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Xiloaloes .g. lignum aloes.


Xiloaloes is Greek for the wood of aloe.


The entry refers to the Greek word ξυλαλόη /xylaloē/, a compound from ξύλον /xylon/ {"wood"} and ἀλόη /aloē/ {"aloe"}. It is in the genitive case following the most common type of case for the ingredients of compound drugs. Greek υ /y/ is phonetically transcribed into the itacist 'i' and pronounced accordingly. Although an interior elision would normally be expected to occur (with the expulsion of the omikron o /o/ in ξύλον /xylon/ before the alpha α /a/ in ἀλόη /aloe/), Simon's form retains the omicron o /o/ by analogy to the orthography of other entries beginning with the compound stem /xilo-/, such as xilobalsamum or xilocarti.

Xylaloē is usually identified as aloe-wood, a resinous heartwood from Aquilaria trees Aquilaria spp., large evergreens native to Southeast Asia. Since antiquity the identification of xylaloē was not clear. Celsus and Pliny seem to conflate xylaloē/ {aloe-wood} with true aloē/ Aloe spp L., while Dioscorides gives an account of aloe-wood using the name ἀγάλοχον ξύλον /agalochon xylon/. The earliest attested use of the Greek term xylaloē is given by Aetius of Amida. In the eleventh century Symeon Seth provides a long description of the plant. Although there is no reference of xylaloē in John the Physician's Therapeutics, Zipser (2009: 368), it is extensively used by Nicholas Myrepsos in his Dynameron -a huge Byzantine compilation of pharmacological recipes contemporary with clavis sanationis.

For example, see Celsus, De Medicina, 5, 1, ed. Spencer (1935-8); Pliny, Natural History, 20, 142, ed. Rackham (1938-63); Dioscorides Pedanius, De materia medica, 1, 22, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: I.27-8) [[1]]; Aetius of Amida, Libri medicinales, 1, 131, ed. Olivieri (1935-50: I.66) [[2]]; Symeon Seth, Syntagma de alimentorum facultatibus, ed. Langkavel (1868: 74-5) [[3]]; and Nicholas Myrepsos, Dynameron, ed. Fuchs (1549: 2. 21-2) [[4]].

Further discussion in Miller (1969: 34-6, 65-7); and Scarborough (1982: 135-43).

Petros Bouras-Vallianatos 11:00, 29 October 2011 (BST)

See also: Agalugim, Aloa, Aloes, Eniugum

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