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Onagron Dyascorides aut onatisana aut onotisum dicunt frutex est arborosa et maior folia amigdale similia habet et molliora sicut lilium limpida, unde radix est illi minor et alba que sicca odorem vini habet, nascitur locis montuosis.


Dyascorides om. B f
onatisana AC p | onarisana B j | norisana f | anarisna ms. e
onotisũ B p | onorisum f | onatisum j | onotosum (-suʒ C) AC | onoic ? ms. e
frutex A efjp | fructex BC
amigdale | amicdale B
molliora | moliora B
unde om. f
montuosis | mollituosis j


Onagron according to Dyascorides are also called onatisana or onotisum. It is a tree-like bush and very big, it has leaves similar to those of amigdala {"almond"} but softer, like lilium {"lily"}, and very clear. It has a very small white root, that has the scent of wine when dried. It grows in mountainous regions.


Simon's entry is a near verbatim excerpt from Dioscorides Longobardus, 4, 113, ed. Stadler (1901: 56) De onagron [[1]].
The Greek original is found in 4, 117, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.267): ὀνάγρα /onágra/ [[2]].

In the Greek literature a number of plant names are encountered, assumed by some to denote oleander, that have a similar compounding pattern:
In most cases their first compound element derives from ὄνος /ónos/ {"donkey, ass"}, prevocalically ὀν- /on-/ and preconsonantally ὀνο- /ono-/. Because some authors mention that the plant has some connection with wine, cf. Simon's quote of Dyascorides above, the first compound element is in some witnesses interpreted as οἰν(ο)- /oin(o)-/ < οἶνος /oînos/ {"wine"}, Latinised oeno-.

In the particular passage quoted here by Simon the synonyms of onagron have been greatly corrupted and it is best to consult first Wellmann's Greek original text to find the source forms of these synonyms, which are: ὀνάγρα /onágra/ or ὀνοθήραν /onothḗran/ (acc.) or ὀνο<θο>ῦριν /ono<tho>ûrin/ (acc.).

Greek ὀνάγρα /onágra/, variant form: ὄναγρον /ónagron/, is analysed as a composite noun consisting of ὀν- /on-/ {"donkey, ass"} + ἄγρα /ágra/ {"hunting, chase, trapp"}, the motive for the naming is somewhat unclear, a possible explanation being that the plant is poisonous to donkeys.

This word suffered more than the usual corruption in Simon. The Longobardic form of this synonym is onotiran, and in the Greek original it is the accusative form ὀνοθήραν /onothḗran/ of the nominative ὀνοθήρας /onothḗras/, a compound consisting of ὀνο- /ono-/ + θήρα /thḗra/ {"hunt"}/ or θήρας /thḗras/ {"hunter"}, i.e. it has roughly the same meaning as ὀνάγρα /onágra/. ὀνοθήραν /onothḗran/ would be pronounced by itacist speakers /onothíran/, which in Simon's transcription can be expected to be *onot(h)iran and from this base the word then possibly suffered contamination with (p)tisana leading to *onotisana > onatisana etc.
Greek ὀνοθήρας /onothḗras/ was Latinised by Pliny as onotheras/ onothera and oenothera/ oenotheras.

The Longobardic form is onotirum.
The Greek original of this word is itself somewhat problematic, because it involves a number of variant forms and even some emendation.
Wellmann writes ὀνο<θο>ῦριν /ono<tho>ûrin/, nominative ὀνο<θο>ῦρις /ono<tho>ûris/, i.e. he changed the word by inserting <θο> /<tho>/ contrary to what he found in most of the codices he collated, which was ὀνοῦρις /onoûris/, the latter being the form Sprengel adopted for his edition, (1830: 604) (Κεφ. ριϛ' (ριη') [Περì Ονáγρας)/ Cap. CXVI (CXVIII). [De Onagra.]: ὄνουριν /ónourin/ (acc.) [[3]]. Presumably Wellmann preferred ὀνοθοῦρις /onothoûris/ because this form is also found in Paul of Aegina, 3, 3, ed. Heiberg (1921-4: II.247), s.v. ὀνάγρα /onágra/ [[4]], and Pliny, see below.

A variant form ὀνοθουρίς /onothourís/ occurs in Galen, ed. Kühn (1821-33: XII.89), s.v. [στ'. Περὶ ὀνάγρου. Perì onágrou.] [[5]].
In later authors a form ὀνόθουρις /onóthouris/ is also found.

ὀνοῦρις /onoûris/ is a compound noun consisting of ὄν- /ón-/ + ὀυρά /ourá/ {"tail}", i.e. "donkey's tail".
ὀνοθοῦρις /onothoûris/ consists of ὄνο- /óno-/ + θοῦρος, fem. θοῦρις /thoûros, thoûris// {"impetuous, furious"), presumably resulting in a meaning: "{making} donkeys furious".

Pliny is often quoted as a source for the Latinised form onothuris, acc. -thurin, gen. –thuridis, altogether the name occurs in 2 of his passages, 24, 102, 167, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.118), where the speaks of plants associated with "magic", stating that the herbalist Crateuas added onothurin (acc.) to the list of magic herbs, and that by sprinkling it over animals this would calm down even wild animals. However in different editions oenotherin and oenotheridem are found. In the second passage, 26, 8, 18, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.278), again in a magical context, he reports: onothuridis … tactu clausa omnia aperit – "by the touch of onothuris all things closed are opened". Here too different editions have instead chondriis, condyendis or condiendis.

A possible variant of onothuris is only attested in the Kyranides: Ὀνοθύρσις /Onothýrsis/ transcribed Onothyris or onothyrsis, see Onotrisis.

Botanical identification:

Berendes (1902: 431) and André (1985) see onagra, onothera and onothuris (onuris Berendes) as Epilobium angustifolium (L.) syn. Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub, "rosebay willowherb" [[6]] and André expressly rejects the identification Nerium oleander L., "oleander" found e.g. in LSJ s.v. ὀνάγρα /onágra/ and ὀνοθήρας /onothḗras/ -θουρις /-thouris/; Jones (1938-63: VII.528), as.v. Onothera and Onothuris; and Hort, editor of Theophrastus (1916: 467), s.v. ὀνοθήρας /onothḗras/

WilfGunther (talk) 21:04, 25 September 2015 (BST)

See also: Onotrisis

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