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Postby Quintus Marius Primus on Fri Jun 11, 2004 3:15 pm

Salvete Romani

Anyone know what the Roman attitude to left-handedness was? Were they like the Victorians in my country who forced people to write with their right hand, or was it simply not an issue for them?

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Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Fri Jun 11, 2004 4:43 pm

Salve Quinte, (is it Quinte or Quinti?)

here's an excerpt from a mailing list I'm a member of. They discussed this briefly in one of their topics:

Indeed all peoples of antiquity were highly superstitious, and seem to have believed that everything (including objects we regard as inanimate) contained an animate spirit with a will of its own that needed to be bribed, cajoled, incanted into cooperative behaviour.
You are also correct that everything unusual and non-conformist was viewed with suspicion, and hence the Romans most certainly viewed everyone sinister (left handed) as sinister (bad, awkward, wrong, unlucky). This usage is in poetic literature (especially Catullus and Ovid) and enters Latin prose in the 1st century AD approximately during the sinister reign of Tiberius.
But there is an important exception. While the Greeks faced north to read auspices (divine the outcome of future events from the flight of birds), and hence had the fortunate, eastern side on their right (where the sun rises), the Romans faced south so that the east was on their left. In this context alone the word sinister had a favourable, well-omened meaning.


I hope this helps.

Vale bene,
Last edited by Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Fri Jun 11, 2004 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Quintus Marius Primus on Fri Jun 11, 2004 5:03 pm

Salve Draco

Tibi gratias ago. That does indeed help - thanks. I was aware that the English word sinister came from the Latin for left, but wasn't sure if this meaning goes back that far.

BTW, think the vocative for Quintus is Quinte

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Fri Jun 11, 2004 6:29 pm

Quintus Marius Primus wrote:BTW, think the vocative for Quintus is Quinte


It is.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Jun 12, 2004 2:03 pm

Salvete

Indeed all peoples of antiquity were highly superstitious, and seem to have believed that everything (including objects we regard as inanimate) contained an animate spirit with a will of its own that needed to be bribed, cajoled, incanted into cooperative behaviour.


Unlike us sophisticated moderns who scream at our computers, kick our cars and bang on uncooperative tv sets, toasters, microwaves and just about any other modern convenience that has a mind of its own.

Nice 'puter, 'nice puter, just hold the connection a little long Perite ISPes omnes!
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Postby Victoria Aurelia Ovensa on Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:04 am

Salwete,

was this regard for the left hand as evil or unclean perhaps of the same origin as the corresponding belief today among Muslims and certain Asian populations - the use of the left hand for cleaning one's self after excretion?
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:49 pm

At least lefthandednes was not regarded as something normal otherwise it would not have been pointed out when a gladiator was lefthanded because there exist inscriptions of something like "mur. scaev." meaning murmillo scaeva (lefthanded murmillo). When two scaevae fought against each other it was stated as a pugna scaeva (lefthanded fight).
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Postby Q Valerius on Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:18 pm

We also should not forget about the Scaevoli.
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