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Sagmen vocabant antiquitus romani berbenam quasi sanctimen eo quod sacerdotes in expiandis templis ea utebantur, ut titus livius libro primo ob hoc greci gerobotanum .i. sacram herbam vocant et cetera.


antiquitus B efjp | antiqui A | antiquis C
berbenam | barbenã f | b'benã ep
quasi | quod ms. e
sanctimen | sacratimen (-ẽ B) B j
expiandis | expiendis j
sacerdotes | sacerdos f
titus liuius | tituliuius ms. e | ticus limus j
hoc om. B
gerobotanum (-ũ A) AC | yerobotanũ B e | gerebotañ f | ierebotanum (-ũ p) jp
vocant om. e
et cetera om. B efjp


Sagmen is what the Romans of old used to call berbena {"vervain"}, the word is almost like sanctimen, because the priests used it for purifying the temples, as Titus Livius reports in the first book. This is why the Greeks call this herb gerobotanum, i.e. 'the sacred herb', etc.


Simon's entry is essentially a retelling of Isidore's Etymologiae, 17, 9, 55 [[1]], De Rebus Rusticis: de herbis aromaticis, where it says: Gerobotane ideo a Graecis hoc nomen accepit quod remediis ac ligamentis hominum et purificationibus sacerdotum a gentilibus apta probaretur. Unde et eam pontifices sagmen appellabant, quasi sancimen/ sacimen/ sanccimen; haec et verbena, quia pura - "Gerobotane takes its name from the Greeks, because it was believed by the non-Christians that the herb is useful for remedies and bandages for the people and for the priests' purification rituals. This is also why the priests called it sagmen, which is almost like sancimen {cf. sanci-o 'to render sacred or inviolable by a religious act; appoint as sacred or inviolable'}, and this is why it is also called verbena, because it is pure {from verus 'true, real, actual, genuine')".

is also seen by modern etymologists as connected to sac-er {"sacred"} and sanci-o. Isidore as well as Simon make up spurious underlying forms like sanctimen to show the relationship to sancio "make sacred", sanctus "holy" and sacer "sacred".

< Greek ἱερὰ βοτάνη /hierà botánē/, and in its compound form: ἱεροβοτάνη /hierobotánē/ means "sacred herb". It is the Greek name for Latin verbena {"vervain"}. Greek speakers pronounce the first element of the word as /i-e-ro-/, i.e. trisyllabic.
The word is often latinised as hierobotanon and hierobotanum. Since the /h/ sound had long ago ceased to be pronounced Latin speakers pronounced the word beginning with the sound of "y" in English "yes", i.e /yerobotanum/.

By chance another sound change occurred in the fourth century AD that was to cause some confusion in spellings. Classical Latin /g/ had become palatalized before /e/ and /i/ and taken on the same sound as "y" in English "yes", thus gesta was pronounced */yesta/.
This lead to many scribes becoming unsure whether to write "ie-" or "ge-", since the pronunciation was the same at any rate, thus both ierobotanum and gerobotanum are found. The spelling gerobotanum is an example of inverted spelling. Cf. Grandgent (1962: 110, § 259)

Simon must be alluding to Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita, book 1, chapter 24, where a war between the Romans and the Albans is settled by champions, and the fetiales – a college of priests, whose duties it was to represent the state in declaring war, making peace and entering into treaties – are called in to act. One of the priests would collect a bunch of untainted verbena plants, i.e. sagmina - the plural of sagmen, from the citadel of Rome and touch the head and hair of the man, who is to proclaim the oath to solemnize the peace pact. This act is then reciprocated by the fetiales of the Albans. At the end of the ceremony a pig is killed with a flint stone, thus hinting perhaps at the very old if not to say Stone Age origin of the ritual. Cf. also Price & Kearns (2003: 217), s.v. fetiales.

WilfGunther (talk) 02/03/2014

See also: Berbena, Ierabotani, Ierabotanum, Gerobotanum

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