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Mela Ysidorus quam greci loton appellant que vulgo propter formam et colorem faba syriaca dicitur arbor est magna fructumque ferens comestibilem maiorem pipere gustu suavem unde et mella vocata et cetera est lothos supradicta.


Mela AC efjp | Mella B
quam C | quem f
loton (lotõ B) ABC p | lothon efj
syriaca AC e | siriaca B fp | suriaca j
fructum}que om. p
unde | bene? e
mella ABC | mela efjp
vocata | vocat~ j
et cetera | et ms. e
{et cetera} et add. j
lothos ABC f | lotos ejp


Mela: Isidore of Seville says that the Greeks call it lotos, a plant, which is called the Syrian faba {"bean"} by the common people. It is a big tree that bears edible fruit bigger than that of piper {"pepper"} and it is of sweet taste. For this reason it is also called mella, and so forth. This is the same as lothos, see the entry Lothos arbor above.


Simon's entry is a near-verbatim quote from Isidore's Etymologiae, book 17 De rebus rusticis {"On Agriculture"}, VII, 9 [[1]].

Little is known of the word mella, described by Isidore as a synonym of lotus arbor, i.e. "European nettle tree". It is only found with this meaning in Isidore's Etymologiae and a glossary (André, 1981: 90). Mella in Latin usually means "honey water", and maybe Isidore is right that the supposed sweetness of the fruit was thought to be reminiscent of honey, mel in Latin.

Botanical identification:

André op.cit. also identifies mella with the "micocoulier", the "European nettle tree, Mediterranean hackberry, honeyberry and lote tree", Celtis australis L. [[2]], [[3]]. Although C. australis's distribution over the Mediterranean basin is well documented, there are some doubts concerning this identification. Its fruit, small, dark-purple berry-like drupes, is round, not at all shaped like a "bean", and resembling more a cherry; and as for its sweetness, this is often described as insipid, hardly sufficient to be associated with mel "honey". These drupes are generally only eaten by birds.

Another problem is its synonymy with lotus, Greek λωτός /lōtós/ which is applied to a wide range of widely diverse plants; LSJ mention no less than 11 possible botanical identifications, a confusing situation, which is also reflected in Simon, who has 3 entries for Lothos and 1 for Lothos arbor.

WilfGunther (talk) 22/12/2013

For further information see Lothos arbor, Faba syriaca.

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