Roman Fungi

Regis.Courtecuisse Regis.Courtecuisse at
Fri Nov 22 10:31:17 EST 1996

In article <32909FFB.70B1 at>, Cathouse at says...
>I have been trying to find primary source information about the various
>species of fungi consumed by the ancient Romans.  The copy of Apicius'
>Cookery book which I have been consulting lists recipes for truffles
>(tubera), tree fungi (fungi farnei), and mushrooms (boletos, boleti). 
>The translator has rendered boletos as simply "mushroom" but mentions
>that there is some dispute as to whether "boletos" refers to the common
>agaric or whether it refers to Caesar's mushroom (Amanita caesarea). I
>am puzzled by this as my initial thought was that it referred to Boletus
>edulis which remain one of the most popular mushrooms in Italy.  Is
>there a taxonomist out there who knows the solution to my problem?  If
>"boletos" in primary sources does refer to Boletus edulis can anyone
>tell me what the ancient Romans called Amanita caesarea?  Anyone
>information at all related to this would be very much appreciated and
>can either be posted or better yet e-mailed to: Cathouse at
>Thanks, Judith.

Hi Judith,

	The name "Boletus" is classically referred to, in mycological 
litterature, as the latin name for Amanita caesarea.
	For example, in Marchand's "Champignons du Nord et du Midi, 
vol.1:20 (1971)", we can read about Amanita caesarea : "Les romains la 
nommaient "Boletus" ou encore "mets des dieux"".
	Several other references tell this interpretation of the word 
	More serious and scientifically reliable is probably the work by 
M.A.Donk (1955), The generic names proposed for Hymenomycetes -IV. 
Boletaceae. Reinwardtia 3(2):275-313, were we find the following data 
(p.278-279) :
etymology, from greek or, rather, Roman fungus name...  "The name ... 
boletus is an ancient one. The Romans used it for instance for Amanita 
caesarea... and perhaps others mushrooms were also indicated by that 
	That is not quite surprising when you know that this name 
(Boletus) was also used, along mycological history, to name fungi as 
different as morels, Phallales, polypores and others...
	Hope this helps.
	Sincerely yours.

	Regis Courtecuisse
	Departement de Botanique
	Faculte des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques
	B.P. 83. F-59006 Lille Cedex
	Regis.Courtecuisse at

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