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.


Engraved promise ring

 


After making a special page with a nice selection of what can be justly seen as promise ring poems I decided to dig a little deeper. Needless to say, Elizabethan English folk did not invent the art of inscribing rings to be given as pledges of love. Here is a simple inscription from an old Roman ring:

PIGNUS AMORIS HABES - "You have the pledge of love!"

The engraved emblem on the ring is probably that of a dolphin or a fish. I have to consult with my books on symbols about the meaning of this. The Christian interpretation, of course, would involve fish as a symbol of Christ.

Sure, the inscription does not rhyme or anything... Ancient Romans pretty much did not have a conception of a rhyme.

See also:
Modern promise (purity) ring: "True love waits"
What to Engrave of a Wedding Ring?
Promise rings: History and meaning
P.S. It has been confirmed that the fish-like image on this engraved ring is indeed a dolphin, in agreement with popular misconception regarding this aquatic mammal.
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A variation of the 'Quod me nutrit me destruit' theme

 


'Nutrisco et extinguo' - I feed and extinguish.

This is from an old "Devises Heroiques". The explanation is that salamanders can extinguish fire with their frigid bodies, but they also feed on its flames.

More info about 'Quod me nutrit me destruit'

MGM motto - Ars gratia artis

 
You pop in a DVD, and after a few annoying movie previews and a menu selection a lion's head shows up, surrounded with three Latin words: Ars gratia artis. What does it mean? The short answer is that it should mean 'Art for art's sake', thus being a translation of a 19th century French motto "L'art pour l'art". There are some concerns about the validity of this translation. Priamarily, Classical Latin does not have a single word that would correspond to our idea of 'art'. However, the Latin of personal and family mottos is a very mixed substance. It is not uncommon to have a motto that displays Medieval influences or bends the meanings of Latin words in some way. It's not ideal, but it happens. I would argue that a plural form of ars (artes) would have served better in the MGM logo, but I think it's passable as it is.

The words of this logo are also reminiscent of "Ars longa, vita brevis"('Art is lasting, life is short') - a translation of a phrase from Hyppocrates, certainly not from Classical times. While the Greek term 'techne' does not really mean the same as 'art' in English, the entire phrase (both in Greek and in Latin) gives us a clue that 'techne' and 'ars' can be aplied to something of perrenial value. Now, what do we have left from the Ancient world? What has maintained its value? Quite naturally, that would be art (in our sense). So, the use of 'ars' by MGM is not that outrageous.

By the way, Howard Dietz, a 19-year old recent dropout from Columbia's School of Journalism, who was asked to come up with a logo for the new movie studio, ended up having a career within MGM.

Marble statues, painted pictures and moral degradation

 
This is one of my most favorite places in Sallust (Bel.Cat 11.5):

Huc accedebat, quod L. Sulla exercitum, quem in Asia ductaverat, quo sibi fidum faceret, contra morem maiorum luxuriose nimisque liberaliter habuerat. Loca amoena, voluptaria facile in otio ferocis militum animos molliverant. Ibi primum insuevit exercitus populi Romani amare, potare, signa, tabulas pictas, vasa caelata mirari, ea privatim et publice rapere, delubra spoliare, sacra profanaque omnia polluere.


In short, when Sulla's army arrived in Asia they quickly became enamored with luxuries of the East, and abandoned traditional virtues of a Roman citizen. The signs of their moral degradation are listed in the following order: whoring, boozing, admiration for statues, painted pictures and carved vases - which resulted in massive theft of these objects of art, plundering of shrines and defilement of everything and all, both sacred and profane.

It is noteworthy that admiration for art is found right in between signs of licentiousness and desecration of temples. The end of the Roman republic was nigh...

On an unrelated note, I always found the use of 'signum' meaning 'sculpture' very interesting. statues were meant as representations of deities, they reminded people about gods, in their absence.

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