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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. …

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…

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…

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

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…

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 (…

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…

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…

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…
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