On the Andrew Marr TV-prog (Sunday, 10/11/2019) General Sir Nicholas Carter was interviewed. When Marr asked about the declining interest in Remembrance-Day Commemorations, the general quoted Byzantine Emperor, Maurice (late 6thC), who said: "A nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten."

A possible translation could be:

"gens quae eius defensores obliviscitur, memoria ipsius amittetur."

This, not as easy as it first appears; obvious and seemingly only verb for "to forget, "obliviscor" is deponent, prohibiting its use in a passive sense. Therefore, the clumsier alternative: "the memory of itself will be lost".

The court of Emperor Maurice used the Latin language, so this must be written down somewhere. I couldn't find it.

Is this translation correct?

  • Maurice wrote in Greek; at least, his famous work on military strategy is in Greek.
    – C Monsour
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 21:28
  • I also doubt that his court principally used Latin, except maybe his law courts.
    – C Monsour
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 21:30

2 Answers 2


FWIW, Google attributes the quote to Calvin Coolidge rather than the Emperor Maurice.

Anyway I see a couple of issues with your translation: eius should be a form of the reflexive suus; obliviscor takes genitive; and gens is a hanging nominative (i.e. it isn't acting as subject of the main clause, since memoria is the subject). Fixing these would yield something along the lines of Gentis quae defensorum suorum obliviscitur memoria amittetur. If you want to keep gens in the nominative, you can do something like Gens ... memoria excidet, literally "will fall out of memory". This still doesn't capture the repetition of the verb forget which makes the English version rhetorically effective, though; for that, you could maybe start with something like Gens defensorum immemor "A nation forgetful of its defenders". Or more pithily, Oblivio defensorum oblivio populi: literally, "Forgottenness of defenders [is] forgottenness of the people".


Oblita populi sui gens obliscenda est.

Going for minimalism, this translation means:

A nation forgetful of its (own) people must/is right to/should/ought to/is right to be forgotten.

  • Think it's "obliviscenda"; "oblita" = "having forgotten". The essence, here, is the soldiers/ warriors/ defendors; "defensores" cannot be omitted.
    – tony
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 11:15

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