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Nepita seu nepitella calamentum grece vero calamitis ut apud dyascoridem est autem quedam nepita montana quam nepitam multi vocari proprie volunt alii nepitam gatinam dicunt: eo quod odore et tactu miro modo cattos ad coitum incitat.

Ms. e adds:
Hc nepita gattina sim'la melisse folia tamẽ magis angulare et florem albũ producit mẽse angusti.


nepitella | nepitela B
vero om. f
calamitis | cale j
nepitam multi | m. n. f
vocari proprie volunt AC | p. vol. voc. f | p. voc. vol. ep | p. nolũt voc. B | p. vocãt volunt j
{quedam} nepitam | napitam f
gatinã AB fjp | gatiuã C {printer's error} | gattinaʒ 'ms'. e
et om. e
cattos AC | catos f | gattos B e | catros jp
coitum | coytum B ep
incitat | incitãt j


Nepita or nepitella or calamentum, but in Greek it is truly calamitis as found in Dyascorides. However there is also a certain nepita montana {lit. "mountain nepita"}, which many people want to call the proper nepita, others call it nepita gatina {lit. "cat nepita"}, because in an astonishing way it incites cats to copulate by smelling and touching it.

Additonal text in ms. e:
This nepita gattina {"cat-nepita"} has leaves similar to melissa {"balm"}, but more angular and it produces a white flower in the month of August.


Latin nepeta, also nepita, is mentioned as early as in Celsus, Pliny and Dioscorides. Cf. Celsus, 2, 21, ed. Spencer (1935-8: I.200), where nepeta is said to be of mali suci ("of bad juice") and chapter 2, 25, ed. Spencer (1935-8: I.204) it is said to be alienum stomacho ("alien to the stomach").

Pliny says that it is a plant used for vegetable wine, a plant that often crops up without sowing, he mentions it among the mints, and medicinally its virtue is similar to that of puleius {"pennyroyal"?}.

The name nepeta also occurs in the Greek Dioscorides, 2, 35, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.47), καλαμίνθη /kalamínthē/ {"calamint"}, where it says: ταύτην Ῥωμαῖοι νεπέταν καλοῦσιν /taútēn Rhōmaîoi nepétan kaloûsin/ - "this plant the Romans call nepeta". And in the RV version ibid. under καλαμίνθη ὀρεινή /kalamínthē oreinḗ/ {lit. "mountain calamint"} it says: Ῥωμαῖοι νεπέταμ /Rhōmaîoi nepétam/ - "the Romans call it nepeta".

In the Longobardic translation of Dioscorides, 3, 37, ed. Stadler (1899: 393-4), De calamiten, it states: alterum genus puleio similis, sed major est, unde et ipsum puleium multi agreste dicunt, quem romani nepetam vocant – "another kind {sc. of calamint} is similar to puleius but bigger, and therefore many people call it 'wild puleius', which the Romans call nepeta".

The etymology of nepeta is unclear, although in unconvincing attempts it is often pointed out that there is an Etrurian town of the same name, but nothing is known about any particular connection between the town and the herb. Similarly others want to see in the name an Etruscan or Indo-European root *nep- meaning "moist".

is just a diminutive of nepeta, a name still used – if this is anything to go by - in modern Italian for Calamintha nepeta (L.) Savi, the "lesser calamint" [[1]]. Cf. also Battisti & Alessio (1968: IV.2571), s.v. nepitèlla.

Botanical identification:

Simon mentions these names: nepita, nepitella, calamentum, calamitis, nepita montana, nepita gatina.

According to André (1956: 218): nepeta is Calamintha nepeta Savi [[2]].

And nepita montana is Nepeta cataria L. {"catnip"} [[3]].

Simon's description of a cat's behaviour when encountering the herb is somewhat exaggerated; it may best be described as being mildly intoxicated. Smelling and rubbing the herb causes a high, but eating it acts as a sedative. Not all cats are attracted. Nepetalactone, the organic compound causing this behaviour was first isolated in N. cataria, but other species are reported to contain this compound as well.

Simon says that many people see nepita montana as the "proper" nepita. Neither C. nepeta nor N. cataria prefer a mountainous habitat, a habitat that would rather point to Nepeta racemosa Lam. syn. N. mussiniii Spreng. {"dwarf catmint"} [[4]], with a distribution covering the Caucasus, Turkey and northern Iran, but its distributional range is perhaps too far from Europe to be eligible.

In nepita gatina, Simon uses the adjective gatina, a word derived from gattus {"cat"}. This clearly refers to the plant's effect on cats, see Kata (1), as does the Late Latin adjective cataria.

WilfGunther 03/05/2014

For more information on calamentum see Calamentum and calamitis see Calamitis.

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