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What the Roman Emperor Tiberius Grew in his Greenhouse Jules Janick Purdue University West Lafayette Indiana 47907-2010, USA.

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Presentation on theme: "What the Roman Emperor Tiberius Grew in his Greenhouse Jules Janick Purdue University West Lafayette Indiana 47907-2010, USA."— Presentation transcript:

1 What the Roman Emperor Tiberius Grew in his Greenhouse Jules Janick Purdue University West Lafayette Indiana 47907-2010, USA

2 Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus 42 BCE to 37 CE ; reign from 14 to 37 CE Villa Jovis

3 Roman Emperor at Jesus Crucifixion New Testament references: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Pontius Pilate being governor of Judeae … Luke 3:1. Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. Matthew 22:17.

4 Two 1 st century Roman works mention Tiberius, protogreenhouse, and cucurbits Luciuis Junius Mereratus Columella De Re Rustica (On Agriculture) Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder) Historia Naturalis (Natural History)

5 Columella Anyone who wishes to have the fruits of cucumis ripe earlier than usual should, when midwinter is past, produced well-manured soil enclosed in baskets and give it a moderate amount of water; then, when the seeds have come up, he should place the baskets in the open air on warm and sunny days near a building, so that they may be protected from any blasts of wind; but if it be cold and stormy, he should bring them back under cover and continue to do so until the spring equinox is over. He should then sink the whole baskets into the ground. He will thus have early fruits. Is also possible, if it be worth the trouble, for wheels to be put under larger vessels, so that they may be brought out and taken indoors again with less labour. In any case the vessels ought to be covered with specularibus so that even in cold weather, when the days are clear, they be safely be brought out into the sun. By this method Tiberius Caesar was supplied with cucumis during almost the whole year. (11, 3, 52–53)

6 Pliny Cucumis was a delicacy for which the emperor Tiberius had a remarkable partiality: in fact there was never a day on which he was not supplied with it, as his kitchen gardeners had cucumis beds mounted on wheels which they moved out into the sun and then on wintry days withdrew under the cover of frames glazed with transparent stone (mica). (19, 23, 64)


8 What is cucumis referred to by both Columella and Pliny? Cucumis generally translated as cucumber Gerard 1597 Ash 1941 (Columella translator) Jones 1951 (Pliny translator) Whitaker and Davis 1962 Kirkbride 1993 Robinson and Decker Walters 1997 Jeffrey 2001

9 Pliny refers to cucumis and cucurbita as: Cartilagenous (pliable) fruits Normally prostrate on the ground but could also climb Cucumis composed of cartilage (pliable skin) and flesh Cucurbita composed of cartilage and rind which becomes woody when ripened

10 Cucumis describes various types of “melon” (Citrullus, Cucumis, Ecballium) Columella Twisted Bluish with swollen womb, hairy Snake like Foul juice Whitish, turns yellow when ripe

11 Chate melon (Vesling 1640) Chate melon ‘Carosello Barese’ (top) and Bet Alfa-type cucumber ‘Shimshon’ (bottom)

12 Cucumber ‘Shimshon’ (left) and snake melon ‘Striped Snake’ (right)

13 Pliny Vary when grown in different regions Grow into any shaper forced to take Blossoms covered with white down Round (quince-like) forms in Campania, & fruit separates from stalk when ripe, aromatic Very large ones in Moesia called pepones (watermelon = Citrullus) Wild cucumis is a source of elaterium (squirting cucumber = Ecballium elaterium) Wild cucumis called colocynthi (Colocynth = Citrullis colocynthis)

14 Cucurbita describes bottle gourd (Lagenaria) Columella Swelling Sometimes hang from arbors Sometimes snake-like If you want long ones, select seed from the neck If you want globular ones, choose seed from midbelly Use for vessels, water pails, wine flask, or floats for teaching boys to swim Pliny Long ones used for culinary purposes Seeds nearest the neck produce long gourds

15 An accurate understanding of the history and development of food plants requires critical evaluation and comparison of widely interdisciplinary evidence from horticulture botany, archaeology, history, and philology (Dalby 2003) Plant iconography has played the most important role in the accurate identification of cucurbit taxa in the Renaissance (Eisendrath 1961) especially with regard to the American genus Cucurbita (Paris 2001). Although, detailed depictions and accurate descriptions of cucurbits are much scarcer in medieval times and antiquity they are scattered but they exist.

16 Egyptian Old Kingdom (3100–2100 BCE ) Villa Farnesina (1515–1518) Korea (1504–1551)Caravaggio 1603 Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)

17 Roman Watermelon Carthage 4 th century Greece 4–5 th century Greece 6 th century

18 Melon (Cucumis melo) from Egypt Egyptian Old Kingdom (1550–1300 BCE ) Egyptian Old Kingdom (1550–1300 BCE ) Egyptian Old Kingdom (1550–1300 BCE ) Egyptian New Kingdom (1517–1192 BCE )

19 Melons from Roman Empire 2 nd –6 th century

20 Tunisia 2 nd centuryThessaloniki 3 nd century

21 Egyptian Old Kingdom (1550–1300 BCE ) Mérida, Spain approx. 4 th century Pierce vires Shimauri stripe

22 Tunisia 3 rd century Lebanon 6 th century Green snake Stripe snake Cucumis melo Flexuosus Tunisia 3 rd century

23 Roman Melons Rome 4 th centuryTunisia 4 th century

24 Bottle gourd Pompeii cupping vessel 1 st century Cucurbitula Latin Sikya Greek Tunisia 2 nd century Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria)

25 Jonah and the gourd Turkey 270–280 Tunisia 3 rd –4 th century Aquileia, Italy 4 th century

26 Villa Farnesina 1515–1518 Lagenaria siceraria var. longissima

27 Lagenaria siceraria var. a fiasco

28 Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) Greece 1677

29 Sicily

30 Colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis) Dioscorides, De Materia Medica Aniciae Julianae Codex, ca. 512

31 Squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium ) Temple of Karnak 1450 BCE Juliana Anicia Codex 512 Israel 2007

32 Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) 1335

33 Lochis Madonna, 1480, Carlo Crivelli

34 Villa Farnesina 1515–1518 Cucumis sativus

35 Cucumber Pisa Cathedral 1601

36 Still Life with Vegetables and Fruits, 1602–1603 Juan Sanchez Cotan

37 Conclusions The cucumis beloved by Tiberius appears to be Cucumis melo Flexuosus Group and not cucumber based on: 1.Descriptions of cucumis in Columella and Pliny excludes cucumber (snake-like, hairy). 2.The tubercules common on the fruit which would have been noticed are not mentioned. 3.Absence of any cucumber images in antiquity. 4.First images of cucumber are found in 1335 suggesting cucumber arriving late in Europe probably with mogul invasions of the west beginning with Genghis Khan. 5.Subsequent images of cucumber in the West are very similar indicating the introduction of one specific type. The mistranslation of cucumis for cucumber is probably due to the similarity of its name with cucumis and cucurbita.

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