In Q: Memento Mori--Revisited I attempted to develop the idea of C. M. Weimer that "Memento Mori" could be translated indirectly, giving "Remember that you can die"; improving, hopefully, to "Remember you are dying". This, fitting the required message from the interlocutor to the receiver-of-Triumph, in the chariot. Also, incidentally, following the teachings of Seneca, who believed that everybody is dying, anyway.

This approach was questioned by NVaughan who felt that the presence of an imperative disqualified such a treatment. An imperative cannot be indirect, of course; but, the accusative-infinitive (te mori) construction gives the indirect speech.

Is it permissible, please, to treat "Memento Mori" as indirect speech?

  • I have this nagging feeling that Memento is followed by Genitive, not Accusative; is that possible?
    – Hugh
    Oct 12, 2019 at 15:01
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  • @JoonasIlmavirta So, assuming that Genitive can also be followed by the verb Memento and that Gerund is the nominal form used for declining the infinitive (e.g., mori), one could wonder if the result could also be Memento moriendi. What do you think?
    – Mitomino
    Oct 13, 2019 at 19:27
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    @Mitomino My immediate reaction is that memento mori and memento moriendi mean slightly different things, something like "remember to die" and "be mindful of the phenomenon of dying". I imagine both are valid, but that doesn't mean both are common enough to be attested. It'd be great to explore that difference in a new question and see if there are attested examples with meminisse with verbs in different forms.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 13, 2019 at 20:00

2 Answers 2


The main question is: What is indirect speech?

If any use of accusativus cum infinitivo counts as indirect speech, then you can argue that memento mori is indeed indirect speech. After all, the literal reading "remember to die" makes no sense as the triumphant general is not supposed to die in the ceremony. Supplementing a pronoun sounds natural and makes the message reasonable: memento te mori is "remember that you will die".

If your definition of indirect speech is something like "he said that she is hungry" as opposed to the direct "she is hungry", then memento mori is not indirect speech. This is how I see it. The ACI is often used for indirect speech in this sense, but not all ACI is indirect speech. Different people will understand and define various grammatical concepts differently.

I support reading a te between the lines so that you have an ACI. Whether that makes it indirect speech depends on what you mean by indirect speech. To me this is not indirect speech.


There's no reason to treat imperatives differently. I'm sure you can find other examples, but the one given in A&G comes straight from Cicero:

fac...mihi esse persuasum (N. D. i. 75)

You also see it frequently with dic, and in comedy things like dic te ducturum. You can see parallel examples in Cicero 2.76 and Quintilian 9.75, etc. I even give an example with memento in a comment.

I also looked at NVaughan's post, and I don't see that he's claiming it can't be indirect discourse.

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