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Apple

(261 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Crab apples ( Malus silvestris, pumila, tomentosa etc., ἀγριομηλέα; agriomēléa, e.g. in Dioscorides 1,115,4 [1.1.108] = 1,163 [2.136]) were collected as early as the Asian and European Stone Age. Cultivated strains with larger fruits reached the Alpine and Baltic area in the Neolithic period [3.94-104]. In imperial Rome about 30 varieties of apples (cf. Plin. HN 15,51 f. and passim) were known and these were achieved, among other ways, through various grafting procedures (cf. Colum. De arb…

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…

Blackbird

(207 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] κότυφος (κόψιχος; kótyphos, kópsichos, Aristophanes etc., cf. Ath. 2,65d), merula ( -us Anth. Lat. 762,13), today Turdus merula, relatively well known: Aristot. Hist. an. 5,13,544a 27-29, cf. Plin. HN 10,147 (two clutches of eggs); Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),16,600a 20 (hibernation! but see Plin. HN 10,72); Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),1,609b 9-11 (hostility with χλωρίων), 610a 13 (friendship with turtledove); 8(9),9,614b 8 f. (compared in its size with woodpeckers); 8(9),13,616a 3 (nest building); 8(9),1…

Haematite

(206 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Haematite (αἱματίτης; haimatítēs, haematites) is seen today as a form of red iron ore. Theophrastus (De lapidibus 37, [1. 70]) derives its name from the appearance of dried blood ( haîma). In the ancient kingdoms of the Orient it was highly valued as a precious stone. Pliny recommends it among other things for treating blood-shot eyes (HN 36,144-148), and for staunching blood flow in consumptives and women. Following Sotacus, a Greek lithologist of the 4th cent. BC, he distinguishes five kinds, and referring …

Wolf

(1,451 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(ὁ λύκος/ lýkos, ἡ λύκαινα/ lýkaina, diminutive λυκιδεύς/ lykideús, occasionally σκύλαξ/ skýlax, 'young animal'; Latin lupus, lupa and lupus femina, e.g. Enn. Ann. 1,68; Etym.: leo + pes, 'lion-foot', in Isid. Orig. 12,3,23). Large and feared land predators, wolves were known by first-hand experience to all peoples in Antiquity. Only Opp. Cyn. recognizes five species. Plin. HN 8,84 and 11,202 mentions a Gaulish lupus cervarius and distinguishes it from the Aethiopian wolf, in reality a jackal (cf. θῶες/ thôes in Aristot. Hist. an. 6,35,580a 26-31). The lycaones (Plin. HN 8,123; M…

Swallow

(607 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In Greece and southern Italy today the following species occur: 1. Barn Swallow ( Hirundo rustica), 2. Crag Martin ( Ptyonoprogne rupestris), 3. Red-Rumped Swallow ( Cecropis daurica), 4. Sand Martin ( Riparia riparia) and 5. House Martin ( Delichon urbica). Whether ancient accounts of the χελιδών/ chelidṓn, Latin hirundo, refer to species other than 1 or 5 or the swift ( Apus apus L.) is almost always uncertain. For the most part broods are raised in skilfully constructed mud nests (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),7,612b 23; Varro Rust. 3,5,6; Ov. Fa…

Hippopotamus

(540 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Hippopotamus amphibius L., ὁ or ἡ ἵππος ποτάμιος/ híppos potámios, literally ‘river horse’, Latin hippopotam(i)us or equus fluvialis (Ambr. Hexaemeron 5,1,4), equus Nili (Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum 6,19), known from the  Nile (Plin. HN 8,95 and 28,121), from west African rivers (Plin. HN 5,10) and from Palestine. That the animal was found in the Indus, as alleged by Onesicratus, was rejected by Str. 14,1,45 and Paus. 4,34,3. In Egypt, the hippopotamus was nearly extinct in late antiquit…

Cherry Tree

(234 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κέρασος; kérasos, Latin cerasus with unclarified etymology, as the name of the town  Cerasus, contrary to explanations in Isid. Orig. 17,7,16, is derived from the cherry tree; the cherries are called κεράσια; kerásia, Latin cerasia). The wild cherry existed in Europe at least from the Middle Stone Age onwards [1. 112]. The grafted sweet cherry was introduced to Italy from the Black Sea in 74 BC by  Licinius Lucullus (Plin. HN 15,102ff.). It quickly spread all the way to Britannia. Pliny already knew several varie…

Menestor

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Μενέστωρ; Menéstōr). A Pythagorean from Sybaris, contemporary of Empedocles (5th cent. BC) and according to Iambl. VP 267 the earliest Greek botanist. Three citations in Theophr. Hist. pl., and the four in C. plant. [1. 375f.] show that he distinguished warm plants, i.e. evergreen ones such as ivy and laurel and water plants such as rushes and reeds ( Kalamos [2]) from the other cold ones. He even took into account ecological factors such as different habitats, climate (see esp. Theophr. Caus. pl. 1,21,6) and maturation times. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliogra…

Pheasant

(430 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The pheasant, the male of which is splendidly colourful, ( Phasianus colchicus, φασιανός/ phasianós sc. ὄρνις/ órnis, phasianus or phasiana sc. avis) comes originally from the region in Colchis around the river Phasis it is named after (modern Rioni, to the south of the Caucasus) (Agatharchides fr. 15 Jacoby FGrH 86 in Athen. 9,387c, cf. Mart. 13,72). From the 5th cent. BC it was introduced - with unique success for a galliform - into the wild in the Graeco-Roman cultural area. Aristophanes, who is th…

Anastatica

(99 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The true rose of Jericho, Rosa hierochontea, Rosa de Hiericho, Rosa Sanctae Mariae, the year-old crucifer Anastatica hierochuntica L. of the deserts of the Near East and north Africa and the small or false rose of Jericho, the composite Odontospermum pygmaeum (= Asteriscus aquaticus), found as far as southern Europe, have been considered since the Crusades to be a symbol of the Resurrection because of the infructescences unrolling in the presence of moisture [1. 38 f.]. The plants spread their seeds by rolling in the wind. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliograph…

Kingfisher

(391 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Alcedo hispida, ἀλκυών/ alkyṓn, ἀλκυονίς/ alkyonís; term for the full-grown male κηρύλος/ kērýlos, Antigonus, Mirabilia 27 and schol. Theoc. 7,57; alcedo since Varro, Ling. 7,88, halcyo). A magnificently coloured, fish-eating corcaciiform bird only rarely observed in Greece as a winter guest (Stesich. fr. 12 B in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,9,542b 24f.). Homer (Il. 9,563) first mentions it in conjunction with Alcyone [2]. In the report by Aristotle (Hist. an. 5,8,542b 4-17; 9(7),14,616a 14-34) there is not jus…

Graminea

(214 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Amongst the herbs ( herbae, ποιώδη; poiṓdē), Gramineae or Poaceae represent the grass family (Glumiflorae, πόαι; póai, in Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,8,3); in antiquity, however, the reeds (Cyperaceae) and rushes (Juncaceae) were not differentiated ( Bulrush;  Byblus). Besides the meadow grass (ἄγρωστις; ágrōstis, e.g. Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,6,7 et passim) and the grass proper ( grain; frumenta), other members of the Graminea family are, 1. the cat's tail Arundo (δόναξ, κάλαμος; dónax, kálamos, i.a. in Theophr. Hist. pl. 4,11,11 and elsewhere), esp. Arundo d…

Hoopoe

(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἔποψ/ épops, named after its characteristic call upupa in Lat., Varro, Ling. 5,75; cf. Aristoph. Av. 57 ff., 227 and 260), common in the Mediterranean and the only European representative of the hoopoes ( Upupidae). Paus. 10,4,8 and Plin. HN 10,86 describe its appearance, especially the impressive folding crest (Ov. Met. 6,672-674) and its long beak. Ael. NA 3,26 exaggerates the bird's uncleanliness (alleged use of faeces for nest building; cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),15,616a 35 f.). Despite its beauty - which i…

Lepidoptera

(816 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἡ ψυχή/ psychḗ, literally ‘soul’ e.g. in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,19,551a 14; νύμφη/ nýmphē, literally ‘young girl’ in Aristot. Gen. an. 3,9,758b 33; Lat. papilio and papiliunculus in Tert. De anima 32). Butterflies and moths is the collective term for the insect order of the Lepidoptera. Despite their certainly large spread in the Mediterranean region, they were not often recorded in scientific treatises in antiquity. Aristot. Hist. an. 5,551a 13-27 (cf. Aristot. Gen. an. 1,18,723b 5f. and 2,1,733b 13-16) correctly assigns them to the insects (ἔντομα/ éntoma, cf. In…

Alder

(170 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The black alder, Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. (κλήθρα, klḗthra), which grows in damp locations almost everywhere in Europe (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,4,3; 3,14,3; Plin. HN 16,77, cf. 31,44) represents the genus Alnus (cf. Indo-Germanic and Celtic aliza,  Alausa) of the Betulaceae, that comprises 17 species in Greece. The tree is characterized as an early bloomer (Plin. HN 16,97), supposedly it bears no fruit (Plin. HN 16,108, cf. Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,3,6). Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,14,3 describes the alder very well. The κλήθ́ρη ( klḗthrē) or κλήθρα ( klḗthra) in Hom. Od. 5,6…

Hamster

(130 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The hamster ( Cricetus cricetus) occurs only in grain fields north of the Alps and was unknown to Greeks or Romans. The hibernating μυωξός/ myōxós in Opp. Kyn. 2,574 and 585 was formerly identified with the hamster [1], but actually refers to the  dormouse. The crichetus in Thomas of Cantimpré 4,26 (according to the as yet undiscovered Liber rerum) is well described, but the description of its size (similar to a squirrel) and its habitat ( Apulea) do not match those of a hamster. In Albertus Magnus' De animalibus 22,47 [3. 1375], the term cricetus is confirmed in the gloss hame…

Stork

(600 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ πελαργός/ ho pelargós, according to EM 659,8 derived form πελιός/ peliós 'black' and ἀργός/ argós 'white', diminutive πελαργιδεύς/ pelargideús in Aristoph. Av. 1356 et passim, Latin ciconia, conea in Plaut. Truc. 691), the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia L.; see Verg. G. 2,319: candida avis, cf. Ov. Met. 6,96). The Black Stork (Ciconia nigra L.), which comes into contact with the Mediterranean area only during migration, was evidently unknown in Antiquity. In terms of size storks were compared to cormorants (Aristot. Hist. …

Granite

(146 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This widespread primary rock from the interior of the earth only received its name in the modern age, derived from the Italian ‘granito’ (from Lat. granum, ‘grain’). The Greeks took their name lithotomíai Thēbaikṓn from its source in quarries in Egyptian Thebes (Theophr. De lapidibus 6 [1. 58]; according to Plin. HN 36,63 suited to the manufacture of small hand mortars, coticulae). According to Hdt. 2,127 the lowest level of Chefren's pyramid consists of granite. Because of its colourful nature, competing terms were πυρροποίκιλος ( pyrrhopoíkilos; pyrrhopoecilos, …

Insects

(591 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This class of animals was first named by Aristotle (Hist. an. 1,1,487a 32-34; 4,1,523b 13-15) for the notches (ἐντομαί/ entomaí) on their ventral side or on both the ventral and dorsal sides ἔντομα/ éntoma (sc. ζῷα; zôa), from which the modern term ‘entomology’ and the German word ‘ Kerbtier’ (notched animal) are derived. The other most important characteristics listed by Aristotle are: insects do not breathe in air (Hist. an. 1,1,487a 30-32; 4,9,535b 5; obviously he was not familiar with the tracheal system, which differs from…

Casia

(119 words)

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

Dog

(1,444 words)

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

Lark

(288 words)

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

Agnos

(204 words)

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

Seal

(565 words)

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

Worms

(623 words)

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

Silphion

(248 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek σίλφιον/ sílphion, word of non-Greek origin, from σίλφι/ sílphi or σίρφι/ sírphi; Latin sirpe, laserpicium from lac sirpicium). An as yet unidentified plant, imported from the 6th cent. BC from Cyrenaeca in northern Africa, and the resinous milky juice obtained from its stem and root (Latin laser, main citation in Plin. HN 19,38-46 and 22,100 f. according to Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,1,6; 6,3,1; 6,3,3; 6,4). It seems to have been related to asafoetida ( Ferula asa-foetida L.). The plant is supposed to have had a strong but pleasant smell. Theophr. (Hi…

Squill

(248 words)

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

Gurnard

(245 words)

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

Gum (kommi)

(105 words)

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

Pine

(406 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In the Mediterranean region there are about 12 species of the coniferous genus P inus (cf. p icea spruce): In the west, 1) p inus pinea L ., the stone pine (Italian: pino domestico cf. πεύκη ἥμερος; peúkē hḗmeros) with cones (στρόβιλοι / stróbiloi, θύρσοι / thýrsoi) containing edible seeds (κόκκιλοι / kókkiloi, κόκκωνες / kókkōnes); 2) the maritime pine, Pinus maritima (= p inaster Sol.); In the east, 3) the fine-needled aleppo pine, Pinus halepensis; 4) Pinus peuce Grisebach, which grows only on a few mountains of the northern Balkans along with various sp…

Quince

(218 words)

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

Andrachle

(169 words)

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

Mackerel

(265 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκόμβρος/ skómbros, σκομβρίς/ skombrís, Latin scomber, κολίας/ kolías with unexplained etymology according to [1], Latin colias), the predatory marine fish, Scomber scombrus L. of the sub-species of the Scombroidea, that is often confused with the tuna because of its kinship with it. The mackerel, which according to Plin. HN 9,49 has a sulphury yellow colour in the water ( sulpureus color), comes, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),13,599a 1-3, in large schools to spawn on the sea coasts. Its catch (details in Opp. Hal. 3,576-595) was p…

Boreas

(305 words)

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

Ochre

(254 words)

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

Ibex

(146 words)

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

Umbilicus

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] [1] Plant (κοτυληδών/ kotylēdṓn, κυμβάλιον/ kymbálion, σκυτάλιον/ skytálion, γῆς ὀμφαλός/ gȇs omphalós; Latin umbilicus Veneris, cotyledon), genus of the Crassulaceae family: navelwort with two species ( Umbilicus erectus and Umbilicus horizontalis) still growing on rocks and walls in the Mediterranean area, mentioned in Dioscorides (4,91-92 Wellmann = 4,90-91 Berendes) and Pliny (HN. 25,159). Its small fleshy leaves, sap pressed from them and it roots were prescribed for rashes, inflammations (primarily of th…

Verbenaca

(130 words)

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

Incense

(307 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λίβανος; líbanos, λιβανωτός; libanōtós as a Semitic loan-word, Lat. tus). Especially frankincense, the resin from bushes of the Boswellia species (e.g. B. Carteri), burnt for its aromatic smell. The actual appearance of the bushes was unknown in Graeco-Roman antiquity (cf. Plin. HN 12,55-57). These bushes also grew in India and the coast of Somalia, but the Greeks only knew them from Arabia (Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,4,2; Plin. HN 12,51). In the eastern Mediterranean, incense was used for cathartic and apo…

Myrrh

(265 words)

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

Pumice

(101 words)

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

Swan

(655 words)

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

Fly

(508 words)

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

Taxus

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἡ [σ]μῖλος/ [s]mîlos, σμῖλαξ/ smîlax: Dioscorides, τὸ θύμαλλον/ thýmallon; Latin taxus, f.), a fir-like evergreen (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3; Plin.  HN 16,80) and long-lived (cf. Plin. ibid.  16,212) forest tree, the yew ( Taxus baccata L.). In Antiquity the cold-insensitive taxus (Verg. G 2,113) was widespread. Homer does not mention it, but Theophrastus knows the  mîlos well (Hist. Pl. 3,4,2 and 3,10,2; 4,1,3 and 5,7,6;   cf.  Plin.  HN 16,50 f.). Its needles and seeds (within the red berries) were already known to be poisonous…

Monkey

(339 words)

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

Anise

(107 words)

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

Duck

(576 words)

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

Moray

(544 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In antiquity (σ)μύραινα/ (s)mýraina, Latin murena mostly meant the Mediterranean moray, Muraena helena L., a long, eel-like (cf. Aeschyl. Choeph. 994f.) edible fish, distinguished from the related σμῦρος ( smŷros, M. christini) by its markings. The latter kind of moray ( smŷros) is admittedly considered to be the male (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,10,543a 24-28; Plin. HN 9,76). Others believed in a mating of morays with snakes (Plin. l.c. and ibid. 32,14; detailed description in Opp. Hal. 1,554-579: Ael. Nat. 1,50), but Andreas …

Hawthorn

(257 words)

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