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A few of us at work maintain a software system we lovingly call the "monolith". A previous employee jokingly called us

"The Society for the Preservation of the Monolith"

(in the face of presumed adversity such as people calling for its replacement). They also got us stickers with the inscription "societatis conservatio monolitus". From my student days I recalled many things being called "Societas", so I became suspicious of that translation and wanted to see if I could verify it, or if not, do better. However, I'm no Classicist!

The first attempt I made (from first principles) was:

Societas Conservationem Monolithi

My thinking was that "monolithi" (dictionary entry) should be in neuter (it's a software system) singular (there's just the one) genitive, because we're trying to say our society relates to this system we're wanting to preserve.

Then, for the verb "conservo" (dictionary entry) I felt a bit more lost among all the options. Initially I figured accusative would be good based on the example Wiktionary gives. But maybe it should be the participio ("a word formed from a verb, used either to form compound tenses or as an adjective or noun"), so "conservans"?

The more I read about the grammar the more I feel I'm in the weeds. I wonder if someone might be willing to shed some light on my predicament please 😅

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    A suggestion for a starting point: Academia Latinitati Fovendae. I don't have the time to write up an answer, but perhaps someone can expand on this.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Aug 11, 2023 at 6:28

3 Answers 3

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Like Joonas, I was also reminded of the Academia Latinitati Fovendae, a very prestigious society, whose name might be translated as the "Academy for the fostering of the Latin language."

The name uses a verbal noun called the gerund: fovere means "to foster," fovendum is "the fostering," except that if the verb would have an accusative object (like here: latinitatem fovere), the gerund takes on the gender and number of the object, and the object the gerund's case (and the gerund is then called a gerundive, but never mind that).

The case here is the dative, and this connects it to the noun academia, a construction which I find rather daring, and which I can only see working with an implied verb (like condita). But if anyone can be trusted to get this right, it's the ALF, so let's take this on their authority.

Having understood the grammar behind the name, let's adapt it for your purposes. I see no issue with your word choices (I'd say monolithus should be understood as a masculine noun, but it makes no practical difference), so we get:

Societas monolitho conservando

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  • I’m glad I’m not the only one to be confounded by the bare dative in their name. Aug 13, 2023 at 21:56
  • I suppose A&G 505b offers some precedent. Aug 13, 2023 at 21:59
  • This is great, thank you Sebastian. I'll have some stickers printed right away :) Aug 14, 2023 at 0:41
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If it's a more formal arrangement, you might want to consider collegium instead of societas. The former is often in the name of the various ancient Roman clubs and guilds. You have e.g. the Collegium Poetarum, the Collegium Fabrorum, Collegium Pistorum, etc.

From the New Pauly article on collegia:

A collegium is a group of people coming together for religious, professional and social reasons. The legal basis for the collegia is set out in the Law of Twelve Tables (8,27 = Gaius Dig. 47,22,4): his (sodalibus) potestatem facit lex, pactionem quam velint sibi ferre, dum ne quid ex publica lege corrumpant; sed haec lex videtur ex lege Solonis translata esse. In terms of their internal organization, the collegium followed the model of the civic municipalities with magistrates, a council and plebs.

In addition to the actual purposes for which they were founded, there are further objectives to be considered in relation to social and religious matters: the celebration of birthdays and taking care of the cult of the dead. Communal meals and the distribution of gifts of money (sportulae) to the members were part of the social life of the collegium, as well as group attendances at public events (pompae).

A societas, by contrast, is more of a business group. From the New Pauly:

The societas was created by the conclusion of a contract of consent (consensus) between two, sometimes three or more associates (socii), who were obliged to make contributions, monetary or in kind, and to provide services for the societas. The purpose of the societas was to achieve profits, which would be divided among the socii (as would incurred losses). The obligations of the societas were laid down precisely in the contract of association.

There were several forms of societas. The socii of the societas omnium bonorum invested their entire extant and future assets in the society. The aim of such a society was less the conduct of business activities than the creation of an association in the sense of property law. The societas unius negotiationis, to which each socius brought only a part of his assets, had a single, precisely defined business purpose, e.g. monetary transactions (Banks) or the slave trade. An example of such a societas is found in the case of the P. Quinctius [I 3] whom Cicero defended, who had founded a societas with Sex. Naevius [I 3]. Its purpose was the management of estates in the province of Gallia Narbonensis (societatem earum rerum, quae in Gallia comparabantur; Cic. Quinct. 12).

With that, I'd offer the following:

Collegium Conservatorum Monolithi

Fellowship of the Keepers of the Monolith

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  • Hey @cmw, thank you for your thoughtful response! In a vacuum I think I would use your approach because now that you mention it, I am reminded of the French "société" which indeed translates as "company". However I think for aesthetic reasons I'll stick with the less-accurate "societas", just because it'll hopefully remind my (non-Latin) audience of a "society" and perhaps sound less like something from a university than the more accurate "collegium". Aug 14, 2023 at 0:40
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Societas conservationis monolithi.

Societas: you got that right.

Conservationis: genitive of conservatio.

Monolithi: genitive of monolithus.

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