The shadowy Roman god Sēmō and the plural group Sēmōnēs have long been associated with sēmen ‘seed.’ But the evidence that Sēmō or the Sēmōnēs have anything to do with seeds is lacking. The Sēmōnēs first appear in the Carmen Arvale: here they constitute Mars's retinue. The Sabellic evidence also puts Semo firmly in the Martial sphere. The form Semo appears, in addition, as part of the Semo Sancus Dius Fidius complex. These divinities are connected with the sanctity (sancīre) of treaties (foedus, fidēs) and oaths. In “Dumézilian” terms Semo is a god of the first (priestly) and second (warrior) function, but not a god of the third (agricultural) function, precisely the opposite of what the standard etymology predicts. New evidence from Oscan allows us to reject conclusively the connection between sēmen and Sēmō. In an inscription from Pietrabbondante the god's name is spelled seemuneí (dat. sg.) and this spelling with ee is not the expected one. If the Oscan form were a derivative of the root seen in sēmen, the spelling would have to have been †síímuneí. The spelling ee shows that the Oscan form, and its Latin cognate, must have a different origin. The only plausible source is *seγVmōn-. A form that matches reconstructed *seγVmōn- exactly is Gaulish Segomoni and Ogham Irish SEGAMANAS. The Gaulish god is identified with Mars. The Celtic and Italic forms continue a Proto-Italo-Celtic *seĝhomōn- ‘strong one,’ ‘strongman,’ which is a derivative of a noun *seĝhom ‘strength.’ The root *seĝh- (Gk. ἔχω etc.) had the original meaning ‘hold firmly’ and this developed to ‘be strong,’ ‘conquer’ in Indo-Iranian and Western Indo-European. The god *seĝhomōn- is the sole example of a divine name that perhaps can be considered a unique and innovative feature of the ancient Proto-Italo-Celtic speech community.
Research Article| October 01 2017
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Michael Weiss; An Italo-Celtic Divinity and a Common Sabellic Sound Change. Classical Antiquity 1 October 2017; 36 (2): 370–389. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2017.36.2.370
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