Newton wins NCAA March Madness!

What!? Well, not really but as a Classicist, I started thinking that Villanova won and Villanova is Latin for New Town which is what our city’s name, Newton, means. It made me think about other Latin that might be lurking around Newton.

For starters, right in Newtonville is the Massachusetts state motto atop the Bank of America Financial Center on Walnut Street: ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (with a sword one seeks quiet peace under freedom) from the full phrase manus haec inimica tyrannis ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (this hand, enemy to tyrants, seeks with via the sword a quiet peace under liberty).

Having spent a considerable amount of volunteer time in Newton North High School, I recalled its motto:  Animi Cultus Humanitatis Cibus. Cultus is a cognate of cultivate which is the word used to distinguish tilled (cultivated) land from natural land. The word cultus also come to mean nurtured (as in, nature versus nurture) and nurture, of course, is what schools are intent on doing to minds. The motto translates to Learning Sustains the Human Spirit. Learning does, as does Newton North.

Another example is Mount Alvernia High School, whose motto is Pax et Bonum (Peace and Good).

Along the same lines, I am reminded that good students are rewarded in Latin: cum laude (with honor), magna cum laude (with great honor), summa cum laude (with highest honor).

My final entry is long and calls for Latin experts. It is the tombstone of John Cotton, the third minister of the First Church in Newton.  He was buried in the East Parish Burying Ground (corner of Center and Cotton streets) in 1757 with the following inscription on his tomb:

Hic depositum mori quod potuit
Reverendi vereque venerandi
JOHANNIS COTTONI,
ecclesiae Newtoniensis fidelissimi, prudentissimi, doctissimique                       pastoris,
concionandi tam precandi facultate celeberrimi,
pietate spectatissimi,
moribus sanctissimis undequaque
et suavissime ab omnibus bene meriti,                                                                     deploratique auditoribus praecipue,                                                                   quibus vel mortuus concionari non desinit.
Fama longe lateque vocalius et diutius marmore duratissimo,                           nomen perdulce proclamabit.                                                                                     Morbo non senecta fractus,
e vita decessit, Maii 17, A. D. 1757, aetatis suae 64,
officii ministralis 43.

Here lies what has perished
Of the revered and venerable
JOHN COTTON,
Most faithful, prudent, and learned
Pastor of his Newton congregation,
Most celebrated in his ability to preach and pray, most admired in piety,
Very much and most pleasantly deserving
in praise by all for his pious habits,
And especially lamented by those who had heard him,
For whom even dead his words still are heard.
Far and wide, loudly, and more lasting than the hardest marble,
Will Fame proclaim his sweet name.
Broken by disease not old age,
He left this life on May 17, 1757 at the age of 64.
in the 43rd year of his ministry.

What Latin have you seen in and around Newton? Let me know.

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Lynne LeBlancJohn Koot Recent comment authors
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John Koot

Thanks for this intriguing and entertaining post, Lynne! And what a clever way of allowing Newton to bask in the reflected glory of Villanova’s achievement! Owing to my lack of a thorough grounding in the classics, I will have to leave to others the translation of the encomium to John Cotton. Rather like my opera-centric Italian, my Latin is largely confined to the great choral works, to gleanings from history and literature, and to the inscriptions on ancient coins (and, of course, the back of our dollar bill). The Roman emperors used their coins to project their power and authority, as well as for propaganda—what we might think of as the “sound bites” they wanted to get out to the populace. One of my favorites is from a small silver-washed copper coin from the reign of Emperor Constantius II in the mid-4th Century C.E. The front of the coin, of course, is inscribed with the emperor’s name, title, and portrait. The reverse shows a Roman cavalryman spearing a fallen enemy soldier, and above him is the (abbreviated) message: “FEL TEMP REPARATIO,” short for “Felix Temporum Reparatio,” generally rendered as “the return of fortunate times.” Very few students of history would characterize that period as “good times,” and I have often thought of the message as a form of whistling in the dark, very much as FDR, in the midst of the Depression, adopted as a theme song “Happy Days Are Here Again!” As to other Latin inscriptions in Newton, I… Read more »

Someone is way up on their Newton History! You can read the History of Newton: http://wabanimprovement.org/history

John Koot

Nice suggestion, Chris! I believe Professor LeBlanc’s goal was to entice one or more of Newton’s numerous former students of Latin to take a stab at translating the passage, no doubt hoping thereby to reignite a long-dormant passion for the language. It will be sad indeed if this challenge remains unmet.