I want to talk about different ministers in a government in Latin. Minister and ministra are good words for a minister, but how to say "minister of justice and employment" and "minister of economic affairs", for example? Ministers of foreign affairs appear occasionally in Nuntii Latini, and they use the expression minister a rebus exteris, and the prime minister seems to be princeps minister.

Which constructions can I use to refer to ministers? For example, are minister culturae (genitive), minister culturae (dative), minister culturalis and minister a rebus culturalibus all correct?

I have understood that in classical Latin titles typically come with datives, so I would expect minister culturae (dative, not genitive). However, at least Nuntii Latini doesn't seem to use dative here. Is abandoning the dative a post-classical thing or is it that minister requires a different construction?

Any insights to the origin and proper usage of ministers' titles are welcome.

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    Genitive seems to me like the right choice. See L&S: there is a number of examples both clasical and ecclesiastical. – Rafael Aug 2 '16 at 15:42
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    @Rafael, do you want to post that comment as an answer? (Including a couple of relevant examples from L&S or elsewhere would be nice.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 5 '16 at 9:41
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    Hmm, it turned out to be a little more complex than I thought. A minister is one who assists. The person, institution, etc. being assisted goes in genitive, hence minister regni, minister altaris and possibly minister regis. I can't find a clear link to minister culturae, besides the apparent analogy or modern usage. – Rafael Aug 7 '16 at 18:48

Minister somehow doesn't quite fit the case: its primary meanings imply subservience. A better word would, I think, be praepositivus, which better indicates someone put in charge. This kind of thing is always a bit unsatisfactory in the result. Princeps minister, which you quote, doesn't seem quite right, either, even though, in context, the meaning should be clear enough; remember that, in earlier British cabinets, he was always considered primus inter pares. Perhaps, therefore, Primus a Parlamento, first man of parliament.

  • Thanks! Some comments: (1) I asked how to use minister, not whether I should use it. Your answer is a most welcome comment, though. (2) I understand that ministers serve a people or a monarch, whence subservience is actually natural. (3) In English, ministers are also called secretaries in some contexts. This title also heavily hints at subservience. (4) It probably varies from country to country, but typically the parliament and the government are separate entities and the prime minister does not lead both. The prime minister might not even need to be an MP (this is the case in Finland). – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 4 '16 at 15:19
  • [Sorry about the slip -that should have been praepositus.] My own instinct is not to – Tom Cotton Aug 4 '16 at 18:52
  • [Sorry about the slip -that should have been praepositus.] Whenever this kind of thing crops up, my own instinct is to formulate something that simply feels sensible. Here, I would have in mind the titles (or job descriptions, if you like) used in classical times - but I see no objection to putting modern idiom into Latin: it seems pointless to strive for an exact equivalence. For instance, I have used the phrase ad aram ducere, which is most certainly not classical but turns out to be quite acceptable to all but the narrowest of critics. – Tom Cotton Aug 4 '16 at 19:04
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    Tom, this actually sounds like an answer to the question I've just asked: What's the the Latin word for a government minister / secretary? Since your post doesn't actually address the question asked here, it would get better visibility, and probably more votes, if you posted it there instead. – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 5 '16 at 14:50

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