Questions tagged [history]

For questions related to history. Bear in mind that questions about only history are off-topic; there should be a connection to Latin.

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Origin and actual quote of the proverb "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion"

While searching for the Latin quote of the proverb "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion", I was a bit surprised because the form that I know of that proverb was "It's not enough for ...
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Unde orta est sententia "Simplex sigillum veri"?

A little googling reveals that Simplex sigillum veri—"Simplicity is the seal of truth" or "The simple is the mark of the true"—is best known as the motto of Dutch physician ...
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6 votes
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Who assigned numbers to the declensions and conjugations, and why?

Why are the declensions in the order they are? If someone was learning Latin 2000 years ago, would they have used the same numbers? Would they have believed that some god assigned the numbers to the ...
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2 answers
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The classical Latin speakers called Vulgar Latin sermo vulgaris, sermo vulgi, and sermo plebeius, but what did plebeians call their language?

The elite and the educated, the classical latin speakers, called Vulgar Latin sermo vulgaris, sermo vulgi, and sermo plebeius, but what did plebeians and the other non elite Ancient Romans call Vulgar ...
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-4 votes
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is there a pronunciation lineage of latin from the dawn of time?

what I mean is that are there people today who learnt the language personally from people who learnt the language personally etc all the way back to whenever we first detect latin in history? the rest ...
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9 votes
0 answers
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What are some examples of famous brands in the ancient Roman world?

In the Wikipedia article about brands, they give a few different examples of brands that existed in antiquity. A couple examples are given for ancient Rome, such as Umbricius Scaurus, a manufacturer ...
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What is the event referred to in this passage from Hermann von dem Busche's Vallum Humanitatis?

In Hermann von dem Busche's Vallum Humanitatis, a spirited defense of renaissance humanism against scholastics at the University of Cologne, I have come across a puzzling passage. Ecce tibi, quam ...
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12 votes
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the kiskis and kankan debate: primary sources

There's a very famous story about how in the middle of the sixteenth century the Sorbonne University filed a legal claim to the Parlement de Paris re: the correct pronunciation of qu- in Latin, viz. ...
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4 votes
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How the Latin Hexameter was adopted and developed from the Greek?

In Wikipedia I stumbled upon quite surprising sentence: The hexameter came into Latin as an adaptation from Greek long after the practice of singing the epics had faded. Consequentially, the ...
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Maria mater Domini

The phrase "Maria mater Domini" appears in Pseudo-Papias Fragment X (A fragment attributed by J.B. Lightfoot to Papias of Lombardy, 1040s–1060s, author of the Elementarium Doctrinae ...
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What is the etymology of the Scythian word "hezios" meaning "covered"?

Pliny the Elder claimed, in the 6th book in the 19th chapter of "Naturalis Historia", that the name "Caucasus" comes from Scythian "kroi hezios" meaning "snow-...
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When did "si" become the standard word for "yes" in the Italian peninsula?

I am aware that classical Latin did not have words for "yes" and "no" in the same sense that English does. I know that they could express the idea of "yes" by either ...
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How did Jerome pronounce the Latin language?

Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus) lived between the 4th and 5th centuries. He translated the Bible into Latin as the Vulgate (Biblia Vulgata). How would he have pronounced the Latin language? In ...
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What are some notable works never translated from Latin?

I guess most, if not all, of classical-period works that have survived, were translated. But I'm certain many of the medieval era works were never published in a language other than their Latin ...
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Could all soldiers in the Roman army actually speak Latin?

I am under the impression that men for the legions of the Roman Empire were conscripted across the empire, and so Latin could not have possibly been the first language to every soldier. But could all ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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What was the latin command to plunder?

After the Gallic Wars, there existed a commanders order to plunder the cities of the vanquished. What was that Latin command?
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3 votes
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Did Romulus and Remus have other names?

Throughout Classical times, Romans would often have several names: one person might be identified by praenomen, nomen gentilicum, cognomen, agnomen, signum, and patronymic, all together. Were Roman ...
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What did the Romans think about new technology?

Are there any attested texts where a Roman comments on some new technology? The modern world sees a constant flux of them, but technological advancement was slower in antiquity and I do not recall ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Is there an etymological connection between "comitia" and "comes"?

In the Roman Republic, the word comitia was used for the various popular assemblies (e.g. comitia centuriata). I can't find any clear indication online as to its etymological roots. I was wondering ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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What is "Lux Belli"?

In a certain old text dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas, I found the following phrase: El restituirle el derecho, y acciones de Patron, que le tiene quitado, y el Titulo de ...
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What did bishop Rémi say to Clovis?

When Clovis, the first king of Franks, stepped into the church where we was to be baptized, he was allegedly told by Rémi, bishop of Reims Depona colla, Sicamber. We were taught at school (in ...
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Meaning of "Spiritus Libertatis"

Another question from the frequent latin expressions in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Here a character is complaining about evil followers from Spiritus Libertatis. I saw that this could ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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Which ancient Latin works survived into the Middle Ages or later but are now lost?

While reading Saint Aldhelm's 'Riddles' I saw a reference to Lucan's Orpheus, a Latin poem written in the first century AD. The seventh century writer Aldhelm had a copy of Orpheus, but it is now lost ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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Origin of the Latin Language?

Latin is an Italic language which originated in the Italian peninsula, and was originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome located along the Mediterranean Sea. Similar to most European languages, ...
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How did the Romans salute the Republic?

Are there any known phrases that were used by Romans to celebrate or cheer for the Republic? Something like Ave Res Publica ? Or maybe they'd cheer for something else, like for the Senate or for the ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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Extra initial Aeneid lines in 1662 M. de Marolles version

I have a 1662 version of the Aeneid, with Latin and French on facing pages, with the French having been translated by M. de Marolles, Abbé de Villeloin, [additional book info continues: À Paris, Chez ...
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20 votes
3 answers
4k views

Historicity doubted by Romans

The Roman historians seem happy to mix history with myth with no discussion on the reliability of one's sources — or even a mention of the sources in the first place. I would like to imagine ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Written evidence of a ten-month calendar

There is speculation that prior to the republic Roman calendar there was an earlier calendar instated by Romulus and consisting of ten months. I do not want to discuss here whether Romulus existed and ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Are there Roman accounts of Easter?

Now that it is Easter time, I wonder whether the Romans wrote about Easter. I am looking for non-Christian accounts in Latin describing the events of Jesus's death and subsequent resurrection. I ...
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8 votes
1 answer
2k views

Etymology of ambulance

For a while I have been curious about the etymology of the English word 'ambulance' since it seems to be derived from the Latin word 'ambulare' (to walk). This seems a strange origin for the word. ...
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1 answer
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Did the Romans mention any excavations?

The Romans wrote about history and recognized monuments from past eras both at home and abroad. But it occurs to me that I have never heard of them digging anything up — I fail to recall ...
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2 votes
1 answer
314 views

What was the standard ancient term for a thermopolium?

This page on thermopolia reports a quotation from Mary Beard, classics professor at Cambridge University: “The best way to escape a diet of bread, cheese and fruit, eaten in small lodginggs over a ...
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11 votes
1 answer
733 views

Did the Romans really speak of "mare nostrum"?

I have heard a number of times that the Romans called the Mediterranean Sea mare nostrum, "our sea". But was this really the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea in any significant way? I have three ...
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7 votes
1 answer
283 views

What did the Romans think about female leadership?

Women seem to be absent from leading roles in Roman politics. However, the Romans were in interaction with other nations with female leaders, both historically (e.g. Cleopatra of Egypt) and mythically ...
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17 votes
1 answer
267 views

Dating the penult rule

When did initial-syllable stress give way to the penult rule? W.S. Allen suggests that the former persisted "until around Plautus's time", and provides metrical evidence from Plautus and Terence that ...
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10 votes
3 answers
225 views

Did the Romans 'tip' for good service?

I need to refer in Latin to the modern practice of 'tipping' in return for good service. I am well aware of words and phrases for 'reward', which are essentially correct for my purpose, but I should ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Did Scipio Africanus prevent a betrayal of Rome?

According to Wikipedia: On hearing that Lucius Caecilius Metellus and other young nobles were planning to go overseas to serve some king, Scipio [Africanus] stormed into the meeting, and at sword-...
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7 votes
1 answer
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Why didn't Byzantine emperors after Justinian II have a Latin name?

Justinian II had the Latin name Flavius Iustinianus Augustus and was the last Byzantine emperor from the Heraclian Dynasty, but his successor Philippikos Bardanes did not have a Latin name. Why didn't ...
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6 votes
0 answers
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Did Alexander the Great change the meaning of "Hellenes"?

The Hellenistic era was launched by Alexander the Great, and his death is usually defined as the starting point. The Greek word Hellenes (Ἕλληνες) was in use before, during, and after the Hellenistic ...
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5 votes
0 answers
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Who produced and sold ancient Roman literature?

A number of books were written in the Roman antiquity, and I would like to understand how they came to be. This question does not concern Latin language directly, but a technical aspect related to its ...
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7 votes
1 answer
186 views

What form of Greek was studied by ancient Romans?

Greek is not a single language, but it had various dialects and evolved significantly over time. What form of Greek did the Romans who spoke classical Latin study? Was it contemporary for the purpose ...
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5 votes
1 answer
254 views

Has any Latin literature survived through the Arabs?

Some pieces of Greek literature have survived only through the Arabs. But is there any classical Latin literature that has survived the same way? This could mean translations from Latin to Arabic and ...
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5 votes
1 answer
71 views

How has literature helped archaeology?

Is there a good example case where extant ancient literature has helped understand archaeological findings? This could mean, for example, a Roman author mentioning a tool and its use, which has helped ...
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5 votes
0 answers
546 views

Does the phrase "orbis terrarum" reflect Ancient Roman knowledge that the Earth is a sphere?

Does the phrase orbis terrarum reflect Ancient Roman knowledge that the Earth is a sphere? Some kinds of evidence that might suggest an answer: Did people say orbis terrarum for the world before they ...
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10 votes
3 answers
238 views

Did the ancients write that their sculpture is painted?

I have the impression that for a long time scholars thought that ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was unpainted, and marble statues would be wholly white, but the modern consensus is that sculpture ...
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11 votes
1 answer
592 views

Did the Romans ever distinguish long vowels in writing?

In most modern writing of Latin, long vowels are distinguished from short vowels by using macrons (e.g, āēīōū). As far as I know, however, ancient authors rarely, if ever, distinguished long vowels ...
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4 votes
0 answers
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Why was the period between Domitian and Commodus so happy and prosperous?

In my introduction to Meditations, Edward Gibbon is quoted as saying that the period between the death of Domitian and the accession of Commodus was the happiest and most prosperous in human history. ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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What surviving sources describe the civil war between Caesar and Pompeius?

The famous Civil War is best known from Caesar's own account of it. But we also have Lucan's epic Pharsalia, and a fairly thorough account in Cassius Dio's histories. Livy's account, and likely many ...
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3 votes
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Are there meaningful differences in meaning and usability between 'calculare' and 'computare'?

Is there any meaningful difference, from the point of view of classical philology (not from the point of view of contemporary usages and dictionaries which more or less seem to consider them synonyms) ...
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Did the Romans give names to instances of natural disasters?

It is common to name storms. For example, a hurricane called Harvey is now over Texas. On the other hand, ancient people named deities related to various places and natural phenomena. There might be a ...
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