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Scilla seu squilla skilla grece scribitur; Plinius ex ea est masculus albis foliis et femina nigris et tertium genus est cibis gratum epimedion vocatur angustius folio ac minus aspero et cetera; non est epimedium de quo supra.


Scilla AC efjp | Scila B
squilla | squila B | quilla j
skilla AC ejp | skila B f
scribitur om. f
{foliis} et om. e
cibis gratum AB fjp | cibis granatum C | ab hiis gratũ ms. e
{gratum} epimedion | epimeduʒ f | Epimenidu Pliny
angustius | angustus j
ac minus | aziminus? ms. e
et cetera om. e
{est} epimedium | epimedion j


Scilla or squilla, in Greek written as skilla. Pliny says there is a male one with white leaves and a female one with black leaves. And there is a third kind, which is good in food, called epimedion. It is narrower in its leaf, which is also less sharp tasting, and so forth. This is not {the same plant as} epimedium, q.v.


The passage is a near-verbatim quote from Pliny, 19, 93, ed. Rackham (1938-63: V.480).

Scilla / squilla:
The Latin word scilla, also written squilla "sea-onion, sea-leek, squill" is taken from Greek σκίλλα /skílla/ with the same meaning. squilla, written with "qu", seems to have been originally merely the name of "a small fish of the lobster kind, a prawn shrimp" (Lewis & Short), but the phonetic similarity to scilla made the two words more or less interchangeable, although squilla is usually reserved for the shrimp only.

Simon mentions as of the third kind of squill the name epimedion, which is an unfortunate misunderstanding. Pliny, loc.cit., calls it Epimenidu {sc. scilla} "the squill of Epimenides", Greek Ἐπιμενίδου σκίλλα /Epimenídou skílla/, presumably named after the semi-mythical figure of Epimenides. Epimenidu was then mixed up with Latin epimedion, which is adopted from Greek ἐπιμήδιον /epimḗdion/, the name of an unidentified plant described by Dioscorides. But Simon makes clear at the end of the lemma, that there is in fact a plant different from epimedion, called epimedium, to which he gives its own entry.

Pliny’s report on the “squill of Epimenides” is possibly relying on Theophrastus, 7, 12, 4.[[1]], who in this passage speaks of herbs with bulbous roots. There he points out that only the roots of the kind of squill that is called “Epimenides’ squill” are edible and he adds somewhat cryptically that the name reflects its use, or as A. Hort says, the plant “gets its name form its use” – in Greek: ἀπὸ τῆς χρήσεως ἔχει τὴν προςηγορίαν /apò tês khrḗseōs ékhei tḕn prosēgorían/, and he adds in an annotation: ”5 These legends about Epimenides suggest that the ‘use’ was possibly in magic”. The semi-mythical Epimenides of Cnossos, 7th or 6th c. BC, was in the main famous for his wisdom, prophesying and his longevity, and the consumption of the eponymous squill might have been seen as promoting any, some or all of these qualities.

Botanical identification:

The plant is generally identified with the sea onion. It has undergone several taxonomic reclassifications and consequently acquired a number of synonyms, e.g. Drimia maritima (L.) Stearn [[2]], [[3]], (syn. Urginea maritima, Urginea pancration, Urginea scilla, Scilla maritima). It is native to the Mediterranean coasts, preferring sandy soil, but it is also widely cultivated. It produces a bulb with medicinal properties.

WilfGunther 22/03/2014

See also: Squilla, Aschil, Haunsel, Epimedium (2)

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