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Gnafalon Dyascorides cuius foliis multi pro tomento utuntur quia alba sunt et mollia et cetera.


Whole entry om. f
Gnafalon ABC jp | Gknefalon {Gluic-??} ms. e
cuius | cũ ms. e
tomento | comento p {'t' misread as 'c'}
mollia | molia B
et cetera om. ej


Gnaphalon, Dyascorides says: many use its leaves for stuffing cushions, because they are white and soft, and so forth.


The original Greek text can be found in De material medica 3, 117, ed. Wellmann (1907: II.128f), γναφαλλίου ... /gnaphallíou/ ... [[1]].
The source of Simon's quote is Dioscorides Longobardus, 3, 127, ed. Stadler (1899: 430 [[2]]): De gnafalion. Gnafalion, cujus folia multi pro tomento utuntur, quia alba sunt et molles.

It is worth comparing the two versions of the quote grammatically to see the difference between Vulgar Latin and Medieval Latin. The Dioscorides Longobardus version shows typical features of Vulgar Latin, anticipating developments in the Romance languages, e.g. folia multi utuntur "many use its leaves" with uti having the object in the accusative, rather than the ablative case as in classical Latin; also: folia … molles "soft leaves", where the adjective has a masc./fem. ending rather than neuter, foreshadowing the loss of the neuter gender. Moving on for nearly a millennium, someone in the transmission chain, if not Simon himself, tacitly "reclassicized" the utterance: foliis multi utuntur, folia … mollia. This is typical of Medieval Latin, which bookishly tried to return to the Latin of antiquity – at times imperfectly – imitating a perceived "better" Latin, while the Romance languages now went their own ways.

Greek γναφάλλιον /gnaphállion/ is derived from γνάφαλλον /gnáphallon/, variant: κνάφαλλον /knáphallon/ "a flock of wool", whose root is κνάπτω /knáptō/ meaning "to card or comb wool, dress or full cloth", hinting at one of the uses of its leaves.

Botanical identification:

Most authors agree that the plant - Latin: gnaphalion, gnaphalium, from Greek γναφάλλιον /gnaphállion/ is - Otanthus maritimus (L.) Hoffmanns. & Link "sea cotton-weed" [[3]], [[4]], which has had a chequered taxonomic history. Consequently it is known by a string of synonyms, e.g. Diotis maritima, D. candissima, Achillea maritima, Athanasia maritima and Santalina maritima. It is a perennial plant or semishrub, up to 30 cm. tall, its habitat being the sands by the sea. The plant is totally covered in a dense snowy-white pile of hairs. Its distribution is almost pan-European and around the Mediterranean region.

The word has survived into botanical Latin as Gnaphalium, used for a genus of flowering plants of the daisy family containing nearly 120 species often called "cudweeds". Some botanists seek to identify ancient 'gnaphalion' rather in this genus or in the genus Filago, both of which contain some species with white, soft, downy hairs.

WilfGunther (talk) 23/11/2013

See also: Gnaphalium

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