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Facos grece lenticula.


{facos is added on to previous entry Facedena in B}


Facos is Greek for Latin lenticula {"lentil"}.


Greek φακός /phakós/ means "lentil; anything shaped like a lentil". In traditional Latin the word for "lentil" was lens, but in later Latin and in the medieval period the diminutive form lenticula was preferred. Lenticula is also the form from which the Romance languages derived their words and Old French lentille is the source for English "lentil".

Botanical identification:

The lentil, Lens culinaris Medik., syn. Lens esculenta Moench, syn. Ervum lens L. [[1]] is probably of all the pulses – i.e. annual legumes cultivated for their seeds – the one that has been longest in cultivation. Archaeological evidence in the Near East points to wild lentils being used even in pre-farming villages more than 11000 years ago. It was probably domesticated with the earliest crops like emmer (Triticum dicoccon Schrank), einkorn (Triticum monococcum L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), and bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia (L.) Willd.). It is seen by some as a founder crop of Old World Neolithic agriculture. No doubt the ease with which the dried seeds can be stored and their longevity made lentils attractive to hunter-gatherer as well as farmer alike.

L. culinaris has a close affinity to L. orientalis (Boiss.) Hand.-Mazz., which grows wild in the Near East and is likely to be the progenitor species of the cultivated L. culinaris lentil. Hybrids between these cultivars and L. orientalis are fully interfertile. Other Lens species are mainly used outside Europe and the Near East and have proved to be genetically different.

Lentils were a staple in Greece and Rome, though generally considered as a poor man’s food. In Greece they were used to make a soup called φακῆ /phakê/. Early on lentils also found their use in medicine, although Dioscorides and Pliny seem to think that they must be thoroughly cooked first otherwise they are injurious; cf. 2, 107, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: I.107): φακός /phakós/, pp. 181-182; Dioscorides Longobardus, 2, 90, ed. Stadler (1899: 214-5): De lenticula, and Pliny, 22, 70, 142-5, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VI.394, 396, 398). Both authors probably used the same source for their accounts.

Lentils also played an important part in Egypt and the Near Eastern cultures, cf. in biblical times Esau famously giving up his birthright for a pottage of lentils (Genesis 25: 30-34), and this legume with its varieties has remained an important culinary staple in that area up to this day.

For more information cf. Zohary, Hopf & Weiss (2012: 77ff).

WilfGunther 11/11/2013

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