Dem alchoen

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Dem alchoen arabice sanguis draconis.


Apparatus:

This entry is attached to the previous entry Dem in ms. p
Demalchoen B ep | Dem alchoẽn f | Dem alcoen j | Dem alchoera (alchorea D) ACD


Translation:

Dem alchoen is Arabic for Latin sanguis draconis {"dragon’s blood"}.


Commentary:

Wehr (1976): ﺩﻢ ﺍﻻﺧﻭﻳﻦ /dam al-aḫawain/ "dragon’s blood (a dark-red, resinous substance derived from the dragon tree, Dracaena draco)".
Siggel (1950: 35) : ﺩﻢ ﺍﻻﺧﻭﻳﻦ /dam al-aḫawain/ Saft v. Dracaena Draco od. D. Ombet Kotschy (Lil.) Drachenblut; Harz v. D. Cinnabari Balf. {i.e. "sap of Dracaena Draco or D. Ombet Kotschy; dragon's blood; resin of D. Cinnabari Balf."}
Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb pp. 54, 55, “118. /dam al-aḫawain/ “Sang-dragon” {'dragon’s blood'}.

Wehr (1976): ﺩﻢ /dam/ "blood".
ﺍﻻﺧﻭﻳﻦ /al-aḫawain/, gentive dual, i.e. “of the two brothers”; this name means therefore “blood of the two bothers”. The literature consulted does not offer any explanation of this name.


Botanical identification:

'Dragon’s blood' is a fanciful name for phenolic resins of a deep red or ruby red colour obtained from different plant species, mainly of the genera Draceana and Daemonorops. The resin of the ancients and the Arabs came mostly from Dracaena cinnabari Balf. the "Socotra dragon tree" or "dragon blood tree". The vernacular name points to the original habitat of the tree, i.e. the Socotra archipelago, from which its red resin was exported to Greece and Rome and later to Europe through Arab intermediaries. The tree has a peculiar shape; its crown being often compared to an upturned umbrella, an adaptation to the arid poor soil condition on the Socotra plateaus. (Langenheim, 2003: 441-2)

The resin was considered magical and believed to have medicinal properties.

The botanical epithet cinnabari hints at a confusion that existed between this plant exude and a mineral, which Dioscorides calls minion {μίνιον /mínion/}, i.e. mercury sulfide, a mercury ore, which is a very poisonous mineral. Both substances were called cinnabar "dragon’s blood” due to them being of a similar red colour. However, Dioscorides as well as Pliny were clearly aware of the danger of mixing the two up.

WilfGunther 07/10/12

See also: Sanguis draconis, Cinabar


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