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.


Per aspera ad astra

 
Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 14:39 - Latin Language, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
Per aspera ad astra (sometimes 'per ardua ad astra' etc.) - Through hardships to the stars. I wonder how this motto has been overlooked by UFO enthusiasts. Really, what possible use would anyone prior to the 20th century have for a phrase so vividly referring to space exploration? Did Virgil's 'sic itur ad astra' ('in such a manner one goes to the stars') imply the Romans' familiarity with interstellar voyages? Or how about continuous use of the verb 'to fly' when referring to merely visiting one's friends, as found in Cicero? Also, note that in Latin 'altus' means both 'high' and 'deep'. It's as if for the Ancient Romans top and bottom were interchangeable, just like they are in space!

More Latin Witchcraft - a Latin magic spell (funny stuff)

 
Monday, October 29, 2007, 14:29 - Latin Language, World History: Ancient, Medieval & Modern
Posted by Administrator
I saw this amusing snippet of "Latin" in a few places online:

Imperiequeritis, tria pendent corpora ramis dis meus et gestas in media et divina potestas dimeas clanator sed jetas as astra levarut.

This phrase is actually a magic spell, supposed to alleviate pain and suffering caused by torture. Well, maybe. Maybe not. The Latin language is the one being tortured here, because the original phrase looked like this (a little piece of Medieval poetry):

Imparibus meritis, pendent tria corpora ramis,
Dismas et Gesmas, media est divina potestas.
Gestas damnatur, Dismas ad astra levatur.


Unequal in their merits, three bodies hang on the tree,
Dismas and Gesmas, and in the middle - God's Might.
Gestas is condemned, and Desmas is lifted up the the stars.


I must add that there are many variations in the apocryphal names of the two criminals that were crucified alongside Jesus.

Lex non favet delicatorum votis

 
Friday, October 26, 2007, 19:57 - Latin Language, Legal Phrases and Expressions
Posted by Administrator
That's right. The law does not favor the wishes of the dainty.
Due to the unusually high interest to this maxim, I will provide a little extra explanation from E.H. Jackson's "Law Latin":

Lex non favet delicatorum votis

An action does not lie because of a trifling inconvenience, which would only be regarded as such by the dainty.
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Harvard's motto and the limits of knowledge

 
This is the Harvard shield with the Veritas motto, as it is used today. The word VERITAS (Latin for 'truth') is broken up so it appears on the pages of three books. The third book has to accommodate three letters (TAS), which produces what is known in typography as a two-page spread -- one of the ugliest things to be observed in a publication, because the gutter goes straight through the illustration, in our case the capital A of TAS. Truly a sore sight. How did this even become possible?

The truth (don't know what to say about the status of the pun here) lies in the fact that originally the third book was actually facing the other way. The A in TAS therefore appeared on the spine of the book. This design was supposed to represent the belief that truth is never known to us in its entirety. To complement this, the Harvard shield also had another motto (sometimes seen as forming a single sentence with "Veritas"): "Christo et Ecclesiae" (For Christ and the Church).

This design can still be seen on many buildings at Harvard, including the Widener library. At some point in the early XXth century it was decided that the third book should be turned the other way, to reflect the modernist belief in attainability of truth through progress. It is quite ironic that the resulting design was not exactly easy on the eye. The religious part of the motto was also dropped.

It remains to be seen, however, how soon the word Veritas would disappear from the shield. 'Truth' is simply not a concept favored by our postmodernist society.

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