One of our users recently became a father and of course congratulations are in order. How did the Romans do that?

More specifically, are there any attested congratulations to a new father in the classical literature? It could be from a play or from Cicero's vast correspondence or anything else.

1 Answer 1


Here's Cicero, congratulating his friend Atticus on the birth of the latter's daughter (Ad Atticum 5.19):

Filiolam tuam tibi iam Romae iucundam esse gaudeo, eamque quam numquam vidi tamen et amo et amabilem esse certo scio. Etiam atque etiam vale.

I am glad that you now delight in your little daughter in Rome, and though I have never seen her, I still love her and know for certain she is lovely too. Farewell over and over.

For having become father of a boy, I like the phrase filiolo auctus (for a girl, it would of course be filiola auctus), used by Cicero when he announced the birth of his son Marcus (as discussed previously on this site; Ad Atticum 1.2), somewhat curtly:

Filiolo me auctum scito salva Terentia.

This is to let you know I was blessed with a baby boy, Terentia [Cicero's wife] is well.

Not a Roman, but I also stumbled across this letter from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to Johann Bernoulli from 5 March 1697, writing (with a nice dominant participle):

Oblitus nuper de nata filiola Tibi gratulari, id nunc facio ex animo congaudens. Filium ni fallor jam habes, precor inde multa Tibi gaudia et diuturna.

Having lately forgotten to congratulate you on the birth of your daughter, I do so now, happy for you from my heart. If I am not mistaken, you already have a son, I wish you that they may bring you great and long-lasting joy.

  • Do you think the ablative salva Terentia could be read in a way that integrates it better to the sentence? It could in principle be an agent (without a if her own agency is negleced) or a causal ablative or something in that direction. I find myself preferring "Terentia blessed me with a baby" over "and Terentia is healthy, too".
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 11, 2021 at 11:55
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    @JoonasIlmavirta I'm pretty sure Sebastian has the right sense: salvus in the ablative absolute is pretty formulaic, though I'm more used to it in impersonal contexts, e.g. salva lege. Here, I'm pretty sure it just means, "with Terentia doing well."
    – brianpck
    May 11, 2021 at 13:56
  • @brianpck Thanks! It makes sense. A different reading of the nature of the ablative wouldn't change much semantically, but of course we shouldn't add too much color that wasn't there in Latin.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 11, 2021 at 14:53
  • @JoonasIlmavirta A personal agent needs to be expressed using the preposition ā; in the absense of one the default reading being instrumental, and then as an absolute, which is made sure both semantically (Terentia isn't an object) and by the idiomatic nature of the phrase. May 13, 2021 at 19:12
  • @Unbrutal_Russian I specifically linked to a question where the preposition in connection with the agent is discussed. The feature that necessitates the preposition does not seem to be humanity but agency. But either way, I agree that it's an unlikely reading.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 13, 2021 at 19:36

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