Some Things Never Change….A Dog Mosaic

Below is a well-preserved mosaic from the ancient city of Pompeii.  As you know, this city was preserved by layers of volcanic ash…thank goodness (I guess?).   The volcano was Mount Vesuvius in Italy, the date was 79 AD.  Some guy named Pliny wrote about it all, we can read it some other time.  Meanwhile, check out the mosaic and let’s figure out how the Latin works.   Take a look, and then look below.

There are two words here:  cave canem.  The dog’s paw is breaking up the second word….fail.

The first word is a verb, cavere.  Caveo, cavere (second conjugation).  The form on the mosaic, cave, is called an imperative.  Imperatives give commands.   When you tell someone to do something, you are using the imperative.  To form the imperative, just take the infinitive form and chop off the re.  Now, cavere means to beware or to fear.  So, this mosaic is ordering the guest of the house BEWARE!  But, beware what?  You might have guessed.  That dog is off the chain.  The word canem you might recognize from the English word canine.  It means dog.  Canis, canis is a third declension noun, so what case is the form canem?  It’s an accusative (canis, canis, cani, canem, cane…).  The accusative case is used for direct objects.  Beware what?  Beware the dog.

Pretty cool, yeah?  


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