Eponymic plants in Nicander of Colophon and Pliny the Elder: Alcibius’ herb
Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany, Berlin)
Keywords: Nicander of Colophon, Pliny the Elder, Alcibius, eponyms, primus inventor, names of plants
Abstract: The article analyzes information about the plant(s), named after an otherwise unknown mythological character Alcibius, which are found in Theriaka of Nicander of Colophon and in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder. The bulk of the two passages in Nicander (regarding Ἀλκιβίου ἔχις Ther. 541–549 and Ἀλκιβίοιο ποίη 666–675 respectively) consists of detailed etiological excurses, each telling about how the plant was found by Alcibius. Whether the plant is the same one in both cases, remains a subject of controversy. As for Pliny, he makes no mention of Alcibius as an eponym, but he nevertheless mentions two plants, names of wich very likely refer to this mythological figure: archebion (NH 22.51), whose external description overlaps in large part with the first account in Nicander, and alcibium (22.39), for which Pliny gives no description, but only a recipe — just like Nicander does in the second passage. Thus, the way Pliny arranges his information reflects the structure of both Nicandrian places. The example of Alcibius’ plants, in the author’s opinion, supports the hypothesis that Pliny was directly familiar with the poems of Nicander and also illustrates the methods of organizing the material in the medical books of Naturalis Historia. The article also contains a list of eponymic plants referred to in the corpus of Nicander’s works, with corresponding places in Pliny’s encyclopedia.
To cite this article: Malomud, A. (2020). Eponymic plants in Nicander of Colophon and Pliny the Elder: Alcibius’ herb. Shagi/Steps, 6(1), 91–100. DOI: 10.22394/2412-9410-2020-6-1-91-100.