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Asilovis vocatur aliquando amoniacum secundum Galienum ad paternianum.


Asilouis AC f | Assilouis (or –onis) e | Asilonis B jp {‘u’ misread as ‘n’}
patrinianũ B | pat’nianũ jp | patriuianuʒ (-nũ ) ef | pr̄inianũ C | pr̄nianũ A | paternianum scripsi (Wilf Gunther)


Asilovis is sometimes a name for amoniacum according to Galienus ad Paternianum.


N. Everett recently published the pseudo-Galenic compilation called: Galienus ad Paternianum or as it is also known: The Alphabet of Galen. In said Alphabet of Galen, chapter 4 (2012: 144) on Ammoniacum reads: Ammoniacum est quasi lachryma herbae quae graece nartex, id est agasylis, appellatur, … . Everett translates (2012: 145): "Gum ammoniac is the resin of the plant which the Greeks call nartex, that is, agasylis …". In his apparatus a number of vv.ll. are listed: ascilouos , αcyλωc /asylos/ and asilouis, the latter being phonetically closest to the one used in Simon’s copy. It is difficult to explain exactly how agasylis became corrupted into asilouis but nevertheless that is what happened.

ἀγασυλλίς /agasyllís/, itacist /agasilís/, occurs in the Greek Dioscorides, 3, 84, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.100-3), ἀμμωνιακόν /ammoniakón/ [[1]] and in the RV version: ἀμμωνιακή /ammoniakḗ/ "gum ammoniac", where on pp. 100-1 it says: καλεῖται δὲ αὐτοῦ ὅλος ὁ θάμνος σὺν τῇ ῥίζῃ ἀγασυλλίς /kaleîtai dè autoû hólos ho thámnos sỳn tê rhízē agasyllís/ - "the whole shrub with the root is called agasyllís", and in the RV version ἀμμωνιακή /ammoniakḗ/ is said to have a synonym: ἀγάσυλλον /agásyllon/, see Asios.

In Dioscorides Longobardus, 3, 94, ed. Stadler (1899: 419) De gutta ammoniaci [[2]], the Latin translation of the afore-mentioned statement reads: frutex cum radice sua appellatur gasilis – "the shrub together with its root is called gasilis", gasilis being the aphetic form of *agasilis.

The term gutta ammoniaci also occurs in the previously mentioned RV version, op. cit. p. 101: Ῥωμαῖοι γούττα ἀμμωνίακα /Rhōmaîoi goútta ammōníaka/ - "the Romans call it gutta ammoniaca".

The etymology of the word is unclear, although Carnoy (1959: 13), s.v. agasyllis sees it as consisting of ἄση /ásē/ {"loathing"} preceded by ἀγ- /ag-/ from ἄγαν /ágan/ {"very much"} + the euphemistic suffix –υλλις /-yllis/ resulting in "the little very fetid plant" because "ferula Asa foetida", the plant Carnoy chooses for his identification, is characterized by a repulsive smelling juice, cf. one vernacular name being "devil’s dung". However, this etymology is not widely accepted. André (1985: 7, s.v. simply states: "sans étymologie" {'without etymology'}.

Botanical identification:

Modern gum ammoniacum, a plant resin, is usually derived from Dorema ammoniacum D.Don., a plant native to central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The resin exudes from punctures in the stem. However the ammoniacum of Antiquity is most likely derived from species of Ferula or "giant fennels", the vernacular name "fennel" being misleading since there is no close botanical connection between the genera Ferula and Foeniculum {"fennel"}. Berendes (1902: 323) speaks of the "Mutterpflanze der Alten" {"the mother plant of the ancients"} being Ferula tingitana L. [[3]], [[4]], but LSJ, André. op.cit., also Everett op.cit., see in it Ferula marmarica L. {now: Asch. & Taub. ex Asch. & Schweinf.} [[5]].

Species of the genus Ferula are also the source for the medicinally similar gum-resins asafoetida and galbanum.

WilfGunther 11:23, 5 July 2015 (BST)

See also: Amoniacum (2), Asios, Galbanum, Asa

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