Under the year 1558, George Buchanan writes (Rerum Scoticarum Historia, 1582):

Hoc anno et superiore etiam, caussa religionis quodam modo iacuisse videbatur, quod morte...

In the standard English translation (James Aikman, 1827), this is translated:

The cause of religion, during this and the former year, appeared rather to stand still; for the one party, somewhat checked by the death of George Wishart, was satisfied with being allowed quietly to worship God in their native tongue and reason soberly about divinity; the other being deprived of a leader, by the death of the cardinal, showed that they wanted the power, rather than the inclination, to persecute; for his successor thirsted more after the money than the blood of his adversaries, nor almost ever behaved with cruelty, unless when the plunder afforded him the means of enjoying his licentious pleasures.

Aikman translates superiore as 'the former year', but the references to George Wishart and to Cardinal Beaton are to the events of 1546 and the years following. The passage would make better sense if 'the former year' was replaced by 'former years'; but is this a possible translation of superiore?

1 Answer 1


No, superiore is clearly singular, anno superiore is a standing expression meaning “the previous year,” and it is unheard of to use the singular annus for several years.

  • 2
    Do you think superior always refer to the year before the narrative present, or can its meaning shift depending on context? I came across this passage from Cicero's oration In Verrem: "labefactarat enim vehementer aratores iam superior annus, proximus vero funditus everterat." It seems to mean, "The year before last crippled the farmers; last year completely destroyed them."
    – brianpck
    Aug 21, 2023 at 22:07
  • Many thanks for this.
    – user558840
    Aug 22, 2023 at 16:05
  • @brianpck I take it for granted that the reference point must be inferred from context and cannot always simply be assumed to be the narrative present. In the example from the Scottish annals, this would appear to be hoc anno – whatever year that is. Aug 22, 2023 at 19:50

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