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Lithika

(682 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λιθικά/ lithiká, Lat. lapidaria from líthos or lapis, ‘stone’). Books composed of mineralogical information as well as of special magical-medical effects attributed to precious stones. They are part of the physiká-literature that began its expansion in the 2nd cent. BC, and were influenced by Oriental ideas, describing the magical powers of organic and inorganic nature affecting man in terms of sympathy and antipathy. The generally apocryphal collected works appeared under the names of legendary magicians suc…

Narthex

(580 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Willers, Dietrich (Berne) | Nielsen, Inge (Hamburg)
(νάρθηξ; nárth ēx). [German version] [1] Yellow-flowering giant fennel (Latin ferula with uncertain etymology). The umbelliferous plant Ferula communis, the yellow-flowering giant fennel, which Theophrastus (H. plant. 6,2,8f., cf. Plin. HN 13,123) describes [1. 61f. and fig. 95-97]. On the coasts of Greece, on the islands and in Lower Italy this plant grows up to 5 m high. The dried stems were used like a cane for punishment, as the ‘sceptre of paedagogues’ ( sceptrum paedagogorum, Mart. 10,62,10 et passim), but also as a cattle goad and the staff of the Bacchants (Thyrs…

Knot-grass

(112 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Polygonum aviculare) For Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,6,11 the numerous thick roots were typical of the so-called rock partridge plant (περδίκιον/ perdíkion). Its name has supposedly been derived from the fact that rock partridges allegedly roll around in them and dig them up. This is an allusion to Polygonum maritimum. In Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,18,5 (reference not in Hort!) Κραταιγόνος/ krataigónos is called the κραταιόγονον/ krataiógonon of Dioscorides (3,124 Wellmann = 3,129 Berendes). It has been defined as Polygonum Persicaria. Its name is derived from the fact…

Etesiai

(203 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The cool, strong winds blowing from the north to the north-east each year from the middle of July (rising of Sirius) for about 40 days (different duration [1. 714]) were called ἐτησίαι (or βορέαι, boréai). These winds blowing from the  Propontis were then a considerable obstacle to navigation on the Black Sea. Isidorus (Orig. 13,11,15) mentions them as north winds that return each year, though without giving any specific timeframe. They were characterized as lashing the waves of the sea, making the sea dark, heal…

Oats

(123 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Unlike barley (Grain), wild and cultivated oats ( Avena sativa L., / brómos, avena) were used only occasionally in human diet in antiquity, for example as flour for pearl barley and dietary porridge (Hippoc. De victu 2,7(= 43) and Plin. HN 22,137); oats were used most frequently as animal fodder (green or as hay: Columella 2,10,32). Dioscorides (with a good description in 2,94 p. 1, 172f. Wellmann = 2,116 p. 203 Berendes) recommends the porridge against diarrhoea and the gruel obtained from it…

Mushrooms

(291 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μύκης, -ητος or -ου/ mýkēs, Latin mucus, mucor, -oris or σφόγγος/ sphóngos, σπόγγος/ spóngos, Latin fungus) are rarer in Greece than in Italy, where they were used as food despite the possibility of poisoning (Plin. HN 22,97: cibus anceps, ‘doubtful food’, and 22,92: temere manduntur, ‘they were eaten rashly’). They were considered to be produced by fermentation of the earth after heavy rainfall (cf. Plin. HN 22,94 and 100) or generated by tree roots (from their sticky sap, ex pituita: Plin. HN 22,96). Some trees, such as oaks, allegedly produce edible mush…

Antimony

(197 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Since the 11th cent. in Constantinus Africanus, de gradibus simplicium 4,4 [1. 381 f., cf. 2.138], the name given to this metallic element, said to be warm and dry at four degrees, that was the same as the ancient στίβι ( stíbi) or στίμμι ( stímmi; stibium, from orig. Eg. ṣtim [2.138]), supposedly a type of lead extracted from the silver mines.Use of black antimony trisulphate as eye make-up as well as for an astringent and cooling remedy, the extraction of which was described precisely (Dioscorides 5,85 [3.55 f.] = 5,99 [4.516…

Rosemary

(214 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Lat. ros marinus or rosmarinum, derived from ῥὼψ μύριος/ rhṑps mýrios; ῥουσμαρῖνος/ rhousmarînos; also λιβανωτίς/ libanōtís, Dioscorides 3,75 Wellmann = 3,(89) Berendes, Lat. libanotis, eg. Plin. HN 19,187). An evergreen labiate with bluish flowers ( Rosmarinus officinalis), popular with the Greeks and Romans. It grows in the maquis and represented an important remedy with its roots, juice, leaves and seeds. Especially for funerary ceremonies, wreaths were made of its branches (cf. Dioscorides loc. cit.). The incen…

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…

Leopard

(357 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πάρδαλις/ párdalis or πόρδαλις/ pórdalis; Lat. panthera). This large cat is found not only in Africa, but also in Asia. Thirty leopards ( pardáleis) and cheetahs ( pánthēroi) were led in the procession of Ptolemy II (3rd cent. BC; Ath. 5,201c). Plin. HN 8,62f. describes the eye-like spots of the panthera and claims that they lure other quadrupeds as prey with their pleasant odour. He claimed the second name for the male animals was pardus (cf. Luc. 6,183). Out of zoological ignorance, Isid. Orig. 12,2,11 has the leopardus spring from the crossing of a lioness and a pardus. T…

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,…

Birch

(78 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This northern and central European tree genus, of which there are also dwarf varieties ( betulla or betulus, late Latin betula) is represented by only three species in Italy, among these the betula aetnensis that is native to Etna. Only the weeping birch ( betula pendula = verrucosa) colonized the mountains of Greece and the Crimea. In Gaul (Plin. HN 16,75) the flexible twigs were used as weaving materials (cf. Plin. HN 16,176). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)

Rue

(277 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥυτή/ rhytḗ in Nic. Alex. 306, πήγανον/ pḗganon e.g. in Aristoph. Vesp. 480; Latin ruta). A Mediterranean genus of the Rutaceae family comprising some 60 species of aromatic, evergreen (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,4) subshrubs. The leaves, fruits and roots of Ruta graveolens were a favourite condiment, generally in combination with menta (mint) [1. 62] (and sometimes pickled in a solution of vinegar and salt, cf. Columella 12,7,1 f.), and were prescribed internally and externally (esp. in Plin. HN 20,134-143) against gynaecological c…

Eupatorium

(178 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (εὐπατόριος; eupatórios, Dioscorides 4,41; [1. 198f.] and [2. 386]; eupatoria, Plin. HN 25,65). This plant of the Rosaceae species Agrimonia eupatoria L., the agrimony with yellow inflorescence (cf. [3. fig. 222]), was considered by Dioscorides to be a valuable medicine for dysentery, liver complaints and snake bites. Pliny does not support the name variant hepatoria being derived from liver complaints [4] (nor the synonymous description ἡπατῖτις ( hēpatîtis) in the recensio Vindobonensis of Dioscorides); allocating the regia auctoritas to the plant is …

Hazel

(267 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The genus Corylus L. of the Betulaceae family is represented in Europe especially by the widespread, bush-forming (cf. Verg. Ecl. 1,14) common or shrub hazel Corylus avellana (already abellana in Cato Agr. 8,2; corylus: hazel wood for the wine press lid ibid. 18,9; corulus Columella 7,9,6). In the Mediterranean region the Turkish hazel C. colurna L., which grows up to 20 m tall and has a range from Asia Minor to the Balkans, C. pontica Koch and the giant filbert C. maxima Mill. (= tubulosa Willdenow; perhaps = nuces calvae, Cato Agr. 8,2 = galbae Plin. HN 15,90) are also f…

Prodromoi

(342 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Burckhardt, Leonhard (Basle)
(πρόδρομοι/ pródromoi, 'advance runners'). [German version] [1] Wind phenomenon The north winds which blow for seven days before the heliacal rise of Sirius in the Mediterranean region. Compared with the later Etesiai, they are supposedly cooler. The seven days - like their purported relationship with Sirius and the nine days from their onset until the Etesiai - are arbitrarily determined [1; 2]. Their dates vary between 7 and 23 July (Julian calendar) (= 4 - 20 July in the Gregorian calendar). Winds Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 R. Böker, s. v. Windfristen, RE Su…

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…

Cor­al

(293 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Pingel, Volker (Bochum)
(Hellenistic κοράλ(λ)ιον ( korállion), κουράλ(λ)ιον ( kourállion), Latin curalium, corallium). [German version] A. General comments The fact that coral does not consist of plants but of the calcareous skeletons of minuscule anthozoan coelenterates has only been known since the 19th cent. Theophrastus (De lapidibus 38), Pliny (HN 32,21-24, cf. Isid. Orig. 16,8,1), and Dioscorides (5,121 Wellmann = 5,138 Berendes) praise especially red coral, which was found near Naples, Trapani, on the islands of Huyères, and on the Aeolic islands. Darker coral is mentioned as lace by Plin. HN 3…

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…
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