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Inspirational Reads

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. LXXXIX

October 29, 2010

Salvete, amici!

For the past three Fridays, I've delved into some historical Halloween-related topics as they appeared in Roman myth and legend, starting with witches (strigae) and moving to ghosts (larvae and lemures) and ending with vampires (striges). As I alluded to last Friday, I was going to weave them together in some fashion; that was the story that I posted over the past four days.

And, wow, what a rush that was. I conceived of the story about two weeks ago and I quickly went through and plotted it out in that I saw the four breaks in the tale that I could make in order to post on four different days. I did, honestly, try to write some material ahead of time, but I still ended up starting the fourth part of the story on Wednesday night and writing furiously throughout the evening in order to get it finished in time for Thursday morning.

The titles of the chapters were all in Latin and I tried for obvious words that I've already used here in various translations over the past 88 lessons (damn, really?). Anyway, they were victoria (victory), senex (the old man), striga (witch) and veniunt (they come, they do come, they are coming).

Again, thanks much for the compliments; if my ego could swell any further, I promise you it would.

I thought I would go through and cap off the theme here in October with as quick a post as I can muster (research has already been done, largely) before I crawl exhaustedly into bed and prod and fondle my wife's backside fall into a blissful, accomplished sleep.

Dacia was, by and large, in the area where modern-day Romania is located. Some of it overlapped our modern borders into Serbia and Slovakia, but it was mostly in Romania. Dacia itself had long been a coveted piece of land by the Romans, dating back to the time of Julius Caesar. He, however, could not finish the conquest of the Dacians, and so the kingdom remained free and independent for the next two hundred years or so.

The Emperor Domitian tried to conquer Dacia, but failed miserably, and ended up signing a treaty with the Dacians--led by a man named Decebalus--which pretty much made Rome look like a bunch of pansies. The Romans paid reparations to the Dacians, and then also sent military leaders, teachers and slaves into Dacia to teach the Dacian army tactics, teach the Dacian nobility the knowledge garnered in the empire, and to work for the Dacian ruling class. None of this sat well with the Romans.

Domitian eventually died and was replaced by a man named Nerva, who was even less liked than Domitian, especially by the army. Fearing a revolt, Nerva quickly named a young military commander named Traianus as his adoptive successor. Trajan, as we know him, was wildly popular with the military units, and when Nerva stepped aside, Trajan took his place without bloodshed.

He immediately wiped his ass with Domitian's treaty and sent soldiers into Dacia. Around 100 AD, the first forays into Dacian territory were made and by 106 Decebalus was dead (by his own sword), the capital city of Sarmizegetsua was razed, and Dacia was Roman. Colonists moved in, Latin spread throughout the region and Dacia was thoroughly integrated into the Empire. This held up for about 150 years, but then the Huns and the Visigoths began "pressing their influence in the region" and Roman influence in Dacia was lost.

The main reason for Rome's desire to conquer Dacia--aside from pride--was that Dacia held rich mines of gold, silver and salt. These were especially plentiful in a region we today call Transylvania. Transylvania, of course, is a Latin term meaning "on the other side of the forest" and was first named Ultra-sylvanam...which essentially means the same thing. Trans- is just a little nicer looking.

Transylvania, of course, was the home to one Vlad Dracul, who was a Wallachian Prince hellbent on exacting revenge upon those who had murdered his father. Vlad started out as a puppet ruler used to keep the Magyars away from the Ottoman Empire, but soon Vlad was a bit out of control, impaling anyone and everyone who crossed him. Vlad's last name is derived from the Latin word for dragon, draco, but in Slavic languages it means "Devil". His title "Tepes" (pronounced, if I remember correctly, "Seppesh" of my best friends in high school was the son of the leading Western scholar on Romanian history...not that I'm bragging or anything) means "impaler prince".

Vlad Dracul was the model (allegedly) for Bram Stoker's Dracula, and ever since then Transylvania has been connected with the sinister, the dark and creepy, and especially vampire lore.

But, it's Halloween weekend, and I'm sure there's parties to be attended and costumes to be...admired. Yes, we'll go with that. Here's something that might be useful if you come across a particularly...interesting...outfit.

Totum dependeat!

Pronounced: "Toh-toom day-pen-day-aht!"

Dangly translation in the hovertext!

However, if you're given the correct opportunity this weekend, seize it! Seize it immediately! Seize it, and use this slightly different take on an old classic:

Vidi, vici, veni!

Pronounced: "Wee-dee, wee-kee, way-nee!"

It's good to be the king...

One final little note: This has to do with Roman names. Typically, Romans had three names: the praenomen, the nomen and the cognomen. Your praenomen was the name your parents gave you when you came down the chute. Your nomen was the name of your family or clan. The cognomen was a bit like a nickname, usually something that described a trait of yours. If you were really special, you would pick up extra cognomina; Trajan had two. Most of the time, we refer to historic Romans by their cognomina, e.g. Caesar, Augustus, Trajan.

The narrator and main character of my story's name was Gaius Flavius Licinus. Gaius was a very popular praenomen in Roman times; Caesar's praenomen was Gaius (pronounced "Guy-us"). Flavius was a historic nomen whose meaning was "blond", and Licinus is a cognomen meaning "spiky haired". I liked how the names flowed together, and I certainly don't know of any spiky-haired blond guys famous for carrying swords. If you do, feel free to clue me in...

Have a good weekend, my friends, and a Happy Halloween!


snowelf said...

I almost chose that last roman costume as my halloween costume this year, but I went with Aphrodite instead cause it fit better.



Del-V said...

I think Trajan's Column commemorates the Dacian battles. As always, I feel smarter having read your blog today.

Del-V said...

I think Trajan's Column commemorates the Dacian battles. As always, I feel smarter having read your blog today.

Helen Ginger said...

Well, there was the spikey-blond-haired guy named Trent at a party one time. He didn't carry a sword, but did have a nose ring.

MJenks said...

@ snowelf: cogitavi, veni, collapsus sum.

@ Del-V: Yes, it does! But, I didn't want to get too into the life and times of Trajan here. All of the stuff he did to the east, as well, in Parthia and such was also on Trajan's column.

@ Helen: Do I know Trent? Perhaps, perhaps. Was that nosering a skull and crossbones?

BeckEye said...

I once dated a spiky-haired blonde guy and he definitely wasn't carrying a sword, if you catch my drift.

Elly Lou said...

I'm going to try calling me husband "impaler prince" and see how well that's received.