Strutho cameleos

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Strutho cameleos grece strutio avis deformis si avis dici potest apud kiranidam strutho cameleon, arabice vero vocatur naham.


Strutho cameleos ACD | Strucho kameleos (kameleos p) B p | Strucho cameleos (camelos j) ej
strutio ACD | structio B | structõ e | strucio p | struccio j
deformis | difformis j
{potest} ms. j adds g’ {= grece} | ms. p adds attempt to write struthio kameleos in Greek script
kiranidam AC | kirãnidaʒ j | kiranidã D p | kirãidã B | kyranidam e
strutho cameleon ACD | strucho cãeleõ (camelon j; kamelon p) B jp | structio camelon ms. e
vero om. ep
naham C | nahaӡ D e | nahã AB jp


Strutho cameleos is the Greek for Latin strutio {"ostrich"}, an unusually big bird, if bird it can be called, which is mentioned in the Kyranides as strutho cameleon, but in Arabic it is called naham.


The ostrich is mentioned in the Kyranides, book I, pp. 63/64, (ELEMENTUM XVIII Σ.) as Στρουθιοκάμηλος {/Strouthiokámēlos/}, avis, .i. Struthio gambarum vulgò. – "Στρουθιοκάμηλος {/Strouthiokámēlos} a bird, called in folk speech 'the bird with the {long} legs'". The first element of the Kyranides form is derived from the diminutive στρουθίον /strouthíon/ with its compound form στρουθιο- /strouthio -/, but usually the first element is στρουθο- /stroutho-/, derived from στρουθός /struthós/, cf. LSJ.

στροῦθος /stroûthos/ or στρουθός /strouthós/ means "sparrow" or "any small bird", but also "ostrich", cf. στρουθοί αἱ μεγάλαι /strouthoí hai megálai/ {lit. "big birds"} or any similar description means "ostriches".

The motive for naming the ostrich στρουθοκάμηλος /struthokámelos/ {lit. "(small) bird-camel"}, was according to Robert (1922: 26f., 119): the word στρουθός /struthós/ was ambiguous, because it means "sparrow" as well as "ostrich". To remedy this the Greeks used regularly distinguishing epithets like Λιβυκή /Libykḗ/ {"African"}, μεγάλη /megálē/ {"big"}, etc. to differentiate ostrich from sparrow. As for the word στρουθοκάμηλος /strouthokámēlos/ the ordinary people compared this strange bird with its long neck and long legs to the camel.

The word was adopted into Latin as struthiocamelus (Pliny), but later writers shortened it to struthio,onis and similar variant forms, as e.g. in Vulgate Leviticus 11,13-16: where the ostrich is declared an unclean bird: haec sunt quae de avibus comedere non debetis … strutionem … - "Here are those among the birds that you must not eat: … the ostrich …".

For the Arabic see Naham.

Zoological remarks:

The ostrich, Struthio camelus L. used to have a much wider distribution in antiquity. The subspecies most likely to be known to the Greeks and Romans were S. c. syriacus, the "Arabian or Middle Eastern ostrich", which was very common in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Syria but has recently become extinct.

And S. c. camelus, the "North African or red-necked Ostrich", which lives mainly in the Sahel region but occurs as far north as Egypt and southern Morocco, is now an endangered species.

WilfGunther 18:24, 26 July 2015 (BST)

See also: Naham

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