From Simon Online
Jump to: navigation, search

Sabina dicebant antiqui nos vero savina, Plinius sabina brathia appellata a grecis duorum generum est altera tamarisci folio similis altera cipresso quam quidam creticam cipressum vocaverunt et cetera.


vero om. f

Plinius sabina brathia appellata a grecis om. f

brathia AC | bracthia B e

tamarisci A | tamarici BC ef

quã (quam C) AC | quare B ef

creticam (-cã A) AC e | certicam B | cer/reticam f

et cetera om. B ef


Sabina {"savin"} is the word the ancients used, but we say now savina. Pliny says: it was called brathia by the Greeks, and there are two kinds, one with a leaf similar to tamariscus {"tamarisk"} and another similar to cipressum {"cypress"} which some people have named the Cretan cupressum.


After a brief introduction Simon quotes Pliny verbatim, cf. 24, 61, 102, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.74), where it says: Herba Sabina Brathy appelata a Graecis duorum generum est, altera tamarisci folio similis, altera cupressi. quare quidam Creticam cupressum dixerunt, which W.H.S. Jones translates: "Sabine herb, called brathy by the Greeks, is of two kinds. One has a leaf like that of the tamarisk, the other like that of the cypress, for which reason some have called it the Cretan cypress" (1938-63: VII.75).

Latin sabina, short for: herba sabina, literally means the "Sabine herb". But the etymologists generally derive the word from a root *sap-, *sab- meaning "to taste, smell". It therefore seems to mean "the smelling/ reeking herb" referring to the strong smell savin leaves exude when rubbed. However, even as early as in Cato's days the name was thought to refer to the Sabines, a neighbouring tribe who were perhaps suspected by the Romans of making use of its abortive properties. Cf. Genaust (1996: 549), s.v. sabína.

Simon mentions the Romance form savina, which is first found in the Herbarius Pseudo-Apulei in 86, ed. Howald (1927: 155)[[1]]: Herba Sabina, where in the end of chapter list of synonyms, it says: Itali herba savina, "The Italians call it herb savina". This statement is borne out since the form savina is found in the oldest records of Italian and is in fact still used today.

Botanical identification:

The Greek word quoted is βράθυ /bráthy/; it is glossed by LSJ as "savin, Juniperus Sabina" [[2]]; also: "J. foetidissima", the latter sometimes being called "Foetid or Stinking Juniper" [[3]]. These two botanical identifications are relatively undisputed and it is generally thought that the name sabina covered either or both plants.

Simon's form could also reflect the Greek plural: βράθυα /bráthya/

Wilf Gunther 24/05/2014

See also: Bracteos

Next entry