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Ficatum apud Dyascoridem est epar animalium.


Ficatum means in Dyascorides "liver of animals".


Simon is alluding ultimately to two chapters in Dioscorides Longobardus, 2, 22, ed. Stadler (1899: 191) De ficato caprino {"On goat's liver"}; and chapter ΚΓ' (23) De ficato hyrcino {lit. "On goat-buck liver"} [[1]] .

This last chapter, which differs from the Greek original, is the result of a misunderstanding by the Lombardic translator(s), the Greek source text speaking of ἧπαρ κάπρου /hêpar káprou/ "wild boar's liver". Either Greek κάπρος /kápros/ "(wild) boar" was misinterpreted as being the same as the near-homophonous Latin caper "goat-buck", or - although the correct translation may at first have been provided, i.e. Ficatum apri < aper "(wild) boar" - apri was later misread as capri. The unwelcome result was that chapters 22 and 23 were both dealing with the same subject matter, i.e. goat's liver, which is why for chapter 23 the adjective hircinum "relating to the goat-buck" was chosen. This allowed chapter 22 to be seen as dealing with the female goat's liver and chapter 23 with the male goat's liver.

However, the Greek original speaks of the livers of two different animals altogether, goat and boar; cf. 2, 45, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: I.134f): ἥπατος τῆς αἰγὸς ἰχώρ /hêpatos tês aigòs ikhṓr/, "the juice of she-goat's liver". and op.cit., p. 135: chapter 46. ἧπαρ κάπρου /hêpar káprou/ "wild boar's liver" [[2]].

The word for "liver" in Simon's quote: ficatum, has an interesting history. The word for this organ in "classical" times was iecur or similar variants like iocur, iocinor. Also the Greek loan (h)epar < ἧπαρ /hêpar/ gained ground in Latin, as is shown in Simon's formulation above.

But in Late Latin and Vulgar Latin another word became popular, and this word in its many variants was to become the source for "liver" in the Romance languages: ficatum. The origin of this word lies in the Greek word συκωτόν /sykōtón/, which means "fed on figs" < σῦκον /sŷkon/ "fig". Consequently ἧπαρ συκωτόν /hêpar sykōtón/ is "the liver of an animal fatted on figs", occurring e.g. in Galen and Oribasius. At first this word was naturally only used by cooks. It was adopted into Latin as sycotum, and this word was then used as the model for a Latin loan translation: (sc. iecur) ficatum "(sc. 'liver') fatted on figs" < ficus "fig".

However in the spoken and less literate language the meaning of ficatum changed slowly into the word for "liver" generally. Thus while in the Dioscoridean Greek text only the general word ἧπαρ /hêpar/ is used, the Dioscrides Longobardus translator now uses ficatum for his translation, not necessarily implying any fattening with figs. And a few centuries later by the time of the compilation of the Reichenau Glosses (8th century), where less common words of the 4th century Jerome Vulgate Bible translation were replaced by words more familiar to the then contemporary readership, the classical Latin iecur was no longer well known and needed to be explained: jecore = ficato. However in written and educated Latin iecur and hepar remained.

For the reflexes of ficatum in the Romance languages, see Meyer-Lübke (1924: 699f, 8494). For the linguistic history of ficatum see Grandgent (1962: 63, §141).

WilfGunther 16/11/2013

See also: Iociner

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