Naturally, the word antichiton or anchiton looks like a Greek word built of anti(pref.)-chiton(root) or an(pref.)-chiton(root), where an- and anti- are prefixes: a- or an-, “not, without”; anti- “against, opposed to, opposite of, instead”; and the root “chiton”, which can be a Latin transcription of “χιτων” (a tunic) or “κητων” (a whale), etc. Obviously, there is no sense in this combination in the needed context. Hebrew (khettonet) and Aramaic “cheton” (also “keton”, “kheton”, etc.) originally implies flax or linen, or linen clothes.
Read here and here .
As it was mentioned, asbestos frequently was called “flax”, “stone-flax”, “mountain flax”, “linum vivum” (Pliny the Elder), etc. So, I see here a strong possibility.
1."Asbestos and Fire: Technological Tradeoffs and the Body at Risk” (read a very detailed and interesting history here)
2.Asbestos and Other Fibrous Materials: Mineralogy, Crystal Chemistry, and ...
I suppose that the original word was “antichiton”, indeed, afterwards it was shortened to “anchiton”. This word, on my opinion, is a connection of the Greek preposition “anti” and the borrowed Hebrew word “cheton” (linen), which means “instead of linen” or “as a substitute for linen cloth”. Perhaps, it implies rather asbestine (linen) cloth, then flax or asbestos itself.
It is notable, as well:
1.Cod. C (III cap.26 ed. Didot p. 138 b)
[Alexander praised the Deity and built copper gates, which he smeared with “asicheton”, a substance which would make it impossible to “decopper” the gates, i.e. it would make it impossible for fire or iron to damage the copper plating. Inside of the gates, until the plane, he planted thorns, which ended up covering the mountains.]
2.Cod. B (III cap. 29 ed. Didot p. 142 (?) seq.)
[The Lord makes the mountains move again and Alexander builds a copper gate. He covers it on both sides with “asochiton” (or asichyton, asycheton), so it would become impossible to “decopper” them. Because it extinguishes fire and crushes iron.]
So, the Legend about Alexander the Great was translated in X century, reedited in XI c. and in XIV c. with corrections. Most likely, editors doubted in the word of our interest, therefore changed it every time. I have no idea, whether the original Greek text is spared or not, it would be great to check it.
On my opinion, the word, transcribed as “asicheton”, “asychiton”, “asycheton” or “asochiton”, in fact, likely “ασικητον”, could be an alternative (ancient?) spelling of the word “αθικτος,ον" (athiktos,on), where the sound “th” was changed to “s” (Question: Is it possible?). This word means intactus, integer, illibatus, intemeratus (Latin), in English - not to be touched, intact, inviolable, undamaged, undefiled, pure, sacred. For what it worth, it is an almost absolute synonym of the word “amianton”, which is an adjective with the meaning undefiled and a name for asbestos.
1) Anchiton can be a shortened version of the word antichiton, which can mean a substance, similar to / replacing linen cloth ("anti cheton"). It seems that it has very ancient roots;
2) Amianton is well known name of asbestos in Greek nowadays, literally it means “not polluted”, “not defiled”, “pure” or “virgin”, but there is a word with the similar original meaning and the same meaning in tote. This word is “αθικτος” (athiktos), in English – literally “not touched”, “intact”, also “virgin”, “pure”, “sacred”. Latin glossaries translate the Latin word “intactus” into Greek as “αθικτος” and “αμιαντος”. The word athiktos is a quite consonant to the word “, probably, “ασικητος”, mentioned in translations of the legend about Alexander the Great, Gog and Magog, as a fabric, which was to protect the Iron gates from corrosion and fire;
3) Asbestos and, quite possibly, asbestine cloth was known to people from early times. But medieval scholars most likely only met mentions about this enigmatic and sacred thing in ancient documents and seem to not understand clearly, what this is until the end of XVI century, therefore transcriptions of Greek words, which implied this substance were often distorted and their meaning – substituted by another things (soapstone, lime-stone, plants, wood, etc.)
I find very strange and interesting that the “Historia de proeliis” translations of X-XIV century describe a substance (protecting gates from fire) with pretty similar properties as “amianton” of Saint Basil and Hieronimus, and “anchiton” (ligni genus vel ligno simile) of Nicholas of Lyra. Was there another earlier sources with the same word and its transcription? It is a riddle.
I can’t be sure that exactly Nicholas of Lyra, using St. Jerome’s (or Beda’s?) quote, changed the word amianton to anchiton in his critical work. Both: Domingo Banez in his Scholastica commentaria in primam partem ... S. Thomae: a quastione LXV and Nicholas of Lyra in the Biblia Sacra: ... continet Pentateuchum, Nempe Genesim, Exodum, Leuiticum, Numerum, & Deuteronomium. T.1. use the same substitution. It’s notable that Banez’s work refers to Thomas Aquinas critique, as well, Wikipedia says that works of Thomas Aquinas also were a source for Lyra’s studying and texts. I just couldn’t find the needed evidence in the texts of Aquinas, which are publicly available in the Internet, besides, I can’t read and clearly understand Lyra’s and Banez’s texts, because of difficulty of translation from Latin.