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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…

Abrus

(130 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Arabic (orig. Indian) name for the coral-red, poisonous seeds of the legume Abrus precatorius L. that have been used in India since antiquity in medicine, criminal science and as weights as ‘rati’ like those of Ceratonia (karat; seed of the carob tree), but which were probably not brought to Europe until after 1550 (according to Prosper Alpinus, 1553-1617, in 1592), in [1] pisa rubra, in [2. 343] pisum indicum minus coccineum, called ‘semen Jequiritii’ or ‘rosary peas’ by other botanists, especially common for rosaries like the stones of the oleaster.  Weights Hünemörd…

Gi­raffe

(280 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ancient sources give varying accounts of the place of origin of the giraffe ( Camelopardalis girafa): Agatharchides (De mare rubro = Phot. bibl. 250,455b 4 B.) considers that it was among the Troglodytae in Nubia, Plin. HN 8,69 under the name nabun it had there in Ethiopia, Artemidorus of Ephesus (Str. 16,775) locates it in Arabia, whilst Paus. 9,21,2 places it in India. The name καμηλοπάρδαλις, camelopardalis ( -parda, -pardala) comes from similarities with the camel and panther: ‘it has the figure of a camel but the spots of a panther’ (Varro,…

Beetle

(759 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Of the beetle order, whose name κολεόπτερα/ koleóptera Aristotle (Hist. an. 1,5,490a 13-15 and 4,7,552a 22f.) derives from the fact that their wings were under a cover (ἔλυτρον, élytron; crusta: Plin. HN 11,97), only a few species were distinguished. The popular name for them was κάνθαροι, kántharoi, Latin scarabaei. They form from larvae (κάμπαι, Aristot. Hist. an. 5,19,551b 24) or worms (σκώληκες, 5,19,552b 3, Latin vermes). The most important of the 112 species probably identified through more detailed information on them are the following: A. Ground beetle: 1. …

Mouse

(1,145 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ μῦς/ ho mŷs, in dialects σμῦς/ smŷs, σμίς/ smís, σμίνθος/ smínthos, σμίνθα/ smíntha; Latin mus, dimin. musculus; in this regard [4. 2,132]), representative of the family Muridae of rodents (Rodentia), rich in species, with constantly regrowing incisor teeth. The terms mentioned mostly refer to the long-tailed mice, the house mouse ( Mus musculus L.), wood mouse ( Apodemus sylvaticus L.), the harvest mouse that builds a nest of grass above the ground ( Micromys minutus Pallas) as well as the field mouse ( Microtus arvalis Pallas) that belongs to the vole family ( Arvico…

Reed

(86 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek κάλαμος/ kálamos (Calamus [2]), Lat. (h)arundo). Phragmites communis and other species of grass are often mentioned in Theophrastus and Plinius (cf. the indexes of the Naturalis Historia s.v. harundo) as plants by and in lakes and rivers. The various applications of this 'extremely useful water plant' (Plin. HN 16,173: qua nulla aquatilium utilior) and related species - e.g., for thatched roofs and as arrows (see also Pen; Musical instruments [V B]) - are compiled in Plin. HN 16,156-173. Graminea Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)

Partridge

(54 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The central European partridge ( Perdix perdix) can be found in Greece in the form of the rock-loving Rock partridge ( Alectoris graeca, πέρδιξ/ pérdix). The smaller partridge, which is found in Italy (which, unlike the rock partridge, does not have a red beak) is described only by Ath. 9,390b. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)

Fucus

(202 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φῦκος; phŷkos, φυκίον; phykíon, φῦκος θαλάσσιος; phŷkos thalássios) originally denoted red algae used for dyeing clothes red and as a cosmetic (Lat. verb fucare): e.g. Rytiphloea tinctoria ( Clem.) Ag., but not the species Fucus L. The loan-word phycos (as bush frutex, Plin. HN 13,135) denotes not only the herb-like algae, but is extended to green algae like the sea lettuce ( Ulva lactuca). Pliny distinguishes (HN 13,136) three species: 1. the orseille or litmus lichen ( Roccella tinctoria L.), 2. perhaps some red algae (= Dioscorides 4,99 p. 2,255 Wellmann…

Peacock

(414 words)

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

Mussels

(881 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A. Anatomy The popular collective term τὰ ὄστρεα/ óstrea was replaced by Aristot. Hist. an. 4,4,527b 35-528a 1 with ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma. The corresponding Latin terms are ostreum and ostrea (Isid. Orig. 12,6,52), but this often means oyster, or concha (Plin. HN 9,40) in particular. In contrast to  Pliny, Aristot. Hist. an. 4,4,528a 12f. distinguishes bivalves (δίθυρα/ díthyra, modern: Bivalvia) from univalve gastropods (μονόθυρα/ monóthyra). Aristot., unlike Plin. HN 11,129, erroneously mentions a head in gastropods and bivalves (Pa…

Emerald

(95 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σμάραγδος/ smáragdos, Lat. smaragdus or zmaragdus). Greenish gemstone, variety of beryl, in the famous ring of  Polycrates [1] (in Hdt. 3,41) among others, one of the 12 stones of  Aaron (Ex 39,10). Theophr. De lapidibus 25 [1. 66] mentions the copper mines of  Cyprus and an island near Chalcedon as the main places where the stone is found. Plin. HN 37,62-75 distinguishes 12 types depending on their origin. Particularly transparent and shiny mirroring specimens were highly regarded. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 D. E. Eichholz (ed.), Theophr…

Trout

(184 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] These predatorily living fresh-water fish (Salmo trutta L.) were first mentioned by Ambr. Exam. 5,3,7 as ' quite large variegated fish, called trout' ( varii maiores, quos vocant troctas; v.l. tructas), that commit their eggs to the water to develop by themselves ( ova generant ... et aquis fovenda committunt). This view is adopted by Isidore (Orig. 12,6,6) when deriving their name from their variegation ( varii et varietate) and by Hrabanus Maurus (De universo 8,5, PL 111,237) from him. In accordance with a proverb, Alexander Neckam (De naturis r…

Chestnut

(309 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The sweet chestnut ( Castanea sativa Mill.) already grew in southern Europe in early historic times. Theophrastus calls the fruit εὐβοική ( euboikḗ sc. karýa) and describes it in Hist. pl. 1,11,3 as enveloped in a leather-like skin. According to Hist. pl. 4,5,4, the tree was very common on Euboea and in the area around Magnesia. Its wood, that was by nature resistant to rotting (5,4,2, according to 5,4,4 even in water), is recommended as especially suitable for carpentry work exposed to the weather and t…

Sardonyx

(67 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σαρδόνυξ/ sardónyx, Latin sardonyx). Today a brown-and-white-banded variety of chalcedony, but in Antiquity a metal from the S. Mountains in India. Whether ancient gems allegedly made from sardonyx [1. e.g. pls.üü 15,52 and 18,42] in fact consist of this stone would be a matter for study. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 F. Imhoof-Blumer, O. Keller, Tier- und Pflanzenbilder auf Münzen und Gemmen des klassischen Altertuns, 1889 (repr. 1972).

Bee-eater

(131 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Named μέροψ, mérops by the Boeotians (Aristot. Hist. an. 6,1,559a3ff.); a colourful, warmth-loving bird of the Coraciiformes species, Merops apiaster L., said to feed its parents shortly after hatching (Plin. HN 10,99; drawing on Ps.-Aristot. Hist. an.9,13,615b24-32 and Ael. NA 11,30 [2]). It is said to brood in holes six feet deep in the ground. It was hunted because it fed on bees (Ps.-Aristot. Hist. an. 9,40,626a13). Servius derives the Latin name apiastra from this feeding pattern (Serv. Georg. 4,14). In Ger. glosses of the Middle Ages it is often…

Leucrocota

(181 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This composite creature ( Monsters) (size of a donkey, legs of a deer, badger head with a gaping snout up to the ears and a single bone in place of teeth, similarity to a lion in the neck, chest and tail, cloven hooves, ability to imitate the human voice) in Ethiopia in Plin. HN 8,72f. and Solin. 52,34 should possibly be interpreted as the brown hyaena ( Hyaena brunnea) [1. 154]. However, it is probably a mythical animal that was passed on through the sources mentioned and Honorius Augustodunensis 1,12 ( Ceucocrota) [2. 54] and Jacob of Vitry, Historia orientalis c. 88 …

Plaice

(518 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
ψῆτται/ psȇttai (etym. ψήχειν/ psḗchein, 'rub off'; Lat. pisces plani, e.g. Plin. HN 9,72) is the name mostly used to designate the family of flatfish ( Pleuronectidae). It was difficult to differentiate between the numerous species (cf. Ath. 7,329e-330b). According to schol. Pl. Symp. 191d, ψῆττα/ psȇtta is the Attic word for βούγλωσσος/ boúglōssos, 'ox- tongue'. [German version] Main species 1. Plaice, Pleuronectes, a) the ψῆττα in the strictest sense. Aristot Mot. an. 17,714a 6-8 refers to its characteristic asymmetry, Plat. Symp. 191d points out how ea…

Circius

(69 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This name corresponds to the north-north-westerly wind Κιρίας blowing from Cape Circe to Cumae and interfering with the Phocians' navigation from Sicily to Massalia. As an originally local wind of Gallia narbonensis (Plin. HN 2,121) that reached all the way to Ostia, it was later included in the wind rose (not yet in Vitruvius).  Winds Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography W. Böker, s.v. Winde, RE 8 A, 2306ff.

Pumpkin

(180 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Κολοκύνθη/-τη/ kolokýnt(h)ē, Lat. cucurbita) denoted in Antiquity the bottle gourd ( Lagenaria vulgaris Ser.), shown in pictures as early as in Ancient Egypt, rather than the pumpkin ( Cucurbita pepo L.), which was not introduced from America until the 16th cent. Considerable attestations can be found in Ath. 2,58f-60b, primarily from comedians from Epicharmus onwards. The denotation sikýa Indikḗ ('Indian pumpkin') refers to its alleged introduction from India. The shells were fashioned into bottles (cf. Pall. Agric. 4,10,33; Columella 11,3,49: Alexandrinae c…

Parrots

(500 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ψιττακός/ psittakós or -η/ ē, or σιττακός/ sittakós or -η/ ē, Latin psittacus or sittacus, siptace, Plin. HN 10,117), the lavishly colourful birds introduced from India. They were highly prized in their homeland as denizens of royal aviaries, as showpieces and gifts (Ps. Callisthenes 3,18; Cleitarchus in Str. 15,1,69; Callixeinus in Ath. 5,201b; Megasthenes in Arr. Ind. 1,15,8). Ctesias was the first to show knowledge of them (Indika 3 = fr. 57,3 βιττακός/ bittakós; similarly Nearchus FGrH 113 F 9). Besides their origin, Aristotle (Hist. an. 7(8),12,5…

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…
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