Secunda Alite

By CHAMBECR1, in 'Latin Mottoes', Feb 20, 2008.

  1. CHAMBECR1 New Member

    Salute !!

    I've joined this forum in order to get some help with translating a school motto :


    I've not been able to find it via google searches

    Any one able to help ?
  2. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    The phrase literally means "with a bird following", which by itself doesn't make much sense. However, birds were commonly used for augury in ancient Rome, and so the phrase is often translated "with a good omen".

    The phrase is a literary refernce from Horace's Epodes (XIV.23-4). This is a curious poem; in his youth Horace fought on the side of Brutus and Cassius in the second civil war, and after their defeat felt that it would be best for noble Romans to pack up and leave rather than stay in a city on a path to self-destruction:

    sic placet? an melius quis habet suadere? Secunda
    ratem occupare quid moramur alite?

    "Is it pleasing? But who has a better argument?
    Why delay to board a ship with good omens?"
  3. CHAMBECR1 New Member

    Wow... that's brilliant. Thank you so much.

    I had possibly thought that it meant 'Nourish those Following' using the imperative of the verb alo :

    alo - to feed, nourish, support, sustain,
    alite - pres imperat act 2nd pl
  4. Fulgor Laculus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Talk about ambiguous phrases!
    Now that you mention it, Chambecr1, 'Nourish those following' would seem appropriate for a school motto. The only problem is that it should have been Secundos alite, if referring to the students. Though it is possible that the neuter plural was used in order to encompass a wider range of things to follow, for example the next generation and everything affiliated with it.
  5. CHAMBECR1 New Member

    OK - now I'm confused - which do you think it is ?

    No one ever told me it was 'Nourish the Following' I just tried to work it out

    The school badge does have a Raven on it - so it mights suggest the Horace version.
  6. Fulgor Laculus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Vowel length seems to be identical whichever way you look at it (either ablative absolute or verbal sentence), so it can equally be translated either way. However, raven behavior was involved in ancient omen interpretation, so the phrase does seem to lean towards the Horatius translation. In any case, I think its nice to have a school motto that can mean more than one thing - but if you wish to dispel the (possibly unintentional) ambiguity, try asking one of the school's staff elders, maybe they remember...
  7. effulgenzia New Member

    Re: Motto translation please

    "Secunda Alite" was the motto of Brockley County Grammar School in South-East London. As a pupil there, I was told it meant "Let The Omens Be Favourable", although there was also an alternative I cannot now remember.
  8. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    Re: Motto translation please

    Wow, old thread, and I have no idea why it's in this section.

    I'll add only this: the Horatian passage is not, in fact, ambiguous. The 'a' in alite must be long to accommodate the meter, which in this line is iambic trimeter. The 'a' in the noun āles,-itis is long while the 'a' in verb alo, aluī, altum is short, so ālite can only be an instance of the former.

    As the others have said, it means "with favorable omen". It's not a wish or exhortation, so "let the omens be favorable" is really quite far off the mark. A more modern, idiomatic translation might be "fortune/luck is on our side".
  9. Steve Sweeney New Member

    I was at Brockley County Grammar School 1962 to 1969 where the school motto was Secunda Alite. I was always told that the motto translated as "With favourable flight". Sounds pretty close to "With favourable omen". Hey ho, never thought it would be so difficult to accurately translate Latin.

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