Böhme, W. & T. Koppetsch

In Issues 2021

Snake names in the Greek-Roman antiquity: old characterizations, identity in current zoology, and change of their original meaning in post-Linnean herpetology. pp. 475-501.

Abstract. Snakes have been mentioned and characterized in several Greek and Roman literary works. Here, we present a comparative investigation of texts of antique authors on snakes, according to their knowledge and beliefs of their time. The evaluation of their writings is made from a herpetological perspective and refers to the current identity of the snake species described as well as the biological correctness of the observations made on them, to date mostly done by philologists. A “synonymy” of the specific names by the selected authors over several centuries is provided in a tabular overview. An appendix lists the names of modern, i.e. post-Linnean snake names (genera and species) derived from antique names but denoting in nearly all cases completely different species. 

Key words. Antique knowledge on snakes: Nicander, Pliny the Elder, Lucan and Aelian, current identity, reliability of early descriptions, use of antique names for modern genera and species.

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