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As anyone who's written a proper letter knows, one begins with a salutation and ends with a valediction (or, in normal English, opens with "hello" and ends with "goodbye"). Right now, I'm interested in the last half -- the closing. What did Romans write?

That is, where we'd write

Love,

Boy

What would the Romans write at the end of their letters?

Sincerely,
QPaysTaxes

P.S. I'm looking specifically for valedictions to use with a significant other, but other closers will be useful as well.

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If you have a look at Cicero's letters, many of them do not have any valediction at all. In a pair of letters exchanged between Q. Metellus and Cicero (Cic. Fam. 5.1-5.2), the two men simply stop and end the letter without any closing.

However, there were common ways of providing a common valediction. One of the most common you can see at the end of Cicero's fifth letter to his friend Atticus: cura ut valeas, "take care that you are well." This was a standard valediction not limited to Cicero. It also can be expanded, as you see he goes on to urge Atticus' continued friendship with Cicero and his cousin.

Other times, a simpler vale (good-bye) is used instead. In a letter to Gaius Memmius (Fam. 13.1), he ends the letter simply with vale, but in a letter to his wife and daughter (Fam. 14.2), Cicero signs off with valete, mea desideria, valete, "good-bye, my loves, good-bye."

It's further interesting to note that Cicero actually ended that letter with the date and place in which it was written. Sometimes you see this at the top, other times at the bottom, though much of the time it's absent.

Another interesting variation on vale is etiam atque etiam vale, where etiam atque etiam "denotes that an action is done uninterruptedly, incessantly; whence it also conveys the idea of intensity." (Lewis and Short)

Among the common people and later than Cicero, "I hope that you are well" became a common valediction, represented by either valere te opto or valere te cupio; sometimes bene was included for strengthening the wish. There is some disagreement, though, about the origin of the phrase, whether its native Latin or borrowed from the Greek, though J. N. Adams in his Bilingualism and the Latin Language (p. 79-80) claims the Vindolanda tablets should indicate Latin priority.

  • I'm not particularly interested in whether or not a valediction is native Latin, just that it was used in Rome. Thanks for the great answer! – Nic Hartley Feb 25 '16 at 15:19
  • One of my favorites is Vive valeque! (Horace Satires II.5.110 — not a letter, but in his Epistle I.6 he uses the similar Vive, vale!) – fvogel Mar 2 '16 at 17:48
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    @fvogel Well, epistula literally means letter! – C. M. Weimer Mar 2 '16 at 18:44
  • @C.M.Weimer I was unclear: I meant that although the Satire isn't a letter, he uses almost the same essentially the same valediction in one of his Epistulae. To what extent these letters-in-verse are comparable to Cicero's letters, I don't know enough about the genre to say. – fvogel Mar 2 '16 at 18:53
  • is mea desideria really to be translated as a bland my loves? it seems to me that it means my coveted ones (he's currently exiled and expressing his yearning to see them again). It's really a strong word in this context. – user786 Sep 2 '16 at 14:25
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I know this: Si tu vales bene est, ego valeo. Usually written with 1 letter: SVBEEV or STVBEEV. Which means: If you are healthy (well) is good, I am healthy (fine) and is equivalent to Hello.

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    Welcome to the site! This is certainly interesting – do you happen to remember where you learned it? A source showing that this comes from the period of the Romans would be a great addition to this answer. – Nathaniel Sep 2 '16 at 12:45
  • I have read it in book (on paper) many years ago. I think it was for latin sentences - with corresponding translation and explanation. But if you search for the phrase you will find it many times, e.g. answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090804071628AAzGPMY – i486 Sep 2 '16 at 13:00
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    That's not a closing, though. That's usually at the very start of a letter. – C. M. Weimer Sep 25 '16 at 15:48

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