Kata (1)

From Simon Online
Jump to: navigation, search

Kata grece gatta.


Kata | Ka….a j {middle consonant unclear}
gatta ABC fj | galta e | gutta p


Kata is Greek for Latin gatta {"cat"}.


The Latin word cattus, variant gattus – then possibly still meaning "(semi-) wild cat" - is first documented in ed. Rodgers (1975): Palladius {middle of 4th c. A.D.}, Opus agriculturae, Martius, 4, 9. De hortis ed. Schmitt (1898: 117.16), also available online ed. Schmitt (1898: 122, bottom bar p. 142) [[1]]: contra talpas prodest cattos frequenter habere in mediis carduetis - "Against moles it is useful to have frequently some cats around in the middle of thistle/artichoke patches". This seems to suggest that (wild?) cats were encouraged into the garden, perhaps enticed by some scraps, but they would not be allowed in the house.

The words cattus, catta, gattus, gatta were to oust the older word feles and they are in fact the source for all the Romance reflexes, e.g. Italian gatto, French chat {< cattus}, Catalan gat, Spanish/Galician/Portuguese gato.

Latin catta is also the source for the late Greek κάττα /kátta/, which Simon is portraying in this entry; cf. Sophocles p.654: "κάττος {/káttos/} or κάτος {/kátos}/ the Latin cattus or catus = αἴλουρος {/aílouros/} 'male cat'." For this word he quotes the 10th c. author Achmet as his source. He continues: "fem. κάττα {/kátta/} = γαλῆ /galê/ 'cat'." Walde-Hofmann (1930-56: 182ff), s.v. cattus states that the Greek κάττα {/kátta/} – loaned from Latin catta - is documented from the 6th c. A.D. onward.

The etymology of the word is disputed with several rival theories competing. However, the word exists in one form or another in the Germanic and Balto-Slavic language groups too and similar words are also found in non-European languages, e.g. Arabic قط /qiṭṭ/, cf. Kit, and Nubian kadīs are often quoted.

Zoological remarks:

This popular pet animal is nowadays thought to belong only to one species with varied features, Felis silvestris, the wildcat [[2]], from which all European and African and Middle East varieties are derived. Ignoring Felis silvestris ornata, the Asiatic wildcat, two varieties are of interest here. The first is Felis silvestris lybica, the African wildcat, [3]] with a distribution over the Middle East and all of Africa except the Sahara and the rain forests. It is the African wildcat, that is probably denoted in Simon's entry Kit. Secondly there is Felis silvestris silvestris, the European wildcat [[4]]. However, the domestic cat, which was once thought to be a species in its own right, is now seen as derived from the African wildcat. All the above-mentioned subspecies/varieties are fully inter-fertile, and interbreeding must haven taken place between domesticated and wild varieties at any time.

Slight signs of cat domestication are thought by some to be traceable as far back as the Neolithic period, but much later they become quite obvious and are certainly well documented in Egypt. But it seems the Greece and Rome of Antiquity before the Caesars did not know the cat as a common animal and even less as a pet. In order to fight rodents a number of animals were tolerated or kept like polecat, martin, wildcat and weasel. In fact Greek γαλῆ /galê/ is glossed in LSJ: "weasel kind, weasel, marten, polecat or foumart" and similarly vague is Greek αἴλουρος /aílouros/ or Latin feles, which are best described as generic terms for small carnivorous animals including the wild cat F. silvestris silvestris. It is only by ca. 500 A.D. perhaps through Roman introduction that cats are established in much of Europe as a common domesticated animal.

For the Middle Ages cat skeletons from archaeological site excavations show that then no real breeding attempts were made, in fact today's pedigree cat breeds have only been bred during the last 200 years. So Simon's cat would have been perhaps a bit smaller than today's cat but pretty much the type of animal covered under the modern slightly derogatory term "moggy".

WilfGunther 18:23, 2 August 2014 (BST)

See also: Nepita

Next entry