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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. …

Ivy

(506 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Graf, Fritz (Columbus, OH)
[German version] I. Botanical Ivy (κισσός/ kissós, ἕλιξ/ hélix, Latin hedera) represents the only European genus of Araliaceae. English ‘ivy’ as well as German Efeu and Eppich (another word for ivy;  Celery) are derived from Old High German ebihouui or eboue. Because of confusion with the rock-rose mentioned in Theophrastus (κίσθος/ kísthos, Hist. pl. 6,2,1), Pliny (HN 16,145) distinguishes between a male ( hedera mas) and a somewhat smaller female form ( h. femina). In his further statements on ivy, he also follows Theophrastus who in turn regards the ivy as being r…

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…

Snake

(2,561 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Bremmer, Jan N. (Groningen)
Ὁ ὄφις/ ho óphis, as early as Hom. Il. 12,208; Latin anguis or, from its creeping way of moving, serpens; sometimes also generally ὁ δράκων/ ho drákōn (v.i. B. 3.; = óphis in Hom. Il. 12,202; Hes. Theog. 322 and 825), ἡ ἔχιδνα/ échidna (Hdt. 3,108; also as the snake-like monster Echidna and in a metaphorical sense for 'traitor/traitress', e.g. Aesch. Cho.  249), ἡ χέρσυδρος/ hē chérsydros (e.g. Nic. Ther. 359); Latin vipera (first at Cic. Har. resp. 50), coluber, colubra (from Plautus to Petronius only poetic). I. Zoology [German version] A. General The absence of snakes on certain i…

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…

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…

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 …

Weasel

(403 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γαλῆ/ galê, also γαλέα/ galéa; Latin mustela, the 'mouse-hunter', in Isid. Orig. 12,3,3 interpreted with a false etymology as a 'long mouse'; usually the weasel ( Mustela nivalis L.), but also other members of the Mustelidae = marten-like family). The galê is sometimes identified with the ἰκτίς/ iktís (schol. Nic. Ther. 196; Plin. HN 29,60; cf. Polecat, Marten); Aristot. Hist. an. 2,1,500b 24 and 8(9),6,612b 10 contradicts this, however. Weasels hunt mice, moles (Pall. Agric. 4,8,4), snakes, lizards and birds. People caught them with live-catch traps (γαλεάγρα/ gal…

Achates

(297 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Graf, Fritz (Columbus, OH)
[German version] [1] Precious stone According to Theophr. De lapidibus 31 [1.68], a precious stone ( gemma) named after the river of the same name in Sicily (today's Carabi or Canitello), and which, along with 11 others, adorned the official escutcheon of the High Priest Aaron (Ex 39,10-13) [2.204 f.]. According to Plin. HN 37,5, King Pyrrhus of Epirus owned a specimen whose naturally occurring streaks ( maculae) depicted Apollo and the nine Muses. According to Plin. HN 37,139-142, the achates and its many variants, whilst having decreased in value owing to ma…

Water nut

(152 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The only representative of the Trapaceae (formerly Hydrocaryaceae) family is called, from the shape of the nut, ὁ τρίβολος/ tríbolos sc. ἔνυδρος/ énhydros ('tricorn'), βουκέφαλος/ boképhalos ('ox's head'), ταυροκέρας/ taurokéras ('bull's horn') in Greek, and tribulus sc. aquaticus in Latin. The plant grows primarily in marshy places in soft-water rivers in the climatically favourable zones of Europe and Asia, with all but the leather-like serrated floating leaves under water (good description in  Theophr. Hist. pl. 4…

Kneoron

(86 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κνέωρον; knéōron). By κνέωρος Theophr. (Hist. pl. 6,1,4) understands, as does Dioscorides (4,172 [1. 2,320ff.] = 4,170 [2. 464f.]) several small shrubs of the Thymelaeaceae with a poisonous sap that causes itching (cf. Plin. HN 21,55), namely Thymelaea tartonraira and hirsuta, Daphne gnidium (Southern daphne) and oleifolia. The red berries used for medicinal purposes (Plin. HN 13,114 grana Cnidia) were still prescribed in the 19th cent., as semina Coccognidii, as a laxative. Poisonous plants Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Wellmann 2 2 Berendes

Tortoise

(984 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Klose, Dietrich (Munich)
[German version] [1] Animal (χελώνη/ chelṓnē, ἐμύς/ emýs: Aristot. Hist. an. 5,33, 558a 7-11, cf. Arr. Ind. 21; Latin testudo, in Plin. HN 9,71 and 166 mus marinus, literally 'sea mouse'). The following are known: 1.) the Hermann's Tortoise, χελώνη (χελών, χελύς, χελύνη) χερσαία/ chelṓnē ( chelṓn, chelýs, chelýnē) chersaía; 2.) the very similar Spur-Thighed Tortoise, χ. ὄρειος ( ch. óreios) in Ael. Nat. 14,17 and Plin. HN 9,38: chersinae; 3.) the Pond Terrapin, ἐμύς ( emýs) or χ. λιμναία ( ch. limnaía); 4.) the Loggerhead Sea-Turtle, Thalassochelys caretta, χ. θαλαττία ( ch. thalattía) …

Strychnos

(163 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ὁ/ἡ στρύχνος/ strýchnos, Latin solanum and strumus). Various species of the nightshade family ( Solanaceae). They comprise (1) the edible vegetable plants (=ἐδώδιμος/ edṓdimos; ἥμερος/ hḗmeros = 'tame, cultivated', κηπαῖος/ kēpaîos = 'belonging to the garden') and those used as medicinal herbs (e.g. externally for itching, Plin. HN 26,120), such as Black Nightshade ( Solanum nigrum; Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,18,11; 7,7,2 and 7,15,4; Dioscorides 4,70 Wellmann = 4,71 Berendes; Plin. HN 27,132) and its varieties (including the tomato, w…

Cantharides

(168 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κανθαρίδες; kantharídes) are slim, metallic-green oil beetles, such as the so-called Spanish fly ( Lytta vesicatoria), that were used for medicines; when taken orally, their active ingredient -- cantharidin -- leads to poisoning, as Plin. HN 29,93-96 (cf. [1. 70f.]) shows with reference to one case. Externally applied to wounds together with e.g. mutton suet, the cantharidae were said to be useful because of their blistening, caustic effect which the Middle Ages learnt about through Isid. Orig. 12,5,5. The beetles -- that lived on pl…

Anchousa

(167 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄγχουσα; ánchousa). Identified as the Mediterranean boraginaceae Alkanna tinctoria (L.) Tausch used for red dye (because of the alizarine content of the root) and as an astringent medicinal plant; in Aristophanes, Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,9,3 (with red rhizome), Dioscorides 4,23 [1.2.187 f. = 2.378] (cf. 4,24-26), Plin. HN among others [3.158]. Among other plants, the ox tongues, on the other hand, belong to the current genus Anchusa L. (βούγλωσσον; boúglōsson). The olive tree-like leaves of the bushy officinal (cf. Dioscorides 1,95 [1.1.86] = 1,124 …

Violet

(435 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἴον/ íon, ἰωνία/ iōnía; Latin viola). The ancient names referred not only to the various types of Violaceae, but also to certain cruciferous plants with yellow and white blossoms (wallflower: Cheiranthus cheiri L., gillyflower: Mathiola incana R. Br., dame's rocket: Hesperis matronalis L.) that are not the focus of interest here. The word íon in Hom. Od. 5,72 may refer not to a violet, but more generally to a ‘flower with a dark blossom’ [1]. Theophrastus (H. plant. 6,6,7) describes the fragrant violet with blue-violet blossoms called Viola odorata (ἴον μέλαν/ íon méla…

Strawberry tree

(269 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) | Walde, Christine (Basle)
[German version] In the macchia shrubland of Mediterranean countries the genus Arbutus L. of the Ericaceae family is represented by two of its total of 20 evergreen species, namely a) the ST Arbutus unedo L. (κόμαρος; kómaros) with its strawberry-like sour-tasting drupes ( arbuta Verg.  G. 3,301 and 4,181), which ripen in a year, and b) the andrachle, Arbutus andrachle L. (ἀνδράχνη; andráchn ē), spread from Greece to the east as far as the coast of the Black Sea, with small orange-yellow inedible fruits. The fruits of the arbutus, which grows as far west as the Atlantic coast of Ir…

Sulphur

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (θεῖον/ theîon, Epic θέειον/ théeion or θήιον/ thḗion, Latin sulphur). Because of its alleged power to ward off evil, derived from theîos ('divine'), mentioned as early as in Homer (Od. 14,307; 22,481 f. and 493 f.: as a means of purification after the killing of the suitors by Odysseus). Aristotle (Mete. 3,6, 378a 23) mentions it as an example of fossil substances burnt by dry exhalation (ξηρὰ ἀναθυμίασις/ xērá anathymíasis) [1. 42 f.]. Sulphur was mined, primarily in Sicily, and was used to combat vermin and to preserve wine ('sulphuration' of …

Whale

(245 words)

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

Marmot

(146 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Plin. HN 8,132 refers to the Marmota marmota as ‘Alpine mouse’ ( mus Alpinus) and stresses its size (like a badger, meles) and its hibernation ( conduntur hieme) thought to be based on its collection of food [1. 175]. The fact that its pelt is scrubbed off on the back he explains by saying that both sexes, lying on their back and holding food with their front legs, pulled themselves by their tails backwards into their den. The story of their supposed locomotion on two legs (ibid. 10,186) is, of course, not …

Bat

(402 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Because of its appearance in the evening it was called νυκτερίς ( nykterís) or vespertilio. From the Orient, the flying fox ( Pteropus medius Tem.) apparently was also known under the name of ἀλώπηξ ( alṓpēx, Aristot. Hist. an. 1,5,490a 7) or νυκταλώπηξ ( nyktalṓpēx, Ps.-Callisthenes 3,17,21; Str. 16,1,7 = p.739; cf. Hdt. 3,110, accordingly Plin. HN 12,85). The order of Chiropterais described as ‘skin-winged’ (δερμόπτερα, cf. Plin. HN 11,228: siccis membranis volat) by Aristot. Hist. an. 1.1.487b 22f. and 490a 7f., and thus seen as being close to that…

Lobster

(185 words)

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

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 (…
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