Tag Archives: Latin literature

How Ancient Rome Shaped America

Posted on 02. Jul, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

 

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

Fourth of July Cake. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Victorgrigas.

Fourth of July Cake. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Victorgrigas.

In honor of this patriotic holiday, let us discuss the impact that both Ancient Rome and Latin made on America as a new country.

Ancient Rome & America

The following video discusses at length the impact and fascination that Ancient Rome has held over America since its inception to modern day. The parallel between America and Ancient Rome has been drawn many times by countless people including authors, politicians, activists , citizens, and even philosophers. However, this particular blog post would like to examine the similarities between Ancient Rome and Early America.

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Founding Fathers & Ancient Rome

Declaration of Independence, a painting by John Trumbull depicting the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration of Independence to the Congress on June 28, 1776. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Harpsichord246.

Declaration of Independence, a painting by John Trumbull depicting the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration of Independence to the Congress on June 28, 1776. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Harpsichord246.

The Founding Fathers (Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, etc.) were well educated men who received an education in the Classics (here).  This education aided in their ability to understanding history and choosing from it a new political system.  The resemblance between the Ancient Roman Republic and America’s political system is uncanny. America’s advent of the executive (President & Vice President similar to the two consuls), judicial (Supreme Court), and legislature (Senate) branches were directly derived from the Ancient Roman model. You can read more in depth here.

ARCHITECTURE

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The structure of America’s political system is not the only area in which the Founding Father’s sought to derive inspiration. The architecture of many of the political structures in America resemble Roman ones. While the video shows a generic comparison between Roman and American architecture, I provide the following detailed examples of this Neoclassical movement:

The present U.S. Supreme Court building. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Pine.

The present U.S. Supreme Court building. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Pine.

 

Jefferson Memorial Building. Courtesy of WikiCommons & EditorASC

Jefferson Memorial Building. Courtesy of WikiCommons & EditorASC

These two buildings (US Supreme Court and the Jefferson Memorial) are extremely reminiscent of the classical architecture seen in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. In my opinion, they highly resemble the Roman Pantheon.

Pantheon in Rome. Courtesy of Jean-Pol GRANDMONT & WikiCommons.

Pantheon in Rome. Courtesy of Jean-Pol GRANDMONT & WikiCommons.

Lastly, I would love to show the similarities between the Washington Square Arch and  the countless Roman arches. These arches have been dedicated to thevictories, lives, and triumphs of emperors such as Trajan, Constantine, Titus, Septimius Severus, and others.

Washington Square Arch. Courtesy of WikiCommons & MBisanz.

Washington Square Arch. Courtesy of WikiCommons & MBisanz.

 

Arch of Constantine. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Arpingstone.

Arch of Constantine. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Arpingstone.

 

LATIN

The whole purpose of this blog is to show how the language that is considered “dead” by most (check out my post that argues against this-here) is actually alive, thriving, and in fact-well. Latin was a language that many people knew intimately well into the late 1800s.  I have a favorite clip from the film Tombstone that shows this familiarity and yet underlines the fact that Latin was an educated man’s language (the post is here). Here are some Latin phrases that either shaped America or are prevalent today:

Seal of Washington D.C. Displaying the Latin Motto "....." meaning "Justice for All." Courtesy of WikiCommons & Illegitimate Barrister.

Seal of Washington D.C. Displaying the Latin Motto “Justitia Omnibus” meaning “Justice for All.” Courtesy of WikiCommons & Illegitimate Barrister.

 

Each State has a Latin Motto- What’s yours? Check it here!

ANTE BELLUM- BEFORE THE WAR-As in status quo ante bellum, “as it was before the war”. Commonly used in the Southern United States as antebellum to refer to the period preceding the American Civil War.

DEO VINDICE-Motto of the Confederate States of America.

E PLURIBUS UNUM-out of many, one-Literally, out of more (than one), one. .It is used on many U.S. coins and inscribed on the Capitol.

SIC SEMPER TYRANNISis a Latin phrase meaning “thus always to tyrants.” The full quotation is Sic semper evello mortem tyrannis (literally: “Thus always I eradicate tyrants’ lives”), “death to tyrants” or “down with the tyrant. John Wilkes Booth supposedly quoted it at the assassination of Lincoln.

 

Reception

Some of the Founding Fathers were even portrayed like the Romans. This is Ceracchi's bust of John Jay ( a Founding Father). Courtesy of WikiCommons and Daderot.

Some of the Founding Fathers were even portrayed like the Romans. This is Ceracchi’s (more here) bust of John Jay (a Founding Father/more here) in a toga. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Daderot.

America has seemed fascinated by this aspect that they are similar to the Ancient Romans; however, this comparison is not without some hesitancy. For we all recall that the Romans and their Empire eventually fell. This comparison has brought countless of book titles such as “Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America,”  “Why America Is Not a New Rome, ” and so on. In fact two years ago, a museum exhibit was designed to compare the Ancient Romans and Americans. An overview (here) and a review (here), I have provided to those who were unable to attended during its run. It seemed to have been an interesting exhibit that compared Roman gladiator helms to those of the NFL, and even showed some of the Founding Fathers’ busts with them in togas!

 

 

 

June 20th: Ancient Roman Festival to Summanus

Posted on 18. Jun, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes!

I hope that everyone is enjoying their summer! I decided in honor of the summer solstice (the official first day of summer) that I would write about a unknown Roman festival and deity. As many of you know, the Ancient Romans were polytheists; thus, they had many gods they needed to appease throughout the year. June 20th, the day before the summer solstice, was actually a holiday for one of their more obscure deities: Summanus.

WHO WAS SUMMANUS?

Nocturnal Lightning. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Mathias Krumbholz, and Leviathan1983,

Nocturnal Lightning. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Mathias Krumbholz, and Leviathan1983,

Summanus was a deity of evening or nocturnal lightning, while Jupiter (or Zeus) was a deity of diurnal or daytime lightning; as St. Augustine attests to in his De Civitate Dei Book IV, Chapter 23: “diurna Jovis, nocturna Summani fulgura habentur*” Daytime lightning(s) were held by Jove, nocturnal lightning(s) were held by Summanus.”

WHAT DID THE ROMANS THINK OF HIM?

St. Augustine furthers asserts concerning Summanus: “coluerunt magis quam Jovem.”  “They cared (for Summanus) rather than Jove (Jupiter).”

640px-8646_-_St_Petersburg_-_Hermitage_-_Jupiter2

A marble statue of Jupiter from c. 200 CE Courtesy of WikiCommons, Andrew Bossi, 8646 – St Petersburg – Hermitage – Jupiter, Bobisbob

So, it clear that the Romans had a distinct affinity to this deity even over the king of gods: Jupiter. Cicero (De Divinatione Book 1 Chapter 10):

de fulgurum vi dubitare num possumus? Nonne cum multa alia mirabilia, tum illud in primis: Cum Summanus in fastigio Iovis optumi maxumi, qui tum erat fictilis, e caelo ictus esset nec usquam eius simulacri caput inveniretur.

Are we able to doubt about the (prophetic) force of lightning? Are there not many other (times) with (this) wonders/miracles? At this time, is the following not especially (an example)? When Summanus, on the pediment of greatest and best Jupiter, who (Summanus) was then made of clay (i.e a statue), from the heavens it was struck (lightning), and not anywhere was the head of his statue found.

In response to this omen, it is said that a temple was built to Summanus near the Circus Maximus.

Model of the Circus Maximus. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Pascal Radigue.

Model of the Circus Maximus. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Pascal Radigue.

As the Roman poet Ovid wrote in his Fasti 6 731-732:

“Quisquis is est, Summano templa feruntur, tum, cum Romanis, Pyrrhe, timendus eras.”

A temple was built to Summanus, whoever he is, at that time, when you, Pyrrhus, were a terror the Romans.**

It is clear by this quote that the origin and even the god “Summanus” was somewhat of an enigma amongst his own worshippers and followers.

ETYMOLOGY

Summanus may simply be an evolution from summus  meaning highest. Perhaps it is also related to manus meaning hand. Thus, the combination of the name could evoke the imagery of the highest hand throwing down lightning bolts to the earth.  Another theory concerning Summanus’ name is that it is a combination of summus and the term manus which is sort of underworld deity. [For more exploration of this deity and his name; look here.] There is an Italian mountain, Monte Summano (sometimes spelled with only one M), that may have even been named after this obscure deity.  Curiously, the mountain top is frequently hit by lightning bolts.

MOUNT SUMMANO: WHOSE MOUNTAIN?

Traditionally Mount Summano (elevation 1291 m.) in the Alps near Veneto, Italy is considered a site of the cult of god Pluto, Jupiter, Summanus and the Manes.

Monte Summano in the distance. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Twice 25.

Monte Summano in the distance. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Twice 25.

manus or the manes (plural) were chthonic deities (deities of the earth or underworld [chthonic] who were usually sacrificed dark animals as opposed to air deities [Olympian] who were offered light colored animals) that were closely resembled of the Lares or household deities. Martianus Capella (De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii  Book II, Chapter 164) thought that Summanus was simply another name for Pluto.

Lar holding a cornucopia from Lora del Rio in Roman Spain, early 1st century AD (National Archaeological Museum of Spain) Courtesy of WikiCommons & Luis García .

Pluto who was the Roman equivalent to Hades was lord of the Underworld and brother of Jupiter (or Zeus). Jupiter traditional being the king of the gods and the male supreme god of the air, ethereal region, and heavens. While, Pluto resigned in Hades where he reigned in darkness, death, and the afterlife.

Hades with Cerberus (Heraklion Archaeological Museum). Courtesy of WikiCommons, Stella Maris.

Hades with Cerberus (Heraklion Archaeological Museum). Courtesy of WikiCommons, Stella Maris.

Thus, the correlation between Pluto and Summanus at Monte Summano may not be coincidental. Agreeing with Martianus Capella, Summanus simply may be a different aspect of Pluto.  Jupiter and Pluto were brothers, but often are seen as complete opposites. One is light, and one is dark (the yin and the yang if you will.) Therefore, perhaps this “Pluto Summanus” (lord of evening lightning)  is simply the aspect of Pluto that contrasts  Jupiter’s supremacy over daytime lightning.

SANCTUARY & FLORAL POPULATION

“Archeological excavations have found a sanctuary that dates back to the first Iron Age (9th century BCE) and was continuously active till late antiquity (at least the 4th century CE). The local flora is very peculiar as in ancient times pilgrims used to bring flowers from their native lands.”

 

In research for this blog entry, I was attempting to find a picture of at least one flower that may be found on this mountain(Easier said than done!). I made an interesting discovery. In Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturist (view it here)  an article from 1905 on the species of the Daphne (Yes, this is taken from the Daphne who runs away from Apollo). At the bottom of the first column, there is a paragraph dedicated to this wondrous flower. The entry goes:

The plant requires sunshine and calcareous rock. I found it last year on Monte Summano exposed to the hottest sun on the dolomite rocks with hardly any soil. It forces its roots into the living rock and so finds needful freshness and nourishment.”

Daphne

Daphne petraea. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Enrico Blasutto.

As of today, this particular flower is only found in the Alps (where Monte Summano is) and is a protected plant. Due to the fact that this flower is only now existent near Monte Sumano or within a general pollinating area, I would conjecture that the original source from which the flower existed is gone. I would argue, henceforth, that this was one of the many floral offerings brought to the ancient sanctuary and thus one of the “peculiar” floral populations on Monte Sumano. For a closer and more extensive look at this flower, direct your attention here.

FESTIVAL & CELEBRATIONAS : LET THEM EAT CAKES & BBQ

Roman relief depicting a scene of sacrifice, with libations at a flaming altar and the victimarius carrying the sacrificial axe. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Wolfgang Sauber.

Roman relief depicting a scene of sacrifice, with libations at a flaming altar and the victimarius carrying the sacrificial axe. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Wolfgang Sauber.

It is said that on this day round cakes in the shape of wheels were offered to Summanus along with two dark oxen (since he is considered a chthonic deity). The round cakes were usually made from flour, milk, and honey. The wheel has often been argued by scholar to be a solar symbol. However, it is unclear as to why a nocturnal lightning god would relish in solar symbolic cakes

Modern Day    ; also known as a wheel cake.  Courtesy of WikiCommons & Reguly.

Modern Day Kolacz ; also known as a wheel cake.
Courtesy of WikiCommons & Reguly.

There is one solution to this contradiction: Pettazzoni offers in his essay on “The Wheel in Ritual Symbolism of Some Indo-European Peoples” (view it here)that the festival was actual celebrated on June 20th, because it was the natalis or birthday of his temple built by Circus Maximus.

Thus the wheel cakes known as summanalia are not in reference to the deity himself, but the time of year. June 20th is the day before the Summer Solstice . The Summer Solstice being the longest day of the year.

Diagram of the Earth's seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Tauʻolunga.

Diagram of the Earth’s seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.
Courtesy of WikiCommons and Tauʻolunga.

Finally, it should be noted that festival for any deity no matter how small or new they were taken seriously. There were taken seriously by those who were pious and fearful of the gods, and by those who wanted to party and have a great barbeque. Sometimes, the animals that were sacrificed after having been killed were eaten by the attendees of the festival and celebration. In modern day, many of us can relate with our various patriotic holidays that somehow call for us to bbq- perhaps this is where the tradition comes from!

BBQ. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Murcotipton.

BBQ. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Murcotipton.

Thanks for reading! Hope you all found this as interesting as I found it to write it!

 

 

*Fulgura is a neuter plural noun, but the word lightnings does not exist in our English vocabulary, but habentur means “were held”- which is third person plural.

**The Pyrrhic War occurred  roughly 270 BC.

How to Write a Love Letter in Latin

Posted on 11. Jun, 2014 by in Latin Language

Whether you are writing a love letter to a old or new romance, it is always a good idea to “spice” up the normal, same, banal content with something unique to make your significant other feel special. Why not add a little Latin? This post is dedicated to add some Latin to your love life in a love letter (Epistula Amoris).

Courtesy of  WIkiCommons & Frank Dicksee & Nihonjoe.

Archetypal lovers Romeo and Juliet portrayed by Frank Dicksee. Courtesy of WIkiCommons & Frank Dicksee & Nihonjoe.

It is often said that French is the Language of Love, but before there was even a French Language- It was Latin.

Latin Love poetry is some of the most refined and beautiful pieces ever. Some famous love poets are Catullus (here), Horace (here) , or even Ovid (here). So please use the rest of this post to add some Latin to your love letters or maybe even try to compose your own!

Love's Messenger by Marie Spartali Stillman. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Marie Spartali Stillman , & Smallbones.

Love’s Messenger by Marie Spartali Stillman. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Marie Spartali Stillman , & Smallbones.

AN EXAMPLE OF A LOVE LETTER:

You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen You have not seen me yet but love is trust. As they say, love is blind. As long as you trust me, I will love you. You and I can spend our lives together. In my eyes you are a goddess. Instead, we can spend eternity together. 

Te caeteris feminis quas cognoui pulchriorem esse censeo. Nondum me uidisti, ast amor nil nisi fides firma. Ut dicitur, uenus ipsa caeca est. Dum mihi credas, te amem. Una uitam uiuere ualemus. Mihi diuina uideris. In aeternum potius coniunctim uersari quimus.

 

HOW TO BEGIN

Dearest ______,

carissima (female subject)____________,

carissime (male subject)_________________,

 

HOW TO DECLARE YOUR LOVE

Te amo “I love you”

Nunc scio quid sit amor “Now I know what love is”

Amor vincit omnia “Love conquers all”

Nunc scio quid sit amor “Now I know what love is”

Amor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur “We choose to love, we do not choose to cease loving” (Syrus)

Amor caecus est “Love is blind”

Amor meus amplior quam verba est “My love is more than words”

Amor est vitae essentia “Love is the essence of life” (Robert B. Mackay)

Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori “Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love” (Vergil)

Quos amor verus tenuit, tenebit “True love will hold on to those whom it has held” (Seneca)

Si vis amari, ama “If you wish to be loved, love” (Seneca)

Sine amore, nihil est vita “Without love, life is pointless”

Numquam periit amor “Love never dies”

Eis quos amo “For those that I love”

In aeternum te amabo “I will love you for all eternity”

Sine amor, nihil est vita “Without love, life is pointless”

HOW TO CLOSE YOUR LETTER

The abbreviation S.P.D. stands for Salutem Plurimam Dicit, which means something like “sends fondest greetings”.

Ab imo pectore “From the bottom of my heart”

Semper fidelis “Always faithful”

Amor sempiternus “Eternal Love”

Tibi magno cum amor “For you with great love”

Fide et amor“Faithfully and lovingly”

Tuus perdite sodalis amans “Your ever loving soul mate”

Te valde amo ac semper amabo “I love you very much, and always will forever”

Una in perpetuum “Together forever”

In perpetuum et unum diem “Forever and a Day”

Numquam te amare desistam I’ll never stop loving you “

 

TAKE A QUOTE FOR A FAMOUS POET:

 

Amore nihil mollius, nihil violentius - Nothing is more tender, nothing is more violent than love.
Qui amat, tamen hercle si seurit, nullum esurit - He that’s in love, for sure, even if he is hungry, isn’t hungry at all (Plautus).
Dicere quae puduit, scribere jussit amor - What I was ashamed to say, love has commanded me to write (Ovid).
Rivalem patienter habe - With patience bear a rival (in love) (Ovid).
Omnia vincit amor, nos et cedamus amori - Love conquers all things, let us too yield to love (Virgil).
Militat omnis amans - Every lover is a soldier (Ovid).
Militiae species amor est - Love is a kind of warfare (Ovid).
Qui in amorem praecipitavit, pejus perit quam si saxo saliat - He who plunges headlong into love, perishes more irremediably than if he leapt from a rock (Plautus).
Dulcibus est verbis alliciendus amor - Love must be allured with kind words.
Ubi idem et maximus et honestissimus amor est, aliquando praestat morte jungi quam vita distrahi - Where there exists the greatest and most genuine love, it is sometimes better to be united in death than separated in life (Valer. Maxim.).
Ubi inerit amor, condimentum cuivis placiturum credo - Where love is an ingredient, the seasoning, I believe, will please anyone (Plautus).
Multi te oderint si teipsum ames - Many will hate you if you love yourself.
Odero si potero, si non, invitus amabo - I will hate if I can, if not, I will love against my will (Ovid).
Credula res amor est - Love is a credulous thing (Ovid).
Lucrum amare nullum amatorem decet - No lover ought to be in love with pelf (Plautus).
Qui non vult fieri desidiosus, amet - Let him who would not be an idler, fall in love (Ovid).
Notitiam primosque gradus vicinia fecit; tempore crevit amor - Proximiti caused their first acquaintance, and their first advances in love, with time their affection increased (Ovid).
In amore haec omnia insunt vitia: injuria, suspiciones, inimitiae, induciae, bellum, pax rursus - In love there are all these evils: wrongs, suspicions, enmities, reconcilements,war, and then peace again (Terrence).
Moribus et forma conciliandus amor - Pleasing manners and good looks conciliate love (Ovid).
Improbe amor, quid non mortalia pectora cogis? - Oh, cruel love! To what dost thou not impel the human heart? (Virgil).
Incitamentum amoris musica - Music intices to love.
Quisquis amat ranam, ranam putat esse Dianam - If a man is in love with a frog, he will think that his from is Diana herself.
Qui finem quaeris amoris, cedit amor rebus; res age, tutus eris - You who seek to end your passion, love gives way to employment; attend to business, then you will be safe (Ovid).
Haec scripsi non otii abuntantia, sed amoris erga te - I have written this, not from having an abundance of leisure, but of love for you (Cicero).
Uratur vestis amore tuae - Let him be inflamed by love of your very dress (Ovid).
Audax ad omnia femina, quae vel amat vel odit - A woman, when inflamed by love or by hatred, will dare everything.
Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem - It is difficult to suddenly relinquish a long cherished love (Catullus).
Simulatio amoris pejor odio est - Pretended love is worse than hatred (Pliny the Younger).
Nullis amor est medicabilis herbis - Love is to be cured by no drugs (Ovid).