How might one accurately state "for the many" in classical/common Latin ?

  • 4
    Welcome to the site! If you add a bit more context to what you want to convey with that phrase it will help lead to more accurate suggestions.
    – Adam
    Mar 11, 2022 at 14:56
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    What do you exactly mean by "for the many"? Is this for in the sense of on behalf of or for the sake of, or is it in the sense of to/for. If it is the former, I think "pro" would be a good preposition to use, but, if the latter, maybe the dative. I assume you want the former. Also, can you be a bit more specific about "the many." I guess that you want this to mean the Roman citizenry, but do you want a more literal translation which would render as the many [men/people], or you do you want it as to represent the lower classes, or something else entirely? Gratiās tibi ago.
    – Vtex
    Mar 14, 2022 at 10:59

1 Answer 1

  1. Pro multis or pro plúribus would be OK to mean both for many or for the many (in the sense of in benefit of the many). Latin doesn't have definite articles. In a longer text, the function of the article is fulfilled by context or word order.

    The pluribus option implies a comparative: for the very many/for the innumerable/for the more.

  2. You could force the sense of the article by adding a demonstrative pronoun, as in

    for the many who diedfor those many who diedpro illis multis qui mortui sunt.

  3. If it is for a motto or an inscription, it's OK to shorten the phrase to pro illis multis. It would sound incomplete elsewhere in classical Latin (i.e., in a different context), but I think it sounds well enough in medieval/late Latin. This very pronoun is the precursor of definite articles in Romance languages and at some point it was used almost as one.

Update: As noted in the comments, there are quite a few other translation options, depending on context. We would need a little more feedback for a better-tailored translation. My choice of the preposition pro (meaning in favor of, in behalf of, among others), as well as multis (from multus,-a,-um) over pluribus (from plus, -ris, the comparative of multis) is heavily influenced by the words of Jesus in the Last Supper, very well-known to Christians:

Bibite ex hoc omnes: hic est enim sanguis meus novi testamenti, qui pro multis effunditur in remissionem peccatorum (Mt 26:27-28)
Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:27-28)

Of course, if your intended meaning was different, I will be happy to elaborate.

  • 3
    Verbum "pro" adicere utrum rectum sit, pendet scilicet e contextu, quem ignoramus. Notabile autem mihi videtur "plures" pro iis, qui mortui sint, i.e. pro mortuis dicere licere, velut "ad plures penetrare" = mori (Plautus, Trinummus 2, 2). Mar 15, 2022 at 20:35
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    Indeed, pro only works to mean "on behalf of", which isn't the most likely interpretation of "for the many". If the intention is "for the benefit of", as in a donation, then you need the Dative. Mar 16, 2022 at 1:20
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: Would "pro illis" or "pro multis" have been correct? The "plures pro iis" = "The many, on behalf of these", is clumsy in English, what about Latin? Why did you change "mortui sunt" to perfect subjunctive, "mortui sint"?
    – tony
    Mar 16, 2022 at 8:54
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    @Unbrutal_Russian "To signify a standing before or in front of, for defence or protection; hence an acting for, in behalf of, in favor of, for the benefit of, on the side of (opp. contra, adversum): “veri inveniendi causā contra omnia dici oportere et pro omnibus,” Cic. Ac. 2, 18, 60;" Straight from Lewis and Short.
    – cmw
    Mar 16, 2022 at 12:12
  • @SebastianKoppehel, thanks for you feedbak, I updated my answer to take it into account, explaining also my choice of words, given the lack of context
    – Rafael
    Mar 16, 2022 at 12:15

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