Consider the following sentence with a tentative Latin translation:

Let us meet in the building called Taberna.
Conveniamus in aedificio Taberna appellato.

In which case should I decline the name of the building, Taberna, when it is a declinable Latin word? Both nominative and ablative would make some sense to me. Of course they look alike in the first declension, but I want to understand this structure better. Nominative sounds better to me, but I feel a bit unsure.

Can someone provide a passage from classical literature which demonstrates whether Taberna should follow the case of appellato? The participle need not be of appellare, but other similarly used verbs are fine. (At least nominare and vocare are close in meaning, and probably some other verbs have similar case government.) Discussion from a good grammar is also welcome, but I find actual examples most convincing.


1 Answer 1



Varro, writing in book 5 of De Lingua Latina, about how things are named in Latin (!), has many examples, though not exactly of the kind of sentence you're asking about. Here are a few.

Amnis id flumen quod circuit aliquod: nam ab ambitu amnis. Ab hoc qui circum Aternum habitant, Amiternini appellati.

An amnis is a river that goes around something; for amnis is named for ambitus, "circuit". From this, those who live around the Aternus are called Amiternini, "men of Amiternum".


Ubi nunc est Roma, Septimontium nominatum ab tot montibus quos postea urbs muris comprehendit; e quis Capitolinum dictum, quod hic, cum fundamenta foderentur aedis Iovis, caput humanum dicitur inventum. Hic mons ante Tarpeius dictus a virgine Vestale Tarpeia, quae ibi ab Sabinis necata armis et sepulta: cuius nominis monimentum relictum, quod etiam nunc eius rupes Tarpeium appellatur saxum.

Where Rome now is, was called the Septimontium from the number of hills that the city afterward embraced within its walls; of those, Capitoline got its name because here, it is said, when the foundations of the temple of Jupiter were being dug, a human head was found. The hill was previously called the Tarpeian, from the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, who was killed there by the Sabines with their shields and buried; of her name a reminder is left, that even now its cliff is called the Tarpeian Rock.

Some of these are ambiguous, like Septimontium (which would be the same in the accusative, and isn't really following its participle), and not all are exactly what you asked for, such as appellatur, which the main verb rather than a participle. But I think these examples illustrate that the name is given in the case appropriate for its place in the sentence; the name is not put in the nominative to show you its canonical form.

Cum Caelio coniunctum Carinae et inter eas quem locum Caeriolensem appellatum apparet, quod primae regionis quartum sacrarium scriptum sic est:

   Caeriolensis: quarticeps circa Minervium qua in Caelium montem itur: in tabernola est.

Caeriolensis a Carinarum iunctu dictus

Joined to the Caelian is the Carinae, "the Keels"; and between them is the place which is called Caeriolensis, obviously because the fourth shrine of the first region is thus written in the records:

   Caeriolensis: fourth shrine, near the temple of Minerva, in the street
   by which you go up the Caelian hill; it is in a booth.

Caeriolensis is so called from the joining of the Carinae with the Caelian.


Suburam Iunius scribit ab eo, quod fuerit sub antiqua urbe; cui testimonium potest esse, quod subest ei loco qui terreus murus vocatur. Sed ego a pago potius Succusano dictam puto Succusam: quod in nota etiam nunc scribitur SVC tertia littera C, non B. Pagus Succusanus, quod succurrit Carinis.

Junius writes that Subura is so named because it was at the foot of the old city (sub urbe), proof of which may be found in the fact that it is under that place which is called the earth wall. But I rather think that from the Succusan district it was called Succusa, for even now when abbreviated it is written SVC, with C and not B as third letter. The Succusan district is so named because it succurrit, "runs up to", the Carinae.

The translations are by Roland H. Kent, in the Loeb Classical Library edition, with some minor modernizing edits by me.

  • Thank you! I stand corrected. The phrase locum Caeriolensem appellatum in your examples is analogous to aedificio Taberna appellato, so apparently even having a noun like aedificium or locum does not turn the name into nominative.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 19, 2016 at 22:42
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    I agree with your conclusion: names normally take the same case as any other nomen would in a sentence. Those are some very interesting quotations, especially the one about the Subura! As to Joonas's example, it is about an appositive noun used as a name, Taberna. I think it would be less likely for adjectives to be in the nominative when the syntax requires some other case, because adjectives really always have to agree with whatever noun they modify. That is less obvious for (substantive) nouns, so I think you need examples of (substantive) nouns to prove our hypothesis.
    – Cerberus
    Jun 20, 2016 at 0:17
  • Many of the examples from Varro are adjectives, or may be adjectives, like Tarpeius, Succusam, etc. And many other examples are nominatives because normal syntax demands them to be nominatives; they can therefore not confirm our hypothesis either, since we're trying to prove that names are not in the nominative when normal syntax calls for another case. So I think we could use more examples.
    – Cerberus
    Jun 20, 2016 at 0:20
  • @Cerberus An unexpected delight of finding these quotations was reading not only Varro's debunking of his predecessors' etymologies, but Kent's debunking, in the footnotes, of Varro's—sometimes with little remarks like "not quite". Anyway, I think you have an excellent point about substantives vs. adjectives. Later in the same book, Varro explains the basis of many common nouns (he explains "rana" as onomatopoeia!), so there ought to be a satisfying example there. My Latin brain is exhausted for today, though.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 20, 2016 at 0:46
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    @Cerberus, I agree with Ben. You should make those examples into a separate answer. Your remarks and examples are worth more than being hidden in comments.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 20, 2016 at 6:23

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