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Apple

(261 words)

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

Charadrios

(181 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (χαραδριός; charadriós). A water bird, perhaps a shearwater, nesting in holes in the ground and in cliffs, and seldom seen by day (Aristoph. Av. 266). It was held to be gluttonous (Aristoph. Av. 1140f.), of ugly colour and cry (Ps.-Aristot. Hist. An. 9,11,615a1-3), and said to be white (9,3,593b 17; Pl. Grg. 494 b). Sight of it was supposed to heal jaundice, and accordingly it was sold covered (Ael. NA 17,13; Plut. Symp. 5,7,2; Heliodor 3,8 i.a.). In Plin. HN 30,94 it is called avis icterus or galgulus, owing to its yellow colour. In the Greek Physiologus (c. 3) an…

Blackbird

(207 words)

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

Haematite

(206 words)

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

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/ t…

Swallow

(607 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] In Greece and southern Italy today the following species occur: 1. Barn Swallow ( Hirundo rustica), 2. Crag Martin ( Ptyonoprogne rupestris), 3. Red-Rumped Swallow ( Cecropis daurica), 4. Sand Martin ( Riparia riparia) and 5. House Martin ( Del…

Hippopotamus

(540 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Hippopotamus amphibius L., ὁ or ἡ ἵππος ποτάμιος/ híppos potámios, literally ‘river horse’, Latin hippopotam(i)us or equus fluvialis (Ambr. Hexaemeron 5,1,4), equus Nili (Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum 6,19), known from the  Nile (Plin. HN 8,95 and 28,121), from west African rivers (Plin. HN 5,10) and from Palestine. That the animal was found in the Indus, as alleged by Onesicratus, was rejected by Str. 14,1,45 and Paus. 4,34,3. In Egypt, the hippopotamus was nearly extinct in late antiquity due t…

Cherry Tree

(234 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κέρασος; kérasos, Latin cerasus with unclarified etymology, as the name of the town  Cerasus, contrary to explanations in Is…

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 (…

Pheasant

(430 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The pheasant, the male of which is splendidly colourful, ( Phasianus colchicus, φασιανός/ phasianós sc. ὄρνις/ órnis, phasianus or phasiana sc. avis) comes originally from the region in Colchis around the river Phasis it is named after (modern Rioni, to the south of the Caucasus) (Agatharchides fr. 15 Jacoby FGrH 86 in Athen. 9,387c, cf. Mart. 13,72). From the 5th cent. BC it was introduced - with unique success for a galliform - into the wild in the Graeco-Roman cultural area. Aristophanes, who is the first to mention it (Nub. 108), ridicules the pheasant breeder Leogoras. It is not until the Hellenistic period under the Ptolemies (Athen. 9,387e and 14,654b-c) and the Roman Imperial period that pheasant breeding is documented again (cf. Colum. 8,8,10; Mart. 13,4…

Anastatica

(99 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The true rose of Jericho, Rosa hierochontea, Rosa de Hiericho, Rosa Sanctae Mariae, the year-old crucifer Anastatica hierochuntica L. of the deserts of the Near East and north Africa and the small or false rose of Jericho, the composite Odontospermum pygmae…

Kingfisher

(391 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Alcedo hispida, ἀλκυών/ alkyṓn, ἀλκυονίς/ alkyonís; term for the full-grown male κηρύλος/ kērýlos, Antigonus, Mirabilia 27 and schol. Theoc. 7,57; alcedo since Varro, Ling. 7,88, halcyo). A magnificently coloured, fish-eating corcaciiform bird only rarely observed in Greece as a winter guest (Stesich. fr. 12 B in Aristot. Hist. an. 5,9,542b 24f.). Homer (Il. 9,563) first mentions it in conjunction with Alcyone [2]. In th…

Graminea

(214 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Amongst the herbs ( herbae, ποιώδη; poiṓdē), Gramineae or Poaceae represent the grass family (Glumiflorae, πόαι; póai, in Theophr. Hist. pl. 7,8,3); in antiquity, however, the reeds (Cyperaceae) and rushes (Juncaceae) were not differentiated ( Bulrush;  Byblus). Besides the meadow grass (ἄγρωστις; ágrōstis, e.g. Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,6,7 et passim) and the grass proper ( grain;

Hoopoe

(248 words)

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

Lepidoptera

(816 words)

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

Alder

(170 words)

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

Hamster

(130 words)

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

Stork

(600 words)

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

Granite

(146 words)

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

Insects

(591 words)

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