World History: Ancient, Medieval & Modern

Most texts and materials on this site have to do with the Latin language, including its perception in popular culture: movies, tattoos, inscriptions, engravings, bits of ancient philosophy, online Latin resources and company names. There is also information about learning Latin and Greek: textbooks, dictionaries, DVDs and software that can be used in a homeschooling environment.


How I learned to identify Roman coins

 
Wednesday, February 13, 2008, 18:13 - Fine Arts, World History: Ancient, Medieval & Modern
Posted by Administrator
Well, sort of... I am not a collector, I just happened to have a few worthless coins lying around. It was rather difficult to see the name of the emperor and the design was not a very clear one. But it did look like there were two soldiers holding standards of their Legions. I went to vcrc.austincollege.edu, typed 'soldiers' in the search box and got a list of coins with pictures, some of which resembled mine. Done deal! The emperor was Constantine II and the motto on the coin was Gloria Exercitus - 'Glory of the Army'.

Index Librorum Prohibitorum

 
Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 17:31 - Books, dictionaries and texts, World History: Ancient, Medieval & Modern, Jokes and anecdotes
Posted by Administrator
I found Index Librorum Prohibitorum at a bookstore a few weeks ago. Not very old and quite moderately priced. Still, I resisted buying it, having wisely determined that these editions must be plentifully represented online. And here it is:

http://books.google.com/books?id=xuECAAAAQAAJ

Really, weren't these Indices the first bestseller lists?

Unique gift for General Lee

 
Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 07:08 - World History: Ancient, Medieval & Modern, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
Here is a rather perplexing reference to a gift, supposedly presented to General Robert. E. Lee:

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SAVANNAH [GA] REPUBLICAN, March 26, 1863, p. 1, c. 2

Golden Spurs to Gen. Lee.óWe had the pleasure of examining at the Jewelry establishment of Mr. John Hill on 14th street, yesterday, a pair of very magnificent spurs, of solid burnished gold, which were imported through the blockade, from citizens of Maryland, as a present to General Lee. They are each engraved, on the inside, with the following inscription:

"Stemulus (sic, should be 'stimulus') Dedit Virtus,
Presented to Gen. Robert E. Lee, by his friends and admirers of Prince George county, Maryland."

The gift does honor to the patriotism and credit to the taste of the givers.óRich. Enq.
--------------------------------------------------

Without seeing the original I cannot say at what point (and to what degree) the text became corrupted. Certainly, the general would have been surprised by the fact that both nouns in the Latin part of the inscription are in the Nominative case. It is therefore impossible to tell for sure whether courage ('virtus') gave a 'stimulus '(literally 'spur') or vice versa.

Slogan - a battle cry

 
To me, 'slogan' is a funny word with an almost non-Indoeuropean ring to it. My thirst for etymological illumination brought me to the steps of the monument that is OED (Oxford English Dictionary):

ad. Gael. sluagh-ghairm, f. sluagh host + gairm cry, shout.

1. a. A war-cry or battle cry; spec. one of those formerly employed by Scottish Highlanders or Borderers, or by the native Irish, usually consisting of a personal surname or the name of a gathering-place.

b. transf. The distinctive note, phrase, cry, etc. of any person or body of persons.


So, it's Celtic... What I find particularly interesting is that both 'slogan' and 'motto' refer to something that originally was a battle-cry. The etymology of 'motto' may not be all that different. The post-Classical 'muttum' is taken by Lewis & Short to mean 'a mutter', 'a grunt'. Niermeyer gives for 'muctum', (muttum, mutum) the meanings 'grumbling', 'squeak', 'cry'. In essense, a 'muttum' is something that defied comprehension, which is what war cries are all about, I believe.

It is rather strange that 'slogan', it my opinion, is becoming more and more a term for a trademarked catch-phrase, even though the definition found in OED is not that dissimilar from the definition of 'motto' ( hence my Latin motto generator is just as easily a Latin slogan generator):

Originally: a word, sentence, or phrase attached to an impresa or emblematical design to explain or emphasize its significance. Later also: a short sentence or phrase inscribed on an object, expressing a reflection or sentiment considered appropriate to its purpose or destination; a maxim or saying adopted by a person, family, institution, etc., expressing a rule of conduct or philosophy of life.


I guess, the use of 'motto' is simply more widely spread, with more secondary meanings and derivatives. The OED article features a derivative adjective 'mottoless'. As I can gather from the examples, it is a bad quality. One ought to have a motto or a slogan!

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