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Alum: Plinius, vocant greci siphaton petreum simile cimile bubule, foliis parvis ramis tribus aut quattuor a radice acuminibus thimi surculosum odoratum gustu dulce salivam ciens longa radice rutile, nascitur in petris, ideo petreum cognominatur et cetera.


The text of this entry is appended to the previous entry Aluminati in ms. j
Alum A | Aluminos C | Alumnos H e | Alũpnos B | Alumnes f | Alamuos p | alũnos j {see also Commentary below}
siphaton (-tõ ABCH p) ABCH fjp | syphaton e | symphyton Pliny
cimile ABC j | cunile H e | cumuli or cimile fp | cunilae Pliny
quattuor AC | quatuor (qua- B; quatuor H) BH ef | iiij + or superscript p | early Arabic numeral for "four" + or superscript ms. j {the numeral is drawn as in lines 4 or 5: [[1]]}.
acuminibus (-bus e; a cũini- B, acũinibus AC) | acumĩbus H | acuĩbus j) AB fjp | cacuminibus Pliny
thimi | thymi H
surculosum | surcolosuʒ j | suriculosuʒ? ms. e | surclorum f
odoratum | doratũ p
saliuam | sali…ã j {partly illegible} | salmã B
ciens om. e
rutila | rutiila j | rutilla B | rutilaqʒ H
ideo | imo B
petreum | putreum H et cetera om. ef


Alum: according to Pliny the Greeks call it siphaton petreum {lit. "rock siphaton"} and it is similar to cimile bubule {lit. "ox-oregano"}, it has small leaves and three or four branches {coming} from the root, with tips like thimus {"thyme"}. It is woody, fragrant and of sweet taste, stimulates salivation, and it has a long golden-reddish root. It grows in rocky places and is therefore also called petreum {"rocky"}, et cetera.


Simon's entry is a near verbatim quote from Pliny, Natural History, 27, 24, 41, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.412-4).

This plant name occurs in different authors in a number of variant forms like halus, hal, al. Also the word being phonetically similar to alium, aleum {"garlic"} is liable to lead to confusion in some cases.
But in Pliny alum is mentioned twice, in the above-mentioned passage and also in his book 26, chapter xxvi, § 42, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.294) where the codd. have however a variant form halus. It is nevertheless likely that Pliny speaks in both instances of the same or at least a similar plant because among other parallels a similarity to cunila bubula is mentioned.

An early attestation is found in Scribonius Largus {mid 1st c. AD}, in his chapter 83 on haemorrhages, ed. Sconocchia (1983: 44), who also mentions a number of synonyms: … bene facit symphyti radix, quam quidam inulam rusticam vocant, quidam autem alum Gallicum dicunt… - "the root of symphytum cures well {sc. these afflictions}, some people call the plant inula rustica and others call it alum Gallicum …".

Alum is also attested in the Herbarius of Ps.-Apuleius {4th c}, 59, ed. Howald (1927: 112-3). HERBA CONFIRMA, where its says p. 113 under Nomina herbae, i.e. "synonyms": A Graecis dicitur sinfitum, alii confirma, alii conferva, … alii alum Gallicum – "the Greeks call it sinfitum, others say confirma, others conferva, and others again call it the Gallic alum" [2]].

Marcellus Empiricus, {turn of the 4th and 5th cc.} has a number of variant forms, e.g. 31, 29, eds. Niedermann & Liechtenhan (1968: 546) [[3]]: Symphyti radix, quae herba Gallice halus dicitur …. "the root of symphytum, which is also called in Gaulish halus …"; also: (1968 :200), § 68 Radicem symphyti, quod hal Gallicum dicitur, commanducet … - "Let him chew well the root of symphytum, which is called in Gaulish hal …" (1968: 298), § 21 is a quote from Scribonius but with a different variant form: … bene facit symphyti radix, quam quidam inulam rusticam, quidam al Gallicum vocant – "the root of symphytum cures well {sc. these afflictions}, some people call the plant inula rusticaand others call it Gallic al …".

The variant al is also recorded in the Mulomedicina Chironis, 243, ed. Oder (1901: 73), where it speaks of algallici radicem - "the root of algallicum/ algallicus [[4]].

The word is by some assumed to be of Gaulish origin, cf. Ernout, Meillet & André (2001: 33), s.v., Walde & Hoffmann (1930-56: A-L), s.v., André (1985: 12), s.v.

siphaton petreum:
is Greek σύμφυτον πετραῖον /sýmphyton petraîon/, itacist: /símfiton petréon/.
σύμφυτον /sýmphyton/ is a compound of συν- /syn-/ {"together, with"} + a derivative of φύω /phýō/ {"to grow"} resulting in "grown together, healed" and the adjective πετραῖον /petraîon/ "rocky" < πετρα /pétra/ "rock"; πετραῖον /petraîon/ is Latinised in Pliny as petraeum but a form petrĕus,a,um is sometimes found in late Antiquity.
Greek σύμφυτον /sýmphyton/ is Latinised symphytum, late antique and medieval sinfitum/ simfitum. Simon's witnesses have siphaton, possibly an early misreading of *sĩphiton with loss of " ˜ " and replacement of the rarer ending –iton with –aton as it occurs in a number of plant names, e.g. ageraton, cinosbaton, poligonaton, etc.
See Simfitum

Pliny's text is largely parallel with Dioscorides' chapter on σύμφυτον πετραῖον /sýmphyton petraîon/ {lit. "rock comfrey"}. Obviously both authors must have consulted the same source.
The Greek original text by Dioscorides can be found in 4, 9, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.175-6) [[5]]. And in Dioscorides Longobardus, 4, 9, ed. Stadler (1901: 13) De sinfitu [[6]. The Dioscoridean text that is parallel with Pliny's can be found in Simon's entry Simfitum.

Botanical identification:

Most authors agree that the plant described by Pliny could be Symphytum tuberosum L., "tuberous comfrey" [[7]], or Symphytum officinale L., "common comfrey" [[8]],cf. André (1985: 12); Beck (2005: 255).

Berendes (1902: 371) quotes Sprengel's suggestion for identification [[9]]: Coris monspeliensis L. [[10]].

WilfGunther (talk) 19:02, 6 October 2015 (BST)

See also: Cunilla, Simfitum

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