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For an assignment, I have been translating several Latin inscription (on tombstones) from 400–600 AD and one phrase that occurs quite often is memoriae (sometimes with an adjective such as sanctae or bonae). For example, in RAC-1953-229,7 where it says:

Hic r(e)q(uiescit) in pace s(an)c(ta)e / memori(a)e Biturianus / pr(es)b(yter) qui vixit pl(us) m(inus) / annis LX d(e)p(ositus) est / pridie Id(us) eb(ruarias) seies p(ost) c(onsulatum) / Basili

Or in CIL 02-14, 02126, it is said that:

Bon(a)e memoriae Leucadius / primicerius domesti/corum qui vixit cum / comparem(!) suam(!) Non/nitam(!) annis XXV / depositus pridie / Kalendas Ianuarias / vixit autem omnibus / diebus suis quibus / vix(it) annis plus / minus sexaginta

Maybe, I am wrong, but I thought these were the same phrases. So personally, I was unsure how to interpret it. I saw several translation with in commemoration of, but here there is no genitive, which could belong to memoriae. So now I translated the beginning of first inscription as:

To the holy history, Biturianus, the priest, rests here in peace, who etc.

By translating memoriae as a dative, I thought it tried to communicate that the inscription on the tomb was dedicated to history i.e. so that whatever is written would not be forgotten. However, I, myself, was not very convinced by this reasoning. Would anyone know what is meant by memoriae?

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"Sanctae/bonae memoriae NN" is surely "NN of sacred/good memory". Genitive, not dative.

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  • Could you explain what the writer would have meant by that?
    – Yadeses
    Nov 21 '17 at 22:54
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    "So-and-so of blessed memory" is a standard way of referring to dead people, in English, and most other languages.
    – fdb
    Nov 21 '17 at 23:01
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It seems that sanctae memoriae is a genitive. I can see it referring to one of two things: pax or presbyter. This leads to two reading options:

  1. Biturianus the priest rests here in the peace of the holy history, who lived...
  2. Here rests in peace Biturianus, a priest of the holy history, who lived...

The wordings are not optimal, but I hope you get the idea. I find the first option to be more likely. It seems that you took sanctae memoriae to be a dative ("to the holy history"), but I don't seem to be able to make sense of the inscription that way.

As to the meaning of memoria, I'm not sure. A quick Google search suggests the phrase sancta memoria can refer to more than one thing.

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  • I don't think my question was clear enough. In other instances I find a similar phrase without any of those words such as in CIL 02-14, 02126. "Bon(a)e memoriae Leucadius / primicerius domesti/corum qui vixit cum / comparem(!) suam(!) Non/nitam(!) annis XXV / depositus pridie / Kalendas Ianuarias / vixit autem omnibus / diebus suis quibus / vix(it) annis plus / minus sexaginta" I thought these would be the same phrases. Also, my reasoning for it being a dative, was that the inscription had been dedicated to history, however I myself did not find that very convincing.
    – Yadeses
    Nov 21 '17 at 21:10
  • @Yadeses Can you edit your question to clarify it? I answered it as I understood it, but it is well possible that I misinterpreted. I'm no longer sure at all what the question is about, but I'll consider updating my answer if I get a better idea of what is sought for.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 21 '17 at 21:16
  • Hopefully, it is clearer now. I have rephrased the question.
    – Yadeses
    Nov 21 '17 at 21:27

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