Alum

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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.


Apparatus:

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


Translation:

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.


Commentary:

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

Alum:
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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