Monday, October 13, 2008


Weed Control

Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ), s.v. λέων (leōn = lion):
VIII. = ὀροβάγχη, Dsc.2.142, Gp.2.42 tit.
LSJ s.v. ὀροβάγχη (orobanchē = a variety of plant):
II. chokefitch, Orobanche crenata, Dsc.2.142, Gp.2.42.
Dsc. is Dioscorides, and Gp. is Geoponica. Here are both passages cited in LSJ as references on the chokefitch plant:

Dioscorides 2.142 (tr. Lily Beck, with her footnote):
ὀροβάγχη, Orobanche crenata Forsk., Chokefitch

The chokefitch: some call it cynomorion, some leon, and the Cypriots call it thyrsitis. It is a small, reddish stalk, about two spans tall, sometimes even taller, leafless, somewhat greasy, soft, hairy, covered with either whitish or quince-yellow flowers. Its root is below ground, thick as a finger, having holes when the stalk dries. It seems to choke certain pulses among which it grows, whence its name.64 It is used as a vegetable both raw and boiled, being eaten out of a flat dish just like asparagus, and when added to pulses, it is reputed, to cook them faster.

64 The etymology of ὀροβάγχη is from ὄροβος, "bitter vetch" and ἄγχω, "strangle," i.e. "that which strangles the bitter vetch," Jacques André, Les noms des plantes dans la Rome antique, p. 181.
The fitch in chokefitch = vetch, and pulse = peas or beans.

Geoponica (2.42.3, p. 78 Beckh), on ways to get rid of chokefitch (in what follows I've borrowed some turns of phrase from Thomas Owen's translation of the Geoponica):
Another physical remedy is found which works by antipathy, and to which Democritus gives testimony: let a maiden who has reached the age of marriage, naked and barefoot, without a stitch of clothing on, with hair unbound, holding a rooster in her hands, go around the field — the lion-like plant soon goes away, and the pulse grows stronger, as if this lion's plant were afraid of the rooster.

θεραπεία οὖν εὐρίσκεται ἑτέρα φυσικὴ καὶ ἀντιπαθής, ᾗ καὶ Δημόκριτος μαρτυρεῖ· παρθένος ὥραν ἔχουσα γάμου, ἀνυπόδετος γυμνή, μηδὲν καθόλου περικειμένη, λελυμένη τὰς τρίχας, ἀλεκτρυόνα ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν ἔχουσα, περιελθέτω τὸ χωρίον, καὶ εὐθέως χωρίζεται μὲν ἡ λεόντειος πόα, τὰ δὲ ὄσπρια κρείττονα γίνεται, ἴσως καὶ τῆς βοτάνης ταύτης τοῦ λέοντος τὸν ἀλεκτρυόνα φοβουμένης.
A puritanical scribe or reader expurgated the bit about the naked woman by erasure in one of the manuscripts of the Geoponica, according to Beckh's critical apparatus.

I have a small plot of land (χωρίον) on which I grow vegetables, and weeds of various sorts hamper my efforts. I am not excessively puritanical, and if there are any female volunteers who would like to help me with weed eradication in the manner prescribed by Geoponica 2.42.3, please let me know. I will supply the rooster.

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