I was reading the Perseus entry for sidus, which gives this quotation from Cicero:

Sidera, quae vocantur errantia

The original quote has sidera in ablative rather than nominative. I'm looking to understand this part in isolation, though, as it is given in the dictionary entry.

I want to read this as something like:

The constellation, called wandering by them.

Or maybe:

The constellation, that they call wandering.

Is this correct?

1 Answer 1


You're nearly right, and there are a few potential pitfalls that may explain your confusion:

  1. First, notice that sidera is a plural—the stars (it's not likely to mean 'constellation' in this context: constellations aren't usually prone to wandering, and at any rate 'wandering stars' was a common expression for planets—Greek πλανήτης, which gave us the word 'planet', means 'wanderer' itself).
  2. The relative pronoun quae, correspondingly, is also a neuter plural (it's an irregular form).
  3. It's the subject of vocantur, which a passive 3rd person plural.
  4. (Errantia, finally, is another nominative neuter plural.)

The whole thing translates as "the stars, which are called wandering". There's no reference to who is doing the calling or how many they are.

  • 3
    ... or, since Latin does not have articles, just stars which are called 'wandering' - or more idiomatically in English, so-called 'wandering stars'.
    – alephzero
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 15:46

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