I need to make a video for a history class on the Roman empire and the rise of Christianity, but there are many things that I cannot find. If you answer, thank you.

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    Perhaps your local public library, or university library, has a copy of Latin Forms of Address from Plautus to Apuleius: amazon.com/Latin-Forms-Address-Plautus-Apuleius/dp/0199239053 Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 17:09
  • @Autumn the word you want is "ere", see my answer Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 23:35
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    I think it is pretty funny that people would think a slave would call his master "dominus". That would be like you addressing your boss as "employer". Hello, employer, what would you like me to do today. LOL. Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 23:47

3 Answers 3


Dominus, plural Domini, in ancient Rome, “master,” or “owner,” particularly of slaves. The name later became the official title for the emperor, beginning with Diocletian, who reigned from ad 284 to 305.

The mutual relation of Slave and Master among the Romans was expressed by the terms Servus and Dominus; and the power and interest which the dominus had over and in the slave was expressed by Dominium. The term Dominium or ownership, with reference to a slave, pointed to the slave merely as a thing or object of ownership, and a slave as one of the Res Mancipi classed with other objects of ownership.

Sources and suggested reading:

The Institutes of Justinian: With English Introduction, Translation, and Notes By Thomas Collett Sandars

Encyclopedia Britannica

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    Dominus being 2nd Declension singular, wouldn't the vocative for that be Domine, as in "Et tu Brute.*? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocative_case#Latin Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 18:24
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    @RBarryYoung I'd say this is the genitive, "Anno Domini" being "Year of the Lord". Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:14
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    @OlafDietsche Well, I knew that it was the genitive from the common translation alone, but how does that address my question? Keep in mind that I am not proficient in Latin. Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 21:51
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    @RBarryYoung: Gentlemen, for your edification: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Latin_second_declension Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 22:20
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    @CourtnyCotten Dominus is the word for a master, but not the word a real slave would have used in talking to his master. (see my answer) Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 23:23

Words like kurios and dominus are literary words that would be not normally be used in everyday speech by a slave. Plautus most famous character, the slave Epidicus, addresses his master as "ere", which is Greek slang and means "boss". Another of Plautus' slaves, Pseudolus, uses exactly the same word to address his master.

If you read "Latin Forms of Address: From Plautus to Apuleius" by Eleanor Dickey it confirms my answer: slaves almost always call their master/mistress erus/era to their face. Note that "ere" is the vocative form, so that is the form that would normally be used. You will sometimes find the word in Latin dictionaries under "herus". Don't be fooled by some of these dictionaries into thinking this is an "official" Latin word, its actually very colloquial Greek.


A greek-speaking slave (δούλος, doulos) I think would call his master κύριος (translit: kurios; lord, master, sir; vocative form: κύριε).

Roman was not the only language spoken in the Empire, especially amongst lower classes. Alexander's "Koine" (Common) Greek might have been more common, certainly in the early empire. The early church fathers wrote in Greek from the first to the third century, and fourth century fathers (e.g. Ambrose, Augustine) are familiar with Greek (and the Nicene Creed was drawn up in Greek), though the language waned -- in the Western part of the empire only -- over the later part of the fourth century.

There's a short and insightful book on the Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark.

  • actually, Greek wasn't used in the Roman Empire until much later. In fact Latin developed from a local dialect of probably Etruscan. And that's what would have been spoken by the majority of people in the early days. Later of course both Latin and whatever was the local language in their area before conquest would be in use. A farmer in Gaul would not speak Greek, he's speak Gaul and probably at least some Latin.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 7:53
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    @jwenting Latin is fairly well universally placed within Indo-European, whereas there's a huge debate about Etruscan, but it is pretty much agreed that it is not Indo-European. Latin certianly borrowed some words from it, but it almost certainly was never just a dialect of Etruscan.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 12:16
  • @T.E.D. There was a lot of Etruscan/Roman mingling, as is to be expected from groups living in close proximity. Unless you believe the foundation story of Rome as being refugees from Troy is literally true, the two would have a common ancestor.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 15:14
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    @jwenting, sorry, but that is garbage. As the Roman Empire expanded over Alexander's former territory, Greek was already there. The beginning of the "Empire" around 30BC (give or take) marks the end of the 'Hellenistic Period'. The ubiquity of the Greek language around the Mediterranean was a key factor in the expansion of Christianity, as attested by the language of the New Testament.
    – Dave Burt
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 23:05
  • @jwenting, of course, though, you're right about the Gallic farmer and other folk further from the great sea.
    – Dave Burt
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 23:12

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