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Origin of the place name Sexi

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Origin of the place name Sexi


Almuñécar was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, who called their first settlement in the south of the Iberian Peninsula: Ex. At that time the Phoenician alphabet lacked vowels, so the name of the settlement transcribed into Latin was: “SKS”, which eventually became “Sex”. However, despite some hypotheses that suggest that the Phoenician sailors, upon arrival, noticed the shape of the rocks that simulated the hips of a woman, and exclaimed: “how sexy this place is”, this is totally ruled out, since the current word “sexi”, which according to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language means: “that which has physical and sexual attraction, something that stimulates or awakens sexuality, something erotic”, since the origin of this term is Anglo-Saxon.

We know thanks to the Greek historian Strabo, that the name given by the Phoenicians to the first colony they came into contact with on the Iberian Peninsula was Sexi, Secks, Seksi, Sexsi, Sexs, Eks or Ex. And that it also corresponds to the Roman city Firmun Iulium Sexitanum, which was located in the territory now occupied by Almuñécar.

According to another historian of the time, Hecataeus of Abdera, Sexi was the city of the Mastienes, within the kingdom of Tartessos, but this term was not necessarily the designation of a specific place.

Other more modern researchers, such as the emeritus professor of Semitic Philology at the University of Barcelona, Don Joaquín Sanmartín, maintains that the name is strictly local, although the city has a Phoenician-Punic origin. Because “SKS” lacks plausible lexicological justification from a Semitic perspective. Along the same lines, the professor, writer and essayist Pérez Orzoco maintains that the Phoenician toponym “seks” must have derived from the indigenous word “seksi”, and that any trace of it was lost in the Arab period.

He has even attributed an Egyptian origin to it, and although it may seem somewhat far-fetched, it has its basis as the writer and historian Don Jorge Alonso García, born in Valladolid, but a Sexitano at heart, maintains. In 1973 he published the book “Historia de Almuñécar (La enigmática)”. And in it he states that the Phoenicians, on their way to Cádiz, found a native settlement, or a colony of oriental origin, presumably Egyptian, and although it is difficult to base criteria for similarity of names, reading the history of Egypt, it is possible to find similarities in some names, from the goddess Set, to the pharaohs Seti, Pepi or Sisac, or the names Nesi or Hesi. It should also be noted that according to various sources there was an obelisk in Almuñécar, which has now disappeared, being a typically Egyptian construction, on which the name of the pharaoh Sesostris appeared.

What is clear is that the toponym Seks or Ex includes the entire archaeological complex made up of the three necropolises: Puente de Noy, Velilla and Cerro de San Cristóbal. Furthermore, its meaning can also be associated with the mountains, as it can be translated as “city on the mountain or hill”. And in the surrounding area there are other place names such as Cortijo de Jate (Xate) or Cortijo del río Jete (Xete), which are derivations of Saxetanum.

The Phoenician settlement, which originated approximately between the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., lasted until the time of the Lower Roman Empire. Since possibly the battle of Munda (in 45 B.C.), the legal status of Sexi changed from that of oppidum stipendiarium to that of municipium under Roman law, thanks to its support for the side of Julius Caesar against that of Pompey, although there are authors who believe that this promotion must not have occurred until the time of his successor, Octavian Augustus. Since then it has been known as Firmun Iulium Sexi, maintaining its traditional name until the Arab conquest.

All this can be seen in much greater depth in the Cueva de los Siete Palacios Archaeological Museum in Almuñécar.

Reference should also be made to another of the most reliable historical sources, which are the coins issued in the middle of the 1st century AD, which include the Latin name F.I.Sexi (Firmum Iulium Sexi).

This first toponym derives from Sexi. It derives its current name ‘sexitanos’. A gentilicio that coexists with ‘almuñequero’ although the latter is less common.

The only certainty is that, to this day, the toponym Sexi is still a real enigma, and the similarity of the gentilicio ‘sexitano’ with the English word ‘sexy’ is another incentive to come and get to know Almuñécar. Although, its origin has little to do with other meanings.

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