A Lackadaisical Lexicon for Laggard Logophiles

DAMNATIO MEMORIAE

[phrase]

Latin: literally meaning “condemnation of memory” in the sense of a judgment that a person must not be remembered. It was a form of dishonour that could be passed by the Roman Senate upon traitors or others who brought discredit to the Roman State. The intent was to erase someone from history, a task somewhat easier in ancient times, when documentation was much sparser.

The sense of the expression damnatio memoriae and of the sanction is to cancel every trace of the person from the life of Rome, as if they had never existed, in order to preserve the honour of the city; in a society that stressed the social appearance, respectability and the pride of being a true Roman as a fundamental requirement of the citizen.

[Florian Bertmer]

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