Latin Quotes, Sayings, Tattoos, Phrases & Mottos

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.

Zodiac signs meanings

There is a little bit of Latin to be learned from the names of the Zodiac signs. More importantly, one should not always rely upon these names as a source of meaning for the corresponding words. This goes especially for Sagittarius, Capricord and Aquarius. The traditional translations of these names is more relevant to the depictions of these constellations, rather than to the Latin words and their meanings.

1. Aries (The Ram) - a ram, a battering ram
2. Taurus (The Bull) - a bull, ox
3. Gemini (The Twins) - plural of 'geminus' 'born at the same time', twin, double, similar
4. Cancer (The Crab) -a crab, the South (because this sign of the Zodiac is found at the time of the summer solstice), cancer
5. Leo (The Lion) - a lion
6. Virgo (The Virgin) - a maid, a virgin, a young woman or girl, something pure
7. Libra (The Scale) - a pair of scales, a measure, the Roman pound, balance
8. Scorpio (The Scorpion) - a scorpion
9. Sagittarius (The Centaur) - an archer, a bowman
10. Capricorn (The Sea-goat) - caper-cornu; cf. in Gr. aigokereus, having goat's horns
11. Aquarius (The Pitcher) - relating to water, a water carrier
12. Pisces (The Fish) - plural of 'piscis' 'fish'

Esse Quam Videri: To be, rather than to seem (North Carolina State Motto)

Esse quam videri - To be, rather than to seem

This state motto might as well get the prize for Classical authenticity. Without trying to come up with something unique and of questionable value, North Carolinians went straight to the source of nearly everything that is good in Latin prose: Cicero. Right? Actually, the phrase is a little bit out of context: Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt ("De amicitia", 98). Cicero does not speak of being per se, he speaks about being endowed with virtue. If you are have left is "esse quam videri" it becomes rather unclear: to be what? to seem to be what?

Still, a good motto. North Carolina spent a long time coming up with it, being the only one of the original 13 states without an official motto all the way until 1893!

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:

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.

Sepulchral rings

Monday, February 4, 2008, 14:02 - Fine Arts, Unsolved Mysteries and Myths
Posted by Administrator
F. M. Marshall makes this observation about this specific type of ancient rings in his Catalogue of the Finger Rings, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman:

Several of these rings are so flimsy that they can scarcely have been intended for the use of the living.

A few days ago I was looking at some lots of "Roman and Medieval" rings and it was precisely their "flimsy" condition that surprised me. Marshall's words put everything in its place. Indeed, it is safe to assume that a good deal of antique and vintage items that show up on eBay are the loot of European gravediggers.

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