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Castor bean

(278 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σιλλικύπριον/ sillikýprion, κίκι/ kíki, κρότων/ krótōn, Lat. ricinus, the latter however also the name of a species of louse, e.g. in Columella 6,2,6 and 7,13,1), i.e. Ricinus communis ( Euphorbiacea arbor mirabilis or Palma Christi), originating from Africa. It grew wild in Greece, but in Egypt, several species were cultivated along the shores of lakes and rivers (cf. Diod. Sic. 1,34,11). Hdt. 2,94 provides information on the extraction of the oil, suitable for lamps but of unpleasant smell, either by cold pressing the cracked fruits of the kíki or by roasting and…

Arsenicum

(123 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀρρενικόν or ἀρσεν-; arrhenikón, arsen-). In antiquity the yellow orpiment, identical to the auripigmentum, different from the red arsenic sulphide σανδαράκη [ sandrákē; 1. 158-160] also found in mines, called realgar in the Middle Ages. According to Dioscorides 5s 5,104 and 105 [2. 74f.] = 5,120 and 121 [3. 531 f.], both were used not only as paints but also, burned and crushed, as cauterizing and astringent agents, especially for hair removal and also for ulcers etc. (cf. Plin. HN 34,177f.). Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 D. Goltz, Studien z…

Monkey

(339 words)

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

Elk

(229 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Alces alces, American ‘moose’) A large northern species of deer, originally common across all of Central Europe [1]; its earliest ancient reference is found in Pliny (HN 8,39). He describes it similar to a mule ( iumentum), but with a long neck and ears. He only knows of this species from hearsay, as with the related Scandinavian achlis with its protruding upper lip, forcing the animal to walk backwards while grazing. Its (slender) legs without knee joints supposedly forced the achlis to lean against trees when sleeping. To catch an achlis in the  Hercynia silva , one need…

Beaver

(385 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κάστωρ; kástōr, fiber, Old Latin feber and as a loan word castor). The amphibian marsh dweller is slightly broader than the otter (ἔνυδρις), has strong teeth for night-time cutting of aspens (κερκίδαι) and a hard pelt. It was described also under the name of σαθέριον/ sathérion or σατύριον/ satýrion and λάταξ/ látax, by Aristot. Hist. an. 8,5,594b31-595a6 (= Plin. HN 8,109; Ael. NA 6,34). In antiquity it was apparently eradicated early in Italy and Greece. In Gaul, Spain, and Central and Eastern Europe, especially on the Black Se…

Eagle

(715 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀετός; aetós, aquila). Most distinguished bird of antiquity (Il. 8,247; 24,315; Aesch. Ag. 112; Pind. Pyth. 1,6 al.; Plin. HN 10,6). Description of the six types in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),32,618 b 18-619 b 12 and with alterations in Plin. HN 10,6-8. (1) πύγαργος, νεβροφόνος ( pýgargos, nebrophónos; ‘deer calf killer’) (in Plin. no. 2), with white tailfeathers, living on plains, in forests, mountains and in towns, perhaps snake eagle [1. 208]. (2) πλάγγος, νηττοφόνος ( anataria) or μορφνός, Homer. (= περκνός, Il. 24,316), in damp lowlands or by lakes,…

Fennel

(189 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( feniculum first in Plaut. Pseud. 814, MLat. feniculum or fenuclum, μάραθ(ρ)ον; márath(r)on). An umbellifer ( Umbelliferae) introduced from the eastern Mediterranean. It differs from the closely related  dill ( anethum ) because of its size and its being perennial. As a vegetable and an astringently scented herb (cf. e.g., Plin. HN 19,186), it was particularly grown in the wine-growing areas of Germany [1. 26] (sown in February in Italy according to Pall. Agr. 3,24,9). The well-known Attic v…

Celery

(202 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The name given to umbellate plants from the Araliaceae family that had large, shiny leaves and were suitable for making wreaths, namely the  ivy (κισσός, ἕλιξ, hedera), sacred to Dionysus/Bacchus, and several umbelliferous plants. The following pot-herbs are meant in particular: 1) Celery ( apium graveolens L.), as σέλινον ( sélinon) mentioned already in Hom. Il. 2,776 and Od. 5,72; as garden celery, σέλινον κηπαῖον ( sélinon kēpaîon), celery is referred to in Dioscorides for its cooling, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect (3,64 [1. 75f.…

Bittersweet

(110 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] One of the few members of the Solanacea family indigenous to Europe, this plant, Solanum dulcamara L. (γλυκύπικρον, dulcamara or amaradulcis), is so called because of the taste of its red, slightly toxic berries. It is not so much the berries, whose bitter-sweet qualities have a mildly narcotic effect, as the twigs that are used: their decoction induces sweating; in Dioscorides 4,72 (1. 230f.) = 4,73 [2. 406f.], though called στρύχνον ὑπνωτικόν ( strýchnon hypnōtikón), used for pain relief.  Solanacea Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 M. Wellmann (…

Juniper

(252 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] For the Greeks, the name κέδρος/ kédroscedrus ) described, among other things, various species of juniper, such as the prickly juniper (also ὀξύκεδρος/ oxýkedros: Juniperus oxycedrus L.) and the common juniper ( J. communis L.) which grows in the higher mountains of Greece. The latter is also called κεδρίς; kedrís (Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,9,4; 1,10,6; 1,12,1), while ἄρκευθος/ árkeuthos is thought to refer to the Phoenician juniper ( J. phoenicea), whose berries only ripen in the second year (ibid. 1,9,3; 3,12,3 f.). Six species occur in Greece today…

Pear tree

(168 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The pome genus Pyrus L. (pears, Latin pirus, pirum) consists of around 20 wild species (ἀχράς/ achrás, ἄχερδος/ ácherdos), which occur in the areas of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and many cultivated breeds (ὄγχνη/ ónchnē, in Homer ἄπιος/ ápios), developed by hybridization since the Neolithic Age. Mainly imported into Greece from the Levant, they were cultivated especially in the Peloponnese, which was for this reason called Ἀπία/ Apía (Ath. 14,63,650bc), for the production of must. Pears were consecrated to Hera, Aphrodite, Venus and Pomon…

Willow

(416 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In ancient sources, Greek ἰτέα/ itéa and its related forms, ἡ οἰσύα/ oisýa (Poll. 7,176), ἡ ἑλίκη/ helíkē (especially in Arcadia, according to Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,13,7) and Latin salix each designate in a non-specific way (cf. the descriptions in Theophr. l.c.; Plin. HN 16,174-177) one of the species of the Salicaceae family growing around the Mediterranean. Its many forms include the white willow ( S. alba L.), crack willow ( S. fragilis L.), basket willow ( S. viminalis L.), goat willow ( S. caprea L.), almond-leafed willow ( S. triandra L.) and purple willow ( S. purpure…

Duck

(576 words)

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

Parrot-fish

(215 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σκάρος/ skáros, Latin scarus). In the 1st cent. AD this up to 490 mm long colourful Scarus cretensis (= Sparisoma cretense) was the saltwater fish most prized for its taste by the Romans according to Plin. HN 9,62f., and was also noticed by Greek poets (Athen. 7,319f-320c). Pliny mentions as a zoological peculiarity its exclusively vegetable diet (φυκίον/ phykíon, seaweed, in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,591a 14f.; herbae in Plin. HN 9,62) and - connected with that - its alleged rumination (Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),2,591b 22: μηρυκάζειν/ mērykázein = ruminare; cf. Ael. …

Squill

(248 words)

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

Myrrh

(265 words)

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

Cucumber

(352 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The large annual varieties of the generally tropical family of Cucurbitaceae with sizeable berries all come from the Near East. In antiquity the different varieties were often confused with one another. The real cucumber Cucumis sativus L. (σίκυς; síkys, σίκυος; síkyos, ἀγγούριον; angoúrion, Lat. cucumis) is encountered in Plin. HN 19,64-66 as a vegetable grown in hothouses ( intra specularium munimenta) to ensure a constant fresh supply for Tiberius. Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,1,6 describes the process of leaving the seeds in milk mead ( lac mulsum) for two days before…

Blackberry bush

(174 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Of the genus Rubus (blackberry, βάτος; bátos, cf. Dioscorides 4,37 [1. 196f.; 2. 384f.], μόρον, μορέα; móron, moréa) that is rich in species and tends towards hybridization, the most common in the Mediterranean are Rubus ulmifolius and tomentosus. The raspberry Rubus idaeus is only found up to the mountains of Macedonia and Thessaly; it does not grow on the Ida. The fruit resembles the mulberry, particularly the Morus nigra (μορέα, μορέη) that was introduced to Greece from the Caucasus around 400 BC, the colour of which, according to Ovid (Met. …

Lime-tree

(188 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φιλύρα/ philýra, Latin tilia, perhaps derived from πτελέα/ pteléa, ‘elm’). Three species, namely the summer, winter and silver lime tree, were known to the Greeks and Romans from their mountains and they described them very precisely. Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,10,4-5 and Plin. HN 16,65 were certainly wrong to differentiate a male form from a female one. The fairly soft wood (Plin. HN 16,207) served ‘1,000 purposes’ (Plin. HN 18,266), namely for boxes of all kinds, goblets, measures of volume …

Cuttle­fish

(622 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
The class of cuttlefish called Cephalopoda (‘Cephalopod’) belongs to the μαλάκια/ malákia that live in the sea (cf. Plin. HN 32,149), Lat. mollia, modern molluscs, and to the subphylum Conchifera. Today's system differentiates the two orders of the ten-armed cuttlefish ( Decabrachia) and eight-armed cuttlefish ( Octobrachia). [German version] I. Decabrachia Of the Decabrachia that have, in addition to the eight tentacles on the head (πλεκτάναι/ plektánai: Aristot. Hist. an. 4,1,524a 3 f.), two longer, retractable tentacles (προβοσκίδες/ proboskídes: ibid. 523b 29-33), Ar…

Cockroach

(253 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] English name for the representatives of the Blattaria order of insects which can be found throughout the world in c. 3,000 types since the Carboniferous, one of them the German cockroach Blatella germanica. The Latin name is usually blatta; in Isid. Orig. 12,8,7, however, this name is used for a type of butterfly ─ actually a moth whose name was derived from its colour: when touched, its wings leave a blackish-blue spot on the hand ( blatteum colorem, ‘crimson’). In this text, the only zoological piece of information about the animal is its aversion to lig…

Elder

(217 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Two shrubs of the genus Sambucus in the family Caprifoliaceae occur in Europe, the common elder ( Sambucus nigra L., sa(m)bucus, ἀκτῆ; aktê) and the red-berried elder ( Sambucus racemosa L.; Verg. Ecl. 10,27: Pan was said to be red because of the berries of the ebulum, according to Serv. ad loc. a comparable plant). A third type is the herbaceous, black-fruited dwarf elder ( Sambucus ebulus L., ebulus/um, χαμαιάκτη; chamaiáktē in Dioscorides 4,173,2 Wellmann = 4,172 Berendes; Plin. HN 24,51: chamaeactis or helion acte). A good description of the species is found …

Ereike

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐρείκη; ereíkē is first mentioned in Aesch. Ag. 295 and Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,14,2). The genus Erica comprises c. 500 species, most of all African shrubs and trees. In the maquis of Greece, however, only three species of the Ericaceae family are represented, amongst them the brier Erica arborea l. which grows like a tree and flowers in spring; in contrast, the popular honey flora, mentioned by Pliny (HN 11,42) and Dioscorides (1,88 [1. 82] and 1,117 [2. 106]), belongs to the autumn flowering ones. In Italy, on the other hand, el…

Tuna

(670 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The fairly large Common Tuna ( Thynnus thynnus L., Greek ὁ θύννος/ thýnnos, Attic also ἡ θυννίς/ thynnís - primarily the female: Aristot. Hist. an. 5,9,543a 9; Ath. 7,303c-304b - or ἡ θύννη/ thýnnē: e.g. Opp. Hal. 1,756; Latin thynnus or thynnis) and the smaller Albacore ( Albacora thynnus L., perhaps αὐλωπίας/ aulōpías, Ael. NA 13,17) were the economically most important edible fish of the Mediterranean and Black Seas and were therefore given many names. The young (under 1 year) were called πηλαμύς/ pēlamýs or πηλαμίς/ pēlamís (Aristot. Hist. an. 6,17,571a 11, from pēlós…

Mullein

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (φλόμος/ phlómos, Latin verbascum), a member, according to a good description in Dioscorides 4,103 Wellmann = 4,102 Berendes (cf. Plin. HN 25,120f.; Isid. orig. 17,9,94), of the Scrophulariaceae family, occurring in two kinds, one with white and one with black leaves ( Verbascum sinuatum L.). Of the white one Dioscurides distinguishes a male form ( V. thapsus L., Common Mullein) from a female one ( V. plicatum Sibthorp). Their roots are said to be effective e.g. as an astringent for diarrhoea. According to Plin. HN 26,23, drunk with water it help…

Camara [I]

(114 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (καμάρα; kamára), the correct version for camera, related to camurus (‘curved’), describing the curvature of a room or a barque or indeed the barque itself. This type of small round-bottomed sailing vessel with inward-curving side walls, which could travel in a circle and in both directions, was used on the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea, particularly by pirates (Str. 11,2,12, 495f.; Tac. Hist. 3,47,3). The side walls could be raised in such a way that they formed a closed canopy in …

Conger

(117 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γόγγρος; góngros, sometimes, e.g., Ath. 8,356a: γρύλλος; grýllos), a marine eel, a sea fish that was popular like the  eel and, therefore, expensive (Plaut. Mil. 760; Persa 110; cf. information in Ath. 7,288c). Aristotle mentions two species that differ in colour (Hist. an. 8,13, 598a13), their unusual length, thickness and smoothness, the large stomach and the tallow-like fat. The conger feeds on fish including its own species and octopuses but, in turn, is the prey of moray eels and c…

Spruce

(159 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This name (πεύκη/ peúkē, picea, derived from pix = pitch) encompasses three genera of conifer, namely (a) the Common or Norway Spruce Picea abies [L.] Karst. = excelsa Link, which is found hardly anywhere in the Mediterranean, (b) the Fir ( abies, ἐλάτη, in some species on Mediterranean uplands) and (c) the Pine ( pinus, πίτυς/ pítys, πεύκη/ peúkē). Spruce and fir wood, felled on a large scale in the southern Alps and mountains of the Balkans, was used from Antiquity  for wood for building - including ships and masts [1. 38] - and for fi…

Hawthorn

(257 words)

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

Umber

(100 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Named after Umbria, their place of origin, this breed of dog was highly favoured, primarily as a  tracking hound (Grattius, Cynegetica 171 ff.; Sen. Thy. 497 ff.; Verg. Aen. 12,753-55: hound baits deer; Sil. Pun. 3,295 ff.). We do not know its appearance. The Umbrian sheepdogs, mentioned in Varro Rust. 2,9,6, that returned of their own accord to their flocks were certainly not of this breed. An illustration on an aes grave coin from Hatria in Picenum could represent an umber [1. 124, fig. 49; 2. 95]. Dog Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Keller 2 Toynbee…

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 (…

Plane tree

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πλάτανος/ plátanos, poet. πλατάνιστος/ platánistos, Lat. platanus) is the tree Platanus orientalis L., found in southern Europe at least since the time of Homer (Il. 2,307-13). According to Plin. HN 12,6, the plane tree crossed the Ionian Sea to Sicily, and thence to Italy. It was later naturalized in northern Europe. The broad (πλατύς/ platýs, 'broad, wide') leaves, after which it is named, provided goodly shade for rest, as in Plato's Phaedrus (Plat. Phdr. 229a-230b). In antiquity, the tree was favoured as a graft stock for slips of e.g. pear (Pal…

Acipenser

(96 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek ἀκιπήσιος; akipḗsios = (h)elops). Rare delicacy saltwater fish (Plin. HN 9,60 and 32,145; Macrob. Sat. 3,16,1-9; Ath. 7,294f), only very highly valued until the time of the caesars (Plautus in Macrobius; Lucil. 1240 M; Mart. 13,91; cf. Plinius and Hor. Sat. 2,2,46 f.). As early as antiquity the zoological classification was contentious (Plin. HN 32,153 according to Ovid Hal. 96 and Ath. loc. cit.); now it is sometimes regarded as a sturgeon [1. 7; 2. 2,375 and passim] and sometimes as a sterlet ( elops [1; 3]).  Fishes Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliograp…

Jackal

(290 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This wild dog ( Canis aureus), principally found in Africa, still occurs today in Eurasia from the Balkans eastwards. It hunts at night, often in packs, preying mainly on small mammals and birds, but it also eats carrion. An earlier theory that it, together with the wolf, was a progenitor of the domestic dog ([1]; cf. [2. 70-72]), has now been abandoned. The θώς/ thṓs, as distinct from the  wolf, was well known to Aristotle (Hist. an. 2,17,507b 17: internal organs resemble those of the wolf; 6,35,580a 26-31: gives birth to two to four blind w…

Iuglans

(243 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] or iugulans. Etymology according to Varro, Ling. 5,102: a Iove et glande appellata (‘named after Jupiter and the acorn’; cf. Isid. Orig. 17,7,21 according to Serv. Ecl. 8,29f. and Plin. HN 15,91, translated from Διὸς βάλανος/ Diòs bálanos, which otherwise designates the edible chestnut), the walnut ( Iuglans regia L.). Introduced into Italy from Persia on the Black Sea via Greece (according to Pall. Agric. 2,15,14-19, sown from the end of January onwards, according to Columella 5,10,14 in March), it was already known to Theophra…

Fern

(271 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Pliny names three species of fern ─ felix, dryopteris, and polypodium ─, all of which are characterized by the absence of flowers and seeds. Plin. HN 27,78-80 describes two varieties of felix, one of which the Greeks on account of its pinnae referred to as πτέρις ( ptéris) or respectively βλάχνον ( bláchnon) and male (perhaps Aspidium filix mas L., the Male or Shield Fern, cf. Dioscorides 4,184 p. 2,332f. Wellmann = 4,183 p. 471f. Berendes), the other as female fern θηλυπτερίς ( thēlypterís) or respectively νυμφαία πτέρις ( nymphaía ptéris; Dioscorides 4,185 p. 2,333 W…

Aristolocheia

(141 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The ἀριστολόχεια ( aristolócheia) in Nicander and Dioscorides 3,4 [1.2.6 ff. = 2.263 ff.], ἀριστολοχία ( aristolochía) in Hippocrates, Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,20,4 (effect against snake bite) and Plin. HN 25,95 ff. etc. was identified as today's genus Aristolochia. Its three more common species in the Mediterranean area, Aristolochia clematitis, longa and rotunda, were already differentiated by Dioscorides and Pliny. Both derive their name, distorted in German to Osterluzei, from their relieving effect on births. According to Dioscorides and other…

Vertragus

(188 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (οὐέρτραγος/ o uértragos). Greyhound, which is particularly prized for hare coursing because of its speed; the Latin name vertragus is derived from a Celtic word. The accurate description in Arr. Cyn. 3-6 of a powerful but slim dog with pointed muzzle and long ears enabled [1] to identify ancient depictions of vertragi. When hunting, the dogs which were kept in large compounds were led on leashes by slaves and released only when the prey had been flushed out and was in view. Hunters used to accompany them on horseback. Usually two vertragi were set on each hare, which t…

Radish

(213 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥαφανίς/ rhaphanís, ῥάφανος/ rháphanos, etymologically related to ῥάπυς/ rhápys, ῥάφυς/ rháphys, 'beet'; Lat. rhaphanus, radix), the species of crucifer probably bred in Asia Minor from the wild, jointed charlock ( Raphanus raphanistrum L., Rhaphanus sativus L., with the edible, thickened storage root; cultivated in Egypt from the 2nd millennium. The Greeks (from Aristoph. Plut. 544 and other comic writers, cited in Ath. 2,56d-57b) valued the salted root as an appetite-stimulating food and extracted oil from it. T…

Rock partridge

(252 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὁ, ἡ πέρδιξ/ ho, hē pérdix, its young περδίκιον/ perdíkion, also περδικεύς/ perdikeús and κακκαβίς/ kakkabís after its mating call: κακκαβίζειν/ kakkabízein or τρίζειν/ trízein in Aristot. Hist. an. 4,9,536b 13 f.; Lat. perdix). The scientific name Alectoris graeca Meisner indicates that the bird is still common today, primarily in Greece (but also in Italy) [1. 195 f.], whereas it has been supplanted in other countries by the smaller, browner and synanthropic partridge. Aristotle describes their breeding behaviour, …

Sea urchin

(179 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐχῖνος ὁ θαλάσσιος/ echînos ho thalássios; Latin echinus). This echinoderm (member of the class of Echinodermata) is considered by Aristotle (Hist. an. 4,4,528a 7) to be crustaceous (ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma) and described in several species, including the edible Echinus esculentus L., (ibid. 4,5,530a 32-b 20). Their eggs, which were eaten particularly by the Romans as a delicacy (Plaut. Rud. 297; Hor. Sat. 2,4,33 on the best being from Misenum; Sen. Epist. 95,26), are mentioned in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,12,544a 18-23…

Mannus

(136 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( mannulus) or buricus (according to Porph. Hor. comm. epod. 4,14; Veg. Mulomedicina 3,2,2; for the name [1. 2, 29]) was the name given to the small horse or pony imported from Gaul (for the origin [2. 289]) in the 1st cent. BC to Rome as a luxury animal (Lucr. 3,1063; Plin. Ep. 4,2,3: mannulus; Jer. Ep. 66,8), particularly for ostentatious ladies (Hor. Carm. 3,27,7; Prop. 4,8,15; Ov. Am. 2,16,49f.). People would harness the small, fast and temperamental animal to a two-wheeled coach (‘gig, parva esseda, carpentum, covinnus; [3. 416, 464]: Mart. 12,24,8) or ride it …

Aconitum

(171 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀκόνιτον; akóniton). It is not known for certain which poisonous plants are meant by ἀκόνιτον λυκοκτόνον ( akóniton lykoktónon) and κυνοκτόνον ( kynoktónon) in Dioscorides 4,77 [1. 2,238 f.] = 4,78 [2. 412 f.], Nic. Alex. 13,41 and aconitum, scorpion and myoctonon, Plin. HN 27,4-7. The ‘Wolfesgelegena’ of Hildegard of Bingen [3. 1,156 = 4. 47], used as a hazardous aphrodisiac, is probably not the arnica but rather like the ‘alexandria’ of Konrad of Megenberg V. 36 (in ch. Eleborus = veratrum) [5. 399] a species of the poisonous ranunculaceae genus Aconitum (monk…

Cabbage

(185 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ῥάφανος, κράμβη, καυλός; rháphanos, krámbē, kaulós; Latin brassica, crambe, caulis, from this Italian cavolo, French chou, German Kohl) is a European vegetable plant ( Brassica oleracea L.) from the Cruciferae family that today is grown in numerous culture strains. It is first mentioned as the heptaphyllous krámbē by Hipponax 40 Diehl (quoted in Ath. 9,370b). Within the rháphanos, Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,4,4 (related by Plin. HN 19,80 to the radish rhaphanís, Latin raphanus) distinguishes, like Cato Agr. 157,1-3 and Ath. 9,369e-f, three varieties of cab…

Cormorant

(118 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Phalacrocorax carbo (L.), a dark-feathered, fish-eating, goose-sized member of the web-footed group ( steganopodes), mentioned in Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8),593b 18-22 as the so-called ‘raven’ (κόραξ; kórax), and as breeding in trees. The phalacrocorax (‘bald-headed raven’) in Plin. HN 10,133, at that time native to the Balearics, used to be identified as the cormorant [1. 196f.], but is nowadays thought to be the hermit ibis or crested ibis ( Comatibis eremita), now extinct in Europe. A synonym found in Plin. HN 11,130 is corvus aquaticus. The Middle Minoan Hagia …

Mullus

(460 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The striped mullet ( Mullus surmuletus) and red mullet ( M. barbatus), popular for eating, were called τρίγλη/ tríglē or Latin m. (for an ocean fish μύλλος/ mýllos: [1]). Mention is made of the red colouring (Sen. Q Nat. 3,18; Opp. Hal. 1,130; Athen. 4,135b and 7,325e), the beard strands on the lower lip (Plin. HN 9,64; Cic. Parad. 5,38: barbatulus; Cic. Att. 2,1,7; Varro Rust. 3,17,7: barbatus) as well as a gluttony that does not shrink even from floating corpses (Ael. Nat. 2,41; Opp. Hal. 3,432-442; Aristot. Hist. an. 7(8), 2,591a 12f.). Aristo…

Cricket

(109 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] German ‘Grille’, Pliny's gryllus (HN 29, 138) probably is the field cricket, Gryllus campestris, which runs backwards (thus Nigidius Figulus), digs into the ground and chirps at night with its wings ( stridere). As a paste, a cricket (dug out with its earth) helps against ear aches. It is drawn from its earthen hole using an ant tied to a hair as bait [1. 132]. Isid. Orig. 12,3,8 conveyed this information to the Middle Ages. It is uncertain if the wingless, locust-like insect trixalis in Plin. HN. 30,49 is a cricket because Ael. NA 6,19 only says that the trōchallís is ‘not si…

Hare

(1,283 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Lepus europaeus Pallas). The hare can be found from Central Europe to the Near East and South Africa in cultivated steppe lands and in forests. Its name: λαγωός ( lagōós; Homeric), λαγώς, λαγῶς ( lagṓs, lagôs; Attic), λαγός ( lagós; Ionian, Doric), λέπορις ( léporis; Aeolian, Sicilian: Varro, Rust. 3,12,6), Latin lepus or the derivatives thereof λαγίον; lagíon, λαγίδιον; lagídion, λαγιδεύς; lagideús, furthermore special appellations according to characteristic features such as ‘ducker’ (πτώξ; ptṓx; Hom. Il. 17,676; Aesch. Eum. 326; Theophr. Hist. pl. …

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…

Dill

(131 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (OHG tilli, related to NHG Dolde [umbel], Lat. anetum). Probably identical with the umbellifera ( Anethum graveolens L., ἄ[ν[ν]ηθον; á[n[n]ēthon, Aeolic ἄνητον; ánēton, Alc. in Ath. 15,674d), which was introduced from Asia Minor in antiquity. This popular kitchen herb (sown according to Palladius, Opus agriculturae 3,24,5 and 4,9,5 or 10,13,3 and 11,11,4, in February/March and September/October) with bare seeds (Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,3,2 = Plin. HN 19,119) is mentioned in Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,11,2 and P…
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