

(590 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The common raven, Corvus corax (κόραξ/ kórax, apparently derived from korós, 'black'; the juvenile, κορακῖνος/ korakînos, e.g., in Aristoph. Equ. 1053; Lat. corvus), originally distributed throughout Europe and Egypt (Ael. NA 2,48; smaller in Egypt, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 9(8),28, 606a 23 f.) and at least as large as a buzzard, is the largest of the European songbirds. Its characteristic call is 'kronk' or 'prrruk', but its vocalizations are otherwise highly varied (64 sounds, according to Ful…

Ferret

(222 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A domesticated form of the polecat ( Mustela putorius furo), specially bred to hunt for rabbits in their underground burrows, a member of the genus Mustela of the weasel family ( Mustelidae). Plin. HN 8,218 mentions the existence of ferrets (under the name of viverra) on the Balearic Islands. Isid. Orig. 12,2,39 is the first to transmit the description furo, derived from furvus (‘dark’). The earliest detailed description is provided by Thomas of Cantimpré 4,42 ([1. 135f.] c. AD 1240). He notes the similarity of the furunculus (popularly known as furetus) with the pole…

Hemlock

(274 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek κώνειον/ kṓneion due to its conical ovary κῶνος; kônos, Lat. cicuta, other names were derived from its poisonous effect, e.g. in Dioscorides 4,78 Wellmann = 4,79 Berendes), the umbellifer which grows wild in Europe in two species (the spotted hemlock, Conium maculatum and water hemlock, Cicuta virosa). Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 1,5,3) mentions the fleshy and hollow (ibid. 6,2,9) stem of the plant which is similar to devil's dung ( Ferula asafoetida) ( Narthex [1]). The root, when brewed, leaves a residue stronger than that of the umbel (differin…

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…

Ginger

(80 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Through Plin. HN 12,28 we know that the Romans did not import the rhizome of the zingiber or zimpiber (Zingiber officinalis L.), a bitter-tasting spice, from Asia like today but from Arabia and Troglodytia (southern Egypt). Palladius used it to spice preserved quinces (Agric. 11,20,2). Dioscorides attributes to the zingíberi a warming, stomach-friendly effect (2,160 Wellmann = 2,189 Berendes). It helped with cataracts and in antidotes. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography R. Stadler, s.v. Ingwer, RE IX 2, 1554.

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…

Cinnamon

(241 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κιννάμωμον/ kinnámōmon, κασσία/ kassía; Lat. cinnamomum, -a, cinnamum, cas(s)ia). In antiquity as now, the aromatic bark of various varieties of the cinnamon bush (esp. C. zeylanicum Br., C. cassis Br., C. Burmanni Bl.) was dried and sold in the form of rolled sticks. The  Phoenicians passed the knowledge (Hdt. 3,111) on to the Greeks, but the spice's real origin from south or south-eastern Asia ( India II.) remained unknown. Thus it was generally assumed that cinnamon grew in the south-west of the Arabian peninsula and the opposing shores of eastern Africa (  kinnamōm…

Moss

(164 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] was evidently neither noticed nor unambiguously given a name by the Greeks. In Dioskurides (1,21 Wellmann) βρύον ( brýon), actually means, amongst other things, lichens on oak trees. The Latin muscus describes not only this lower plant but also often algae or lichens. In order to improve a poor meadow, Columella 2,17,2 and Pall. Agric. 10,10,3 recommend pulling out moss or eradicating it by scattering ashes. Moss should also be removed from the base of grape vines in order to promote their growth (Columella. 4…

Delphinium

(153 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Member of the crowfoot plant family (Ranunculaceae) delphínion in Dioscorides 3,73 (only RV; [1. 84] = 3,77 [2. 310]). Because of the dolphin-like or pony-like nectaries on the larkspur, it is probably identical with D. ajacis L. (Modern Greek καπουτσῖνος) and consists of about 200 varieties, of which eight are to be found in Greece and Italy. That includes the common field weed D. staphisagria L. (στάφις ἀγρία in Dioscorides 4,152 [1. 84] = 4,153 [2. 451f.], Modern Greek ψειρόχορτο, ψειροβότανο, Lat. astaphis agria in Plin. HN 23,17, herba pedicularis, passula m…

Woad

(201 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἰσάτις/ isátis, Lat. vitrum and glastum, e.g. Plin. HN 22,2) the dye-plant 'Dyer's Woad', L. Isatis tinctoria. This genus of Brassicaceae thrives in Europe in a number of species. Until the discovery of the dye indigo in the 19th cent., it was used for colouring textiles blue (Dyeing). It is a perennial plant, growing up to 1.4 m in height, with yellow flowers [1. 157, colour photograph 326] developing into single-seed pods which are violet when ripe. A mash of ground dried leaves (flowers acco…

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…

Rock hyrax

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Procavia capensis) is the only family representative from the mammal order Hyracoidea which is still found today in Palestine and the Middle East. These hare-sized herbivores are probably identical to the rabbits ( Hare) of the Luther Bible, χοιρόγρυλλος/ choirógryllos, Latin choerogryllus, chyrogryllius or middle-Latin cirogrillus, which are unclean according to the Mosaic food laws (Lv 11:5; Dt 14:7). At Thomas of Cantimpré 4,24 [1. 124] it is maintained by implied use of Hesychius (commentary in Lv 3:11, PG 93,906) that …

Nightjar

(90 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Caprimulgus europaeus L.). The curious earth-coloured bird has its name αἰγοθήλας/ aigothḗlas (Lat. caprimulgus, i.e. 'goat-milker') from the statement in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),30,618b 2-9 (= Plin. HN 10,115; Ael. NA 3,39) that it sucks the udder of goats at night [1. 72], causes their milk to dry up and makes the animals blind. In reality the bird flies about at night catching insects with its rather wide beak. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner. Keller 2, 68 f.  D'Arcy W. Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds, 1936 (repr. 1966), 24 f.

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…

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…

Alum

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (στυπτηρία; styptēría, alumen). Name for a group of earth salts already known to the Babylonians [1.76 f.] ( salsugo terrae, Plin. HN 35,183), namely the salts of sulphuric acid that, in so-called alum works (μέταλλα τῆς στυπτηρίας; métalla tês styptērías) were, according to Dioscorides 5,106 [2.3.75] = 5,122 [3.532], mined in Egypt, Macedonia and, i.a., on Greek islands and proved lucrative because of their rarity and the strong demand for alum (cf. Diod. Sic. 5,10; Str. 6,2,10). Use of alum e.g. as an impregnating a…

Grass­hoppers

(438 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The word ἀκρίς/ akrís (from κρίζειν, ‘to scream’) attested since Hom. Il. 21,12 describes all species of Saltatoria same as locusta (since Naevius in Varro, Ling. 7,39 basic meaning ‘equipped with joints’ or ‘jumping’). This also applies to the synonyms βροῦχος/ broûchos = bruc(h)us, βρύκος/ brýkos, μάσταξ/ mástax, πάρνοψ/ párnops (Aristoph. Ach. 150 and Av. 588; Ael. NA 6,19; Paus. 1,24,8) or κόρνοψ ( kórnops; Str. 13,1,64 [613]) and ἀττέλαβος ( attélabos; Hdt. 4,172) = attelebus (Plin. HN 29,92). Regarding their biology, Aristot. Hist. an. 5,28,555b 18…

Henbane

(177 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Knowledge of Hyoscyamus L., a member of the Solanacaea family (ὑοσκύαμος; hyoskýamos, named after cramps which pigs apparently get from eating the poisonous herb), can be demonstrated in Dioscorides 4,68 [1. 224ff.; 2. 402f.]. According to Plin. HN 25,35, Hercules discovered the plant. According to Dioscorides, of the varieties found in Greece, the first two Hyoscyamus niger (ὑοσκύαμος μέλας) and aureus (ὑοσκύαμος λευκός), are not usable due to their poisonous nature. A juice pressed from the plant or seeds of the third, Hyoscyamus albus, a ruderal plant, was …

Amygdale

(322 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀμύγδαλος, -η, -ον; amýgdalos, - ē, - on) is the almond tree, ἀμυγδαλέα ( amygdaléa) etc. the fruit (almond, it. mandorla) of Amygdalus communis L. of the stone fruit genus Amygdalus L. comprising c. 40 Asian species, previously only regarded as a subgenus of Prunus. In addition to the A. communis of the Near East that has been cultivated in southern Europe since antiquity and the fruits of which Cato (Agr. 8,2 according to Plin. HN 15,90) calls nuces graecas, the wild variety ( Prunus webbii) was also used [1.135 and fig. 279]. Pall. Agric. 2,15,6-13 in particul…

Beech

(71 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Mediterranean, beeches propes such as Fagus silvatica and orientalis (φηγός; phēgós) only grow on relatively high mountains, but are often confused with hornbeams ( Carpinus) or even oaks (δρῦς; drŷs), although mainly with Quercus aegilops and the edible oak Quercus ilex var. ballota ( aesculus), supposedly the main food plant of prehistoric times.  Trees Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography K. Koch, Die Bäume und Sträucher des Alten Griechenlands, 21884, 55ff.

Beans

(232 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pulses ( legumina) such as peas (πίσον; píson, pisum), chickpeas (ἐρέβινθος; erébinthos, cicer) and lentils (φακός; phakós, lens) have been cultivated in the Mediterranean region, as crops of Middle Eastern origin, for at least as long as cereal crops, i.e. for about 6,000 years. Nicknames of reputable Roman families (Fabius, Lentulus, Cicero) are derived from them. The original small-seed varieties (κύαμος; kýamos, πύανος; pýanos, faba, Slav. bob), that were being cultivated over 4,000 years ago, originated from Vicia faba L., from which the large-seed hors…

Titmouse

(156 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (αἰγίθαλ(λ)ος/ aigíthal(l)os, αἰγιθάλος/ aigithálos; Latin vitiparra). The Paridae family of songbirds in which Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,592b 17-21 distinguishes three worm-eating (σκωληκοφάγα/ skōlēkophága) species, with many eggs (8(9),15,616b 2f.), enemies of bees (8(9),40,626a 8;  Ael. NA 1,58): 1. the Great Tit ( Parus maior), the size of a finch (σπιζίτης/ spizítēs), 2. a medium-sized titmouse with a long tail (ὀρεινός/ oreinós), perhaps the Long-Tailed Tit ( Aegithalos caudatus), and 3. an unspecified small titmouse with no particular nam…

Opobalsamum

(203 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὀποβάλσαμον/ opobálsamon, Latin balsamum, properly balsam sap, or βάλσαμον/ bálsamon) was the name of the balsam tree Commiphora opobalsamum, famous for its valuable resin, which was known by the Greeks only from plantations in Syria (at Jericho and En Gedi). In fact, however, the origin was southwestern Arabia and Somalia. Theophrastus describes the plants in Syria (Theophr. H. plant. 9,6,1-4) and the careful extraction of the fragrant resin, which he never knew in a pure state (ibid. 9,1,7). Pli…

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…

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…

Carnation

(212 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As we do not know of any ancient name, we cannot clarify whether the carnation was found in ancient times. Possibly it is meant by the name Διὸς ἄνθος/ Diòs ánthos, ‘flower of Zeus’ Latin Iovis flos, from which the modern name of the genus, Dianthus, is also derived. At any rate, of the 65 representatives that grow in Greece from among the 120 wild European species of carnation, 20 are regarded as endemic [1. 81]. In the shrub-like Cretan carnation, Dianthus arboreus, archaeologists see the model for wall paintings in the palace of Knossos. As Zeus is said to …

Carrot

(199 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This biennial vegetable, Daucus carota L., that grew wild in Europe and belonged to the family of the umbelliferous plants σταφυλῖνος ( staphylînos), was called καρωτόν ( karōtón), δαῦκον ( daûkon: Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,15,5), Latin pastinaca, daucus. Through cultivation the originally dry and woody root became pleasant-tasting, nutritious and sweet. Dioscorides (3,52,1 Wellmann and Berendes) describes the one purple-coloured ornamental flower of the staphylínos ágrios in the middle of the otherwise white umbel and recommends (cf. Plin. HN 20,30…

Artichoke

(195 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The name that is derived via Spanish alcarchofa and Italian articiocco, carciofo from Arabic al-haršūf describes the Cynara scolymus L. that is widely grown in the Mediterranean because of its edible bract scales; it is a subspecies of the Cynara cardunculus L. (Italian cardoncello) that was cultivated even earlier as a leafy vegetable. It is probably identical to the σκόλυμος in Hes. Op. 582ff. and Alc. fr.94 D. (quoted in Plin. HN 22,86f.), Theophr. Hist. pl. 6,4,7 (edible root; cf. Plin. HN 21,96), Dioscorides 3,14 [1. …

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 …

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 …

Apogei

(86 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (sc. venti), Greek ἀπόγειοι ἀνέμοι ( apógeioi ánemoi), e.g. Aristot. Mund. 4,394 b13-15, are the winds that blow offshore after sunset, i.e. out to sea, that make it easier for the fishermen to leave the harbour by sunrise. Their counterparts often mentioned simultaneously with them are the τροπαῖαι ( tropaîai) blowing in from the sea with which it is possible to return easily during the day. The calm between them is unpleasant [1]. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 R. Böker, s. v. Winds, RE VIII A, 2245,43 ff.

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…

Nasturtium

(154 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Latin) corresponds to κάρδαμον/ kárdamon according to Cic. Tusc. 5,99 and describes a type of cress, probably garden cress ( Lepidium sativum), which is mentioned in Xen. Cyr. 1,1,8 as something the ordinary Persian ate with bread. Here it probably means the seeds and not the leaves, which are eaten as salad in present-day Greece and Italy. Both Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,12,1 and Plin. HN. 19,186 mention the mustard-like, sharp taste of kárdamon, and the quick germination is also stressed in Plin. HN 19,117 and 154. For Italy, Columella 11,3,14 recommends…

Pomegranate

(275 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥόα/ rhóa, σίδη/ sídē, malum punicum or granatum; its flower, called κύτινος/ kýtinos and given as a loan word in Plin. HN 23,110ff., has strange medicinal benefits) The species Punica granatum L. grows wild in the Near East from Kurdistan to Afghanistan. It had probably been naturalized since the 16th dynasty in Egypt (around 1600 BC) and in southern Europe since the Neolithic Period, probably by the Phoenicians. The pomegranate as an attribute of Astarte and symbol of fertility because of the many seeds in i…

Libs

(192 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Λίψ/ Líps). The west-south-west wind that on the twelve-point compass card of Aristotle blew from the setting point of the sun to the winter solstice (Aristot. Mete. 2,6,363b 19f.; [1. 2347, fig. 11]) and that Aristotle (De ventis 973b 11f.) and the Romans associated etymologically with Libya and therefore called Africus (Plin. HN 2,119f. and 18,336). It was considered damp and was set against the Aquilo (Plin. HN 2,125f.), it brought rain and storms, and through its blazing heat it destroyed the shoots of the vine [2]. On the compass card of Timosthenes this Libónotos (A…

Mosquito

(424 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἡ ἐμπίς/ empís, ὁ κώνωψ/ kṓnōps, Diminutive κωνώπιον/ kōnṓpion, Lat. culex, culicellus, culiculus; conops: Dioscorides Longobardus 3,23) is the general name for these buzzing insects which cause irritation by sucking blood. Aristotle gives a clear account at Hist. an. 5,19,551b 27-552a 8 and 1,1,487b 3-5 (so [1]) of the development of a midge of the genus Chironomus including the metamorphosis of the empís. The culices ficarii which help to pollinate figs are wasps of the type Blastophaga psenes (Plin. HN 11,118; 15,80 and 17,255). The common mosquito is t…

Domestication

(610 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] By this is meant the gradual and purposeful transformation of wild animal species into domesticated animals by human agency. Because of their biological characteristics, only a few of the wild mammals living during and immediately after the Ice Age were suitable for domestication. Only 5 of 19 orders of mammals provide domesticated species; these are the Lagomorpha (rabbits), Rodentia (guinea-pigs), Carnivora (dog, cat, ferret), Perissodactyla (horse, donkey) and the Artiodactyla (pig, sheep, goat, cattle, camel, llama). Domesticated animals howeve…

Frog

(773 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(βάτραχος/ bátrachos, Ionian βάθρακος/ bátrakos, βρόταχος/ brótachos, Lat. rana) is the collective name for frog amphibians (βατράχων γένος; batráchōn génos, Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,589a 28f.) comprising the genuine frog species and the toad species. [German version] A. The genuine frog species The genuine frog species include the green water frog (Rana esculenta), the brown grass frog (Rana temporaria L.; the first two distinguished by Theophr. fr. 174,1; cf. dioptes Plin. HN 32,70 and 139) and the tree frog (Hyla arborea), which Pliny (HN 32,75; 92; 122) app…

Buffalo

(143 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βοῦς ἄγριος; boûs ágrios, bubalus; βούβαλος; boúbalos on the other hand is the gazelle!). Native to southern Asia and therefore originally foreign to the Mediterranean countries. Job 39,9ff. presumably uses this name to refer to the Assyrian wild ox that is also depicted on reliefs from that area (Luther translates it wrongly as ‘unicorn’). The short description of Aristot. Hist. an. 2,1,499a4ff. (cf. Plin. HN 8,38: Africa vituli potius cervique quadam similitudine, ‘as Africa brings forth this animal rather with a certain similarity to calf and dee…

Camomile

(81 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀνθεμίς; anthemís, Latin anthemis, Plin., later chamomilla, from which the English name is derived) probably is today's composite genus, Matricaria L. Dioscorides 3,137 Wellmann = 3,144 Berendes (cf. Plin. HN 22,53f.) knew of three species with differently coloured flowers that had warming as well as thinning powers. In antiquity the camomile, as a flower infusion, was already used externally and internally as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic medicine.  Anthemis Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography P. Wagler, s.v. Anthemis (2), RE 1,2364f.

Reindeer

(228 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Rangifer tarandus, ὁ τάρανδος/ ho tárandos, Lat. tarand(r)us; parandrus: Solin. 30,25, there [?] shifted to Ethiopia!). The deer-like animal, dispersed as far as northern Italy and southern France during the Ice Age, was known to the Greeks only from the land of the Scythians on the basis of plausible reports in Theophr. fr. 172,2-3; Ps.-Aristot. Mir. 30,832b 7-16 and Aristot. fr. 317 (Antigonus Carystius 25), as well as Plin. HN 8,123-124. A fantastic motif recurring in these sources, such as in Solin. 30,25 (whose report on the pirander was adopted in the Middle …

Wren

(84 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The smallest European passerine ( Troglodytes troglodytes) is presumably meant by τροχίλος/ trochílos in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,593b 11 f.; 8(9),6,612a 20-24 (= Plin.  HN 8,90; but there by trochilos = rex avium the so-called crocodile bird, Pluvianus aegyptius, is meant [1. 241]). The alleged enmity between the wren and the eagle (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),11,615a 17-20 = Plin.  HN 10,203) refers to the attribute 'king'. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner. Keller 2,82-84  D'Arcy W. Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds, 1936, repr. …

Hellebore

(180 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἑλλέβορος; helléboros, helleborus). The name refers to poisonous plants of various families: 1) the Ranunculacea Helleborus L. (ἑλλέβορος μέλας in Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,14,4, etc., = H. cyclophyllus Boissier, not H. niger L. (the Christmas rose); Dioscorides 4,162 Wellmann = 4,149 Berendes; Paus. 10,36,7). The root, in particular, (Plin. HN 25,48). 2), of the Liliacea Veratrum album L. (ἑλλέβορος λευκός, Helleborus candidus, white hellebore: Hippoc. De victu 1,35 [1. 292]; Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,10,1-4 with many local forms; Dioscorides 4,148…

Sturgeons

(339 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In Antiquity - as it still is - the ancient Chondrostei family was represented by the Common Sturgeon ( Acipenser sturio L.) and the smaller Sterlet ( Acipenser ruthenus L.). The latter is described by Apion and Archestratus [2] (in Ath. 7,294e-f) as an ἀκκιπήσιος/ akkipḗsios (Latin acupenser/ accipenser) and identified with the ἔλ(λ)οψ/ él(l)ops (etymology still unclear: [1. 1,500], cf. schol. Theoc. Syrinx 18; Plut. Mor. 728e; Ath. 7,308c) and the γαλεός/ galeós (cf. Varro Rust. 2,6,2; elsewhere always meaning shark). Dorion (in Ath. 7,282) and Plut…

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.),…

Beet

(284 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γογγυλίς/ gongylís, ῥάπυς/ rhápys, ῥάφυς/ rháphys, βουνιάς/ bouniás, Latin rapum, napus). Fodder beet (var. rapa) was cultivated from wild beet, Beta vulgaris. Probably the white beet of ancient times is related to turnip rape, Brassica rapa L., of the Cruciferae family. Theophrastus mentions in Hist. pl. 1,6, 6-7 the fleshy root of the gongylís and in the 7th book details of sowing. Columella 2,10,22-24 (= Pall. Agric. 8,2,1-3) seems to understand by napus the swede, and by rapum white beet. He recommends that after the summer solstice or at the end of A…

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…
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