From the Dictionary of Medieval Latin in Czech Lands: Spongius and Rugana
Listy filologické / Folia philologica, 2014; Series: Volume 137, number 3/4
Digital resource (JSTOR)
The main aim of this article is to identify the origin and meaning of two Latin zoological terms in the works of Thomas of Cantimpré and Czech medieval lexicographer Bartholomaeus de Solencia dictus Claretus, especially of the word rugana that have remained obscure until present days. Both works employ names of animals that are extremely difficult to interpret either semantically or linguistically and whose Greek or Latin origin is not immediately clear. Most of them are attached to animals the description of which Thomas claims to be derived from Aristotle. Aristotle's term denoting different varieties of sponges, which are found throughout the Mediterranean Sea, reached the Middle Ages not only through Pliny the Elder and classical Latin name spongia, but also via translations of Aristotle into Arabic and then into Latin. Thomas used the Latin version of the Aristotle's work Historia animalium translated from Arabic by Michael Scotus. Due to phonetical differencies between these languages as well as inaccuracies and mistakes in both translations, the text of Aristotle and the forms of the original Greek names were variously modified. The sponge is described at Michael Scotus under the name gamen, that probably comes from the Arabic word gajm, "cloud'', "sea sponge''; it is very likely that the word rugana that we found in medieval encyclopaedias, including those of Czech origin, is the result of deformation of the term gamen and of its connection with the preceding preposition in (misread as ru).
Last update January 12, 2023