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Quiastis secundum Plinium est ulcus in angulo oculi perpetim humorem emanans.


Quiastis AC f | Quistis B e


Quiastis according to Pliny is an ulcer in the angle of the eye from which some fluid issues continuously.


The agreement of Simon's text with Pliny's passage on Epinyctis - see below - leaves no doubt that Quiastis must stand for Epinyctis. The corruption from an expected *epinictis or epinictida to quiastis is indeed baffling. One can only think that at some very early stage Greek ἐφιάλτης /ephiáltēs/, Latinised ephialtes, meaning "nightmare, conceived as a throttling demon acting at night during the victim's sleep, incubus" became mixed up with ἐπινυκτίς /epinyktís/ "happening by night" due to the semantic overlap between the two, with ἐπινυκτίς /epinyktís/ meaning, "skin affliction, irritation, disturbance caused by bed bugs", therefore occurring and hurting by night. Consequently Greek ἐφιάλτης /ephiáltēs/ must have suffered a series of corruptions identical or similar to the one tentatively outlined here: ΕΦΙΑΛΤΗΣ > {aphetic} *ΦΙΑΛΤΗΣ > {Φ wrongly transliterated as 'QU'} QUIALTES > {lower case} Quialtes > itacist pronunciation} *Quialtis > {'l' misread as "long s" = ſ} *Quiaſtis > Quiastis. The word must have arrived in this mutated form already in Simon's copy since Simon does not seem to be aware that Quiastis and Epinictida q.v. are the same word.

Greek ἐπινυκτίς /epinyktís/, accusative sg. ἐπινυκτίδα /epinyktída/, is derived from ἐπινύκτιος /epinýktios/ "by night", consisting of ἐπι- /epi-/ a preposition meaning i.a. "by, at", etc. + the root of -νυκτ- /-nykt-/ "night" + the common nominal ending –ίς /-ís/. The meaning "sore in the angle of the eye" is only attested in Pliny, but as the Elder himself explains in the original passage {see below} the name epinyctis is also used to denote a form of pustules that cause most pain during the night, hence the name "by night", see below.

Simon's entry is a very short excerpt from the forementioned passage in Pliny, 20, 21, 44, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VI.28), where he speaks of the healing power of porrum sectivum {Allium porrum L., "cut leek"}, and he says: inlitis foliis sanantur vari et ambusta et epinyctides — ita vocatur ulcus, quae et syce, in angulo oculi perpetuo umore manans – "By laying on porrum leaves pimples, burns and epinyctis get healed – the latter is the name of a sore – also called syce {(lit.) 'fig.'} that grows in the angle of the eye and continuously issues some fluid". And Pliny continues: quidam eodem nomine appellant pusulas liventes ac noctibus inquietantes - "but some people call by this name pustules showing bruise-like discoloration and they cause disturbances/restlessness during the night".

As can be seen above Pliny mentions another name for epinyctis i.e. syce, from Greek συκῆ /sykê/, meaning "fig".

For epinyctis with the more general meaning "skin sores suffered by night" see Epinictida; for syce cf. Sikas (1).

Epinyctis is now a rarely used medical term, but the word has survived as the name for a genus of moths.

Wilf Gunther 18/05/2014

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