Is there an example where res publica is not republic?

Joonas Ilmavirta 05/31/2016. 1 answers, 196 views
classical-latin translation vocabulary example-request

The word res alone can mean state, and especially res publica means that (or republic). Looking at meanings of res and publicus, this is not the only possible translation of res publica, if no context is given. Is there an example of res publica not referring to the state in classical literature?

For example, it sounds possible to say about different forms of violence within family: Vexatio est res privata, caedes est res publica. "Harassing is a private thing, murder a public thing." I would like to see examples of res publica meaning "public thing" in a way like this. I have been unable to locate any.

This question was inspired by an earlier one about translating res.

1 Answers


Rafael 06/01/2016.

According to Lewis and Short (see meaning K), res publica, also written as one word (respublica, reipublicae), has a wide range of meanings, not limited to Republic:

Res publica, also as one word, respublica, the common weal, a commonwealth, state, republic (cf. civitas); also, civil affairs, administration, or power, etc.

It cites several examples of res publica confronted to res privata, although a scheptic could still argue that the confrontation may well be between private affairs and the Republic (I think). In my opinion, one clear example is:

Si re publica non possis frui, stultum est nolle privata (Cic. Fam. 4, 9, 4)

The term is also used in Ecclesiastical Latin to mean things other than the Republic (either the form of government or in the -arguably different- wider Roman sense), e.g. several times in Rerum Novarum to refer to public goods/or affairs. One such example is:

Neque est, cur providentia introducatur reipublicae: est enim homo, quam respublica, senior (RN, 8)

(this is said in the context that the fact that God has given the world to the whole human race does not rule out private property).

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