Sorry for the vague title but my request is pretty arbitrary.

I'm trying to translate in Latin some kind of poetic quote. I studied Latin in college so I know the basics, but I'd like a confirmation since it is not a simple phrase.

The quote is:

In everlasting memory of a nameless soldier,
foolish enough to try to change the world,
too strong for the world to change him.

Which I translated as:

In perpetua memoria sine nominem militis,
ut mundum convertere conaretur stultior,
ut mundus converteret firmior.

In particular, I'm not sure about:

  • sine nominem for nameless. I thought there would have been a specific word to express that concept but I couldn't find it.
  • The order of the first verse. Which is more correct, the one above or sine nominem militis in perpetua memoria?
  • The construction of the objective clauses in the last two verses. Is it the correct way to translate "(he was) too/enough -adjective- to do this / for this to be done to him"?

As a side note, I'm not sure the context is enough to distinguish between too much/enough for the two comparative adjectives firmior and stultior, but I really like the poetic ring it has.

2 Answers 2


As to lines 2 and 3, there are ut clauses that follow comparatives (see, for example, Allen & Greenough, New Latin grammar, §535, c); however, (1) they require a quam; and (2) they mean, e.g., 'too foolish to...' rather than 'foolish enough to....' Therefore, although this construction works for line 3 of your statement, it doesn't work well for line 2.

Instead, for 'foolish enough to try to change the world,' I suggest satis stulti (genitive, to agree with militis, as Joonas noted in his answer) + ut + subjunctive.

This use of satis + ut + subjunctive can be found in, e.g., Livy, Ab urbe condita 7.9.11 (granted that satis in this example is a predicate adjective, not an adverb):

Fabio satis visum ut ovans urbem iniret.

To Fabius is seemed sufficient that he enter the city in an ovatio.

So, combining the two constructions, you could say:

satis stulti ut mundum mutare conatus sit,
firmioris quam ut mundo mutari potuerit


foolish enough that he tried to change the world,
stronger than that he was able to be changed by the world.

(Note that I've preferred to use a perfect subjunctive in both lines.)

Other points:

  • I'm not sure about mundus, though it may be correct; it depends what you mean by 'the world' in this context. 'Bradley's Arnold' Latin prose composition, §16, b has a nice summary of the issue:

    Again, we might meet with the word 'world' in an English sentence; but we cannot translate it into Latin till we know whether it means 'the whole universe,' or 'this globe,' or 'the nations of the world,' or 'people generally,' or 'mankind,' or 'life on earth.'

    Num cāsū factus est mundus? Was the world (sun, moon, stars, and earth) made by chance?
    Lūna circum tellūrem movētur. The moon moves round the world (this planet).
    Orbī terrārum (or omnibus gentibus) imperābant Rōmānī. The Romans were rulers of the world.
    Omnēs (hominēs) īnsānīre eum crēdunt. The whole world thinks him out of his mind.
    Nēmō usquam. No one in the world.
    Multum hominibus nocuit. He did the world much harm.
    In hāc vītā numquam eum sum vīsūrus. I shall never see him in this world.

  • Joonas's innominatus may very well be the best solution for 'nameless'; but again, I think it depends what you mean by 'nameless' in this context. If you mean that the soldier's name just isn't known, something like militis nomine non noti ('a soldier not known by name') might be more accurate.

  • Finally, I believe perpetua memoria (ablative) should be perpetuam memoriam (accusative).

  • in your last suggestion, why did you put "quam" in the 3rd verse but not in the 2nd?
    – Maldus
    Jan 28, 2018 at 9:46
  • (Also, could you explain me why in+accusative? I thought the ablative was correct)
    – Maldus
    Jan 28, 2018 at 9:56
  • I should prefer for the first line Ad perpetuam militis incognoti memoriam. Innominatus means 'never had a name', while nomine non noti feels a bit clumsy.
    – Tom Cotton
    Jan 28, 2018 at 16:00
  • @Maldus. I think there was an issue when I copied and pasted the first suggestion to create the second. I've deleted the second for now, until I have a chance to take a closer look at it.
    – cnread
    Jan 28, 2018 at 19:50
  • @Maldus, In + accusative is the standard way of expressing this if one sets up a tomb or other monument, or does any other sort of dedicatory action, 'in someone's memory.' – for example, Suetonius, Life of Caligula 15.2: at in memoriam patris Septembrem mensem Germanicum appellavit.
    – cnread
    Jan 28, 2018 at 20:03

A couple of comments on your translation first:

  • The preposition sine takes the ablative, so it should be sine nomine if that phrase is used.
  • In perpetua memoria militis is grammatically correct, but the adjectives stultus and firmus need to be in genitive to agree with militis.
  • The word order is fine in the first line.
  • I don't seem to be able to parse the ut clauses. Some other structure would be better, unless there is attested precedent to what you suggest.
  • I think mutare would be more appropriate than convertere.
  • The adjectives stultus and firmus look appropriate to me.

Then some suggestions:

  • Sine nomine means "without a name". That prepositional phrase is fine, but it does not exactly mean "nameless". Instead, I would use an adjective like innominatus or innominabilis.
  • I would rephrase "X enough to do Y" as "so X that Y". If this is acceptable to you, it would allow to use a tam–ut pair, which is a common construction in Latin.
  • The comparative can mean "too X" instead of the more familiar "more X". However, if you go with tam, then comparative should not be used, and I hope a sufficiently similar idea is conveyed with the tam.
  • I would go with the present tense because the statements are somewhat timeless.

I would suggest something along these lines:

In perpetua memoria militis innominati
tam stulti, ut mundum mutare conetur,
(et) tam firmi, ut mundus mutare non possit.

In everlasting memory of the unknown soldier
so foolish that he would try to change the world
(and) so strong that the world could not change [him].

Since we have a consecutive clause, I chose ut non instead of ne. Let me know if something is unclear or unsatisfying, and I can try to adapt.

  • 1
    Innominatus is exactly what I was looking for; for some reason it's missing in my paperback dictionary. I'm opting for cnread's answer because he keeps the "enough/too much" idea, but you have been very helpful as well. Thank you!
    – Maldus
    Jan 28, 2018 at 9:49

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