events… and evolution of an emblem on f.86v – III-d

bennu detailElevation and keen sight are constant characteristics for these winged figures, whether pictured as avian or anthropomorphically,  and are appropriately implied again by the Voynich  ‘phoenix’ / ‘Angel of the Rose’ . Unlike the Egyptians’ bennu, the Voynich figure appears to rise from the palm, or from the wings of that ‘Persian Pole’ depicted in  Chronograph of 354 Junethe Chronograph of 354 two centuries before Zeno’s ‘Victory’ coin[1] was minted in Byzantium.

Elevation over the earth and mastery at sea are ideas regularly combined in the ancient imagery, and as we see the type evolve in coins made for Sinope, I hope it will be clear why I attribute first enunciation of the Voynich figure to a cultural environment that was Hellenistic, and to a time before the 3rdC AD.

Our first example (below) was minted  while the Milesian colony lay under Achaemenid Persian control, governed by the Satrap  Ariathes I (365-322 BC). Thewhip-like object (to the left edge of the obverse) is a ship’s aplustre, a symbol of supremacy at sea that  Rome would later adopt as mark of its victory over the Carthaginians.

coin Sinope under Persian Satrap 365-322 BC
coin Sinope under Persian rule. 365-322 BC

In this and the images following, the bird-and-fish motif is less a sign of  opposition than of complementarity,  again  just in the emblem on f.86v (Beinecke 85v and 86r) where we have the bird above, the ‘fishtail’ below, and both forming  a single, almost precisely reversible, whole which is at once divided and united by the ‘mirror line’ of the rose.

fol 86v Northwest Rosa mundifol 86v detail northwest angel only flipped









Another coin, near contemporary with our first example and made for another Black Sea colony, Sinoe (later known as Istros) shows more clearly the thinking behind these images: this is an idea of complement-and-opposite which is at once dualistic and expressive of symbiosis.

coin istros-obol-Moneta-Nova-117
coin Istros 4thC BC

That the makers had so sophisticated a way of thought is proven by the name given another site in this region, the harbour we call  Balaklava but which Strabo knew as Synvolon-limen – a name which he supposed meant “the signals harbour”, but it wasn’t quite the original sense of the ancient Greek Synbolon.

Already near-archaic when Aeschylus used it, ‘synbolon’ had meant two halves of a whole, each of which is incomplete without the other.  And rather remarkably, that is just how the word was understood by Isidore, writing in seventh-century Spain.. He uses the form ‘symbolon’ to mean an difference between two things near-identical.

He mentions it when speaking of that unseen ‘symbolon’ of the heart, the token distinguishing the true bearer of the message, as he writes in Book II of De Ecclesiasticus Officiis :

“.. this practice [of conferring the symbolon] is also employed in civil wars, because the appearance of the arms being the same, and the way of speaking the same, and [both sides] having the same ways of living, and modes of fighting, so to prevent being taken in by deceit, each leader will give his soldiers different symbolon, [called in Latin either ‘sign’ or ‘proof’], so that in the event of any confusion, the soldier .. may produce his symbolon to show whether he is an ally or an enemy”.

The harbour of Synbolon lay below that promontory on which, even in the fourteenth century, there stood an ancient temple remembered as having been built by the hands of angeloi,  ‘winged messengers’ with their tokens, and it was these, rather than ordinary ‘signals’ which we must suppose had earlier been exchanged there. [1]

With its traveller’s hat, the world-rose below, and an object like a scroll (as symbolon?) in its hand, the Voynich ‘angel’ is informed by a way of thought appropriate to the pre-Roman period and, I’d suggest, to the maritime environment of the Black Sea.

Angel rose Jason Davies image (cleaned up)During the 4thC BC, as Sinope passed from Achaemenid to Hellenistic control, Sinopian coins show a sudden change in form, and within a few decades the imagery is affected by a distinctly Phoenician style.

coin Sinope 4thC BC
coin Sinope 4thC BC

Sinope 4thC BC Tyrian eagle

The following century, within the Hellenistic period proper ( Alexander was born in 356 BC and died in 323 BC) now Sinope’s  guiding spirit is pictured as ‘nymph’ in a turretted crown – another type familiar from the Voynich manuscript, and particularly its astronomical and allegorical figures.  The bird is much closer to the later Phoenix, while its design again hints at that distinction between near-identical halves, as symbolon.  in this coin we see what would become a distinguishing mark of Christian Armenian art: the  avoidance of any perfect lateral symmetry in forming an image. To use the Latin: difference between sinister and dexter might be small but must be discerned.

coin Sinope Black Sea 3rdC BC nymph turretted
coin SInope 3rdC BC – ‘nymph’ in turretted crown

And just so, representing the earth’s extent by the axis, and its surface by the Rose, the Voynich ‘angel’ or Phoenix expresses that complementary-but-distinct, symbolon. Not only in its form, but its informing thought, this image belongs to the pre-Christian world.

Angel rose Jason Davies image (cleaned up)Roman supremacy makes its presence felt in the Black Sea from the late centuries BC, and brings a predictable replacement of the ensouled animal image with that of an anthropoform figure.  The example shown below was minted for Sinope during the 1stC BC and shows the ‘nike’ now as if balanced on one extended foot – just as the Voynich figure appears to do.

It is not my habit to adjust these images, but for readers who may be unable to see the shape within its wings, I add an outline below:

coin Black Sea Sinope detail dancer
coin of Sinope. 1stC BC

angel of the Rose body line In Christian tradition, wings of this type do not occur, the nearest being the ‘bat-wings’ sometimes given animals or others considered evil, or demonic.   I do not think that  the first maker of the Voynich figure has intended us to read it that way, and I doubt he was aware of any such convention. It is plainly not an idea produced from the repertoire of medieval Latins art.

The bird’s ‘measuring eye’ was initially implied by its form, but that character and its obedience is represented in the Roman habit by the inclusion of a branch of the Phoenix palm.  The example below is another Roman-era coin, this time produced for Tyre, and it is amusing to realise that with coins of this type, Ptolemy’s Marinos may have bought his bread.Notice too the ‘ribbed’ appearance of the bird’s plumage. Such imagery was only seen on Tyrian coins under the Romans (  c.126 BC to c.AD 66) and probably served as propaganda, identifying the  Phoenix as servant of Jove, and (on the obverse) the deity Melqart with the emperor.

tyre-shekel-rAs symbol of the servant utterly faithful, the palm’s significance was maintained into the Christian era. It is recognisably the Phoenix palm in works produced in England as late as the eleventh century. (see e.g.  Bodleian MSJunius II, page 3) .

Before ending this post I might mention another image of the palm and servant ‘angel’  because I believe that an image very like that shown below has informed the emblem in the Voynich calendar which is inscribed with the name of September. [ 3] The organisation and proportions of these images, together with the hat’s angularity, and the elevation of a ‘starry shield’ in each are similarities of content greater,  in my opinion, that any difference in presentation, but the reader must decide it they see it, or not.

medallion Hellenistic celeb Nearchus voyageThe medallion was made shortly after Alexander’s death, to commemorate the achievements of Nearchus, Alexander’s admiral and one renowned as a wayfarer by land and sea.  He is shown wearing the short skirt that is also given the Sinopian ‘nike’. That skirt had been the master-mariner’s  from the time of ancient Crete, and is also seen in Hittite imagery from Anatolia. Cretan by birth, Nearchus is thought to have been of Hittite descent and his reputation as master of the ways saw him worshipped as near-divine in Alexander’s world. What I consider to have been a  process of translation, here, results in differences no great than might occur, for example, if a rubbing taken from the original were used as basis for a drawing.  But what is required for that ‘translation’ – if such it was – shows just how little was needed to render ancient style and thought into ones more nearly acceptable to a medieval Christian before that “revival of the pagan gods”.

fol 72r-ii centre blog fairy The palm-tree on its distant hill has been interpreted as no more than flower on a hillock, yet its size relative to the main figure is retained.

More interesting is evidence of a Semitic language having determined the translation of a shield (‘magen’) to the protective star (‘magen’ cf. Magen David)

We may posit that elimination of the figure’s wings is also a conscious decision  – perhaps to make the figure less ‘pagan’ or remove any suggestion of it as unearthly.   Despite that, the outline of the wings below the shoulder remains, now made part of the figure’s lengthened gown.  As you see, the paint manages to suggest the ridging of the original.

And finally, the single bare leg which would have seemed so incongruous to later minds is covered and the short skirt made no more than a curious inverted scalloping at the front of what is now a wide, gored skirt. The swell of the chest becomes a breast, though whether or not this last translation is intentional or not I couldn’t say.

The image of Nearchus’ shield was probably always meant to suggest the patterns of heaven and earth. Homer wrote of Achilles’ shield:

There shone the image of the master-mind:
There earth, there heaven, there ocean ..
The starry lights that heaven’s high convex crown’d.



[addition of illustrations: 31-4-2016]

the next three posts in this series were intended to:

(e) consider the early association of Sinope, and Anatolia with imagery of the wayfinder and divisions of the globe.  The relationship implied, and stated overtly in some sources, between the form of the globe as precendent to the map.  Related imagery seen on coins made for Sinope in the century before Claudius Ptolemy, associated with Kabeiroi/Dioscuri emblems. Discuss certain early astronomical globes and images attributed to origin in Asia Minor from this time to c.2ndC AD.

coin BlackSea Sinope  Paphlagonia 120-100 BC blog
coin Sinope 120-100 BC
coin Sinope Paphlagonia
coin Sinope 25/4 BC

(f) return to Chioniades’ work in Persia and in Trebizond in relation to updating Ptolemy’s data. Follow the non-Latin line of transmission through the Aegean to the western Mediterreanean, considering particularly astronomical works produced for and/or by Jews. The former MS Sassoon 823 (MS Schoenberg LJS 057) is, for many reasons, of signal importance to our study in my opinion  and has been referenced in earlier posts here, including by way of Elly Decker’s article footnoted in the present series (III-c, note 2).

(g) recap other items in the manuscript which informed my conclusion that the early Hellenistic era, rather than the time of Claudius Ptolemy, saw first enunciation of imagery found in this manuscript.  These items include imagery of the “Drioscuri” in the Greek tradition, and the “Kabeiroi” in the Phoenician.  A second and noticeable chronological stratum I have dated to about the 1st-3rdC AD.  I continue to attribute the present form of the roots in the botanical section to the mid-twelfth to mid-thirteenth centuries, though in this I believe I remain alone.  I attribute making of  what forms our current manuscript  – what I term its ‘manufacture’ to c.1427 and the region of the Veneto. I continue in the opinion that it is compiled from works which had not previously been part of the Latins’ corpus, and while I am able to agree in theory that the main body of text was written by Latin scribes, I do not find sufficient evidence to suggest that idea proven.

coin Syros Kabeiroi c150BC detail stars

Unfortunately (from my point of view) recent events and other pressures of work  make it uncertain just when I will be able to find time to write up more of this material for the online ‘Voynich community’.


I would again make the point, because I understand from Stephen Bax that an idea  circulates that I merely “tie threads together”  that this notion is deceptive. What is written up here is all a product of original research, tying together my past and present studies.  Because I have spent most of the time on this project working from non-Voynich academic studies,  I have been eager to hear of and to acknowledge any Voynich writer who earlier reached a conclusion, or made an informed point, agreeing with my own. This has often, necessarily, taken the form of a retrospective ‘comment’ added by me as postscript after a post was published here.

Whether or not  that earlier writer’s work was known to me or had any effect at all on my work, I have always added a note acknowledging those of which I later learned.  My only condition is that the writer showed some evidence of having done his or her resarch, and took responsibility for the conclusion.  Kite-flying is so often and so wrongly called ‘theory” among Voynicheros, and passing moments of day-dreaming used as a means to claim credit, that these conditions are necessary. A frivolous comment made decades ago on a private mailing list or a vague ‘idea’ never followed up or written up elsewhere, is not in my opinion sufficient reason to lay claim to use, or co-opt another’s research conclusions without proper citation and acknowledgement – as is regularly done by one or two of the ‘Voynich community’.  Having an ‘idea’ is not the same as forming conclusions after research; the history of ideas is not the record of idle speculations.

Before I formed and published an opinion here, days or weeks of research were required.  In some cases, what I publish in a short sentence may be informed by both research and my professional experience. In that sense only, my posts “tie threads together”.

Those noticing what they consider errors of fact are very welcome to leave a comment or send me an email.


[1] a tremissis.

[2] Herodotus, Histories 8.98

[3] The important contributions to readings of the Voynich calendar’s month names have been made, first, by Jorge Stolfi who suggested Occitan; then Shaun Palmer in 2004, and by Nick Pelling who followed -and acknowledged- the original works correctly in his own book of 2008, adding to the investigation. Next, in my opinion, is the view of Artur Sixto, who argued for a Judeo-Occitan or Judeo-Catalan, then the investigation by Thomas Sauvaget, who differed from these on some points, and finally the very interesting discovery, recently, by Don Hoffmann that the orthography is closely matched by that on certain astronomical instruments made in northern France. Other bloggers and keepers of web-pages habitually repeat the content of these original researchers, some correctly assigning due credit, but many others preferring to cite only those agreeing with a theory they prefer.  One or two who espouse the ‘central European’ idea have shown themselves especially prone to omitting, minimising, or disparaging  work which runs counter to that hypothesis.


12 Replies to “events… and evolution of an emblem on f.86v – III-d”

  1. About the dating of the root figures: in a recent post you made a convincing argument that certain conventions, like the way to depict water plants, can be traced to a certain place and time. I see no reason to disagree. The real mnemonics are Hellenistic though. I love that nike coin you posted: her dress and wings match the roots of the plant I discuss in my ‘finding a myth’ post, to the last feather 😉

    That the month figure was also a Nike is surprising, but I do see the parallel and think you are right. Another mystery explained 🙂

    This would mean though, that the plant mnemonics are more openly Hellenistic. Another example is the eagle root in the big plants section, which looks just like the eagle coin you posted.


    1. I don’t know if the image on the medallion is meant for a ‘nike’, but perhaps an allegorical figure for the spirit of the way-finder, or something of that sort.
      Although you could be right; we have so few left that for all we know the figure could have been modelled on a nike once well known.

      Your treatment of the ‘roots and leaves’ section is your own, but I don’t see why you think the Hercules and related legends are specifically Hellenistic. We find them pictured long before the days of Alexander and long after the end of the Hellenistic era. I guess every Byzantine schoolboy knew of Hercules and the hydra and the other figures you mention. So why particularly Hellenistic?


  2. Not all of the images are Hellenistic. For example, Heracles’ posture is found in earlier artwork. However, quite a number of them show clear signs of Hellenistic art. I have to finish my post about that.
    One matter is particularly difficult. Some mnemonics contain narrative elements, i.e. things that weren’t pictured often (or at all) but that you can understand right away you know the story. Now, if I find a story as told by Ovid, did the artist use Ovid as a source? That would push the date forward to at least the first century AD. However, Ovid used Hellenistic sources, and sometimes changed a lot, sometimes stayed true to the myth. So what did those sources say? We don’t know. And what were the sources for those sources? And so on.

    Taking everything together, it all seems to gravitate around and towards the Hellenistic period though. But I hope that will become clear when I finish my post.

    Have you read the Cadmus post already? 🙂 That’s a good example of what I’d call a narrative mnemonic. There’s no immediately recognizable depiction – you couldn’t recognize Cadmus just by a stance or an attribute. So they used narrative elements instead. And the elements in that story point towards Ovid, or his Hellenistic sources.


  3. As I see it, you have a hefty historical and art-history problem to explain, namely why – when imagery produced by the Greeks is inevitably lucid, and that of the Romans invariably literal in form – neither attitude to imagery is reflected in these roots, neither their form nor conception. If they are intended to evoke the idea of a Greek hero, or a narrational sequence, I really can’t imagine that any Hellenistic Greek would express the idea using such rubbery-looking forms, and the same applies for a classical Roman draughtsman. So I think you’d need to explain why this type of ‘hand’ appears here, and why not all the roots are so drawn in the ‘roots and leaves’ section. If the first makers were Hellenistic Greeks, then why didn’t they draw like Hellenistic Greeks? Or if you posit the effect of time, and location, and culture upon originally Greek or Roman imagery, then which ones would you argue responsible for that change?

    In principle, there is nothing to object to about the idea of the roots’ being formed as mnemonics. Nor would I see any objection from history in a mnemonic sequence’s taking a classical Greek narrative as frame for such a series. I do not think it so likely that it would depend upon a set text; after all, the whole aim of any mnemonic system is to link what is already ‘second nature’ to newer matter. But what we see is simply not drawn in Hellenistic or in Roman style; and and many of the roots, as you describe them, even lack the body-parts on which we’d normally depend to recognise any figure – so I think that you would need some pretty comprehensive corpus of comparative material – and not just any but from a localised region and/or time-frame, if you wanted to explain how posited Hellenistic forms became ones of the sort seen now.

    It’s the usual problem in explanations of the Voynich manuscript, whether text or imagery. The ‘Eureka’ moment has to be followed by many where the proponent appears dry and fully clothed (as it were).


    1. I agree with that. Today I’m finishing my post about where the art originally came from. I’ll try to make it more acceptable that these images have been with these plants – in one form or another – for two thousand years. That’s when the original selection must have taken place.

      How they got their current form, I’m not sure. Perhaps this was done much later – but with remarkable respect for the original imagery. I’d have no problem with that, but the original images were Hellenistic.

      I agree to some extent to what you say about them depending on a set text – that actually solves my Ovid problem. It’s much more likely that, in those cases where a mnemonic matches the set text, they both go back on a popular previous version of the myth, known from earlier texts, oral traditions or both. Some of these tales must have been really well known, which does make them excellent material for mnemonic linking.

      The heads being omitted is an art historical problem. Hellenistic cultures were just fine with heads. I don’t know who did this and why. It’s not a mnemonic problem though. All of these figures had telling features outside of their heads. It’s like saying that you can’t bring across the visual idea of Christ without his head, because you need to draw the beard and the halo there for people to recognize him. But there are other means: put him on a cross and everybody will know you mean Christ.


      1. The other problem you have, of course, is that the type of containers shown in the same section have no counterpart in any Mediterranean artefacts: not those known from archaeology, nor from the range of classical Greek and Hellenisic painting. Believe me – positing Hellenistic origins for the “root and leaf” section is going to be very difficult. And frankly, I don’t think you need to, but it’s your argument and I hope you continue to enjoy the work. You’re fortunate in coming to the subject after Voynich ninja was begun. For the past twelve years or so, we’ve had nothing like it.

        I do hold the opinion that we find Hellenistic character in the botanical folios, and in the map, and even in the ‘bathy-‘ section and calendar, but as it happens, I date first enunciation of the ‘root and leaf’ section to the 1st-3rdC AD, though I’d be willing to consider a time as late as the 8thC. One reason for my dating it to that time is the form of those same containers. I myself would date the present form of ‘rubbery-limbed’ creatures on f.34v to rather later again – precisely because the drawing style is not characteristic of the Mediterranean, though the motifs themselves appeared to me to be. For such alteration to occur takes a fair amount of time and maintenance through that time in a very different cultural environment. In fact, the objections I have offered you in these comments are just the ones which presented to myself, quite a while ago now, because I agree with Mark Fincher that one has to be one’s own severest critic, if for no other reason than to save other people the bother of doing it instead. I’ll admit that the resolution of such issues was a non-trivial undertaking, and I had a bit of a head-start. I do wish you well.


      2. My post if finally finished, you can read it here: .

        It’s possible that examining this section is like digging up an old city – you find one layer built upon the other. I argue though, that the oldest layer is still visible and that it’s Eastern Hellenistic. I wouldn’t have a problem with a 1st C AD dating for this layer – Hellenistic art would still have been present in the Eastern regions and indeed elsewhere because of the Romans. The wide presence of several of these images on Hellenistic coins, though, argues against the Roman theory.

        I see no way these mnemonics would be created for sailors in a time as late as the 8thC. I haven’t studied the jars, but as far as I can see, they are no essential part of this foldout. Maybe they are part of a later layer…

        Well anyway, let me know what you think of the post (and Cadmus as well ;))


      3. As far as Hellenistic culture is concerned, it survived and flourished outside the Roman domains to at least the third century AD. On this you might like to search my posts for the words ‘Begram’ or ‘Bactria’ etc. Some classical and Hellenistic texts – in fact most of those we still have – were preserved in the eastern Christian churches, and by way of copies produced in Baghdad.

        Texts relating to medicine and others, were disseminated from booksellers in Baghdad throughout the Islamic world, to as far as southeast Asia and China. This is known from the Islamic evidence and also from the interesting letter written by an English representative there in the nineteenth century. He purchased about 500 texts including some herbal and medical manuscripts which seem to come from 8th-10thC Baghdad, as he himself describes them in letter to the Royal Society, though ending on a ghastly note – the ship which carried them towards England had foundered.

        About knowledge of the classical deities of Greece and Rome and how knowledge of them survived in art as well as in the Byzantine world – Seznec’s study Survival of the Pagan Gods remains a standard reference, though only for the Mediterranean. His attitudes are notably if unconsciously biased when it comes to other peoples and cultures. He imagines, for example, that the gods of all other peoples were just decayed versions of the Greek and Roman – which it utterly wrong. So when he comes to treat an image of some pre-Islamic Arabian deity labelled ‘Apollo’ he immediately supposes it a debased or decayed version of the Greek deity – that is, an image that is “wrong” rather than an independent figure believed equivalent to the Greek Apollo. In ancient and medieval times, people translated proper names in the same way they translated any other item in the vocabulary. Annoying for us, sometimes, but that was the custom.


      4. PS – I have never said the work was created for sailors; I do think the content relates to the needs of a profession which managed the east-west trade and the manuscript includes a number of folios relating specifically to the mariner’s needs, though not to the ordinary sailor’s I should think.

        I have posited the Radhanites as having brought some of the matter into the west. I should not be surprised to be proven mistaken in that proposal. Another group for which a reasonable argument might be made is the Karimi. But the ‘anthology’ was made to a purpose, and it seems only logical to suppose that purpose expressed by what was included.


      5. Interesting. I’ve been wondering whether it could have been made as preparation for a theoretical journey rather than an actual one. Given the fact that individual traders usually specialized in one section of the trade routes, the extent of the plants’ distribution is too wide to have been made for one person.

        It’s more like: if I were to sail over there, what are the local names for valuable products? And if I need to repair my ships, which plants should I ask for?

        It seems logical that the culturally Greek people, whoever they were, got information from experienced local traders in order to make these drawings.

        PS: looking at the medallion again, it’s definitely modelled after Nike as she appeared on early Hellenistic coins, some minted still in Alexander’s name, and copied by his successors. I give some examples in my Hellenistic Plants post.


      6. Koen, when you say, “individual traders ….” may I ask whether you’ve done much research into the period’s economic history and documents?
        I don’t dispute that a multi-lingual glossary could, conceivably, be the purpose of the ‘roots and leaves’ section as you suggest, but I see no reason to imagine an “authorship” for the work, and no reason to suppose it made for a single person who was about to go trading all on his lonesome. That isn’t the picture I’ve been given by the primary or the secondary sources, and a lone trader probably wouldn’t long survive in the sort of environment which those sources picture. At best you might get someone who was travelling for other reasons, and who managed his travel expenses with a little trade. Ibn Battuta certainly did, and perhaps so did al-Biruni (sorry, memory fails on that point). Sinbad the sailor is also supposed to reflect a situation in about the 12thC, when the Alf Layla wa Layla reached their current form. But generally we find trading networks: sort of transnational ‘companies’ on a smaller scale and it would be communities or companies which were licensed to maintain a funduk – what Georg Barsch might have meant when he spoke of the ‘Thesaurus’ – or at least what his informant might have meant, but which Baresch misunderstood. Genoese and Venetians maintained a few in medieval Egypt, but the majority were owned by non-Europeans. Any such centre for the distribution of eastern products might, conceivably, find a glossary useful too.

        I don’t think the manuscript itself offers sufficient evidence to be adduced in support of any of the current theories, and unless we found that one of the red ‘stamps’ on folio 1 meant something like “please deliver immediately to….” or “this is the property of…” then I doubt even the most reasonably constructed story-line sort of ‘history’ can be other than a form of novel at present. So too my positing any part of the manuscript as used in a funduk. It’s no more than a possibility.


  4. Comments seem to work again. I still wanted to reply here because I expressed myself rather inaccurately last time. What I meant to say was, that a person (be he travelling in group or any other form) would rarely get to see the entire trade route.

    This is relevant if I want to be critical for my own work, because the mnemonics I describe can only function if the intended audience is familiar with:
    a) Ovid or his immediate sources (no problem there), and…
    b) A number of Hellenistic “standard” images.

    So if I want to know who these mnemonics were made for, I have to trace where these images were present to such an extent that they would have been recognized as an emblem, even if they were worked into a plant.

    While initially I entertained the idea that the set of images pointed in the Bactrian direction, I now think they point to Alexandria. The Eastern Hellenistic images that seem to have inspired the mnemonics were all on coins (Dioskouri), while others were universal (three Graces).

    Yesterday, however, I found out that the very first plant in the foldout is based on Tyche/Isis-as-serpent, unambiguously evoking the way she was depicted in Alexandrian carvings in Greco-Roman times.

    Coins move easily, carvings don’t. And I imagine a lot of coins passed from the East through Alexandrian hands.

    Alexandria had a library, where, so they say, all “books of the ships” were copied. Books which, perhaps, even contained information about Artocarpus elasticus 🙂

    So I settle on Alexandria because this was the place where all this information could have been present AND where people were who would have been able to understand the mnemonics AND where this information would have been very useful for some.


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