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Monstra Marina: Nordic sea monsters of old (Essay in Latin)

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Want to prac­tice your Latin with some fun sto­ries you’ve prob­a­bly nev­er heard? Then this is the right place.

Today I dis­cuss the myth­i­cal sea mon­sters that plagued the North of old; I dis­cuss among oth­er things sto­ries about mon­sters in Lake, Thor, and a giant serpent–all in Latin.

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Latin Text

“Ūna hārum bēluārum plūrēs nāvēs et grandēs for­tis­simīs nautīs cōn­fer­tās facil­limē sub­ver­tit aut mergit.”

— Olaus Magnus

Antīquīs tem­po­ribus apud Graecōs et Rōmānōs sub aquā mul­ta et mīra latēbant. Sānē vōbīs nōtī sunt illī deī, Nep­tūnus, Trītōn et illa mōn­stra sīrēnēs et hȳdra illa quam inter­fēc­it Her­culēs. Sed haud sciō an omni­um nōtis­si­ma sint illa mōn­stra Scyl­la et Charyb­dis. For­t­asse putātis Scyl­lam et Charyb­dim in marī mediō esse et ideō vexāre Rōmānōs et Graecōs tan­tum. Dī bonī, ut errātis! Nam Scyl­la et Charyb­dīs nōn in illō marī, sed extrā ōram mar­iti­mam Norvegi­cam inveniuntur.

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Beluae Olai Magni

Saeculō sex­tō dec­imō Olaus ille mag­nus archiepis­co­pus īdemque opti­mus scrīp­tor et rērum gestārum investīgā­tor dīcā­mus. Cūrāvit ēden­dam tab­u­lam geō­graphi­cam quae vocā­tur ‘char­ta marī­na.’ Hāc chartā geō­graph­icā vel tab­ulā geō­graph­icā dēpin­gi­tur nōn modo Suē­tia sed cēter­ae ter­rae quae ad septen­triōnēs ver­gunt. Et in hāc chartā marīnā inve­ni­un­tur plūri­ma mōn­stra et bēlu­ae quae sānē ter­re­ant quem­li­bet nau­tam. Īdem scrīp­sit opus māx­i­mum quod īnscrībitur ‘Dē gen­tibus septen­triōnālibus his­to­ria’, et cum alia tum caput scrīp­sit dē pis­cibus et dē pis­cibus māx­imīs, dē hor­rendīs mōn­strīs. Sed quālia sunt?

“Hor­ri­bilis eten­im fōr­mae sunt, capitibus quadrātīs, undique spīnōsīs et acūtīs ac longīs cornibus cir­cum­datīs, īnstar rādī­cis arboris exstir­pā­tae. Decem aut duodec­im cubitōrum lon­gitū­dine, colōre niger­rimō, prae­grandibus oculīs, quōrum ambi­tus octō vel decem cubitōs excēdit. Pūpil­la vērō ūnīus cubitī, rubeum et flam­meum colōrem refer­ēns, quī ā longē in tene­brōsīs tem­po­ribus inter undās velutī ignis accēn­sus pis­can­t­ibus appāret. Ūna hārum bēluārum plūrēs nāvēs et grandēs for­tis­simīs nautīs cōn­fer­tās facil­limē sub­ver­tit aut mergit.”

— Olaus Magnus

Māx­imē vexāban­tur Norvegī, māxime. Tan­topere vexāban­tur Norvegī, vel for­t­asse nau­tae Norveg­ōrum tan­topere vexāban­tur ut archiepis­co­pus Nidrosien­sis lit­terās ad pāpam scrīpser­it. Et cum lit­terīs mīsit eti­am caput, mīsit caput abscī­sum et sale condī­tum ūnīus ex illīs bēluīs, ut quō­dammo­do habēret doc­u­men­tum hūius dif­fi­cultātis quā labōrābant mis­erī Norvegī.

Ecce bēs­tia!

Belua magni lacus

Mōn­stra autem marī­na nōn modo secun­dum ōrās Norvegicās, nōn modo secun­dum ōrās Suēticās, sed eti­am in lacibus inve­ni­un­tur. In Suētiā est lacus quī vocā­tur ‘lacus mag­nus’ quī est in Jämpt­landiā: est pars Suē­ti­ae quae ad septen­triōnēs ferē ver­git. Et hoc mōn­strum est quō­dammo­do nos­trum Nessie: nōnne Scōtī habent suum mōn­strum iūcun­dum quod quotan­nīs sānē vident, et nōs quoque habē­mus nos­trum; et hoc vocā­tur ‘Storsjöod­juret’, id est ‘bēlua mag­nī lacūs.’ Sed hoc mōn­strum per mul­ta saec­u­la cōnspicitur.

Et hīs annīs hoc mōn­strum, haec bēlua nefan­da ducen­tiēs et sexāgiēs cōn­spec­ta est ab hominibus, et annō milēsimō nōn­gen­tēsimō octōgēsimō sex­tō lēx vel, ita, quō­dammo­do lēx in Suētiā lāta est ā rē pūblicā nē licēret hoc mōn­strum tur­bāre, ēius prō­ge­niem tan­gere, ēius nīdum tan­gere, nēve scīlicet ipsum mōn­strum inter­fi­cere. Ita. Et, sed haec lēx, nōn vēra lēx, sed haec lēx sub­lā­ta est annō bis milēsimō quīn­tō. Ergō nunc licet hoc mōn­strum vēnārī.

Quō ruimus?

Sed unde trāxerit orīginem haec bēlua quae vocā­tur ‘bēlua mag­nī lacūs’ quaeri­tis. Nōnne? Annō milēsimō ses­cen­tēsimō trīcēsimō quīn­tō, Mogen Ped­er­sen memo­ri­ae prō­did­it fābu­lam quā tōta rēs aperī­tur. Fuērunt duo dae­monēs sil­vestrēs: Suēticē vocā­mus ‘troll’, sed dīcā­mus dae­monēs sil­vestrēs, Iāta et Cāta. Et coqu­unt per longum tem­pus pōtiōnēs var­iās in aēnō vel in cortīnā māx­imā. Per multōs annōs hoc faci­unt neque sci­unt, quid hāc pōtiōne futūrum sit. Omnīnō nesci­unt, sed tum subitō haec cortī­na, hoc aēnum ēdit son­um, strepi­tum māx­i­mum, et ēver­ti­tur. Et ex ipsō recep­tāculō ērēpit mōn­strum cum capite fēlīnō, et hoc mōn­strum rēpēns ad lacum illum mag­num dēs­cen­dit. Dēs­cen­dit in aquās, et sub aquā eī bene est. Ergō crēsc­it mīrum in mod­um, crēsc­it in mīram magnitūdinem.

Magus quī­dam nōmine Ket­til Runske lig­at vel vincit hoc mōn­strum ad fun­dum nē exīre ē lacū, nē suīs fīnibus exīre vel excēdere pos­set et hom­inēs prope habi­tan­tēs dēvorāret. Et hic magus, quī perītis­simus erat rūnārum mag­icārum con­did­it lapi­dem cum rūnīs mag­icīs, et hoc mōn­strum dīc­i­tur tam diū hīs mag­icīs rūnīs vīnc­tum esse quamdiū nēmō intel­leget. Ergō vehe­menter, sum­mopere caven­dum est nē quis dis­cat quid hae rūnae sig­nif­i­cent: sānē sunt hom­inēs quī putent sē iam intel­lēxisse, sed hoc fal­sum est, quia sī intel­lēxis­sent vērē quid scrīp­tum esset, hoc mōn­strum ēlāp­sum esset et leg­erē­mus ubīque dē caed­ibus quae fier­ent. Ergō nōlīte dis­cere hās rūnās intellegere.

Serpens Midgardiensis

Mōn­strum omni­um māx­i­mum et hor­ren­dum sine ūllā dubitātiōne est ille ser­pēns midgar­den­sis: hōc enim mōn­strō nōn modo vex­an­tur illae ter­rae quae ad septen­triōnēs ver­gunt, sed tōtus orbis ter­rārum. Hic ser­pēns fīlius est Lochē et Anger­bo­dae gigan­tis. Īdem est frāter lupī illīus Fener­is. Mox deī illī Asgardiēn­sēs intel­lēxērunt quan­tum perīcu­lum hic ser­pēns midgardēn­sis esset et eum in altum mare dētur­bāvērunt vel dēiēcērunt. Tamen crēvit in māx­i­mam mag­nitūdinem, ut tōtum orbem ter­rārum com­pre­hen­deret cor­pore suō.

In fābulīs vetustiōribus septen­triōnālibus mul­ta nār­ran­tur dē deō Thōrō. Ōlim īvit pis­cā­tum ūnā cum gigante nōmine Hymer. Sed Thor nōn pis­cābā­tur, nōn petē­bat pis­cēs solitōs, sed ingen­tem illum ser­pen­tem. Ergō ēscā ūsus est capite, capite tau­rīnō; et deinde, dum in nāviculā sunt, Thōr et Hymer subitō capi­unt hunc anguem, hunc ser­pen­tem. Sed Hymer pert­er­ri­tus sta­tim incīdit vel abscīdit līnum quō hāmus fīxus erat, et in hāmō sānē erat illud caput. Et sīc ēlābitur ser­pēns ē manibus Thōrō.

Multō posteā Thōr sīve Thōrus et ser­pēns ille in sin­gulāre certā­men vēnērunt, et alter alterum inter­fēcērunt. Et fuit illud tem­pus ulti­mum extrē­mum quod vocā­tur ‘Rag­narök’. Sed for­t­asse dīxerit quispi­am esse trīste sīc hanc fābu­lam fīnīre. Sed nōn est trīste, quia Thōrus vīc­it illum ser­pen­tem; et oportet caveātis nunc bēstiās mar­itimās, et bēstiās eti­am in lacibus, et omnīnō mihi vidē­tur aqua caven­da, nē forte lateat quaedam bēs­tia quae vōs dēvoret.

Bene valēte, tantum’st.

Daniel Pettersson

Daniel Pettersson

Teacher and author Daniel Pettersson, M.A., is co-founder of Latinitium and is currently teaching Latin at Stockholm University, where he is also working on his Ph.D. dissertation on Humanist Colloquia. Daniel believes in the importance of Latin literature in the modern world and that you can teach yourself Latin with the right motivation, method, and material.
Written by Daniel Pettersson

Written by Daniel Pettersson

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