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The meaning of "Res Publica"

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Wikipeida doesn't seem to reflect this, so I wonder how much of the definition has changed over time, and how much has been lost.

Edited by NeoCicero

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Most of our available sources predominantly used this term to describe the sum of rights and interests of the Roman people, understood as a whole.


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'Res' in Latin has the same multiplicity of meanings as 'thing', with the added meaning of 'stuff'.


So 'in media res' means in the 'middle of things' and 'res militae' means 'military stuff'. So if you have a lot of stuff, you may well be wealthy, or just a hoarder. Both the Latin and the English need you to infer from the context here.


The Republic was a 'public thing'; something owned by the people who made up the state. In fact it was so important that it was generally THE public thing, but as Latin does not use articles this has to be understood by inference.


So we could call the British and American democracies 'public property', and Tacitus can remark that few people remembered when the state was public property, but even a dictatorship can stick the same label on roof tiles and manhole covers.

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