In his ancient list of "white gems," Isidore of Seville mentions the "cinaedia," which he describes as follows:

Cinaedia is found in the brain of a fish with the same name; it is white and oblong. People say that with it they predict calm or storm at sea (Etymologies 16.10.8)

This seems to match the description of a lucky stone, except that freshwater drums (Aplodinotus grunniens) would hardly have been endemic to Isidore's (Old World) setting. What fish could Isidore have been referring to?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Otoliths are common (if not ubiquitous) among fish. I think the solution is to figure out what fish would have been called Cinaedia, which isn't so much a biology question as a Spanish language or etymology question. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Jun 1, 2021 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ @kmm It would be a Latin question, not Spanish but I think you're right and this is not really on topic. I posted an answer since I did find a reference, but I'll also vote to close. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jun 1, 2021 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question as off topic because it isn't really about Biology but about what a specific Latin name for a fish meant. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jun 1, 2021 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


Turns out there's a paper that has looked into this: Christopher John Duffin (2007). Fish Otoliths and Folklore: A Survey. Folklore, 118(1), 78–90. doi:10.2307/30035398. The paper investigates the history and folklore associated with fish otoliths, and includes the following note:

Claudius Aelianus (On the Characteristics of Animals IX. 7; see Aelian 1959) (c. 175-235) suggested that "Cinaedius" might be the Bass, and thus synonymous with Lupus.

So, based on my (very) cursory reading of the paper, it looks like it isn't entirely clear what fish was referred to by the name Cinaedius in Latin, but Bass is a contender.

  • $\begingroup$ Seems that leaves the question "which bass", especially given the diversity of species that carry that label, though at least it's more narrow than "fish". $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 1, 2021 at 19:07

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