Next year is the centennial of the independence of Finland, and I would like to learn how to speak of independence of countries in Latin. It seems to me that the Latin words independens and independentia are post-classical. What would be an idiomatic way to say "independent" or "independence" in classical Latin? Although I would prefer an adjective and a noun, any kind of structure will do, as long as it is attested in this meaning.

I would use independens and independentia for this purpose, but I want to find classical alternatives. Or if these two words are indeed classical, I would be happy to be corrected. Words like libertas, emancipare and solutus come to mind, but I'm not sure they have the right spirit. Then there are words like maiestas, potestas, regnum, imperium and res for describing the power of a state, but they alone will not mean independence. Perhaps some combination of these words would work, but I do not know what would be idiomatic.

Could someone provide a passage from classical literature about the independence of a state or other such entity, with a little historical description about the situation?

2 Answers 2


Lewis and Short define “libertas” as (among other things) “Political freedom, liberty, or independence of a people not under monarchical rule, or not subject to another people (opp. servitus and dominatus)”. However, the only one of the passages cited which attests the sense of "political independence of one country from another" is the statement in Caesar BG 3,8,4 that the Veneti “reliquasque civitates sollicitant, ut in ea libertate quam a maioribus acceperint permanere quam Romanorum servitutem perferre malint”.

The English term “independent” does not occur before the early part of the 17th century; the French indépendant is a bit older (late 16th century). They do not, as far as I can see, have a Latin precedent.


I think you need a fairly direct reference to what happened a hundred years ago. What Finland actually achieved was, I think, the restoration of the freedom of self-government, which suggests some such phrase as Respublica restituta — or simply, even, Finnia restituta (but note that you shouldn't actually say liberatio with the genitive Finniae as such).

Other possibilities are Restituta respublica liberta, and Occasio Finniae liberandae. I would avoid soluta, which wouldn't have quite the right implication.

All these usages are well attested under dictionary entries for the classical period. Vivat Finnia liberata!

  • 1
    Thank you! (+1) I don't think that's a good description of what happened in Finland, but it is a good option to keep in mind. When Finland went from Swedish rule to Russian in 1809, Finnish sovereignty actually increased. Under Russian rule we got our own currency, ministries, parliament, head of state, and possibilities to higher education in Finnish. The Russian era was not without oppression, though, especially towards the end. I am not sure how outsiders view it, but in Finland 1917 is seen as the birth, not revival, of freedom. Finnia liberanda/liberata is a good fit anyway.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 17:54
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    Thank you, in turn, for your explanation. I don't recall that Finland came into the reckoning at all when I was studying 19th C. European history — probably because of our British self-importance! I wonder if Finnia Constituta might be the correct way to express it?
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 18:54
  • Finnia constituta is a good expression. It's good to have various phrases available, for both variation and the ability to emphasize different aspects. I like these different suggestions. (Finland never had independent foreign relations before 1917, so I assume Finland would be somewhat irrelevant for 19th century history unless the focus is on this area.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 21:01

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