RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Latin epigraphy in "Centurion" movie
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
I thought about putting this in the Reviews Forum, but since it is more about Latin language than trashing a film, I'll put it here Smile

Anyway for a Hollywood movie I didn't think it was too bad in its treatment of the subject matter (I rated the movie about a 3/5 or so in the Reviews Forum), but I've now watched it twice so I'm starting to pick other little things out here and there that have to do with my interest areas, and this is one of them. Not to spoil the movie, but at a certain point the main character comes to a Roman fort that has been abandoned, and sees this sign on the wall:

[Image: CenturionLatin.png?t=1283809208&ref=nf]

First off, I give them high marks for at least attempting to show realistic looking Latin writing. For me the problem begins in the fact that it's almost "too legible" if you know what I mean; the writings we've found in the dirt in northern Britain look like gibberish to me, so I would kind of doubt that soldiers in a hurry would take the time to describe their actions in scribe-quality penmanship.

But aside from that, it kind of feels to me like they just found some guy with a Latin dictionary to write the message. I read it as:

Imperatore Hadriano
_________ omnes
Romanorum
copiae ad valum [sic]
Aelium recesserunt

Not sure what the first word in the second line is trying to be. Can anyone figure that one out?

For the meaning, I have:

"From Emperor Hadrian,
________ all of the
Roman
troops have retreated
to the Aelian Wall."

Except, "valum" is spelled incorrectly (should be "vallum", cognate with our own word) and it seems to me that "copiae" and "Romanorum" should be the same number (the former is genitive singular, the latter is genitive plural), though I could be wrong on that since "copiae" might be one of those "singular form, plural meaning" kind of words; I'm tired and can't remember offhand :mrgreen: But also, maybe I'm just getting rusty on my Latin, but I can't recall the Romans saying things like "all OF the Romans" the way we do; I could have sworn they would just say like "all Romans."

So anyway, for everyone who is better at this than I am, I'd like some opinions Smile
Quote:Except, "valum" is spelled incorrectly (should be "vallum", cognate with our own word)
Actually, it is only incorrect if we compare it to the "classical" orthography. Spelling with one L only is pretty common north of the Alps: here's a rooftile from Neuss on which "classis" is spelled according to this "North-Latin" habit.

[Image: classis_csm.JPG]

I think the illegible word is "iubento", "while commanding": with Hadrian as commander, the Roman troops have returned.
Thanks for that Jona, I was unaware of differences in northern/southern orthography; this has a nice connection with my research interests, so that's good to know! And I think you're right about ivbento; that makes sense in context for sure, as part of an ablative absolute. What do you think about the other parts?
Quote:I was unaware of differences in northern/southern orthography
I don't think there's something like a "northern orthography"; there were no spelling guides in London and Mainz; but the way of spelling is common.
Quote:What do you think about the other parts?
That you are right.
Yes but a sign on an abandoned fort however good the Latin is incorrect in that the Romans would have destroyed the Fort and buried or carried off anything of value. If they planned to return they would have just built another fort - not a hard task for the Legions. Given time they would have even recovered the nails from the building ashes. You don't leave behind iron for your enemies to use making weapons.
Quote:Yes but a sign on an abandoned fort however good the Latin is incorrect in that the Romans would have destroyed the Fort and buried or carried off anything of value. If they planned to return they would have just built another fort - not a hard task for the Legions. Given time they would have even recovered the nails from the building ashes. You don't leave behind iron for your enemies to use making weapons.

Well I'm willing to overlook details like that, just because I don't think that in the ancient world (just as in the world of today) we can assume every situation was an ideal situation.
Looks like some are spoiled by classical authors, have a look at roman grafitis and you need not wonder about modern spelling mistakes in Films.
In the book "Decius war hier..." by Karl-Wilhelm Weeber you see what non akademic latin looked like, based on grafiti finds from Pomeji and Herculuneum.
By the way grafitis have not really changed in over 2000 years, the topics are still pretty much the same.
Quote:Looks like some are spoiled by classical authors, have a look at roman grafitis and you need not wonder about modern spelling mistakes in Films.
In the book "Decius war hier..." by Karl-Wilhelm Weeber you see what non akademic latin looked like, based on grafiti finds from Pomeji and Herculuneum.
By the way grafitis have not really changed in over 2000 years, the topics are still pretty much the same.

Fair enough; I've seen a fair bit of Pompeiian (and other) graffiti so I definitely get your point. There are even some which mix the Latin and Greek alphabet, perhaps because the "scribe" hadn't received an actual education, and was writing his (usually ribald) message using a cobbling together of things he'd "picked up along the way." As such I guess it wouldn't exactly be fair to expect perfect spelling all the time.
Spelling mistakes is the norm also in ancient greek epigraphy,especially on vases but not only. I believe that those "mistakes" are very valuable for someone who would try to clear out the pronounciation of the greeks without bias. People with only basic knowlege of writing tend to spell the words more like what it sounds to them rather than what grammar says. This i noticed from my grandmother who barely knew how to write down her name,but nevertheless wrote down notes to my grandfather for the supermarket shopping. I could barely distinguish the words myself,but i noticed that she was adding,changing or omiting letters according to the pronounciation of the area and the village.
I think that this would have been a commor phenomenon in antiquity and a study on this would be very ineresting i think.
Khairete
Giannis
Standardized spelling is a thing of the modern world. The mistake I see (and saw in the movie) is that spacing between words is usually lacking in Latin. Having tried to puzzle my way through the Vindolanda writings - I'm truly amazed at the ability of those who figured them out and rendered plausible translations.
And yes, based on the examples at Inchtuthill and other sites like Corbridge, the Romans would tear the place down/burn what they could, extract nails and bury them and any other iron they couldn't take with them. I own 5 iron nails out of the 11 or so tons of them found buried at Inchtuthill (thus the "Clavus" in my Roman name). Obviously the Romans did leave stuff behind, or we wouldn't have the artifacts we do have; especially since many finds are associated with site abandonment as the more recent understandings go - such as per Bishop & Coulston, Roman Military Equipment.
Can't contribute much except to say what an interesting thread! Must go and look up the grafitti reference as I was unware of that one.

Thanks guys!
Quote:Can't contribute much except to say what an interesting thread! Must go and look up the grafitti reference as I was unware of that one.

Thanks guys!
Well if you are interested in that book the ISBN-number is 3-7608-1131-0
I found the book very interesting as there are lots of photos of the grafitis as also transscriptions into readable latin as into modern German for those not so firm in common or vulgar latin. Also lots of ideas for those wondering what to do with a piece of charcoal at a event. :mrgreen:
Quote:
Vindex:3tfdqekr Wrote:Can't contribute much except to say what an interesting thread! Must go and look up the grafitti reference as I was unware of that one.

Thanks guys!
Well if you are interested in that book the ISBN-number is 3-7608-1131-0
I found the book very interesting as there are lots of photos of the grafitis as also transscriptions into readable latin as into modern German for those not so firm in common or vulgar latin. Also lots of ideas for those wondering what to do with a piece of charcoal at a event. :mrgreen:


:lol: Good idea! haha


Also, @ Quinton: Excellent point about the lack of spacing between words in Latin texts, that's something I'd actually forgotten about, but even in nice legible texts there is not even any punctuation like we're used to today. As for the destruction of Roman camps upon their abandonment, again I know that this was the norm, not to mention the ideal, but I still maintain that we needn't feel absolutely sure that this happened 100% of the time. I agree that in the situation in the movie at least, it seemed as if the soldiers definitely would have torched the place as they left, you are absolutely right. But I am sure there were instances where forts/fortlets weren't destroyed by the Romans themselves due to various extenuating circumstances. Of course, any further on this point, and I'm sure it will sound as if I'm arguing for the sake of arguing, so I'll leave it at that Big Grin
Quote:I think the illegible word is "iubento", "while commanding": with Hadrian as commander, the Roman troops have returned.
I admit that my Latin is not in tip-top condition, but (having scratched my head for some time) isn't iubento a (plural) future imperative? (The very definition of a rara avis!)

Meaning that some plural subject (omnes copiae Romanorum?) "shall order" someone to do something (I'd've expected an infinitive here, but as I said, I'm rusty) "for the emperor Hadrian" (imperatore Hadriano). :?

The whole sign seems a bit of a mess, which is maybe the point. An homage to romanes eunt domus?
Quote:
Jona Lendering:1x3oxv4d Wrote:I think the illegible word is "iubento", "while commanding": with Hadrian as commander, the Roman troops have returned.
I admit that my Latin is not in tip-top condition, but (having scratched my head for some time) isn't iubento a (plural) future imperative? (The very definition of a rara avis!)

Meaning that some plural subject (omnes copiae Romanorum?) "shall order" someone to do something (I'd've expected an infinitive here, but as I said, I'm rusty) "for the emperor Hadrian" (imperatore Hadriano). :?

The whole sign seems a bit of a mess, which is maybe the point. An homage to romanes eunt domus?


Best scene in a movie ever :lol:

Btw, I also have a tee shirt with that on it Big Grin