From Simon Online
Jump to: navigation, search

Tragagantum Dyascorides radix est lata et lignosa virgas habet breves et fortes et super terram declives in quibus virgis folia sunt plurima et minuta que circa se spinas multas et subcelatas habet que spine albe sunt et fortes radix eius cum maturaverit ferro percussa lachrymum emittit qui in sole coagulatur et tragagantum appellatur. Eligendum est tragagantum album et limpidum et lucidum et dulce et leve et mundum, virtus est ei similis gummi et paremplaustica et cetera. Plinius tragagantum espine albe radice multum praelata apud medos et caucasum nascitur et cetera.


Tragagantum (-tũ A) AC f | Tragagãtũ B |Tragagantũ uel tragãtũ e

virgas habet (habet e) C e | virgas hʒ A | uirgas habet B | habet virgas f

subcelatas ABC f | subcellatas e

fortes radix ABC f | fortex radix e

percussa (per- A e) AC e f | percusa B

lachrymũ A | lacrimũ B e | lacrimum f

emittit qui ABC | mittit qui ef

appellatur (-atur A f) AC e f | appelatur B

{Eligendum est} autem add. f

{album} et om. f

{lucidum) et om. f

leue AC e f | lene B

ei AC | illi B ef

parẽplaustica AC f | par emplaustica e | parũ plaustica B | parimplastica Diosc. Longob. | παρεμπλαστική /paremplastikḗ/ Diosc. Graece (III,20)

espine ACD | ex spĩe B | e spine f| est spine e | espĩe AC | spinae Pliny

multuʒ prelata f | multum planta C | multũ (m’l- A) plãta AB | multuʒ planta e | praelata Pliny

caucasum (-suʒ e; -sũ B) ABC ef | Achaia Pliny

et cetera om. e


According to Dyascorides the tragagantum root is broad and woody, and has short and strong branches that spread over the ground. On these branches it has many small leaves and around them there are many spines somewhat hidden {by the leaves}, spines which are of a white and strong appearance. Its root, when it has ripened and is cut with an iron, sends out an exudation, which curdles in the sun and this is what is called tragagantum {"gum tragacanth"}. The best tragagantum is white, pure, transparent, sweet, light and clean. Its medicinal virtue is similar to the "paremplastic" nature of gum.

Pliny says tragantum, with a root like spina alba {see below}, is much favoured in the land of the Medes and the Caucasus.


The Dioscoridean excerpt is ultimately from Dioscorides Longobardus, 3, 20, ed. Stadler (1899: 384), De tracantu. The original Greek text can be found in Wellmann, vol. II, book III, pp.25/26, chapter 20, τραγάκανθα /tragákantha/.

Simon's Plinian excerpt is from Pliny, 13, 36, 115, ed. Rackham (1938-63: IV.166).

Latin tragacanthum, often corrupted into dragantum, is "gum traganth", which is obtained from the tragacantha plant, sometimes called "goat's thorn or tragacanth-bush". As so often this Latin word is a Greek loan: τραγάκανθα /tragákantha/ or τραγάκανθος /tragákanthos/ "tragacanth". A prima facie analysis would suggest that the word is a compound of τράγος /trágos/ "he-goat" and άκανθα /ákantha/ "thorn", on which the English name "goat's thorn" is calqued. But doubts have been raised about this etymology.

Simon's forms espine and ex spine have a prosthetic vowel, typical of Vulgar Latin, in words beginning with "sp-", and since 'x' in late Latin was often pronounced /s/, the sequence "esp" is not uncommonly wrongly analysed as "ex + sp" or "ex + p" by less classically trained scribes. Spina alba, lit. "white spine", is difficult to identify, André (1956: 300) offers 7 different identification possibilities.

παρεμπλαστικός /paremplastikós/ is glossed by LSJ "of or for stopping the pores".

The wording multum plãta by all collated witnesses - except ms. f - makes little sense, therefore Pliny's praelata "preferred, favoured" is preferable.

Botanical identification:

Gum Tragacanth is obtained from a number of species of the genus Astragalus. These are species that grow in the temperate and often mountainous regions of alpine and sub-alpine altitudes in Western Asia, e.g. Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. First and foremost these are Astragalus gummifer Labill. "gum tragacanth or milkvetch"; also A. brachycalyx Fisch., "Persian manna", syn. A. adscendens Boiss. & Hausskn. and A. tragacantha L., but other species are also in use for gum tragacanth production. These plants are mostly low-growing spiny shrubs, to whose roots incisions are made from which mucilaginous sap exudes that dries into small flakes of gum, flakes which can then be ground into powder. This powder is capable of absorbing water and after stirring it turns into a gel. The resultant gum is viscous, tasteless and odourless and is used in industry and traditional medicine. Gum Tragacanth must not be confused with gum Arabic.

WilfGunther 19/08/13

See also: Dragagantum gummi, Kitira, Quetire

Next entry