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What the Roman Emperor Tiberius Grew in his Greenhouse

What the Roman Emperor Tiberius Grew in his Greenhouse

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What the Roman Emperor Tiberius Grew in his Greenhouse

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  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 1st century Roman works mention Tiberius, protogreenhouse, and cucurbits • Luciuis Junius Mereratus ColumellaDe 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)

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

  8. 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

  9. 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

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

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

  12. 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)

  13. 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

  14. 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.

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

  16. Roman Watermelon Carthage 4th century Greece 4–5th century Greece 6th century

  17. 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)

  18. Melons from Roman Empire 2nd–6th century

  19. Tunisia 2nd century Thessaloniki 3nd century

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

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

  22. Roman Melons Rome 4th century Tunisia 4th century

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

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

  25. Villa Farnesina 1515–1518Lagenaria siceraria var. longissima

  26. Lagenaria siceraria var. a fiasco

  27. Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria)Greece 1677

  28. Sicily

  29. Colocynth(Citrullus colocynthis) Dioscorides, De Materia MedicaAniciae Julianae Codex,ca. 512

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

  31. Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) 1335

  32. Lochis Madonna, 1480, Carlo Crivelli

  33. Villa Farnesina 1515–1518Cucumis sativus

  34. CucumberPisa Cathedral 1601

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

  36. Conclusions • The cucumis beloved by Tiberius appears to be Cucumis melo Flexuosus Group and not cucumber based on: • Descriptions of cucumis in Columella and Pliny excludes cucumber (snake-like, hairy). • The tubercules common on the fruit which would have been noticed are not mentioned. • Absence of any cucumber images in antiquity. • 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. • 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.