Use of the word "Dominus"

Aquilinus

New Member
I am roleplaying in an Ancient Rome environment using text chat, and have a question about the use of the word "dominus."

Was the word only used by slaves in reference to their own owner? Or would it be used in reference to free persons in other contexts as well? For instance, lets say a friend of a slave owner is visiting a slave owner's household. Would the slave use dominus with this person? Would slaves call men on the street or at a kitchen or in the tavern they met randomly, "Dominus," as a title, or by another term such as their cognomen?"

Does the word find use in any other context besides the Slave-to-Owner relationship?

Also, if you can provide any documentation or evidence of this (even if it is Latin writings), that would be an enormous help to me.

Thanks a ton!
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
The only classical substitute for "sir" I have found is "homo", literally "person". I only know this one example of its use:

Tu homo adigis me ad insaniam.

You, sir, are driving me to madness.

If it was extensively used, I imagine that it would always be used in that sort of sense... but I am not sure.
 

Imprecator

Civis Illustris
Magister would be a general word for "sire". I'm not sure if that was ever used by slaves to refer to their master (though it would make sense etymologically).
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
erus is the master of the household in respect to the servants and is used by slaves to address/speak about their masters in comedies
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
The feminine Domina is used in love poetry to describe a (female) lover to whom one is submissive.
 

Akela

sum
Staff member
@Aquilinus: this is an excellent question. I wish inquiries like yours were much more frequent.

Cinefactus dixit:
The feminine Domina is used in love poetry to describe a (female) lover to whom one is submissive.
Do you think that "Dominus" would not have been used for a male lover or that we simply have no record of it because of lack of female-authored poetry?
 

Decimvs

Aedilis
Staff member
Akela dixit:
Do you think that "Dominus" would not have been used for a male lover or that we simply have no record of it because of lack of female-authored poetry?

:wondering: Excellent insight.
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
There was a female poet, but I can't remember her name off the top of my head.

You find Domina used by poets like Propertius, who wrote a particular genre, in which they affect to be weak and submissive to their (probably married) mistress. As much of the effect comes from the role reversal, I am not sure how well it would work the other way around.
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
Yes, I guess that she must have been the one I was thinking of.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Cinefactus dixit:
You find Domina used by poets like Propertius, who wrote a particular genre, in which they affect to be weak and submissive to their (probably married) mistress. As much of the effect comes from the role reversal, I am not sure how well it would work the other way around.
I think so, too, although it would theoretically be possible if she wants to overemphasise her submission. It wouldn't have the same effect as a male poet using domina, though, which deliberately plays with the expections of the society. For a woman to do that, she would probably have to call her man servus.

The lack of female poetry may be a problem, too, of course. On the other, if there had been more female poets, there would probably have had to be a different society, too.

I, too, can only think of Sappho, but Sappho wrote in Greek. I cannot think of any female Roman author at all.
Sappho must have been in high esteem, though, if Catullus even tried to translate a poem of hers.
 

Decimvs

Aedilis
Staff member
Bitmap dixit:
...if Catullus even tried to translate a poem of hers.
I read that he may have composed that poem so that it seemed as though it were a translation, but was secretly an overture to his beloved, who was married. This way, if the poem was discovered, it would appear as merely a translation.

It worked well since Sappho wrote about women and their qualities (i.e. the man who sits beside you seems to me to be a god...et cetera).
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I don't really see the evidence for that, but even if it is true, it just shows how much esteem Sappho must have had :>
 
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