Tag Archives: Roman mythology

Measurements of Time in Latin

Posted on 12. Mar, 2015 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvette Omnes,

In honor of daylight savings- and springing the clocks an hour ahead, I thought a post about Roman timekeeping was in order!

Tempus Fugit in Latin means Time flies. Courtesy of Crazygallery.

Tempus Fugit in Latin means Time flies. Courtesy of Crazygallery.

A Quarter Pass Twelve?

The Romans time of day was divided into 12 hours (Latin: horae) of light and 12 hours of darkness.

The Romans also divided the day into other periods, such as media noctis inclinatio “midnight,” gallicinium “cock-crow”, conticinium (with variants such asconticuum) “hush of the night,” and diluculum, “decline of the day. While some of theses phrases our self-explanatory, others like conticinium or asconticuum  meaning “hush of the night” are a bit difficult to translate.

Although the division of hours into minutes and seconds did not occur until the middle ages, ancient astrologers had their own system for telling minutes and seconds. A minuta equal to a 60th of a day (24 modern minutes), and a secunda equal to one 3600th of a day (24 modern seconds). So, although the measurement were off- it is still pretty awesome!

What year is it?

Fasti Antiates Maiores — Miniature black and white image of a 1 m high by 2.5 m wide fragmentary fresco of a pre-Julian Roman calendar (black and red letters on a white background) found in the ruins of Nero's villa at Antium (Anzio). Courtesy of Wikicommons.

Fasti Antiates Maiores — Miniature black and white image of a 1 m high by 2.5 m wide fragmentary fresco of a pre-Julian Roman calendar (black and red letters on a white background) found in the ruins of Nero’s villa at Antium (Anzio). Courtesy of Wikicommons.

The complicated Roman calendar (as seen above) was replaced by the Julian calendar in 45 BC by Julius Caesar. In the Julian calendar, there is an ordinary year is 365 days long and a leap year is 366 days long. So, you could say that Julius Caesar introduced the leap year!

Between 45 BC and 1 AD, leap years occurred at irregular intervals. Starting in the year 4 AD, leap years occurred regularly every four years. Year numbers were rarely used; rather, the year was specified by naming the Roman consuls for that year.

Full months were considered powerful and therefore auspicious; hollow months were unlucky. Unlike currently used dates, which are numbered sequentially from the beginning of the month, the Romans counted backwards from three fixed points: the Nones (eight days before the Ides, and fell on the fifth or seventh day of the month, ), the Ides (13th day of the months with 29 days, but the 15th day of months with 31 days)and the Kalends (first day of the month) of the following month.

How did we get our days of the week?

The Romans grouped days into an eight-day cycle called a nundina, with every eighth day being a market day.

Independent of the nundinae, astrologers kept a seven-day cycle called a hebdomada where each day corresponded to one of the seven classical planets, with the first day of the week being Saturn-day (dies Saturni), followed by Sun-day (dies Solis), Moon-day (dies Lunae), Mars-day (dies Martis), Mercury-day (dies Mercurii), Jove-day (dies Iovis), and lastly Venus-day (dies Veneris).

Although, most people can see how Saturday, Sunday, and Monday got their names-it is difficult to see how Tuesday-Friday came about. These days of the week in English actually came from Old English and Old Norse mythology. Hence, Friday is in honor of Frigg, Thursday is for Thor, Wednesday for Woden or Odin, and Tuesday is for Tyr.

The Days of the Week and how they got their names from gods/goddesses.

The Days of the Week and how they got their names from gods/goddesses.

However, the Romance Languages (French, Italian, Spanish) actually use the days of the week that closer resemble the Latin origins (for Tuesday-Friday)

French: Tuesday: mardi ,Wednesday: mercredi ,Thursday: jeudi,Friday: vendredi

Spanish: Tuesday: martes, Wednesday:miércoles, Thursday:jueves, Friday:viernes

Italian: Tuesday: martedì, Wednesday: mercoledi, Thursday: giovedì (Italian does not have a J in its alphabet), Friday: venerdì

Now, don’t these days of the week look closer to the Latin versions for Tuesday:Mars, Wednesday: Mercury, Thursday: Jove, and Friday: Venus?

Do you have the time?

A Roman era sundial on display at a museum in Side, Turkey. Courtesy of Wikicommons

A Roman era sundial on display at a museum in Side, Turkey. Courtesy of Wikicommons

The Romans used various timekeeping devices including the clepsydra, or water clock, and the Greek sundial.

A display of two outflow water clocks from the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens. The top is an original from the late 5th century BC. The bottom is a reconstruction of a clay original.Courtesy of Wikicommons.

A display of two outflow water clocks from the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens. The top is an original from the late 5th century BC. The bottom is a reconstruction of a clay original.Courtesy of Wikicommons.

A water clock or clepsydra (Greek κλέπτειν kleptein, ‘to steal'; ὕδωρ hydor, ‘water’) is any timepiece in which time is measured by the regulated flow of liquid into (inflow type) or out from (outflow type) a vessel where the amount is then measured.

The earliest sundials known from the archaeological finds are the shadow clocks (1500 BC) in ancient Egyptian astronomy and Babylonian astronomy. The ancient Greeks developed many of the principles and forms of the sundial. Sundials are believed to have been introduced into Greece by Anaximander of Miletus, c. 560 BC. According to Herodotus, the Greeks sundials were initially derived from the Babylonian counterparts. Eventually, this Greek technology found its way into the Roman Empire.

World's oldest sundial, from Egypt's Valley of the Kings (c. 1500 BC), used to measure work hours.Courtesy of Wikicommons.

World’s oldest sundial, from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings (c. 1500 BC), used to measure work hours.Courtesy of Wikicommons.

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.

Ten Latin Spells From Harry Potter

Posted on 07. May, 2014 by in Latin Language

J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling Courtesy of Wikicommons & Daniel Ogren.

The magical world of J. K. Rowling is known by millions (if not billions) of children, teens, and adults. Especially  those who grew up reading the books and then watched the magic come to life of the silver screen later on. J.K. Rowling created the world of Harry Potter from her vast imagination (and personal experience) and perhaps from other sources.  These included Dickens and Tolkien, which she says filled her free time during her college years.

J.K Rowling attended University of Exeter and received her BA in French and Classics. It is evident that she received a degree in Classics, because the Harry Potter series is filled with Latin words and ancient mythology. While the mythological references may be easier to see in character names (i.e Minerva McGonagall as in Minerva the Roman goddess of wisdom); the Latin reference may not be as discernible.

 

SPELLS THAT USE “LATIN”

Accio: Latin “I summon.”

Accio is a verb that means “I call, summon, send for, invite;” Harry Potter uses it in the first challenge of the TriWizard Tournament.

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Stupefy: Pseudo-Latin “I cause (you) to be stunned.

Stupefy is a stunning spell which is a hodgepodge of two Latin words. The Latin verb stupeo meaning “to be stunned, numbed, astonished”  and fio meaning “make, do, cause to happen.” The spell is used to stun opponents.

Reducto: Latin “Having been reduced” or ” I bring back or withdraw”

Reducto is not the 1st singular form (the “I reduced” form), but a perfect passive participles meaning “having been reduced.” However, it could be from the rare verb reducto  (used in a Aurelius Victor “De Caesaribus“) meaning to withdraw. In either case, the spell itself seems to be used as a pulverize spell which “reduces” its intended object to its basic form. You can see Ginny cast reducto at the end of this video.

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Nox: Latin for “night.”

This is a wand extinguishing spell. It is used several times by characters in Harry Potter to dim their wands and proceed with their activities clandestine.

Lumos Maxima: Pseudo-Latin ” Great Light!”

Let’s start off with the easier word, maxima meaning “great, large, or vast.”  Now for the difficult part, I was a bit unsure why Rowling decided on lumos. It closely resembles the Latin lumen meaning “light, lamp,” but the most obvious word she should have used would have been “Lux” which actually means “light, brightness.” Furthermore “Lux” (as a wand lighting charm)would have been a nice parallel to “Nox” (the wand extinguishing spell). That being said, lumen is a neuter singular noun and thus I have to assumer lumos would be as well ( but the -os ending is more Greek to me). Since lumen is a neuter singular noun, maxima can only be feminine or netuer plural. Thus, I would have to argue that Rowling forgot her grammar rules or simply like the way these two words sounded together.

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Expecto Patronum: Latin “I await a guardian.”

Expecto means “I await, look for, hope or desire for;” while Patronum means “a guardian, protector, or defender before a court.” It is nice that Rowling recalled her Latin grammar in this saying, since Patronum is declined properly to the accusative form(direct object).

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**In this clip, there is a nice moment were Harry Potter actually calls the result of the spell (usually some sort of animal) a “Patronus” which is the nominative (subject form) of the noun. YAY for Latin!

Homenem revilio:  Pseudo-Latin “I unveil the man”

In proper Latin, it’s hominem revelo, “I unveil the man.” It is therefore a logical thing to say when outing someone hiding under an invisibility cloak.

 The Unforgivable Curses

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Imperio:  Latin “a command, order .”

The curse would obviously be used to command people or subject them to mind control. The strength and its the duration of the curse is determined by person who cast it, as well as by the level of resistance of the victim. The spell is formally known as the Imperius curse. Imperius which is not Latin, but Pseudo-Latin. Rowling seems to have simply added the -us ending to the Imperio root. Today, the words “empire or imperial” are derived from this very common Latin word.

Crucio: Latin “I torture.”

This curse, again, would be implanted to torture people. The curse is so powerful that it can even torture a person(s) to the point that they are exhausted to death or causes permanent amnesia and insanity (the case of Neville’s parents, who were tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange). This spell is known as the Cruciatus curse, which is perfect Latin. Cruciatus is derived from Crucio and is the perfect passive particple form of the verb. Furthermore, the resemblance to the word crucifixion is apparent. Crucifixion was a standard form of execution in ancient Rome.

Avada Kedavra: Pseudo-Latin “Let the thing be destroyed” or “Let the thing be a corpse”

2004 Rowling said the following about the Killing Curse:

It is an ancient spell in Aramaic, and it is the original of abracadabra, which means ‘let the thing be destroyed.’ Originally, it was used to cure illness and the ‘thing’ was the illness, but I decided to make it the ‘thing’ as in the person standing in front of me. I take a lot of liberties with things like that. I twist them round and make them mine.”[

So, where does the Latin fit in?

Rowling may have changed the ending of the spell to include the Latin word cadaver which means “corpse.”

**However, I should note that Harry Potter fans and scholars have largely debated the origins of both abracadabra, its meaning, its origins, and thus how it should be translated in Harry Potter. Regardless, it is a killing curse, which only two people have survived.

 

 Here are some examples of Latin references that are NOT spells:

Hogwarts Motto: “Draco Dormiens Numquam Titillandus” means “Never tickle a sleeping dragon!” or “A dragon who is sleeping never tickle.”

Severus Snape: Severus means “strict” or “harsh” in Latin. This obviously fits his character as a professor of Potions and the Dark Arts.

Ludo Bagman: Ludo means “I play” or “I play a game” in Latin. In the series, he was assigned to the post of Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports; thus, he was responsible in part for both the Quidditch World Cup and the TriWizard Tournament (both events are described in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Dolores Umbridge: Dolores means “pain, ache, suffering, and anguish.” Umbra means “shadow, uninvited guest, pretense, representation, or semblance.” Therefore, her name comes to mean a “painful one who is uninvited,” or “suffering but puts up a pretense( of being sweet),” or lastly ” she is the representation of anguish.” In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,  she caused Harry a lot of pain in various detention-like settings.

Lord Voldemort: Volo  means either “I wish” or “I fly,” de can mean “from” or “away,” and  mort may be a form of mors, mortis meaning “death.” So the Dark Lord’s name literally means “One who flies from death” (as in he is hard to kill) or “One who makes YOU wish you were away from death” (as in he is horrid and death is more seemly).

Albus Dumbledore: Albus means “white” or “fortunate”  in Latin. The books  always say Dumbledore has a white beard. But, this Latin term could also refer to the fact that he is not a dark or evil wizard.