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Ixion secundum Dyascoridem multi cameleuntam vocaverunt tam albam quam nigram.


Ixion (-iõ B) B ef | Ixioton (-tõ D) ACD {the expanded form ixi-ot-on is unexplained}

cameleuntam (-ũtã A) ACD | cãeleũtã B | cameleontaʒ (-tã e) ef

tam (tã AB) … quaʒ f (quam ABCD) f | tam … tam e


Ixion is what according to Dyascorides many people have called cameleunta, the white as well as the black one.


Simon alludes to ultimately Dioscorides Longobardus 3, 8, ed. Stadler (1899: 380-1), De cameleonta alba {"On the white khamailéōn"} and 3, 9, ed. Stadler (1899: 381) De cameleonta nigra {"On the black khamailéōn"}.

Dioscorides clearly says in chapter Η' (8): Cameleonta alba, quam multi ixion dixerunt, quia [a] viscum in inveniri solet maxime in radice ejus, quem mulieres pro matrice(v.l. mastice) utuntur - "The white khamailéōn, which many people have called ixion, because a birdlime-like substance – in Greek ἰξός /ixós/ - tends to be found at its root, {which women use for their wombs}". NB. matrice is a misreading of the word mastice "an odoriferous gum from the mastic-tree", which was used like a chewing gum. The section should therefore conclude: "which women use for chewing-gum".

For the original Greek see Wellmann, 3, 8, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.14-5): χαμαιλέων λευκóς /khamailéōn leukós/ {"The white khamailéōn"} [[1]].

In the Longobardic translation chapter Θ' (9) it says, p.381: Cameleonta nigra, quem multi … ixian … dixerunt - "The black khamailéōn, which many people call ixias".

The apparent difference in chapters 8 and 9 between the terms (8) ixion and (9) ixias is however not found in the Greek original, where ἰξίας /ixías/ is used in both cases. This explains Simon's statement in chapter Η' (8), that the synonym ixion {which should be ixias} is used for the black and white khamailéōn, somewhat contradicting his own entry Isfon, where it is reserved for the black khamailéōn.

For the original Greek see Wellmann, op.cit. chapter 9: {χαμαιλέων} μέλας /{khamailéōn} mélas/ {"The black khamailéōn"}.

Greek ἰξóς /ixós/ means "mistletoe, plant and berry" and then "birdlime", which was produced from the berry. A derivative is ἰξία /ixía/, again meaning "mistletoe", and ἰξίας /ixías/. Both ἰξία /ixía/ and ἰξίας /ixías/ are used for the white khamailéōn, because this thistle-like plant gives up a viscous juice reminiscent of birdlime (Carnoy, 1959: 156).

Ixion according to Dyascorides is also derived from ἰξός /ixós/ "birdlime". LSJ also have an entry ἰξίον /ixíon/, which they gloss "the leaf of the plant ἰξία /ixía/" - the (white) khamailéōn. But ἰξίον /ixíon/ also functions as a diminutive of ἰξóς /ixós/ "birdlime". It is likely that the Longobardic translator simply mixed up the near homophone terms ixion and ixias.

Botanical identification:

Chamaeleon alba, the "white chamaeleon" is often identified as the "pine thistle", i.e. Atractylis gummifera L., syn. Chamaeleon gummifer (L.) Cass., syn. Carlina gummifera (L.) Less [[2]], [[3]]. It has a distribution along the northern shore of the Mediterranean to Turkey and much of Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). This thistle-like plant grows in dry areas and its rhizomes produce a gum similar to mastic. Since the plant is often mistaken for a wild artichoke its consumption can cause poisoning.

Chamaeleon nigra, the "black chamaeleon" is often identified as Carthamus corymbosus L., syn. Cardopatium corymbosum (L.) Pers., syn. Echinops corymbosus L. [[4]], [[5]]. Distribution: Eastern Mediterranean, i.e. Southern Italy including Sicily, former Yugoslavia, Greece including Crete, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan.

Ixia has survived into botanical Latin, but is used as a genus name for a number of plant species native to South Africa.

WilfGunther 09/04/2014

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