Harry Potter Latin Quiz
Classical Computers Quiz
Classical Face Quiz
links to other sites
(return to top of page)
Why is the Emperor Hadrian's name spelled in three different ways -
first on a coin, secondly on a lead ingot found at Bath and thirdly on a building inscription at Wroxeter near Shrewsbury?
Did the Romans have problems with spelling or could this be a special feature of their language?
HADRIANI on the lead ingot means "Hadrian's" : showing that it is his property.
The inscription below can be seen in Rowley's House Museum in Shrewsbury, and shows that the city of the Cornovii ( CIVITAS CORNOVIORUM - Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury) dedicated the Forum building to the Emperor Hadrian.
(HADRIANO on the 3rd line)
In Latin, instead of writing 'To Hadrianus', the Romans put the letter 'o' on the end of his name. The words 'Imperator' and 'Caesar' both gain an 'i'.
- Hadrian had so many names and titles that the first FOUR lines all refer to him!
IMP[eratori] CAES[ari] ... TRAIANO HADRIANO AUGUSTO
To the Emperor Caesar .... Trajan Hadrian Augustus
Think about the word 'he' in English, which sometimes changes to 'him' or 'his'.
Names and other nouns in Latin change their endings to show if they are :
being addressed HADRIANE CAESAR
the OBJECT of a verb ( HIM ) HADRIANUM CAESAREM
the POSSESSOR of something ( HIS ) HADRIANI CAESARIS
the INDIRECT OBJECT ( TO or FOR ) HADRIANO CAESARI
WITH someone or something HADRIANO CAESARE
Most nouns in Latin follow one of 3 basic patterns, and if these patterns (Declensions) are learnt, it becomes easy to recognise what is happening in a Latin sentence.
Latin is an INFLECTED language : the meaning of a sentence is determined by word-endings (rather than by word-order, as in English).
Latin is an economical language because there are no words for 'the' or 'a'.
Words in a Latin sentence can be written in any order, and the sentence can still be understood because the endings of individual words will correspond with each other.
In Latin, the sentence :
The sad girl hits the unlucky boy.
could be written :
maesta puella pulsat infelicem puerum
maesta infelicem puerum puella pulsat.
There is no danger of confusing who is hitting and who is being hit, because the words meaning 'unlucky boy' infelicem puerum have the ending '-em' or '-um', denoting the object of the sentence.
This opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities for Latin poets - so look at the Latin poetry section of this site for illustrated examples from Horace and Virgil !
If you are interested in learning Latin, look at the Links page for some ideas.