Best Quotes, Words of Wisdom and Sayings in Latin

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.


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!

Knights Templar motto

 
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam! - Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto your name grant glory!

When I decided to see how often this phrase from Psalm 113 was used in the Middle Ages I discovered that it really was not all that popular until Berndard de Clairvaux started using in his sermons and writings. He apparently really liked this short prayer that eventually became the motto of the Knights Templar, being displayed on their black and white banner, the Bauseant.

Another Church writer who favored this phrase was Augustine. I would not be surprised if Bernard was heavily influenced by his works, but I am really don't know theology well enough to be a judge of this.

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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Sortes Virgilianae

 
I have always used the phrase Sortes Virgilianae as the only term describing the practice of divination with the use of Virgil's works. In English this is probably best rendered as Virgilian lots. Recently I came across an absolutely delightful term "Maronian lottery".

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