The Meaning of Wine

Wine (vinum) is so called because it is a drink that quickly refills the veins (venas)with blood. Others call it Lyaeus, because it loosens (solvat) us from our cares. The ancients called wine (vinum) venom (venenum); but after poison from a deadly sap was discovered, they called the one wine, and the other venom.

Vinum inde dictum quod eius potus venas sanguine cito repleat. Hoc alii, quod nos cura solvat, Lyaeum appellant. Veteres vinum venenum vocabant; sed postquam inventus est virus letiferi sucus, hoc vinum vocatum, illud venenum.

—Isidore, Etymologicae 20.3.2

Isidore on the Fate of Athaulf

In the era of 448 [410 C.E.], the seventeenth of Honorius’ rule and the first of Theodosius II, when Alaric had died after the city [of Rome] was captured, Athaulf was put into power as king of Italy by the Goths for the next six years. In the fifth year of his reign he left Italy and went to Gaul, where he took Placidia, Emperor Theodosius’ daughter whom the Goths had captured at Rome, as his bride. Some believed that this fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel, who said that the daughter of the king of the South would be married to the king of the North, but without any offshoot from her line surviving. And just so, that same prophet adds in the following, “And her offspring will not endure.” And she bore no son who might succeed the father in his rule. Then Athaulf, after he left Gaul and while he was heading for Spain, had his throat cut by one of his own men during a friendly conversation at Barcelona.

Aera CDXLVIII, anno imperii Honorii XVII, et primo Theodosii Minoris, Alarico post captam Urbem defuncto, Athaulfus a Gothis Italiae regno praeficitur annis VI. Iste, quinto regni anno de Italia recedens, Gallias adiit, Placidiam Theodosii imperatoris filiam, quam Romae Gothi ceperant, conjugem sibi assumpsit. In qua prophetia Danielis a quibusdam creditur fuisse completa, qui ait filiam regis Austri conjungendam regi Aquilonis, nulla tamen de germine ejus sobole subsistente. Sicut, et idem in sequentibus propheta subjungit dicens: Nec stabit semen ejus [Dan 11.6]. Nullus enim de utero illius exstitit genitus, qui patris in regno succederet. Athaulfus autem dum, relictis Galliis, Hispanias peteret, a quodam suorum apud Barcinonam inter familiares fabulas jugulatur.

—Isidore of Seville, Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum 19

Isidore on the Secret Life of Bees

“Bees” [apes] are called that either because they bind themselves to one another with their feet [pes], or because they are born without feet [a-pes]. Later they get both feet and wings. They are skilled at the process of making honey and live in assigned places; they construct their homes with indescribable skill. They establish honeycombs with wax woven together from various flowers, and fill up the hive with countless offspring. They have kings and an army, and provoke battles; they flee from smoke and are disturbed by commotion.

Many people through experience know that they are born from the corpses of cattle. To create these, the flesh of dead calves is beaten so that worms are created from the rotting gore; later, these become bees. Those arising from oxen are properly called “bees,” those from horses “hornets,” those from mules “drones,” and those from donkeys “wasps.”

The Greeks call the larger ones that are born in the most remote parts of the honeycombs “costri.” Some think that they are kings. They are called this because they lead the camps [castra]. The drone is a larger than a bee, smaller than a hornet, and it is called a “drone” [fugus] because it eats what others have worked on, like a glutton [φαγός], for it eats without having done the work. Virgil says about them, “Idle cattle keep drones away from the hives.”

Wasps . . . Hornets [Scabrones] are so called from “horse” [cabus, caballus], which is what they are created from. But just as hornets are born from the rotting flesh of horses, so too are scarabs often born from these, from which they get their name.

Apes dictae, vel quod se pedibus invicem alligent, vel pro eo quod sine pedibus nascuntur. Nam postea et pedes et pinnas accipiunt. Haec sollertes in generandi mellis officio adsignatas incolunt sedes, domicilia inenarrabili arte conponunt, ex variis floribus favum condunt textisque ceris, innumera prole castra replent, exercitum et reges habent, proelia movent, fumum fugiunt, tumultu exasperantur.

Has plerique experti sunt de boum cadaveribus nasci. Nam pro his creandis vitulorum occisorum carnes verberantur, ut ex putrefacto cruore vermes creentur, qui postea efficiuntur apes. Proprie tamen apes vocantur ortae de bobus, sicuti scabrones de equis, fuci de mulis, vespae de asinis.

Costros Graeci appellant, qui in extremis favorum partibus maiores creantur: quos aliqui reges putant. Dicti quod castra ducant. Fugus est maior ape, scabrone minor. Dictus autem fugus quod alienos labores edat, quasi fagus; depascitur enim quod non laboravit. De quo Vergilius [Georg. 4.168]: Ignavum fucos pecus a praesepibus arcent.

Vespae . . . Scabrones vocati a cabo, id est a caballo, quod ex eis creentur. Sicut autem scabrones nascuntur de equorum carnibus putridis, ita ex his iterum saepe nascuntur scarabaei; unde et cognominati sunt.

—Isidore, Etymologicae 12.8.1–4