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Theronare Plinius quam magnifica herba et in nostro orbe nascitur fructicosa foliis subviridibus flore roseo et cetera.


Theronarie f | Theronare (Tero- e) AC e | Teronate B j | Thetonare p
quam om. AC | alia quam magica Pliny {see Commentary below}
orbe B efp | orbeto AC | ortu j
fructicosa BC ejp | fructicossa f | fruticosa A
roseo | rosseo f
et cetera om. ef


Theronare, Pliny says, is a highly esteemed herb, and it grows here in our area; it is like a shrub, has greenish leaves and a rose-coloured flower et cetera.


The word therionarca is only attested in Pliny in its Latin form, but it is obviously a Greek word: *θηριονάρκη /thērionárkē/, a compound consisting of θηριο- /thērio-/ meaning "wild animal, serpent" + νάρκη /nárkē/ "numbness, benumbing", i.e. "numb maker of wild animals". The word has undergone some corruption in all of Simon's witnesses shown above.

Simon's text is a slightly changed excerpt from Pliny, 25, 65, 113, ed. W.S.J. Jones (1938-63: VII.218). Therionarca alia quam magica et in nostro orbe nascitur, fruticosa, foliis subviridibus, flore roseo – "there is also a therionarca other than the {previously mentioned} magical one" etc. Here Pliny is referring to his book 24, 102, 163, ed. W.S.J. Jones (1938-63: VII.114), where he speaks of magical plants, and among the authorities quoted is a certain fictitiously? named Democritus [[1]], a studiosissimus {"excellent scholar"} of the Magi, who had written a book called Chirocmeta, cf. Greek χειρόκμητος /kheirókmētos/ "wrought by hand". This book was not transmitted into post-Antiquity and it is only known from fragments, many of which are found in Pliny. He states that said Democritus mentions a therionarca plant growing in Cappadocia and Mysia that makes wild beasts sluggish, a state from which they can only be saved when sprinkled with the urine of a hyaena.

But in the first-named section above Pliny clearly says that he now speaks of a therionarca that is different from the previously mentioned magical one and which grows - contrary to the Cappadocian one – in Italy.

Simon's text now changes alia quam magica "different from the magical one" into magnifica "highly esteemed". Perhaps this was less the outcome of a corrupted source text than a deliberate alteration by Simon used to avoid propagating pagan magical notions, of which he as a man of the cloth would disapprove.

Botanical identification:

Carnoy (1959: 263), s.v. thēronarcē identifies the magical plant as Nerium oleander L. "oleander" [[2]], [[3]], whereas André (1985: 259), s.v. thēronarca views the Italian plant as N. oleander but sees the magical plant as "indéterminée". However he expresses a suspicion that "both" therionacas may be N. oleander in spite of Pliny's insistence on distinguishing them.

The description of the plant by Pliny fits in well with the features of oleander, and its toxicity could be the motive for the name "numb maker of wild animals".

WilfGunther 17/09/2013

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