What do you guys think, is "Abhinc tot annos, quot stellae in caelo sint, lingua Etrusca mortua est, nemoque eam comprehendit." be good Latin for that?

  • 3
    It's Latin, but I wouldn't necessarily call it "good." What sort of style are you going for? Is this your translation? Are you aiming for something idiomatic or just a close rendering of the English?
    – cmw
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 1:10
  • 1
    "as many ... as there are stars in the sky" made me think of Catullus 7: en.wikibooks.org/wiki/The_Poetry_of_Gaius_Valerius_Catullus/7
    – dbmag9
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 11:51
  • @dbmag9 I didn't know there was a word "tam". So, what is the difference between "tot" and "tam"? Commented May 11, 2022 at 16:17
  • 1
    @FlatAssembler My Latin isn't good enough to tell you more than a dictionary could on that question, although I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will come along soon.
    – dbmag9
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


Ok, this begs for a reprise on Ovid, so I've written one:

Quot caelō stēllae || totidem annōs Auguriālis
  Augure lingua suō || vōce suā caruit

Haec elementōrum || dīvīnā lēge beāvit
  Īnfantemque aluit || bellipotēns Latium

Huic igitur pār est || Rōmānā gente oriundus
  Doctor et interpres || sī pius extiterit

(More or less literally, 'For as many years as there are stars in the sky, the language of the augurs has been without its augur and its voice. It blessed Latium with the alphabet's (and the speech-sounds') divine law, and nurtured it when the latter excelled in war but still couldn't talk. It's only right, then, if a gratefully-devoted teacher and translator-understander of it ends up emerging who is of Roman descent.' The last stanza might be a general encouragement to Italian (or generally Latinate) Etruscologists, but it isn't without a specific person in mind... :-)

Or for a shorter and much more literal variant:

Quot caelō stēllae || totidem annōs lingua Etrusca·st
  mortua et interpres || nūllus in orbe manet

('For as many years as there are stars in the sky, the Etruscan language has been dead, and there's nobody left in the world who can understand/interpret/translate it.')

For a prose variant, starting with your translation, I would remove abhinc ('dead since many years') or replace it with ante ('ago'), swap sint ('however many') for sunt ('as many as there are'), change the epic-sounding nēmōque for nec quisquam, as well as the philosophical comprehendit ('is able to grasp') for intelligit, or interpretārī potest. Maybe swap the poetically antropomorphising mortua for ex(s)tīncta too; and adjust the word order. So:

Lingua Etrusca ante tot est annōs extīncta quot sunt in caelō stēllae, nec quisquam eam (linguam) interpretārī potest.

Using the narrower Tusca instead of Etrusca would give it a more homegrown and familiar feel.

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