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Vulture

(587 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (γύψ/ gýps; Lat. voltur or vultur, voltur[i]us, derived from vellere, to pluck, or of Etruscan origin). Aristotle knows only the small, light-coloured Egyptian vulture ( Neophron percnopterus), as well as the significantly larger and ash-gray monk vulture (Aegypius monachus) (Hist. an. 7(8),3,592b 6-8). In his writings, however, Αἰγυπιός ( aigypiós) refers to the lammergeier or bearded vulture (Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),1,610a 1), which is related both to the eagle and to the vulture (Ail. nat. 2,46). The perknópteros (Hist. an. 8(9),32,618b 31-619a 3) with …

Apricot

(194 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The apricot ( Armeniaca vulgaris Lam. = Prunus armeniaca L.) comes from a stone fruit genus represented in eastern and central Asia by eight to nine species that are often regarded, like the peach and the almond, as just (like Plin. HN 15,41-43) a subgenus of Prunus. In its Chinese homeland it has been cultivated since at least the 3rd cent. BC. The early flowering tree (Plin. HN 16,103) reached Greece and Italy via Armenia through the campaign in AD 63 and so was called μῆλον ἀρμενιακόν ( mêlon armeniakón), malum Armeniacum (Isid. Orig. 17,7,7), Armenia(ca). Dioscorides 1,…

Snails and slugs

(1,198 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Not distinguished by the Greeks as a sub-order with their own collective name from other shelled molluscs (κογχύλια/ konchýlia, Latin conchylia or conchae). Aristotle (Hist. an. 4,4,528a 11-13), however, contrasts SAS with bivalve (δίθυρα/ díthyra) ὀστρακόδερμα/ ostrakóderma (Mussels) as μονόθυρα/ monóthyra. Many species did have their own names: 1. The sea-snail κῆρυξ/ kêryx, Latin bucinum, commonly Triton's trumpet or trumpet shell,  Tritonium nodiferum Lam. Aristotle describes its bodily parts (Hist. an. 4,4,528a 1-11; 528a 33-b 13; 528b …

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…

Fox

(571 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀλώπηξ/ alṓpēx; Lat. volpes, vulpes). Through outstanding adaptation to the human environment everywhere in Europe and North Africa, with the exception of the Mediterranean islands (Xen. Cyn. 5,24; Plin. HN 8,228), an ever-present predatory mammal. Pictorial representations [1. 88] on coins [2. pl. 2,1] and cameos [5. pl. 16,1-3 and 17,17] are relatively rare. In literature before Archilochus, i.e. in Homer and Hesiod, the fox is absent but it appears in the 5th cent., esp. in comedy…

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…

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…

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…

Delphinium

(153 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Member of the crowfoot plant family (Ranunculaceae) delphínion in Dioscorides 3,73 (only RV; [1. 84] = 3,77 [2. 310]). Because of the dolphin-like or pony-like nectaries on the larkspur, it is probably identical with D. ajacis L. (Modern Greek καπουτσῖνος) and consists of about 200 varieties, of which eight are to be found in Greece and Italy. That includes the common field weed D. staphisagria L. (στάφις ἀγρία in Dioscorides 4,152 [1. 84] = 4,153 [2. 451f.], Modern Greek ψειρόχορτο, ψειροβότανο, Lat. astaphis agria in Plin. HN 23,17, herba pedicularis, passula m…

Amomum

(145 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ἄμωμον ( ámōmon) and καρδάμωμον ( kardámōmon; in Theophr. H. plant. 9,7,2 = amomum and cardamomum in Plin. HN 12,48-50), ἄμωμον ( ámōmon; in Dioscorides 1,15 [1. 1,20 f.] = 1,14 [2. 39-41]) was the name for the aromatic capsules and seeds of several zingiberaceae from India ( Amomum cardamomum etc., Elettaria cardamomum) and tropical Africa ( Aframomum melagueta = semen Paradisi) which came to Europe through the campaigns of Alexander. Their wealth of essential and fatty oil made them much sought-after up till the 16th cent. as a remedy (…

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. …

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…

Mole

(485 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἀσπάλαξ/ aspálax or ἀσφάλαξ/ asphálax and σπάλαξ/ spálax, σφ-/ sph- or σκάλωψ/ skálōps, Hesych. s.v., according to Schol. Lykophr. 121 also σιφνεύς/ siphneús, according to Alexander Trallianus 2,575 Puschmann παλαμίς/ palamís; Latin m. and f. talpa). This is in fact the insectivore mole, not the blind mole-rat ( Microspalax leucodon) of northern Greece, a rodent. The externally invisible mole's eye, described by Aristot. Hist. an. 4,8,533a 3-12 (cf. Hist. an. 1,9,491b 28 and Plin. HN 11,139) and interpreted as a developmental d…

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…

Opobalsamum

(203 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ὀποβάλσαμον/ opobálsamon, Latin balsamum, properly balsam sap, or βάλσαμον/ bálsamon) was the name of the balsam tree Commiphora opobalsamum, famous for its valuable resin, which was known by the Greeks only from plantations in Syria (at Jericho and En Gedi). In fact, however, the origin was southwestern Arabia and Somalia. Theophrastus describes the plants in Syria (Theophr. H. plant. 9,6,1-4) and the careful extraction of the fragrant resin, which he never knew in a pure state (ibid. 9,1,7). Pli…

Alum

(162 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (στυπτηρία; styptēría, alumen). Name for a group of earth salts already known to the Babylonians [1.76 f.] ( salsugo terrae, Plin. HN 35,183), namely the salts of sulphuric acid that, in so-called alum works (μέταλλα τῆς στυπτηρίας; métalla tês styptērías) were, according to Dioscorides 5,106 [2.3.75] = 5,122 [3.532], mined in Egypt, Macedonia and, i.a., on Greek islands and proved lucrative because of their rarity and the strong demand for alum (cf. Diod. Sic. 5,10; Str. 6,2,10). Use of alum e.g. as an impregnating a…

Thistles

(154 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] Prickly composite herbaceous plant of the Cynareae family with some 70 species in 15 genera. Various species are discussed by Theophr. Hist. pl. 6,4,3-11 (= Plin. HN 21,94-97) under names such as ἄκανθα ( ákantha) or κάκτος ( káktos) (Latin carduus or cactus), including the artichoke ( cynara). Dioscorides 3,12 ([1. 19f.] and [2. 270f.]) recommends the roots of a white thistle e.g. to be taken for haemoptysis and stomach ache. Somewhat similar plants of other families such as the Umbelliferae ( Eryngium, etc.), Acanthaceae (Acanthus) and Dipsaceae are also co…

Weld

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The only genus of the Resedaceae which grows in the Mediterranean area (in some 30 species, including Reseda lutea L.). From the root a yellow pigment was extracted, for which there is evidence from lake dwellings in Switzerland (as early as c. 3000-700 BC). The herb called lutum in Latin was cultivated in Italy and used to dye clothing, especially the russet-coloured bridal veil, the flammeum ( flammearii, 'makers of bridal veils', in Plaut. Aul. 510; Wedding customs and rituals III.), but also as a painter's pigment (Vitr. De arch. 7,14,2) (Dy…

Caecias

(180 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (καικίας; kaikías, Latin caecias). This local wind name is supposedly derived from the river  Caecus [2] in Mysia (Ach. Tat. Introductio in Aratum 33, p. 68 Maas). As one of the ánemoi katholikoí (the common winds [1. 2305]), the C., also called Hellēspontías (Ἑλλησποντίας) by some, was a joint wind of  Boreas and  Eurus; it was said to blow from the north-east and to form large clouds because of its coldness and dampness (Aristot. Mete. 2,6,364b 18f. and 24-29). Originally, the name referred to the wind squall blowing t…

Finches

(379 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] As neither Greeks nor Romans paid much attention to many small songbirds, there is no clear evidence of them either. Medieval miniatures show both colourful finch species quite frequently (chaffinch e.g. [2. fig. 37 b]; goldfinch e.g. [2. fig. 10, 11 a-b, 15, 42, 44]). 1) Chaffinch ( Fringilla coelebs L.), σπίζα/ spíza, σπιζίον/ spizíon, σπίνος/ spínos, φρυγίλος/ phrygílos (Aristoph. Av. 763), ποικιλίς/ poikilís (interpretation uncertain, Aristot. Hist. an. 8[9],1,609a 6f.), fring(u)illa ( -us Mart. 9,5,7). A songbird with a melancholic-sounding (Mart…
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