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.


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.

Magna Carta - Latin text

 
David Rubenstein, the founder of the Carlyle Group, bought a copy of Magna Carta at Sotheby’s for $21m.

"He admitted that he could not actually read it because he had avoided learning Latin at school — a decision he now regrets.

The 2,500-word document, written in medieval Latin, was put up for sale by the Texan software billionaire and two-time independent presidential candidate Ross Perot."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/w ... 070798.ece

Apparently, Ross Perot could not read the Latin document either... Now, would it not be logical for Mr. Rubenstein to invest some money in education, thus assuring that future generations of Americans will be able to read this "road map to freedom"?

Here is the paragraph that apparently is of great importance:


Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut disseisiatur, aut utlagetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur, nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terre.

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/magnacarta.html

"No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."


"Liber homo", of course, are the operative words here. If one is not lucky enough to be considered a free man - all bets are off, aren't they?

Funny life mottos

 
"The heraldry of nature or, instructions for the King at Arms: comprising, the arms, supporters, crests, and mottos, both in Latin and English"

A satirical book thusly titled, was published in London in 1785. You probably have to be British and live 200 years ago to fully appreciate it. But some mottos used in it are quite whimsical.

Si recte facias, rex eris - If you do it right, you will become a king.
Neque tangunt levia - Little things don't move me.
Nec juvenes intactos patitur avaritia - Avarice does not leave untouch even the young ones.
Populus me sibilat - Everybody hisses at me.
Sopor occupat artus - Slumber seized my limbs.
Tacere tutum est - It is safe to be silent.
Nil admirari - To be surprised at nothing.
Quo senior, eo immortalitati propinquior - The older, the closer to eternity.
Utinam - Would it had been!
Quod dixi, dixi - I said what I said
Non diu morabor - I shall not linger long.
Vix audeo sperare - I hardly dare to hope.
Adigis me, pater, ad insaniam - Father, you make me insane.
Semper avarus eget - The miser is ever poor.

Facilis descensus Averno

 
Talibus orabat dictis arasque tenebat,
cum sic orsa loqui vates: 'sate sanguine divom,
Tros Anchisiade, facilis descensus Averno
(noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis);
set revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est
.

In essence, the descent to the Lower World is easy, coming back is a hard task - Virgil, A. 6.

It is well known that this phrase is anachronistically quoted in HBO's Rome. I was, however, surprised to hear it in a disintegrating piece of Disney's magic called "Pirates of the Caribbean. At world's end." Really, what could be the significance of this quote coming from a pirate? This reminds me of this charming passage from Thomas Love Peacock's 'Nightmare Abbey':

MR ASTERIAS

Five years afterwards, some fishermen near Cadiz found in their nets a triton, or sea man; they spoke to him in several languages---

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

They were very learned fishermen.

MR HILARY

They had the gift of tongues by especial favour of their brother fisherman, Saint Peter.



Indeed, could it be that pirates vicariously possess the same gift of tongues and a well-cultivated taste for literature?

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