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Fenugrecum Dyascorides fenugreci farinam multi buceron aut egoceron aut loton appellavere, virtus est ei et cetera, ista nomina non sunt referenda farine sed ipsi fenugreco, buceron enim sonat bovis cornu egoceron vero capre cornu, nam semina in corniculis similibus cornibus sunt. Plinius fenugrecum quod telin vocant alii carphos alii buceros alii egoceros quoniam corniculis semen est simile, nos vero siliction dicimus et cetera, tili greci dicunt, arabes vero hulbe.


buceron (-rõ AB) ABCD f Diosc.Longob. | buçeron e

egoceron (-rõ B) ABCD f | egaceron e | egoceras Diosc.Longob.

loton (–tõ B) ABCD ef | loto Diosc.Longob.

ei ABCD f Diosc.Longob.| enĩ e

sunt referenda | r. s. B

buceron (-rõ B) ABCD f | buçeron e

egoceron (-rõ B) ABCD f | egaceron e

capre (-pre f) ABD ef | capere C

quod teli ACD | quod telin B f Pliny | eo quod teliũ e

alii carphos ACD Pliny | om. B ef

buceros ABCD f | buceras e Pliny

siliction ABCD f | silicticõ e | siliciam Pliny

tili ABCD f | tali e


Fenugrecum {"fenugreek”}: according to Dyascorides many people have called the farina {"meal"} of fenugrecum buceron or egoceros or lotos. Its medicinal virtue is etc.

{Simon:} These synonyms do not refer to farina {"meal"} of fenumgrecum but to the plant fenumgrecum itself. For buceron means "cattle horn", and egoceros is "goat's horn", for the seeds in their little horn-like shapes are similar to little horns.

Pliny says that people call it telis, others carphos, others buceros and yet others egoceros because its seed is similar to little horns, but we {Romans} call it siliction, etc.

{Simon:} The Greeks call the plant tili, but the Arabs say hulbe.


Simon's first quote is ultimately from Dioscorides Longobardus, 2, 85, ed. Stadler (1899: 212) De farina feni greci {"On meal of fenugreek"}. The quote ends abruptly with: "Its medicinal virtue is etc."

The Dioscoridean formulation, even in the Greek original, is misleading in so far as the synonyms that are mentioned apply to the plant only and not to the meal of fenugreek, a matter on which Simon quite rightly comments. He then continues by quoting from Pliny a passage that is virtually identical with that from Dioscorides, as both authors obviously used the same sources in this case. The original Greek text for fenumgrecum can be found in 2, 102, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: I.176-7). καὶ τὸ ἐκ τῆς τήλεως ἄλευρον {"And the meal made from fenugreek."}

Faenum {or foenum or fenum} graecum {or grecum}, identified with Trigonella foenum-graecum L. "fenugreek", literally means "Greek hay", a name given because, acc. to André (1956: 135), the Romans got this plant from the Greeks, a plant of Oriental {more precisely: Eastern Mediterranean and Near Eastern} origin and they used it for fodder. A further motive for naming the plant "hay" is that the dried herb smells strongly of hay (Genaust, 1996: 253).

The synonyms mentioned by Dioscorides and Pliny are:

buceros < Greek βούκερας /boúkeras/ or βούκερως /búkerōs/, (lit.) "horned like an ox".

egoceros, egoceras < Greek αἰγο-κέρας /aigokéras/, (lit.) "goat's horn".

lotos < Greek λωτός /lōtós/, a word with multiple meanings which includes "fenugreek".

The excerpt from Pliny is from 24, 120, 184, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.128). The additional synonyms Pliny mentions are:

telis < τῆλις /têlis/ the usual Greek term for "fenugreek". Simon repeats the word at the end in the form tili, which reflects an itacist pronunciation of presumably the acc.sg. form τῆλιν /têlin/.

carphos, also in Dioscorides Longobardus and its Greek original, but missing in Simon's quote from Dioscorides. It is κάρφος /kárphos/ "any small dry body, dry stalk; straw" and also "straw-like plant".

siliction is Simon's corrupted form of Pliny’s silicia which is itself possibly a corruption of siliqua meaning originally "pod or husk of leguminous plants".

For Arabic hulbe, cf. Wehr (1976): ﺣﻠﺒﺔ /ḥulbah/ "fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum; bot.)".

The original habitat of Trigonella foenum-graecum L. or its antecedent varieties is still to be established. The oldest carbonised seeds have been found in the Near East dating from ca. 4000 BC. The rhombic seeds are today used as a condiment and in traditional medicine.

See also: Hulbe

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