My dictionary translates "homesickness" as nostalgia or desiderium loci natalis, but the dictionary gives no source or era information. Both of these are understandable, but I haven't found classical examples of their use. Are there examples in classical Latin literature where homesickness is mentioned, using these or other words? I would like to know how the Romans would express this.

Homesickness can arise on different time scales. For example, this is relatively short scale: "I've been travelling for a week, and I really want to get back where I live." This is much longer scale: "I've lived here for two decades. I wish I could move back to where I spent my childhood summers." Any time scale is fine for me; I should be able to adapt the ideas to any situation if I just have an attested classical starting point.

  • Nostalgia seems to be Late Latin at the earliest, from a post-Classical Greek compound, from the attested Classical νόστος "return home" + ἄλγος "suffering". Haven't found any relevant use of the full word in either Latin or Greek.
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 23:20

2 Answers 2


Nostalgia is definitely a modern word. It was first coined by Johannes Hofer in 1688 in his Dissertatio Medica de Nostalgia. About devising the word, he wrote:

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(from Nostalgia: Origins and Ends of an Unenlightened Disease, by Helmut Illbruck, p. 5)

However, the construction of desiderium + gen. of the object longed for + a verb that describes how the longing manifested itself is amply attested to in classical Latin.

Parmeno, a slave, runs into Philotis, a courtesan recently returned to Athens after an unhappy sojourn in Corinth:

Edepol, te desiderium Athenarium arbitror, Philotium, cepisse saepe et tu tuom consilium contempisse

By Pollux, I suppose a longing for Athens often took hold of you, Philotis, and you regretted your decision [to leave]

Terence, Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law)

In fact, John Barsby (2001) translates this as: I expect you were often homesick …

Cicero, writing to Caelius Rufus in Rome:

Mirum me desiderium tenet urbis, incredibile meorum atque in primus tui, satietas autem provinciae

An extraordinary longing for the city (Rome) grips me, more than you would believe, for my family and especially for you, I have had enough of the provinces

Cicero, Epistulae, 90 (2.11)

Horace speaking to a bailiff who now works and resides in the country but pines for the excitement of the city:

Fornix tibi et uncta popina incutiunt urbis desiderium

The brothel and greasy cook shop excites in you a longing for the city

Horace, Epistulae, 1.14.22

And, of course, Ovid, whose Tristia is nothing if not an extended treatise on the soul-destroying nature of homesickness:

Roma domusque subit desideriumque locorum, quicquid et amissa restat in urbe mei

Rome, my home, and a longing for its places steals into my thoughts and whatever remains of me in the city I have lost

Ovid, Tristia, 3.2.21-22


Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.184:

Daedalus interea Creten longumque perosus
exilium tactusque loci natalis amore
clausus erat pelago.

This bit from Cicero, Pro Ligario 3 may count too. OLD includes this passage among the attestations for definition 4 of domus, 'The country, towm, etc., of one's residence or birth, home; an (inhabited country).'

Ligarius domum spectans, ad suos redire cupiens, nullo se implicari negotio passus est.

  • Many thanks! These are excellent examples.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 11:50

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