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Xantium herba que vocatur fagasmon .i. gladiolus Theodorus Priscianus.


Xantium A efjp | Xautium C {'n' upside down > 'u'} | Xanciũ B
fagasmon | fagasmoa? p


Xantium is a herb that is also called fagasmon, .i.e. gladiolus according to Theodorus Priscianus.


Simon's entry is taken from Ps.-Theodorus Priscianus, Liber de virtutibus pigmentorum vel herbarum aromaticarum, ed. Rose (1894: 423, entry 134): Xanthium herba, quae et fasganon nuncupatur, id est gladiolus – "Xanthium is a herb, which is also named fasganon (φάσγανον), i.e. gladiolus". This text is available online: [[1]]. Source: Gal. 12.87 Kühn. Also in The Herbal of Rufinus, p. 345.

According to Strömberg (1940: 25), Carnoy (1959: 273) and others Greek ξάνθιον /xánthion/ is derived from ξανθός /xanthós/, glossed by LSJ "yellow, of various shades, freq. with a tinge of red; brown, auburn".
Dioscorides mentions that the plant was used for dyeing hair blond, which must be the naming motive; cf. Dioscorides Longobardus, 4, 131, ed. Stadler (1901: 61) De sanction (vel fasganion), where it says [[2]]: Semen eius non siccu collectu et tusu et reposito vaso bitreo, ex quo caput fricitu capillos roveos reddet, maxime aquae et lotio mixtus - "Its seed, when not yet dry, is collected and crushed and preserved in a glass container, and when one’s head is rubbed with it, it renders one’s hair blond/yellow, best when mixed with water and urine".

The original Greek text can be found in 4, 136, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: 281-2) ξάνθιον /xánthion/ [[3]].

The synonymy between xanthium and gladiolus is already mentioned in the RV version of Dioscorides, 5, 22, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.186) [[4]], ξυρίς /xyrís/: ξυρίς· οἱ δὲ ξάνθιον, … Ῥωμαῖοι γλαδιόλουμ /xyrís: hoi dè xánthion, … Rhōmaîoi gladióloum/ "xyris, some people say xanthion, … the Romans gladiolus."

Botanical identification:

As so often a particular plant name was used in antiquity for a variety of sometimes quite different plants with little in common, yet their divergent, even contradictory features are sometimes collected in the same text as if it was one plant. This goes for the name ξάνθιον /xánthion/ as well, which according to LSJ was used for two very different plants : Xanthium strumarium L., "broad-leaved burweed" or "common cocklebur" [[5]], [[6]], and as a synonym to ξυρίς /xyrís/, Iris foetidissima L. "gladwyn" or "stinking iris" [[7]].

Although X. strumarium is chosen by most authors, e.g. Berendes (1902), André (1956), Beck (2005), to identify ξάνθιον /xánthion/, presumably because Dioscorides mentions that its fruit adheres to clothing, this identification is problematic since the origin of this plant is unclear. It could possibly be a native of North America, and if so could not have been the plant the antique authors had in mind. Also the plant is not known as a source of yellow dye.

With ξάνθιον /xánthion/ here clearly marked as a synonym of gladiolus botanical identification is somewhat less problematic. Iris foetidissima L. "gladwyn" [[8]] is often suggested, and like all irises it belongs to the family of Iridaceae and so do gladioli. Also a close relative of the plant, Iris pseudacorus L. "yellow flag" or "yellow iris" [[9]] has flowers that were used for a yellow dye.

For further discussion see the entry Gladiolus.

WilfGunther (talk) 11:51, 29 August 2016 (BST)

See also: Gladiolus, Xifion, Fagasmon, Sanction

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