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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?  

LEGITE…How To Form The Imperative!

imperative pic

Translate the following classroom commands:

1. Salve, Magistra!

2. Salvete, Discipuli!

What case are magistra and discipuli? How do we form this case?

3. Claude fenestram! (claudo, claudere: to close)

4. Aperi fenestram! (aperio, aperire: to open)

5. Nolite claudere ianuam!

6. Aperi ianuam!

7. Legite!

8. Ponite stilos! (stilus: pen)

9. Ponite libros in terra!

10. Surge!

11. Surgite, Discipuli!

12. Responde!

13. Ambula ad tabulam!

14. Collige cartas, Cornelii!

14. Redi cartas, discipula! (from redio, redire)

15. Tacite, Audite!

How would I say: Lucius and Rufus, walk out of the room!! (room= camera, camerae f.)

Orpheus et Eurydice

Orpheus, the bard of Apollo, was able to tame the spirits of wild beasts and to move large stones with his songs. As an Argonaut on the quest for the Golden Fleece, he was a hero who bore no arms. His weapon was the lyre and the sound of his voice. He was even able to overcome the Sirens’ song with his music.


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The omens for his wedding day, however, proved unlucky– for his bride, Eurydice, was bitten by a serpent and died. Descending to the Underworld in order to retrieve his wife, Orpheus begs Pluto and Proserpina for her return. He reminds Pluto that he too had been conquered by Love.


Orpheus Taming Wild Animals, mosaic, 194 AD

27. Ducis, Louis - Orpheus And Eurydice

Orpheus and Eurydice, Louis Ducis

Translate the Latin story based on Ovid’s tale:

Multae fabulae narrantur de Orpheō, quī a Musīs doctus erat cithara ludere. In picturā in tricliniō Corneliī sitā Orpheus ad infernos descendit. Cur? Descendit quod uxor eius Eurydicē morte abrepta iam sub terra ā Plutone tenebatur. Dolore oppressus Orpheus constituit Plutonī appropinquare et uxorem ab eō petere.

cithara -ae (f): lyre

cithara ludere: to play (on) the lyre

dolor, doloris (m): grief

abripio, abripere, abripui, abreptus: to snatch away

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Ianua regnī Plutonis ā Cerbero, cane ferocī, quī tria habebat capita, custodiebatur. Orpheus, quod semper esuriebat Cerberus frustra cibī ad eum coniecit et, dum cibus arripitur a Cerberō, in regnum intravit. Per umbras ībat Orpheus; uxorem diu et diligenter quaerebat. Umbras et Plutonem cantibus et citharā oblectavit et fascinavit. Tandem Pluto dolore eius commotus, “Licet tibi” inquit, “uxorem tuam reducere, sed hac condiciōne: Eurydicē exibit ad lucem tē sequens; tu vetaris eam respicere. Si tu respicies, ea retrahētur neque umquam iterum ad vivos remittētur.”

ferox, ferocis: fierce

cantus, cantus (m): song

oblecto, -are, -avi, -atus: to delight

fascino, -are, -avi, -atus: to bewitch, charm

condicio, condicionis (f): condition, stipulation

respico, respicere, respexi, respectus: to look back at


Orpheus, Athanasius Kircher, 1601-1680

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Orpheus, Latin Manuscript

Mox Eurydicē ex umbrīs ducēbatur. Tum Orpheum sequens ad lucem lentē ascendebat. Orpheus, quamquam uxorem vidēre valdē desiderabat, ascendebat neque respexit. Iam ad lucem paene adveniebant cum Orpheus amore oppressus est. Respexit. Eurydice revocata ad Plutonem retracta est neque ad lucem umquam reddita est.


Orpheus and Eurydice, Michel-Martin Drölling, painting,1851

Disheartened and depressed by this double loss of Eurydice, Orpheus shuns the company of women. The Maenads, the maddened women who worship Bacchus, are angered at being so scorned. They attack Orpheus and their clamor and ululations tear him apart, limb from limb. Orpheus descends again to the Underworld, this time as a shade, where he is finally reunited with Eurydice.


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Orpheus and the Maenads,  Early English Manuscript

Credit: Latin story from Ecce Romani Unit 2

Minerva et Arachne

Minerva (Athena) is the goddess of wisdom and war. She is also the household deity of spinning and weaving. As we know from the TED video about Domitia, weaving is a prized skill in the ancient world. It is a skill which every Roman maiden and wife once learned and practiced in the domus. We know that because it is commemorated on the tombstones of many Roman women.


Ovid tells a tale of Minerva’s anger when a mortal, Arachne, boasts that her skill is greater than that of Minerva. This is an example of an aetiological myth, one that explains the cause (aitia) of a natural phenomenon, the skill of the spider.


Epistle of Othea, manuscript, 1364

Indeed, Arachne was a fine weaver. Ovid wrote that Arachne had attained such skill in the arts of weaving, that the nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains just to gaze upon her work. Spectators said that Minerva herself must have taught Arachne. But this, Arachne denied. “Let Minerva try her skill with mine” she said; “If beaten, I will pay the penalty.”


Francesco del Cossa, oil painting, 1460

Minerva assumed the character of an old woman, and in a friendly tone, she tried to warn the foolish girl against such a display of false pride (hubris). The old woman said, “I have had much experience and I hope you will not despise my counsel. Challenge your fellow mortals as you will, but do not compete with a goddess.”

Regardless, Arachne would not acknowledge Minerva as a source of her powers and she challenged the goddess to a weaving contest. Then, Minerva threw off her disguise and ordered the looms to be set up. The competition began. Minerva wove into her tapestries the stories about proud mortals who were punished because of their hubris. Impudent Arachne wove tales about the scandalous behavior of the male gods.


Antonio Tempesta, Etching, 1606

In anger at Arachne’s weaving, Minerva beat Arachne with a shuttle (weaving tool) to make her feel guilt and shame. Arachne could not endure it and went to hang herself on her thread. Arachne became smaller and smaller and turned into a spider, eternally weaving.

Hence the term: arachnid (spider).


Jean Lepautre, Etching and Engraving on Paper 1676

The Myth of Minerva and Arachne (youtube clip)

Bonus: Translate the Latin below the fourth image. To whom does Pallade refer?

aranea, araneae: spider web

a/ab (+ ablative): by

convertitur: is changed (passive voice: compare with she changes)

in (+ acc): into

State Motto Activity

Latin Sayings and Snippets From States!

Try your best to translate the following state mottoes, all of which are written in Latin.  For words that you don’t know, I provide the vocabulary.  Other words we have had before and you can look up in Ecce if you don’t remember.


Arkansas:  regnat populus –  _____________________


regnare – to rule (reign, regent, regal, etc)

what is the subject?


Virginia:  sic semper tyrannis – _______________________


sic – thus

tyrannus, tyranni – tyrant

HINT: Tyrannis is dative plural. How is the dative case translated? Look in the Ecce glossary if you cannot remember!


South Carolina:  Dum spiro spero –  _________________


dum – while

spirare – to breath (perspiration, inspire, spirit)

sperare – to hope (does anyone know the spanish word for hope?)  🙂


Alabama:  audemus iura nostra defendere – __________________________


audere – to dare (the english adjective audacious means daring)

iura, iurorum – neuter, only in the plural, “rights”

nostrus, a, um: our  (compare spanish nosotros and italian nostro, nostra)

defendere – what do you think?  to defend!

(note, iura is neuter plural ACCUSATIVE!)


Arizona:  Ditat Deus – ____________________


deus, dei – god

ditare – to nourish

what is the subject?


Oklahoma:  Labor omnia vincit – ____________________


omnia – all things  (neuter)

vincere– to conquer

Adjectives are often used as Nouns (substantively), the masculine usually to denote men or people in general of that kind, the feminine women, and the neuter things

Thus, boni sunt rari = good men are rare.  (notice – we don’t need the word for men!)  Or:  Bonae sunt rarae = good women are rare.       SO: if you see an adjective and you don’t see a noun that it modifies….it’s probably substantive.

The state that holds a special place in my heart…


Maine:  Dirigo – ____________________


dirigere– to direct

Credit to Gabe, because I basically just took his activity and made it look pretty, with a few additions like my favorite state of Maine.   🙂