From Simon Online
Jump to: navigation, search

Cicercula Plinius minuti ciceris inequalis est angulos habens veluti pision et cetera.


Cicercula (Cicer- p) B efp | Cicercl'a j | Cicerula AC
{minuti} & add. AC
veluti | uti f
pision ABC jp | pisim f | passion e | pisum Pliny
et cetera om. ef


Cicercula {"chickling vetch" or "grass pea"}, Pliny says, is a kind of very small cicer {"chickpea"}; it is of irregular shape, and it has corners like pisum {"a pea"}, et cetera.


Latin cicera is the usual name for the chickling vetch or grass-pea – Lathyrus sativus L., as attested in Columella and Palladius. Its diminutive form is cicercula, lit. "little chickling vetch", here used by Pliny for a small variety of this pulse. The form cicercula is first attested as early as in Varro (116 BC-27 BC); it lives on in Standard Italian as cicerchia < cicerc'la and has many cognates in the Italian languages and dialects, see Battisti vol. II, p. 926, s.v. cicérchia.

The word cicera itself is a derivative of cicer {Cicer arietinum L.; "chickpea"}, because the plant was seen as being similar to the chickpea.

Simon's entry is a brief excerpt from Pliny, 28, 124, ed. Rackham (1938-63: V.268), speaking of the chickpea and related plants he says: est et cicercula minuti ciceris, inequalis, angulosi veluti pisum. which Rackham (1938-63: V.296) translates: "There is also the chickling vetch, belonging to a diminutive variety of chick-pea, uneven in shape and with corners like a pea".

Botanical identification:

Pliny sees cicercula {"chickling vetch" or "grass pea"} as a variety of cicer {"chickpea"}, but the two plants belong to different genera although they share membership of the familiy Fabaceae, the legume, pea, or bean family. The description of its shape as angulosus {"full of corners, irregular"} must refer to dried seeds. For Simon's entry on cicer see Cicer.

Cicercula / cicera are identified by André (1985: 65), s.v. as Lathyrus sativus L. [[1]], [[2]]. This plant has been in cultivation for a long time with the oldest remains dated to ca. 7,000 BC. It has served as a back-up crop since it grows on poor soil and survives droughts better than most legumes. Nowadays it is a pulse of traditional agriculture and mainly used for animal feed. But is also used for human consumption, today mostly in Ethiopia and India but very rarely in Europe, where it is grown predominantly in parts of Spain and Italy. Unfortunately the grass pea contains a neurotoxin amino acid which when consumed in large amounts causes Lathyrism [[3]], a neurological disorder affecting the lower limbs with near paralysis.

The distribution of L. sativus pertinent to Simon's entry covers the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East.

Cf. Zohary, Hopf & Weiss (2012: 95ff).

WilfGunther 14:59, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

See also: Legumina, Lathyron, Cicer

Next entry