I have been recently enjoying Mark Walker's delightful translation of Professor Tolkien's masterpiece, The Hobbit (Hobbitus Ille). I was especially charmed by Tolkien's maps, translated into Latin (with Latin runes!). Mons Solus (the Lonely Mountain), Montes Nebulosi (the Misty Mountains), and Montes Glauci (the Grey Mountains).

However, I was struck by how different these names felt from those that I am familiar with from selenography: Montes Apenninus (the Apennine Range), Montes Agricola (The Agricola Range), Montes Riphaeus (the Riphean Range), and Mons Agnes (Mount Agnes).

So I am puzzled, I guess I have several questions. I'll try to break them down.

1) I assume that forms like Montes Apenninus are actually appositives. Are there special rules about how to use them?

2) How do Latin speakers use names of mountains and names of mountain ranges? I've never encountered them outside of the Bible (where they are indeclinable) and, now, Hobbitus Ille. I am interested in classical, medieval, early modern, and new Latin.

3) Speaking of The Hobbit (and its more famous sequel), how would you say "Mount Doom"? Mons Fatum, Mons Fatalis, something else?

As I said, I haven't encountered this issue "in the wild" (reading Latin texts), nor in any of my rather large collection of textbooks. Can someone give me some pointers?


1 Answer 1


The selenographical names can perhaps be viewed as appositions and would as such not be ungrammatical (Latin appositions may be incongruent in number or gender, like urbs Athenae). In that case both parts would have to be declined in parallel, e.g. Videsne Montes Agricolam? In my opinion one should take this as scientific terminology based on Latin, not actual Latin.

The correct term for the Apennine mountains here on Earth is simply Appenninus or Mons Appenninus, where mons stands collectively for a mountain range, not a single mountain.

(I would note that Johannes Hevelius, who probably coined the name, wrote Apenninus Mons in his Selenographia.)

In general, a mountain range can be:

  • Singular: Appenninus, Caucasus, Libanus, Iura
  • Plural: Alpes, Dolomiani, Pyrenaei (but also Pyrenaeus saltus or Pyrene)

The noun mons or montes is often added, e.g. Caesar writing about Mons Iura in De Bello Gallico.

A single mountain or hill is generally in the singular. It is possible there could be a plural name as occasionally happens with cities, but I am not aware of such a case. I would expect it to work like plural city names.


  • Capitolium (or Mons Capitolinus), Palatium (later on: Mons Palatinus), Mons Aventinus, Collis Quirinalis, Collis Viminalis, Mons Esquilinus, Mons Caelius (the seven hills of Rome)
  • Argenteus Mons (silver mountain, at the source of the river Baetis = Guadalquivir, according to Strabo)

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