Enlightening Latin

IMG_2483The official seal of the city of Charleston is very interesting and often misinterpreted. The seal shows the Greek goddess Athena standing symbolically as the protector of Charleston, depicted behind her. Athena was recognized as the goddess of the city or town in the ancient Greek world, and much of Charleston’s symbolism in architecture and sayings comes from ancient Rome and Greece. Above her is the city motto, “Aedes Mores Juraque Curat”, meaning “She guards her buildings, customs and laws”, referring to Athena symbolically representing the city in protecting its own. Beneath her, the term “Carolopolis” is a combination of Latin and Greek, “Carolus” is Latin for Charles, for whom the city was named, and “polis” is town in Greek, the combined meaning “Charleston”.

“Condita AD 1670” refers to the founding of the city, as  “Condita Anno Domini” is translated as, “established in the year of our Lord” in Latin.

Below that is the term “Civitatis Regimine Donata AD 1783”, meaning in Latin “Given to the city government in 1783”, referring to the official incorporation of the city after the American Revolution.

Finally, at bottom and surrounding the seal are books, scroll, quill, lamp, and palmetto leaves, representing the wisdom and legality of the city government, as well as its openess to other as shown by the palms, which were a symbol of welcome in the ancient world.

This seal is in the main hall of City Hall, carved in the stone floor. I often take visitors there on the walking tours.

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