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Potireon Dyascorides aut frinion aut emera aut vacineton vocaverunt plurimi. frutex est maior virgellas longas et molles habens et fortes similes dracontee folia minora et obrotunda sed omnis frutex coopertus est velut lana et omnis spinosus est flores habens minutos et viridiores, semen eius suave et viscidum est et minus utile, nascitur in olivetis et humectis locis et saliginosis, radices habens in magnitudine unius cubiti aut duorum et fortes que radix si ibi in terra fuerit tacta de se iterum alias mittit radices lacrimum emittens simile gumi et cetera.


Potireton AC | Potreõ B | Potirion f | Potireon e

Dyascorides om. f

frinion (-niõ A) A e | frimõ B {'ni' misread as 'm'} | frin ideo C | funion f {'ri' misread as 'u'}

emera AC | ẽmera e | ẽinẽtia B | eramera f

aut vacineton vocauerũt pli͞m͞i frutex est aor f | a' vacineton vocaberunt plurimi. Frutex est maior Diosc.Longob. | om. ABC e

virgellas (vir- A) AC ef | uergelas B

longas AC ef | lungas B

molles AC ef | moles B

dracontee AC f | draguntee e | dicit~ cuntee B {dra- misread as abbreviation for dicitur, cf. Cappelli p. 95, 3rd col.} | tracanteae Diosc.Longob. {See Commentary below}

frutex ef | fructex ABC

coopertus (-tus A) AC | coopertus f | cohopertus e | chopertus B

velut AC f | uelud B e

spinosus AC ef | spinosius B

& {flores} add. B

{flores} habens C | habẽs A | hēns B | hn͞s e | hʒ f

viridiores AC ef | viridices B

semen C | semẽ A e | sem͂ B | se f

(viscidum} & add. B

{est} et om. B

oliuetis AC e | oliueris B f

humectis A f | humecthis C | hũectis e | hũecctis B

si ibi in terra (terra e) AC ef | si ibi sub terra B | sibi in terra f

iterum (-rum AB f) ABC | interra e

emittens (-ẽs f) AC ef | emittẽtes cũ B

gumi A f | cumi C e | casu B

et cetera om. ef


Potireon, many people also call this plant frinion or emera or vacineton. It is a bigger bushy plant, that has long and soft and strong branches, similar to dracontea {see Commentary below}, the leaves are smaller and round, but the whole bushy plant is covered as if by wool and the whole bush is thorny, and has minute and very green flowers. Its seed/fruit is agreeable and pungent but is less useful {for medicine}. It grows in olive-groves and damp places and where willows grow; it has strong roots one or two cubits in size. Its root, if it has touched the soil in a place, sends out afresh other roots from itself, emitting a gum-like exudation.


This is a near-verbatim quote from Dioscorides Longobardus, 3, 15, ed. Stadler (1899: 383), De potireon. Most of the witnesses have omitted aut vacineton vocaverunt plurimi. Frutex est maior, - "or vacineton; many people call it {by these names}. It is a bigger bushy plant". The exception is ms. f, which seems to have had access to a more complete source. The omitted section is part of the text in Dioscorides Longobardus and is also part of the Greek original, 3, 15, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.21) ποτίρριον /potorrhion/: οἱ δὲ ἀκιδωτὸν καλοῦσι. θάμνος ἐστὶ μέγας /hoi dè akidōtón kaloûsi. thámnos estì mégas/. Pliny, 27, 97, 122, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.464) uses the same Greek source as Dioscorides.

Greek ποτήριον /potḗrion/ means "goblet, a drinking cup, wine cup", and as a plant name there are a number of collateral forms like ποτίρριον /potírrhion/, the one Wellmann chose for his edition. Other variants in the ancient literature are ποτίρρεον /potírrheon/, ποτέρριον /potérrhion/, ποντίρεον /pontíreon/. Cf. Wellmann, op.cit. apparatus criticus. The naming motive, according to Genaust (1983: 303), s.v. Potérium and Carnoy (1959: 223), s.v. potērion, is that the flower calyx resembles the shape of a goblet [[1]].

The Latinised form is generally poterion for the plant name and poterium for "a drinking vessel, goblet". The unetymological second 't' in Simon's witnesses AC potireton is a copying error.

The synonyms mentioned in this lemma are sometimes more than usually corrupted. They are:

frinion portrays the itacist pronunciation of φρύνιον /phrýnion/, related to φρύνη /phrýnē/ "toad", according to Genaust (1983: 290), s.v. Phrýnium) it is named after its damp habitat, but Carnoy (1959: 216) s.v. phrynion, suggests that it was used to combat toad venom. Pliny, op.cit. also mentions phrynion as a synonym.

emera is a corruption of Greek νευράς /neurás/, in the Greek Dioscorides marked as an Ionian word, and it is related to νεũρον /neûron/ "sinew, tendon; plant fibre; nerve". It is likely that an original *neuras or *neura was misread as emera possibly due to contamination with Greek ἥμερα /(h)ḗmera/ "cultivated (plant)". Carnoy (1959: 187) suggests that the plant was used for nervous diseases, but Strömberg (1940: 58-9) thinks that νευράς /neurás/ describes the conspicuous veins, i.e. nerves, in the plant's leaves. Pliny, op.cit. has neuras.

vacineton is a corruption of Greek ἀκιδωτόν /akidōtón/ which means "pointed", derived from ἀκíς /akís/ "point, splinter". The expected transcription would be *acidoton, there seems to be contamination with vaccinium "bilberry". This synonym is only mentioned in ms. f, but it is part of the text in Dioscorides Longobardus and of the Greek original.

The plant named dracontee (dative) in witnesses AC f and draguntee in ms. e is written tracanteae in Dioscorides Longobardus and in the Greek original τραγακάνθῃ /tragakánthē/. However the similar sounding Greek τραγάκανθα /tragákantha/, Latinised tragacantha and δρακοντία /drakontía/ or δρακόντιον /drakóntion/ Latinised dracontia, dracontea and dracontium, dracontion are different plants, but they were often confused. This is due to vulgar Latin variants of the gum that tragacantha exudes called tragacanthum, which has multiple variants: tragaganthum, dragagantum, tracantum, tragantum, dragantum, dracantum, dragamentum (André, 1985: 90, s.v. dracontium). Obviously dracantum, dragantum are very similar to dracontium.

Botanical identification:

Most modern authors (Berendes, 1902: 272; André, 1985: 207, s.v. potirion; Carnoy, 1959: 223, s.v. potērion) name Astragalus poterium sensu auct., now classed as a synonym of Astragalus balearicus Chater, as a possible candidate, but the plant has a chaotic taxonomic history. The identification must remain doubtful since the plant's features rarely agree with the description offered by Dioscorides. Cf. A. balearicus [[2]], n.b. the photo of the flower detail in this article does not depict the flower of A. balearicus, for which see [[3]] and [[4]].

Wilf Gunther 13/01/14

See also: Tragagantum, Dragontea

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