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Theophrastus on fungi: inaccurate citations in Athenaeus

  • R. W. Sharples (a1) and D. W. Minter (a1)


Ancient authors often cited each other inaccurately through misunderstanding or carelessness; and this can cause problems in the collecting of fragments of authors of whose works some, but not all, survive. For a distinction has to be made between inexact citations of extant works and citations which, although resembling such works, do in fact seem to derive from material now lost. Such problems occur repeatedly in connection with the botanical writings of Theophrastus; and one particular group of problems stems from a section in the epitome of Bk ii of Athenaeus.



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1 The present note reflects studies undertaken as part of a project, organised by Prof. W. Fortenbaugh, to collect and edit all the fragments and testimonia relating to Theophrastus.

2 Cf. Regenbogen, O., ‘Theophrastos’, RE suppl. vii (1940) cols 1444–5.

3 As was pointed out by Schweighaüser, , Animadv. in Athenaei Deipnos. i 414.

4 Cf. Buller, A. H. R., ‘The fungus lore of the Greeks and Romans’, Trans. Brit. Mycological Soc. v (19141916) 47–8.

5 i 5.2; Schweighaüser 415. Smoothness of roots is mentioned in i 6.4; Maggiulli, G., Nomenclatura Micologica Latina (Genoa 1977) 117.

6 Loeb, ii 481 and ii 456 respectively.

7 Notices of fungi in Greek and Latin authors’, Annals and Magazine of Nat. Hist. ser. 5 xv (1885) 35; Buller (n. 4) 54–5.

8 Schweighaüser 417.

9 Houghton (n. 7) 43; Buller (n. 4) 62.

10 Winter, W., ‘Two Greek names for the truffle’, AJP lxxii (1951) 63–4. For truffles and thunder cf. Pliny NH xix 37, Athen. ii 62b, and Juv. v 117.

11 Carnoy, A., Dictiotmaire etymologique des noms grecs des plantes (Louvain 1959) 40.

12 Cf. Schneider, J. G., ed., Theophrasti Opera iii (1818) 34 and v (1821) 5.

13 Schneider iii 36, v 5; Hort i 50.

14 Schweighaüser 417.

15 Cf. Maggiulli (n. 5) 133.

16 Indeed truffles have no roots at all, in Theophrastus' view: HP i 6.5.


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