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Artichoke

(195 words)

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

Broom

(206 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( ginestra) includes several mostly yellow-flowering genera of bushes of Tribus Genistae of the leguminosae. These are Genista L., the two kinds of prickly broom, Ulex and Calycotome ( Aspalathos), and especially the Spanish broom Spartium junceum L. (σπάρτον/ spárton: Hom. Il. 2,135; σπαρτίον/ spartíon and σπάρτη/ spártē: Dioscorides, 4,154 p. 2,300 Wellmann = 4,155 p. 454 Berendes; on its cultivation: Columella 4,31,1 and 11,2,19). From this species people have, since antiquity, been using the long branches with few leaves …

Far

(373 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Originally probably ‘corn’ in the sense of grain [1]. In the historical period, however, the name applied especially to spelt as opposed to common wheat ( triticum). Synonyms are ador and alicastrum; evidently a short form of far adoreum. Plin. HN 18,82 maintains that the zones of cultivation for far (emmer) and ζειά/ zeiá (ζέα/ zéa) are mutually exclusive. According to Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 2,25,2, however, these two kinds of grain, along with arinca (ὄλυρα; ólyra) as grown in Gaul, Italy and elsewhere, are identical. 3 kinds of the highly cold-resistant …

Apogei

(86 words)

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

Bear

(419 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The brown bear ( Ursus arctos; ἄρκτος/ árktos, Lat. ursus) occurred widely in southern and central Europe into the Roman imperial period. Aristotle [6] is very familiar with it: mating in December, birth of usually one-two cubs during hibernation (until March; Aristot. Hist. an. 6,30,579a 18-28), possible owing to reserves of fat; the bear eats everything (it even likes honey), but above all meat, such as that of deer, wild boar and cattle (ibid. 7(8),5,594b 5-17). Aristotle also gives a d…

Nasturtium

(154 words)

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

Pomegranate

(275 words)

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

Libs

(192 words)

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

Mosquito

(424 words)

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

Domestication

(610 words)

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

Frog

(773 words)

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

Buffalo

(143 words)

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

Camomile

(81 words)

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

Reindeer

(228 words)

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

Wren

(84 words)

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

Hellebore

(180 words)

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

Sturgeons

(339 words)

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

Pumice

(101 words)

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

Beet

(284 words)

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

Leguminous plants (pulses)

(237 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( ervum, Columella 2,10,34 et passim, Plin. HN 18,57; 18, 139 et passim; ervilia, Plin. HN 18,58 et passim; Columella 2,13,1; ὄροβος/ órobos, related to ἐρέβινθος/ erébinthos ‘peas’). Collective name for small-seed legumes. These belong to the following genera: a) Vicia with the subgenus Ervum L. (among these V. ervilia (L.) Willd., the bitter vetch, cf. Columella 8,8,6); b) lens, lentil ( lens, Cato Agr. 35,1; 116; 132,2; 158,1; Columella 2,10,15 et passim; Plin. HN 18,57 et passim; lenticula, Plin. HN 18,123; Columella 2,7,1; 11,10; 8,8,6; φακός/ phakós, Hebrew ʿaḏā…

Flamingo

(176 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Phoenicopterus ruber L., φοινικόπτερος; phoinikópteros, phoenicopterus). Wader named after its partly scarlet red wings; distinctive, shy brooding bird in north Africa and southern Asia, today also in the Camargue (southern France). It was first mentioned as a rare import by Aristophanes (Av. 270ff.) and also by Cratinus (fr. 114 Kock = 108 Edmonds). The observation of huge flocks made by the Alexander-historian Cleitarchus (FGrH 137 F 21) is reflected tendency (without naming the fla…

Wryneck

(306 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A grey-brown bird, related to the woodpecker, which can turn its neck 180 degrees around like a snake and has two forward pointing and two backward pointing claws on each foot (Aristot. Hist. an. 2,12,504a 11-19; Aristot. Part. an. 4,12,695a 23 f.; Plin. HN 11,256), and was called ἴυγξ/ íynx or κίναιδος/ kínaidos (literally 'lewd person') or κιναίδιον/ kinaídion (Hesych. s.v.), with the Latin loanwords iunx (Laevius fr. 27,3) or iynx. Ael. NA 6,19 has a flute imitate its unique call. With its long tongue and thin beak it catches insects. According…

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…

Guineafowl

(284 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ancient names (μελεαγρίς/ meleagrís, Latin meleagris, synonym: gallinae Africanae or Numididae) actually only meant the common guineafowl ( Numida meleagris L.) ─ in spite of Columella 8,2,2 (cf. [1. 19]) ─ among the total of 23 species spread over southern Asia and the Middle East as well as North and West Africa. The guineafowl was probably introduced to Greece in the 4th cent. BC and only in the 1st cent. BC to Italy (Varro, Rust. 3,9,18, cf. Plin. HN 10,74: ‘the last of the southern birds brou…

Quail

(524 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ὁ, ἡ ὄρτυξ/ ho, hē órtyx, Lat. coturnix). The quail ( Coturnix coturnix) is a very small poultry bird which flies poorly against the wind, seeming to murmur in complaint (cf. Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),12,597b 14; Plin. HN 10,33). It was believed, on its spring and autumn migrations in the northern Mediterranean region (Aristot. ibid. 597a 22-27), to follow the lead of the landrail ( Crex crex), the 'mother of the quails' (ὀρτυγομήτρα/ ortygomḗtra; Plin. HN 10,33). While migrating, it was caught with nets (Diod. Sic. 1,60) into which it was driven w…

Alaternus

(103 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Latin a. (Plin. HN 16,108: with leaves between holly oak, Ilex, and olive tree, oliva) means evergreen trees and shrubs of the Mediterranean Sea area with stone fruit (Pliny: without fruit!) from the families of the rhamnaceae (especially Rhamnus alaternus L., buckthorn) and the oleaceae ( Phillyrea media L. and angustifolia L.). In Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,3 κήλαστρος ( kḗlastros; celastrus) seems to belong to Phillyrea because the celastreae genus Celastrus L. is not found by the Mediterranean Sea. Hort [1] translates the φιλύκη ( philýkē) that follows there as a. Hünem…

Lizard

(498 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σαύρα/ saura or σαῦρος/ sauros, Latin lacerta and lacertus, possibly connected with ‘upper arm’, cf. [1. 1,743]). Genus name for various species of reptiles native to the Mediterranean: 1. the common wall lizard ( Lacerta muralis), 2. the green lizard ( L. viridis, χλοροσαύρα/ chlorosaúra), 3. the ocellated lizard that occurs especially in south-western Europe and North Africa ( Lacerta lepida; perhaps mentioned for the first time by Hdt. 4,183), 4. probably the monitor lizard ( Varanus) that is more than 20 cm long and is mentioned by Plin. HN 8,141 ( lacertus Arabiae …

Glykyrrhiza

(148 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γλυκύρριζα; glykýrriza, liquorice). This thirst-quenching asthma, throat and cold medication was produced from the rootstock of certain representatives of the 12-species liquorice genus (Leguminosae), especially G. glabra L. and echinata L. As Σκυθική ( Skythikḗ) or γλυκεῖα ( glykeīa) (sc. ῥίζα; ríza) it supposedly came from Scythia (Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,13,2). Dioscurides 3,5 p. 2,8-10 Wellmann = p. 265 Berendes also recommended it for chest and liver ailments. According to Plin. HN 22,24-26, who knew several prescriptions (cf. 25,82 Scythice = Theophr. ib…

Owls

(1,020 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
Along with the eagles and falcons, the family of night predator birds is given five main varieties in Aristotle. These were also known to the Romans. [German version] A. Eagle-owls 1. Eagle-owl ( Bubo bubo, βύας/ býas or βρύας/ brýas, derived from the onomatopoeic βύζειν/ býzein, as bubo is from bubulare), the largest, almost eagle-sized kind (Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),3,592b 9-10). It lives in wastelands, in eerie and inaccessible places (Plin. HN 10,34), on tombs and in caves (Isid. Orig. 12,7,39). Plin. HN 10,35 mentions its imprecise, seeming…

Rose

(386 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek τὸ ῥόδον/ rhódon, Latin rosa). The first references to the plant, famed for its blossoms and, according to Hehn [1. 253 f.], introduced from Media, are in the Homeric hymn to Demeter (Hom. h. 2,6) and - citing its purple colour - Pind. Isthm. 3/4,36b. According to Hdt. 8,138 (cf. Nic. in Ath. 15,683a-b), the celebrated sixty-petalled scented roses in the so-called 'Garden of Midas' in Macedonia grew in the reign of King Perdiccas [1]. Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 6,6,4) knew a full double rose, allegedly hundred-petalled (cf. Rosa centifolia), from Philippi in th…

Maple

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( acer). Depending on how one classifies them, there are 100-200 species of the hardwood genus Acer L., the names for which in most European languages, including Greek ἄκαστος (ákastos) and Latin acer and ornus, are derived from an Indo-European tree name beginning with an a - not from the adjective acer (with an ā). Apart from the Central European A cer pseudoplatanus L. (sycamore maple), platanoides L. (Norway maple) and campestre L. (field or common maple), in southern Europe one finds, among other species, Acer opalus Mill., monspessulanum L. and orientale L. As deci…

Salamander

(362 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σαλαμάνδρα/ salamándra from Persian, Lat. salamandra, identified at an early stage with the gecko, Lat. stellio), presumably the nocturnal fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra, an amphibian of the order Caudata ( Urodela), which is black with large yellow spots. The yellow spots led to the superstition that because of its coldness it could not only live in fire (e.g., Aug. Civ. 21,4) but even extinguish it (Aristot. Hist. an. 5,19,552b 15-17; Plin. HN 10,188; Gp. 15,1,34; cf. Theophr. fr. 3,60 and Ael. NA 2…

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…

Agrostis

(149 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἄγρωστις; ágrōstis, Latin gramen). Already substantiated in Homer for fodder grasses but not the same as the genus of paniculate grasses of the same name that includes more than 100 species. According to the botanical descriptions (Dioscorides 4,29 [1. 2,192] = 4,30 [2. 381], Apuleius among others), the term refers to cereal plants like couch grass ( Agropyron = Triticum repens L. according to Sprengel [in 2. 381]) or luxuriantly growing cinquefoil ( Cynodon Dactylon, Panicum Dactylum L.), according to Fraas [2. 381] the hippagrostis of the herbal books of t…

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…

Shrew

(449 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek μυγαλῆ/ mygal, Lat. sorex or Old Latin saurex and mus araneus, 'spider mouse'). Due to its secretive habit, this insectivore family of mammals with various species was hardly known in Antiquity. It was often confused with the ordinary mouse. Pliny describes the ears of the sorex as hairy (HN 11,136) and the tip of the tail as similar to that of the cow or lion (ibid. 11,265). Their hibernation is correctly mentioned by Plin. HN 8,223 (referring only to the garden shrew [1. 175]). Much superstition and magic was reported: supposedly, egrets ( ardeola) and shrews pre…

Fig

(523 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The fig has been indigenous to southern Europe since at least the Neolithic period, as documented by fruit discoveries from Lerna, the Argolid and the Bronze Age at the Mincio. The first literary references are in the Odyssey (e.g. Hom. Od. 11,588; 12,103). The fig is represented by two deciduous species of the genus Ficus of the Moraceae: (a) Ficus carica L. as ἐρινεός ( erineós), the goat fig as a wild form besides to the συκῆ ( sykê), the cultivated eating fig that was pollinated by a male plant ( caprificus) of (a). (b) the sycamore or mulberry fig, Ficus sycomorus L. (συκόμορ…

Ranunculus

(157 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βατράχιον/ batráchion = σέλινον ἄγριον/ sélinon ágrion in Dioscorides), buttercup, crowfoot. The widespread family of the Ranunculaceae has more than 100 species in Greece and Italy. The Greek and Latin names for the plant seem to be derived from' frog' (βάτραχος/ bátrachos, Lat. rana), owing to its preference for damp locations. Dioscorides (2,175 Wellmann = 2,206 Berendes) and Pliny (HN 25,172 f.) describe the appearance of four species; it is impossible today to determine exactly which. The leaves and stems in poultice…

Cynamolgus

(215 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pliny (HN 10,97 = Sol. 33,15) reports -- taking up the work of Ps.-Aristotle (Hist. an. 9,13 p. 616a 6-13 = 8,5 of the Arabic-Latin translation of Michael Scotus) -- about the cinnamon bird cinnamolgus (κιννάμωμον ὄρνεον; kinnámōmon órneon) in Arabia that builds its nest in high trees of twigs from the  cinnamon and which the inhabitants shot down with lead arrows for profit. Through Isid. Orig. 12,7,23 this fairytale went into the extended Latin  Physiologus of Ps.-Hugo of St. Victor (3,30 [1. 95], cf. [2. 103f.]) an…

Channe

(93 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χάννη, χάννα; chánnē, chánna). A fish of the perch family, perhaps the comber ( Serranus cabrilla), according to Aristot. Hist. an. 8,13,598a 13 a saltwater fish that, according to 8,2,591a 10, was carnivorous. Ath. 7,327f emphasizes its large mouth, the black and red stripes as well as, in 8,355c, its tender flesh. As no males were known -- the channe indeed is a hermaphrodite -- it was thought that the female fertilized itself (Aristot. Hist. an. 4,11,538a 19; Plin. HN 9,56 and 32,153, according to Ov. Halieutica 108). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography L…

Wormwood

(229 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀψίνθιον/ apsínthion or ἡ ἄψινθος/ ápsinthos or ἀψινθία/ apsinthía, Latin absinthium since Plaut. Trin. 935) describes popular spices and medicinal plants in several of the roughly 200 species of the Artemisia [3] genus in the Compositae family. Predominant was Artemisia absinthum L., which appears on the Greek mainland as Artemisia arborescens L. The yellow-flowered herbaceous plant reaches a height of about 1.20 m and has lancet-shaped leaves with silvery hair, which contain aromatic and bitter substances. Cappadocia and Pontus…

Flycatcher

(222 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This songbird family is represented in the Mediterranean by only two varieties: (a) the grey ( Muscicapa striata Pall.) and (b) the collared flycatcher ( M. albicollis Temminck). The two were not distinguished in antiquity, thus it is impossible to identify them either in zoological records or in ancient illustrations (for instance on mosaics [1. vol. 2, 119]). The ancient name συκαλλίς/ sykallís, ficedula is based on the assumption, already indirectly refuted by Aristotle (Hist. an. 8(9),3,592b 21f. and 28f.) that it eats figs. Aristotle's c…

Magnets

(329 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Μαγνῆτις/ magnêtis or Ἡρακλεία λίθος/ Hērakleía líthos; Lat. magnes). The name magnes supposedly comes from the homonymous discoverer, a shepherd on the mountain of Ida in the Troad (according to Nicander in Plin. HN 36,127) whom Isid. Orig. 16,4,1 holds to be a person from the Indus. The magnet is the well-known stone of iron oxide (Fe3O4) that attracts normal iron and, as ferrum vivum, ‘magnetizes’ the iron in its turn (Plin. HN 34,147; Isid. ibid.; Lucr. 6,910-914). Plin. HN 36,128 differentiates, with the Greek stone expert Sotacus, five …

Ichneumon

(275 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Egyptian mongoose ( Herpestes ichneumon, first mentioned under the name ἰχνεύμων by Aristot. Hist. an. 6,35,580a 25, but also ἰχνευτής/-ήρ; ichneutḗs/-ḗr), viverrid with dog-like feeding habits, in Egypt and, according to Vitr. De arch. 8,2,7, also in Morocco. The ichneumon stays mostly in the reeds and likes to raid poultry farms. In Egypt, it was known as the ferocious enemy of the crocodile, into whose open jaws it was said to creep and kill by consumption of its entrails (Str. 17,812; Diod. Sic. …

Crustaceans

(1,290 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] A. General The class Crustacea of the arthropod family, to be found, in many varieties, mainly in the sea but also in freshwater. The Greeks called them 'soft-shelled' (μαλακόστρακα/ malakóstraka, Aristot. Hist. an. 1,6,490b 10-12 and passim; Speusippus in Ath. 3,105b; erroneously as ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma, Ael. NA 9,6 following Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),17,601a 17f., where these names are meant, however to distinguish different types of crab). The Romans used contecta crustis tenuibus (Plin. HN 9,83) or crustis intecta (Plin. HN 9,43) or crustata (Plin. HN 1…

Milvus

(89 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This flying fish, mentioned by Pliny in HN 9,82 together with the flying gurnard ( hirundo, Dactylopterus volitans, Aristot. Hist. an. 4,9,535b 27-29; cf. Opp. Hal. 2,459 and Ael. NA 2,50) and often confused with it, is identical, it seems, with the hiérax (two-winged flying fish, Exocoetus volitans Cuv., Opp. Hal. 1,427f.; Ael. NA 9,52) [1. 140 and 145f.]. Further information is lacking, apart from the fish's wariness of hidden hooks (Hor. Epist. 1,16,50f.: cautus ... metuit ... opertum milvus hamum). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner.

Aspalathos

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀσπάλαθος, aspálathos) was the name given in particular to the common gorse Calycotome villosa (modern Greek σπάλαθος, σπαλαθιά) and to C. spinosa (Italian sparzio spinoso) that were widespread in the Mediterranean macchia, as well as thorny species of broom (e.g. Genetha acanthoclados, modern Greek ἀφάνα) and aspalathoides and even  acacia or the rosewoods belonging to other families ( Lignum rosae, L. thuris). In Pl. Resp. 10,616a the Erinyes whip tyrants with it in the Tartarus, in Theoc. 24,89 snakes killed by Hercules are burned with …

Barba Jovis

(152 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Type of houseleek Sempervivum tectorum (ἀείζωον; aeízōon) with yellow blooms and fleshy, evergreen and moist leaves (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,10,4 and 7,15,2); derives its name from its heavy covering of hairs. According to Dioscorides 4,87-88 [1. 247ff.] = 4,88-89 [2. 418f.], the leaves of both types (Lat. sedum in Plin. HN 25,160-163) i.a. served externally as cooling and astringent medicines for sores and wounds. Democritus is supposed to have recommended the juice to treat seeds (Plin. HN 18,159). In HN 16,76 Plin. means, however, the bushy silverbush Anthyllis Ba…

Urtica

(267 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
(from Latin urere, 'burn'; equivalent of cnide in Plin.  HN 32,146, [1. 91],  Greek ἀκαλήφη/ akalḗphē, κνίδη/ knídē). [German version] [1] Stinging nettle The stinging nettle, with its two differently sized species Urtica dioica and Urtica urens in the Urticaceae family, can be identified with the names urtica silvestris and urtica canina (Plin. HN. 21,92), but not with the herculanea. The species silvestris in particular was used as a drug, its leaves, seeds and roots e.g. for women's illnesses (Hippocr. De morbis mulierum 1,31; 1,51; 1,74 and 2,175), fo…

Euphorbion

(161 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (εὐφόρβιον; euphórbion, euphorbea). Name given to the gum resin (Plin. HN 25,77f.) of the cactus-like species of spurge ( Euphorbia resinifera, beaumeriana and antiquorum) which King Juba II of Mauretania found in the Atlas Mountains and is said to have named after his personal physician Euphorbius. Dioscorides 3,82 [1. 98f.] and 3,86 [2. 320f.] however mentions a king of the Libyans of the same name as the person who coined the name. According to Isidorus (Orig. 17,9,26), the name euphorbium is derived from the sharpening of the eye-sight through its sap…
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