Tag Archives: Aeneas

Burning Bushes, Crying Alone, Seeing Stars: Not College Stories, Just Latin Mottos

So recently I was in a teaching workshop and was discussing with some of my colleagues the use of mission statements as well as school credos and mottos. With many schools having Latin mottos I thought I would take a minute to reflect on this phenomenon as a classical reference that is more overt than most of the ones I write about here.

I will start with my alma mater, Temple University. Temple’s Latin motto is Perseverantia vincit (perseverance conquers). Personally of all of the Latin phrases out there I think this one is pretty weak. I might even challenge my friends who are still there to seek a change to this motto. I mean at least use the whole phrase which is Perseverantia omnia vincit (perseverance conquers all). I was unable to find a specific origin of this phrase in ancient literature, but I would venture to say that it is a modern adaptation of Ovid’s phrase Amor omnia vincit.

Now onto some other mottos worthy of comment.

Baylor University- Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: I mention this one first for my friend at Baylor. This makes me laugh simply because Texas was turned into a Latin word. It means “For church, for Texas.”

Campbell University- Ad astra per aspera: “To the stars through difficulties.” This Latin motto makes me think of Steinbeck’s use of a similar motto ad astra per alia porci (to the stars on the wings of a pig) which is my favorite Latin phrase of all time. Ad astra phrases are usually attribute to Vergil who wrote that Aeneas’ son Iulus would “go to the stars.”

Dartmouth College- Vox clamantis in deserto: I include this one solely because the translation on Wikipedia made me laugh hysterically. Wikipedia translates it as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” I just conjure up this image of a student sitting alone in the New England wilderness crying over a pile of books; not exactly the image I would want as a prospective student. This is also the translation offered by the Dartmouth website so while I would translate it differently I will not dispute it here.

University of Florida-Civium in moribus rei publicae salus: “The welfare of the state depends upon the morals of its citizens” The birthplace of Gatorade brings us this great motto which many would say was exemplified well by Tim Tebow during his time there. This motto is, however, funny to me as the welfare of that campus clearly depends on its partying student body.

University of Kansas- Videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non comburatur rubus: “I will see this great sight, how the bush does not burn” Alright I know I’m going to catch some crap for this one as this quotation comes from the Bible, but this is the funniest college motto I’ve come across. I don’t think I even need to flesh this one out for the dirty minds of college students everywhere. I’ll just leave you with [Insert STD joke here].

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Magic in the Woods: Disney Princesses, Once Upon a Time, and Rex Nemorensis

                I recently saw a meme about Disney Princess and it said something like “I need to spend more time in the woods because that’s where all of the good men are.” I thought this was funny because I am a bit of an outdoors man and spend a lot of time in the woods, but then I thought about it and realized that most of the Disney Princesses do find their magic in the woods. This is not a theme only in Disney, however. Since ancient times magic has been found in dark wooded areas and often under great sleep deprivation. Some scholars believe this is due to the effects of sleep deprivation or hypothermia like hallucinations causing people to actually believe they experienced things beyond the realm of daily non-magical life. The following are a few classical examples of this phenomenon some of which you may find to be related.

                The first, and probably most obvious, is that Vergil’s character Aeneas had to go deep into the woods and search for a golden bough in order to gain entrance into the underworld. I have been in the cave in Cumae, Italy that is said to be the entrance to the underworld (my prof kind of ruined the magic for me by saying it was most likely a military defensive establishment to guard the temples at the top of the hill). It is easy to see when on sight that this would be a very dark place and in ancient days would have been surrounded by dark forests.

                A fundamental myth of the forest is the story of the Rex Nemorensis (king of the forest). This tradition, according to Sir James George Frazer, is the basis of many myths (note: some scholars argue strongly against his views). The myth has its roots in Nemi a small town with a very dark lake surrounded by dark forests. The area is sacred to the goddess Diana who has been mentioned before in this blog. Anyway, the tradition is given by Frazer as follows:

“In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or craftier” (Frazer, Golden Bough, p. 1).

While this story is not exactly magical, it has been transformed into many magical myths and shows the roots of our modern obsession with magic taking place in the woods or with characters deprived of sleep. This story is also visited in the show Once Upon a Time as Rumpelstiltskin gains his power from the dark one in a tale almost exactly the same as this one.

                The point is that we often see today, especially in Disney and fairy tale type movies, that magic takes place in the forest. Even the princess from the Princess and the Frog finds her magic and her love in the depths of the woods. This is not a modern invention, but instead a theme that runs deep into ancient times. I hope that having read this, you will look for this theme in a variety of movies and shows and comment on this post with the many examples that exist in today’s pop culture.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,