The infamous and long-discredited legal defence: "I was only obeying orders.", has become almost the traditional excuse for cowardice & brutality.

Of the legal (There is a higher moral duty to disobey orders.) and non-legal counter-arguments, one of the most apposite was: "A man only does something that sits easily with his conscience."

How to express these opposing views, in Latin?

"mihi iussus parendi erant." = "By me orders had to be obeyed."


The English (I was only obeying orders.) is almost a plaintive, pathetic plea for sympathy e.g. "I only spilt some coffee."; the Latin, with the gerundive-of-obligation, reinforces the myth, being propagated, that the executioners were somehow compelled to commit their crimes.

The second is trickier. I tried a result (so-that) construction but the second clause is supposed to describe the accomplishment; not the effect the accomplishment had on the subject's mind, isn't it?

"vir solum facit aliquem ut non suam conscientiam perturbet" =

"A man only does something so that it does not trouble his conscience.";

does not work.

A relative clause:

"aliquid non fit viro quod suam conscientiam perturbet." =

"Something is not done by a man that troubles (may trouble) his conscience."

This, using the passive of "facio", doesn't sound correct either. Some help, please?

1 Answer 1


Since the verb exonerare is used in a passage of Q. Curtius Rufus (Historiae Alexandri Magni 6.8.12) to describe unburdening one's conscience, it follows that onerare is one verb that could be used of the opposite. I tend to think that sentiments like this work somewhat better in the negative in Latin.

nihil quod oneret conscientiam faciunt homines.

Humans do no sort of thing that would burden their conscience.

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