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



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


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

2 Answers 2


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 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 later than Cicero valere te opto and valere te cupio were adopted, both of which mean something akin to the English "I hope that you take care." 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; J. N. Adams in his Bilingualism and the Latin Language (p. 79-80) claims the Vindolanda tablets give the nod to Latin.

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    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!
    – anon
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 15:19
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    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!)
    – fpsvogel
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 17:48
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    @fvogel Well, epistula literally means letter!
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 18:44
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    @cmw 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.
    – fpsvogel
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 18:53
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    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
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 14:25

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. Commented Sep 2, 2016 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
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 13:00
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    That's not a closing, though. That's usually at the very start of a letter.
    – cmw
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 15:48

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