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.


New Year's contemplation

 
James Carroll in an op-ed article "New Year's brooding" (Boston Globe, Dec. 31, 2007) writes the following:

"The word contemplation has a Latin root, suggesting "time with," as if in contrast to chronology as time alone."
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/edito ... _brooding/

He goes on to develop some additional ideas based on this etymology. The trouble is that there is no connection between tempus and contemplation (which I am sure the author is implying). The word 'contemplatio' is akin to the word 'templum' (English "temple") which originally meant a large open space designated for auguries. Therefore, 'to contemplate' was to observe this space, in order to detect favorable or unfavorable signs, primarily based on the patters of birds' flight.

Honest mistake, no doubt. Too bad, there is no easy way to correct it. I don't think the Globe will be publishing a formal correction.

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".

Nosce te ipsum - 2

 
As a matter of fact, here is the entire passage from the article 'The Delphic Oracle' by Hugh Lloyd-Jones Greece & Rome, 2nd Ser., Vol. 23, No. 1. (Apr., 1976), pp. 60-73. The third inscription sounds extremely enigmatic, especially because according to Plutarch it consisted of a single letter "E"!

Over the three entrances of the temple were inscribed three
famous maxims: 'Nothing in excess', 'Know thyself'-which means
not 'Practise introspection', but 'Remember that you are mortal'-
and 'Go bail and ruin is at hand'.

Know thyself!

 
Today I read a claim that the famous saying inscribed above one of the entrances into the shrine of the Delphic oracle (γνωθι σεαυτόν, "Know thyself", rendered in Latin as Nosce te ipsum) does not actually contain an invitation to introspection, but rather suggests that a man must be aware of being mortal. I think the introspection reading is a lot more fun!

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