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The Duolingo Latin course mentions New York a lot. (I'd rather have it focused on the geography of ancient Italy than the modern US, but that's beside the point now.) The locative comes up regularly: Novi Eboraci is "in New York".

But did the Romans really use locatives in the usual way when the city name consisted of several part, like a noun and an adjective? Such names might not have been all that common, but at least Carthago Nova comes to mind. If such city names do not exist at all or in sufficient numbers to draw any conclusions, I will be satisfied with that answer too.

As far as I know, the locative is impossible when the city comes with an attribute (e.g. Caesar in magna Roma vixit), but here I am looking for cases where the adjective is an integral part of the city name itself.

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  • I think they did, because in "New York", "New" is an adjective, so it follows the same declension than the noun. I think there are probably exception with fixed forms "XXX YYY" when the adjectival meaning has been lost.
    – Quidam
    Nov 23, 2019 at 11:01

2 Answers 2

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Two-word city names are sometimes put in the locative case

Suessae Auruncae nuntiabant agnum cum duobus capitibus natum et Sinuessae porcum humano capite.

(Livius, Ab Urbe Condita 32.9.3.2, via PHI Corpus)

Est autem aquae frigidae genus nitrosum, uti Pinnae Vestinae, Cutiliis aliisque locis similibus, quae potionibus depurgat per alvumque transeundo etiam strumarum minuit tumores.

(Vitruvius, De Architectura 8.3.5.2)

The ablative (with or without in) could possibly be used instead

There is precedent for the use of the ablative form for the city name Longa Alba/Alba Longa:

  1. Ablative for the Locative.—Instead of the Locative in names of towns the Ablative is used, with or without a preposition—
    1) When the proper noun is qualified by an adjective or adjective pronoun: In ipsā Alexandrīā, in Alexandria itself. Cic. Longā Albā, at Alba Longa. Verg.

(Latin Grammar, by Albert Harkness, revised edition of 1881)

Grammars

Apparently certain special types of modified nouns can appear in the locative case. I have found sources that mention the use of locative case for nouns modified by either genitive nouns or possessive adjectives:

  1. The locative domi may be modified only by a possessive adjective or by a noun in the genitive; when it would be otherwise modified, the ablative with in is used instead.

domī meae, at my house
Caesaris domī, at Caesar's house
in Mārcī splendidā domō, at the fine home of Marcus

(Concise Latin Grammar, by Benjamin Leonard D'Ooge, 1921, p. 215)

Given the existence of the "domi meae" construction, there seems to be no a priori way to exclude the possibility of two-part use of the locative case in Novi Eboraci.

I got the Pinnae Vestinae example from the article "Der Lokativ und seine Auflösung" by Gino Funaioli, in Archiv für lateinische Lexikographie und Grammatik mit Einschluss ..., Volume 13 (1904).

Online discussions

There doesn't seem to be great attestation of historical usage, but some examples are mentioned in the following Textkit Greek and Latin Forums thread: novo eboraco?, by metrodorus, Mon Jul 14, 2008 9:19 pm.

The first post says that metrodorus asked Dexter Hoyos about this usage, and received a reply that cited a mixture of usages: "Teani Apuli", "Suessae Auruncae natum", and "Carthagini Novae" but also "Carthagine Nova".

See also the Textkit thread locative, by little flower (Mon Aug 15, 2022). seneca2008 cites Woodcock's New Latin Syntax, which mentions the Livy "Suessae Auruncae" example, and also says "alter filius Teani Apuli educabatur" can be found in Cicero Clu. 27. However, I was unable to confirm the occurrence of the locative "Teani Apuli" in Cicero; the PHI corpus gives what seems to be the relevant sentence as "Nam cum haberet ex Novia infantem filium, alter autem eius filius Papia natus Teani, quod abest ab Larino xviii milia passuum, apud matrem educaretur, arcessit subito sine causa puerum Teano, quod facere nisi ludis publicis aut festis diebus antea non solebat."

Other two-part city names

Another multi-word city name seems to be "Bulla Regia". But I couldn't find enough historical examples of its use to determine whether it had a locative.

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I couldn't find any city names in specific, though this Wikipedia article on Rapidum mentions a road named Nova Praetentura that had the name in the first century C.E.

Constantine also named Constantinople Nova Roma, although this was the 4th century and Constantine, so I'm not sure if you could consider it Roman in the classic sense. It also wasn't ever officially named that, but I suppose it still shows this kind of usage either way.

By the way, this question is interesting to me personally because it relates to a personal project I'm working on.

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    These are interesting finds! Constantinople is Roman enough for the purposes of this question. The question is then: Are there any attestations that suggest locative or in with ablative?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 9, 2019 at 18:42
  • I couldn't find anything after doing some additional searching, though admittedly my knowledge of online Latin text sources and Latin grammar is vastly inferior to my Google search skills. :)
    – Adam
    Sep 9, 2019 at 19:15

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