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0070 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 70 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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51   36. ASSASSIN

the author used only one word, and I think the -n-, in the present case, crept in unduly. The author, who lived in the Holy Land, must have used a form strictly borrowed from the sing. hasisi, just as with the Greek transcriptions.

I also admit as probable that the forms with the -i- in the second syllable and -n in the last, as Polo's «asciscin », represent the plural haisin of hasisi, although I do not entirely discard the possibility of a coincidence with a final -n of purely Western origin, such as occurs in «Tartarin» for « Tartar », or in Polo's «Taurisin » for *Taurisi < Tabrizi.

The case is more difficult with forms like Joinville's «assacis », William of Tyre's « assassini », Rubrouck's « haxasini », and the question here is not only one of transcription, but it also affects the use of the terms in Arabic. QUATREMÉRE (Hist. des Mongols, 122-125) has added many examples to those formerly adduced by DE SACY; almost all of them, as might be expected in works of a literary character, use the plural hasisiyäh, not the more vulgar basisin, and only one text speaks of the hassäsin (pl.), and in the sense of haIß addict (in Arabic texts, the hasäs is also the man who sells jiasis). But it may very well be that hassäs, pl. hassäsin, was in current colloquial use, in a depreciatory sense not conveyed by jaasisi. There is no such form as *hassäsi, however, and I do not know how to account for Joinville's « assacis », unless we see in it a hybrid form, in which Joinville has unconsciously combined the two forms, the one derived from hasisi, the other from bassäsin, both of which were then in use among the Franks in the East.

The figurative use of the word in French began with «assasis» already in the 13th cent; the real modern sense of « assassin » dates, in England as in France, from the 16th (although in French «assassin» meant then generally « assassination »). It may be noted that the oldest English example of the modern sense quoted by MURRAY has still an -i- in the second syllable : Hee is an Ascicinus (1531).

As has been suggested by DE SACY (loc. cit. 83), the name of hasisi, strictly speaking, must have first been applied only to the men who were drugged with tiara before being sent on their murderous errands, and it was by an undue extension of meaning that it became the name of the whole sect in the East. But it is a mistake, in view of the numerous Arabic texts quoted by QUATREMÉRE, to say, as does Sir P. M. SYKES (A History of Persia, II, 107), that « Assassins » is a « European name ».

I7asis, the Anglo-Indian bang, was probably, with opium, one of the ingredients entering into the composition of « theriaca », which was very much in use in the East during the Middle Ages (though not as an antidote as in the Western sense of « theriaca »). Tariaq is in the Qutac'yu bilig (4619, p. 97); tariyäki has even been translated as « opium-eater »; this « theriaca » reached

China in 667 as a , {~i Opp ti-yeh-ch'ieh, also written a little later   JJp ti-yeh-chia (cf. HIRTH,
China and the Roman Orient, 276-279). The YS, 27, 4 a, mentions that in 1320 the Mussulman

physicians offered to the Emperor the drug called J7   ta-li-ya (tariyaq), and in 1332 the

ilkhan Abû-Said sent, among other presents, 88 pounds of J   t'a-li-ya (tariyaq; YS, 37,

2 a). This seems to leave no doubt that, among Marignolli's presents to Özbäg-khan, we should not include the unknown cytiacam (ace.) as is given in the Prague ms. of his chronicle and as has been adopted by MOULE (JRAS, 1917, 4; Mo, 255) and VAN DEN WYNGAERT (Wy, 527), but tyriacam (--= theriaca) as in the Venice ms., this last reading being justly preferred by YULE (Y',