Vergil’s Weapons and Armor Vocabulary Intro

Marching Soldiers. Cristian Chirita. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Marching Soldiers. Cristian Chirita. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Last week I got side-tracked in my reading of Book VIII of the Aeneid by my JSTOR quest for Vergil’s water words. Although my thirst went unquenched, I finally returned to Vergil this morning. I found myself doing what I usually do when I read a passage that is filled with jargon — inserting a generic term for nouns I don’t believe will make any difference to my comprehension. In this case, the generic word was really two: “weapon” and “armor”.

So and so put on his “armor” and his “armor” and grabbed his “weapon” and threw his “weapon” at the enemy.

Do I really need to make more sense of it than that? It depends on what the purpose of my reading is:

If my objective is to get to the end as quickly as possible, then obviously no.

If it’s to taste the flavor of the language, then it’s also no. I can read the Latin aloud and try to get a feel for the sound, but I don’t need to know whether the soldier was putting a helmet on his head or greaves on his legs.

If the purpose of my reading is to savor the language, then yes, I do need to examine the vocabulary more carefully.

Today my objective was the first and second. The first because I fell behind last week and the second, because otherwise I might as well read a translation. However, since I was able to make my way through to the end of the 8th book only two days into my scheduled week for Book IX, I can spend some time reviewing those martial terms I like to avoid. No time to JSTOR them today, though.

Without further ado, here are the war terms I noted in Book VIII of Vergil’s Aeneid:

  • Chalybs
    From the Greek chalpso. Iron or steel. 8.446.
  • Clipeus
    Round shield, often bronze, carried on the arm.
  • Telum
    Generic word for weapon, used for throwing or thrusting. One of the words learned in beginning Latin.
  • Ensis
    Sword. Synonymous with gladius.
  • Scutum
    Shield. Different from the clipeus in that it is usually oblong and made of wood. Curved sides could protect the sides as well as the front of the wearer. It can be slung over the shoulder.
  • Arma
    Weapons, tools. As generic as my term “weapons”. One of the words learned in beginning Latin and seen again many times since the beginning of the Aeneid.
  • Chlamys
    From the Greek chlamus. A Greek cloak used for the military or in riding.
  • Lorica
    A cuirass of leather or metal. Here’s where I probably first got the idea that I might as well say generic “armor” for all the definition helps. What’s a cuirass? Definitions also use the term corselet, but that’s not much better. The answer: A cuirass is defensive armor with parts covering both the front and the back of the torso.
  • Ocrea
    A greave or protective legging. Sometimes Romans only wore one on the right leg. It is a good poetic word since its nominative singular is itself a dactyl.
  • Hasta
    A spear or javelin. Another word from beginning Latin. Not too surprising that so many beginning Latin words have to do with fighting. A hasta is a weapon that is thrusted or thrown.
  • Crista
    A plume or crest on a helmet.
  • Galea
    Soldier’s helmet.
  • Parma
    (ix.548) Shield, buckler.
  • Iaculum
    (572) Javelin.
  • Sagitta
    Another of those first vocabulary list words — arrow.
  • Spiculum
    (606) Point, dart, arrow.
  • Pharetra
    (660) Quiver.
  • Amentum
    (665) Strap for throwing a javelin.
  • Gladius
    (669) Another of those first vocabulary list words — sword.

Update: July 31, 2008 Book X

  • Mucro
    (570) Point, edge of sword
  • Umbo
    (884) Boss of a shield
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1 Comment

  1. This is GOLD! Thanks for the post. If you find more words for arms and armor from Vergil let me know. I have a Latin-language World of Warcraft guild and this vocab is imperative. Or is it nominative? 😛

    Like

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