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0069 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 69 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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36. ASSASSIN   53

Since the publication of DE SACY'S Mémoire sur la dynastie des Assassins (Mém. Ac. des Inscr. Iv [1818], 1-84), there has been no doubt that our word «assassin» goes back to an original

form meaning «consumer of J    hara», i. e. of Indian hemp (Father LAMMENS'S Remarques,
Beyrut, 1890, No. 28, in favour of «Hasan Sabah », miss the mark). But there are in Arabic

two words meaning « consumer of hais» : 1. ' : ' 1 hasisyy (> vuig. ha§ai), pi.   liasisiyyin

(> vuig. hasisin) and more grammatically, : ' -- hasisiyäh; 2. JAL- hassâs, pl. LL- hassâsin. DE BIBERSTEIN KAZIMIRSKI (Dict. arabe français, I, 430), LOKOTSCH (Etym. Wörterbuch, 1927, No. 839), Der Grosse Brockhaus of 1928 (s. v. « Assassinen »), O. BLOCH (Dict. étym. de la langue franç.), G. WIET (in G. HANOTAUX, Hist. de la nation égyptienne, iv, 434) agree that « assassin » comes from hassäsin (BLOCH gives in fact « hachchâchî », i. e. hasscisi, which does not exist, any more than «hachâchi» [_- hasäsi], in DEVIC's Dict. étymol. or in the Supplement to LITTRE). In EI, «assassin» is said to come from hasisiyun (as if the unwritten final -un of the nominative in classical Arabic had given the final nasal of «assassin»; but that final was no longer pronounced in the current speech of the 12th-13th cent., and I do not know of any word then borrowed from Arabic where it can still come into account). D'OHSSON (Oh, III, 203) simply derives «assassin» from lzasisin. MURRAY thinks that the old French forms are based on the Arabic singular, but that the form finally adopted in European languages is based on the plural; although he does not express any definite view, it seems that he derives the old French plural forms of the «hassisis» type from hasisi (sing.) and «assassin» from hassâsin (pi.). This solution may look fairly reasonable; still I am not satisfied that it meets all the requirements of the case.

Benjamin of Tudela has in Hebrew «Kasisin» (DE SACY, loc. cit. 23); the Armenian form (with final -h of the plural) is « Hagisih » (cf. Hist. des Crois., Arm., I, 382, 482, 486) ; X ao-!oc of Anna Comnen and Nicetas must be wrong forms of Xaalacoc (DE SACY, 22); Nicephorus Phocas gives Kaauo- oc (with v pronounced i; cf. QUATREMÉRE, Hist. des Mongols, 122). Forms with the initial aspiration are met with in the West as « Heissessini » in Arnold of Lubeck (DE SACY, loc. cit. 21), «Heresim» (read « Hesesim » <_ *Hesesin) in Jacques de Vitry (QUATREMÉRE, loc. cit. 122), « Haxasini » in Rubrouck (Wy, 210, 286, 287), « Hassisi » etc., in Gestes des Chiprois, 775777; (( Hassassins )) and « Hasassins » in Annales de la Terre Sainte (Arch. de l'Orient latin, II, II, 454, 455) ; and even « Chazisii » (Y, I, 141).

There are innumerable examples without h-, including Lat. pi. « assassini » in William of Tyre (Gestes Dei per Francos, I, 994), Joinville's «assacis », Hethum's «assasins» or «assisiens» (Hist. des Crois., Arm., II, 168), « assissini » and «assisini» in Liber bellorum Domini (Arch. de l'Orient latin, I, 304, 312), etc.

The omission of an initial h- in transcriptions is of frequent occurrence and does not affect here the problem of etymology (see « Abasce », « Avariun »). But the two points in the above transcriptions which create difficulties are the alternation of the -i- and -a- in the second syllable, and the presence or absence of an -n in the last. Sometimes, the presence or the absence of the -n may be due to mere chance, as, for instance, in the Gestes des Chiprois (in French), pp. 775777, where the following forms are met with : p. 775, « Hassissés » (3 times); p. 776, «Hassisins;' (once), « Hassissins» (twice), « Hassisi » (5 times) ; p. 777, « Hassisi » (once). It seems evident that