Balsamita

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Balsamita sisimbrium menta aquatica idem apud quosdam arabes vero corrumpentes grecum sisnabar dicunt ubi vero exponitur nemen quod est sisimbrium falsum est ut infra in ne.


Apparatus:

sisimbrium | .i. sisimbriũ ms. e | fisimbriũ B {"long s" misread as 'f'}
sisnabar ABC jp | sisuabar f | sinasbijr ms. e
nemen ABC fj | ep
{est} sisimbrium | sfisimbriũ B ut infra in ne | quod pʒ {= patet} j͂ {=infra} in nemẽ j


Translation:

Balsamita, sisimbrium, menta aquatica are the same according to some, and the Arabs say sisnabar, a corruption of the Greek word {i.e. σισύμβριον /sisýmbrion/}. But where it is said that Arabic nemen is Latin sisimbrium - that is false, as is made clear below in the entry Nemen.


Commentary and botanical identification:

Alphita {ed. Mowat (1887: 19)} [[1]] confirms the synonymy: Balsamita, …, sisimbrium, menta aquatica , [mentastrum] idem, crescit in pratis, anglice horsmint… "Balsamita, …, sisimbrium, menta aquatica , [mentastrum] are the same; the plant grows in meadows; in {Middle-) English it is called horsmint".

Balsamita:
lit. "little balsam", is not mentioned in the literature of Antiquity but occurs first in glossaries and early medieval receptaries and gains acceptance in Medieval Latin; it has survived into botanical Latin. It is often identified as either "costmary, alecost" Tanacetum balsamita L. [[2]] or as "water mint" Mentha aquatica L. [[3]] and "horse mint" Mentha longifolia (L.) Huds. [[4]]; this latter identification is also assumed by the author of the Alphita entry.

Sisimbrium:
more traditionally sisymbrium, is a loan from Greek σισύμβριον /sisýmbrion/, which LSJ identify as "bergamot-mint, Mentha aquatica L. [[5]] and "water-cress, Nasturtium officinale L." [[6]]. {n.b. The vernacular name "bergamot-mint" is not normally associated with Mentha aquatica, but it should read "water mint" instead.)

To reconcile all three synonyms with a single plant is difficult, but "costmary, alecost" Tanacetum balsamita is the most unlikely because it prefers a dry habitat contrary to all the other plants mentioned which seek damp meadows or the waterside.

sisnabar:
For Arabic sisnabar see Sisnabar.


WilfGunther 19/10/2013


See also: Nemen, Sisambrium, [[7]] s.v. balsamita


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