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Maus arabice musa fructus suavissimus esui in siria habundans.


Maus e | Mauʒ fp | Maum BC | Maũ AD {'ʒ = z' misread as "sideways m"; 'um' > 'ũ'} | Manʒ j {'u' misread as 'n'}
musa | musca B e
siria | syria D ep
habundans | abundans D | nascit~ f


Maus is Arabic for Latin musa {"banana"}; its fruit is very pleasant to eat, it grows abundantly in Syria.


Cf. Wehr (1976): ﻣﻮﺯ /mauz/ (coll.; n.un. ﺓ) "banana".
Siggel (1950: 69): ﻣﻮﺯ /mauz/ Fr. v. Musa paradisiaca, Banane {i.e. "fruit of Musa paradisiaca, banana"}.

The banana plant was introduced to the Near East through Arab traders who already in pre-Islamic times were in trade contact with India and Southern Asia. With the rise of Islam and the ensuing conquests the banana was brought to many parts of the world, diffusing the plant from Palestine to North Africa and from there to Spain. By the 9th and 10th centuries numerous references to bananas are found in the Islamic literature confirming that by then its cultivation and consumption was well established in the Near East {Simon's 'Siria'} and in parts of Europe under Islamic rule.

And knowledge of the banana spread from there to other parts of Europe although the climate in the Northern regions did not allow any cultivation. According to Genaust (1996: 399-400), s.v. Músa, as early as 1284 in the Livre du Trésor by Brunetto Latini there is a reference to the banana as pomme de paradi "Paradise apple", alluding to the fruit that Eve ate, Vulg. Gen. 3,6: vidit igitur mulier quod bonum esset lignum ad vescendum et pulchrum oculis aspectuque delectabile - "and the woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye by its appearance". But the banana only became easily available to most Europeans after the discovery of the New World.

There is a possibility, although disputed, of the banana reaching Rome in antiquity. Pliny mentions an Indian tree called pala and its fruit called ariena, the description of which is very reminiscent of the banana, Cf. Pliny, 12, 12, 24, ed. Rackham (1938-63: IV.16).

Botanical identification:

The banana, often called a "tree", is botanically a herbaceous plant, whose "fruit" is botanically a berry. Although banana is still the generic term, a distinction is sometimes made between a plantain, where the starch has not been converted into sugar, and a banana, where the conversion to sugar has taken place. Simon's description fructus suavissimus esui- "its fruit is very pleasant to eat" clearly shows that he is thinking of the latter kind.

After a lively taxonomic history the plant is now divided into two wild ancestor species Musa acuminata Colla and Musa balbisiana Colla, from which almost all cultivars – sweet or savoury - possibly as many as 1000, are derived. Its old Linnaean name Musa paradisiaca is now obsolete.

The plant is a native of tropical South and South-East Asia, where it appears to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea, perhaps as early as 8000 BC, which would make it one of the oldest domesticated plant crops. From its original home it was dispersed over much of the tropics perhaps as early as 5000 - 3000 BC, reaching India, Indonesia, Australia, and Malaysia, and somewhat later the African continent.

For further information see [[1]].

WilfGunther (talk) 07/02/2013

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