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Happy Tuesday! You know what that means… Latin!

I was browsing through some Vergil and came across this awesome sentence:

Possunt quia posse videntur.
They are able which seem to be able.
Aquellos que parecen disponibles, estan disponibles.

Another straight forward sentence from the master of Latin narrative. Perhaps Virgil is smiling from somewhere in the void, videntur felix (seeming happy) at the fact that we cannot crack the code within his words. Let us try, and bring joy for another reason to the man who wrote so well about ability.

Have you ever heard the phrase “who is on the Lord’s side” (Exodus 32:26)? In the Bible, the call is made by God to those who will follow him. Vergil takes a more pragmatic approach and answers the question by giving as a way to recognize who is on our side; no need to ask the question at all. Those who look ready to fight for you will we the ones seeming ready to fight for you. The importance of ‘seeming’ is made evident by the Passive verb ‘videntur.’ While in the Active voice ‘videre’ means ‘to see’ (next time you watch a video remember in Latin it means ‘I see’/’I am seeing’); however, in the Passive Voice, something we should all learn to use more often, it meant ‘to be seen,’ and that which is seen can only be interpreted, therefore, it was also translated as ‘seems,’ or ‘appears’ to denote the  connotation of the passive verb. All around awesomeness was reflective to the Romans (just as it was to the Greeks), thus also, if you were All-around awesome, your appearance, even uninterestedly, would reflect that. Notice how ‘appearance’ derives from ‘appear,’ which defines something that is seen, just like ‘videor.’

Thus, Virgil is speaking to the Roman leader (and arguably all Romans were leaders in one capacity or another), saying that those who are able are those who are seen by others to be able. In other words, when in Rome, a city filled with people eager to fulfill some unexplainable call to arms, office, responsibility, or whatever else brought honor to a person or house, the leader could choose which men to select from their appearance and eagerness. The same worked in a different sense: those who did not seem ready were not ready. Although to us that may seem like an easy way to get out of Dodge, a Roman being passed up from the Legio because of his shabby appearance would have felt deeply insulted and have brought shame upon himself and his family. Roman cleanliness was renown, even for the lowest strata of society.

Thus, leaders, those who seem most able to you are the ones that will be best to do the job. That is assuming of course that you know what you are doing…

Valete!

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