In North & Hillard Ex. 195 the following is to be translated into Latin: "All order thus being lost, Nicias surrendered at discretion. He and Demosthenes, being condemned to death, died by poison."

In a footnote N & H recommend that the first clause be translated as: "confusis signis et ordinibus".

To me this means: "with (all) the orders and signals having-been-confused...".

The English (all order thus being lost) takes no account of "signis"; confundo does not normally mean lose/lost; "order" is singular, "ordinibus is (abl.) plural--have N & H been a touch clumsy, here?

1 Answer 1


Although ordo appears to be etymologically related to "order", it does not mean "order". Rather, it means a regular row or line in which soldiers in a formation are arranged. An orderly fight relies on soldiers being in nice lines (ordo) following their standards (signum). If both are confused, chaos ensues on the battlefield.

The English version has "order", which has far less detail and nuance than the Latin ordines et signa. The footnote suggests that one should elaborate on the idea of "order" in the suggested way.

  • Thanks; so my translation is correct? The last sentence is given as (N&H): "...qui (Nicias) cum Demosthene capitis damnatus veneno necatus est." In the English version no account is taken of "capitis"; which, assuming, means: (he) of-the-capital-city?
    – tony
    Feb 23, 2019 at 10:16
  • 1
    @tony I actually suggest asking a separate question about that second sentence. With damnare the genitive capitis has a special meaning and is worth discussing more prominently than in comments. (I don't think we've had questions on the phrase, but it'd be good to have them.) That Latin word is reflected in the English although there is no word "head". It doesn't refer to a capital city either.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 23, 2019 at 16:28

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