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At some point in childhood I learnt there were speech competitions in ancient Rome when people would express complex ideas in very few words. And I believed since those short sentences called "maxima"

This happened couple decades before public Internet and wikipedia.

I always believed it to be common knowledge. However tried recently to find confirmation and couldn't get past "plural for maximus" copy/paste on 50 websites.

Are there real scholars of Latin and/or ancient Rome history who can confirm or correct my understanding that maxima is a short phrase which explains a complex construct

I don't know if this example would qualify as maxima in ancient times but looks good to me:

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

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The word maxima [sententia] indicates a sentence that is a general truth or is generally assumed to be true.

Not necessarily it explains a complex context, you can instead think of a maxima as an axiom, that for its evidence becomes a foundation or a rule of behaviour. It is a "maxima" sentence because of its universal validity.

Maxima is still present in English as "maxim", in Italian as "massima", which have the same meaning.

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