November 04, 2006

Gloria cuique sua est

In English: To each his own glory.

I thought this would be a positive follow-up to the more cynical "cuique" proverb in yesterday's post. This proverb assures us that everyone has their own glory, their own achievement, although of course not everyone achieves glory in the same way.

This proverb gives me a good excuse to write something here about the Latin word gloria, which gives us the English word "glory" (and the name "Gloria" too, of course!). This means that the Latin word is easy to translate into English, but the ease of that translation masks the complicated history of this word.

The word gloria forms part of the classical Latin vocabulary and was an important part of Roman culture. The fame and renown of glory, and the pursuit of glory, were highly approved by the ancient Romans. Etymologically, the word appears to be related to the Latin word "cluere," "to be known as, famous for," as in the adjective "inclutus," "famed, famous." If you think about it, you can see the relationship between glo- and clu- since "g" and "c" are voiced/unvoiced versions of the same consonant, and the vowels "o" and "u" easily slide from one into the other (just look at the English pronounciation of the word "boot" if you want proof of how a long "o" can easily turn into an "u"!).

Yet the word gloria also acquired a special meaning in Christian Latin, as the equivalent of Greek "doxa," which in turn is used as the equivalent of Hebrew "shekinah," the in-dwelling of God and his radiant presence. You can read about the shekinah as light in the Jewish Encyclopedia online.

So, this Latin proverb has a quite different meaning based on whether you understand the Latin gloria in its classical Roman meaning, or in its later Christian meaning. For the Romans, the proverb means "everyone has his own fame." For the Christians, the proverb means "everyone manifests the presence of God in their own way."

So please keep in mind the multiple meanings of "gloria" as you listen to today's proverb read out loud:

934. Gloria cuique sua est.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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