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Castanam secundum ysidorum dicunt greci castaneam, Plinius sardis he provenere primum immo/ ideo apud grecos sardianos balaneos appellant et cetera.


Castanaʒ A | Castanã B | Castanan e | Castana’ f | Castaneã C {repeats head-word of previous entry}

sardis hec B | sardis he A | sardishte C | sardis ha ms. e | sardis hec f | Sardibus hae Pliny

provenere A | pro venere C | pro (pro e ) uenere B ef {possibly misunderstood as pro Venere "for Venus"}

ideo C | iō A ef | ĩmo B

balaneos AC | balãos B | balanos f | blanos e

appellant AC ef | appelant B

et cetera om. B ef


Castana – according to Isidore of Seville – is the Greek word for our Latin castanea {"chestnut"}. Pliny states that they first came from Sardis, which is why the Greeks call it "Sardian nut"; etc.


Simon sees castana as a feminine singular, but the Greek word κάστανα /kástana/ is in fact a plural, the plural of κάστανον /kástanon/, the name for the chestnut tree. The Latin word castanea is derived from the adjectival form {sc. κάρυα /kárua/ "nuts"} καστάνεια /kastáneia/, lit. "chestnutty nuts".

Simon's quote is taken from Isidore vol. I, book XVII, vii, § 25. Here Isidore also offers a fanciful etymology typical of him and his time by saying "the Greeks name it καστανíα {/kastanía/}, because the twin fruits are concealed in a small bag in the manner of testicles, and when taken out they are quasi castrated (castrare)". However, the word is most likely taken from some language of Asia Minor.

Simon finishes the entry by quoting Pliny, 15, 25, 93, ed. Rackham (1938-63: IV.352): Sardibus hae provenere primum, ideo apud Graecos Sardianos balanos appellant – "They came first from Sardis, and consequently they are called nuts of Sardis among the Greeks", tr. Rackham (1938-63: IV.353). The tree therefore according to Pliny came originally from Sardis {Greek Σάρδεις /Sardeis/}, in modern day Turkey and not from Sardinia as is sometimes claimed. Carnoy (1959: 46), under balanos, mentions the Greek synonym: σαρδιανὴ βάλανος /sardianḕ bálanos/ "nut from Sardis", which is the origin of Pliny's 'Sardianos balanos' and Simon's 'sardianos balaneos'.

Botanical identification:

The plant is most likely Castanea sativa Mill. "Sweet Chestnut" [[1]].

Wilf Gunther 12/04/2014

See also: Lepon

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