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Afacatẽ Plinius est planta admodum tenuia folia habens et pusilla altior lenticula est siliquas maiores fert in quibus tria aut quaterna semina sunt nigriora et madidiora et cetera.


Afacatẽ (-ten e f) AC ef | …facaten B | Facatẽ H | Aphaca Pliny

est planta ACH ef | ē herba cuius plãta B

admodum (-dũ A; -dum e) ACH ef | ad modũ lenticule B

pusilla ACH ef | pusila B

altior ABCH e | alcior f

madidiora ABCH f | maddidiora e | minora lenticula Pliny

et cetera om. ef


Afacaten: Pliny says Afacaten is a plant that has exceedingly fine and tiny leaves, it is taller than lenticula {"lentil"} and bears bigger pods in which three or four seeds are found, and they are darker and moister, etc.


Here Simon quotes Pliny, Natural History, 27, 38, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.412-3): Aphaca tenuia admodum folia habet … et pusilla. altior lenticula et/est siliquas maiores fert in quibus terna aut quaterna semina sunt nigriora et minora lenticula. W.H.S. Jones translates: "Aphaca has very slender and tiny … leaves. Taller than lentil it also bears larger pods, in which are three or four seeds, darker and smaller than those of lentil", Simon simply says without referring to lenticula again: "darker and moister", 'moister' making little sense when speaking of seeds.

As so often Simon does not continue that section of the text which contains the medical indications and contraindications, but refers back to the original text with: "etcetera".

Dioscorides used the same unknown source as Pliny for his description of the plant; cf. Dioscorides Longobardus, 2, 134, ed. Stadler (1899: 228) De face, p. 228; and for the original Greek see 2, 148, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: I. 214).

As for Simon's strange form Afacatem/Afacaten it could well be that in the scriptio continua of antiquity, i.e. writing without any spaces between words and sentences, the initial words of the Greek text: ἁφάκη θάμνος /aphákē thámnos/ "aphaca is a bush" were misread as one word ΑΦΑΚΗΘΑΜ /aphakētham/ leading ultimately to *afacatem.

Botanical identification:

Greek ἁφάκη /aphákē/, aphaca in antiquity is thought to have been the name for a species of vicia {i.e. "vetch"} [[1]], but it is also at times seen as denoting the humble dandelion. Cf. André (1956: 34).

Today /aphákē/ ἁφάκη in its Latinized form aphaca has survived in botanical Latin as the epithet in the binomial plant name Lathyrus aphaca L. "yellow vetchling", a plant suspected of being an early introduction into Northern Europe with the coming of arable crops.

Wilf Gunther 24/02/14

See also: Face, Hadeds

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