Crambe

brassica cretica

Κράμβη· κοράμβλη τις οὖσα, ἡ ἀμβλύνουσα τὸ διορατικόν. βέλτιον δὲ ἡ τῷ κάρῳ* ἀντιβαίνουσα. ὅθεν καὶ πρώτη ἐν συμποσίοις δίδοται καὶ παρ’ ἄμπελον οὐ φυτεύεται. καὶ οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι πρὸ τῶν ἄλλων ἐδεσμάτων ἑφθὰς κράμβας ἤσθιον, διὰ τὸ μὴ μεθύσκεσθαι οἴνῳ. (Suda κ2318)

* In the Etymologicum Gudianum and Etymologicum Magnum κόρῳ “satiety? boy?” This spelling is consistent with the folk etymology of κοράμβλη, but makes no more sense.

A kind of pupil-blunter [koramblê] which dulls clear-sightedness. Better [put], [something] going against sleep. Hence it is the first thing served in banquets, and is not planted near a vine. And the Egyptians would eat boiled cabbage before other dishes, so they would not get drunk on wine. (tr. Nick Nicholas, with his note)

Ὁ δὲ Νέστωρ ἐν τῷ ἀλεξικήπῳ αὐτοῦ λέγει, τὴν κράμβην δάκρυον εἶναι τοῦ Λυκούργου. ἡνίκα γάρ, φησίν, ὁ Διόνυσος τοῦτον εὐλαβηθεὶς ἐπὶ τὴν θάλατταν ἔδυ, ὁ δὲ Λυκοῦργος ὑπὸ τῆς ἀμπέλου δεσμευθεὶς δάκρυον ἐπαφῆκεν, ἐκ τοῦ δακρύου λέγει φῦναι τὴν κράμβην, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἀντιπαθῶς ἔχειν πρὸς ἀλλήλας τὴν κράμβην καὶ τὴν ἄμπελον. ἀμέλει, εἴ ποτε κράμβη ἐν ἀρούραις ἐμπελάσει τῇ ἀμπέλῳ, ἢ μαραίνεται παραχρῆμα, ἢ μαραίνει τὸ κλῆμα. (Geoponika 12.17.16-18)

Nestor in his Garden of Health says that the cabbage is the tear of Lykourgos. When Dionysos, to escape from him, sank under the sea, Lykourgos, bound by the vine, shed a tear, and a cabbage – says Nestor – grew from this tear; this is why the cabbage and the vine have a mutual antipathy. Indeed, if cabbage ever approaches closely to vine in the fields, either it is immediately caused to wither, or the vine withers. (tr. Andrew Dalby)

The Attic word for the same vegetable seems to have been ῥάφανος (f.). Athenaeus (Deipnosophistae 1.34c-e) equates them, in any case. Here’s an extract:

Ὅτι δὲ φίλοινοι Αἰγύπτιοι, σημεῖον καὶ τὸ παρὰ μόνοις αὐτοῖς ὡς νόμιμον ἐν τοῖς δείπνοις πρὸ πάντων ἐδεσμάτων κράμβας ἔσθειν ἑφθὰς † μέχρι τοῦ δεῦρο παρασκευάζεσθαι †. καὶ πολλοὶ εἰς τὰς κατασκευαζομένας ἀμεθύστους προσλαμβάνουσι τὸ τῆς κράμβης σπέρμα. καὶ ἐν ᾧ δ’ ἂν ἀμπελῶνι κράμβαι φύωνται, ἀμαυρότερος ὁ οἶνος γίνεται. διὸ καὶ Συβαρῖται, φησὶ Τίμαιος, πρὸ τοῦ πίνειν κράμβας ἤσθιον. Ἄλεξις·

     ἐχθὲς ὑπέπινες, εἶτα νυνὶ κραιπαλᾷς.
κατανύστασον· παύσῃ γάρ. εἶτά σοι δότω
ῥάφανόν τις ἑφθήν.

Εὔβουλος δέ πού φησι·

                                                            γύναι,
ῥάφανόν με νομίσασ’ εἰς ἐμέ σου τὴν κραιπάλην
μέλλεις ἀφεῖναι πᾶσαν, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖς.

(Athenaeus, Deipn. 1.34c-d)

Further evidence that the Egyptians like wine is that they alone customarily eat boiled cabbage before any other food at their dinner parties to be prepared until today .* Many people add cabbage seed to their concoctions designed to prevent getting drunk. And in any vineyard where cabbages grow, the wine is darker. According to Timaeus (FGrH 566 F 47), this is why the Sybarites used to eat cabbage before drinking. Alexis (fr. 287):

     Yesterday you drank a bit, so now you’ve got a hangover.
Take a nap; that will put a stop to it. And then have someone
give you boiled cabbage.

And Eubulus (fr. 124) says somewhere:

                                                                      Woman,
you’ve apparently decided I’m a cabbage, since
you’re trying to shift your entire headache onto me.

* The final clause sits oddly with the rest of the sentence, and there has apparently been some disturbance in the text.

(tr. S. Douglas Olson, with his note)

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