A Fan’s View on the Phrase ‘Aveo Amacuse’
In the episode 7.22 “The Lost City Part 2”, “Aveo Amacuse” are the last words that Col. O’Neill utters, his mind totally taken over by the Ancients’ knowledge, to his team mates. Daniel translates it simply as “Goodbye”, but the real meaning of this sentence has created animated discussion in the Stargate fandom ever since. This article tries to shed some light on the possible interpretations, using basic linguistic techniques and Classic Latin.
The Ancients’ Language
According to Stargate writers, Latin was the language originally spoken by the Ancients, and when they left Earth it was left to the Latins as their language. There are some historical problems with this concept: the original Latin speakers were a very small tribe of shepherds living on the hills in central Italy, with a very low level civilisation, that managed to create the Roman empire by being much more bellicose than their more civilised neighbours, like the Etruscans and the Celts. Combined with being very good at assimilating any culture they did come in contact with, this makes them very unlikely descendents of a highly cultured and peace oriented race like the Ancients. But it is the linguistic issues that the PTB theory raise, in particular in the sentence “Aveo Amacuse”, that I will focus here.
Language, like the culture that creates it, evolves from a state of relative simplicity to one of major complexity. If Pidgin Latin was the language spoken by such an advanced culture as the Ancients 10,000 years ago, you would expect Latin to have a widespread influence and complexity early on.
The history of the language tells us however a much different story. The first traces of the language appear in the 3rd Century B.C., much later than the 10,000 years ago the Stargate writers attribute to the Ancients. A massive gap to keep a language alive if we think that the first written text goes back to 240 B.C.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the Latin alphabet is a derivative of the Greek Alphabet with some Etruscan influences and not an indigenous creation. For at least the first three centuries of its recorded history, Latin was a language busy absorbing influences from its neighbouring languages, as young languages tend to do, and not influencing other languages, as established, mature languages with a literary tradition tend to do.
In the 3rd Century BC, when the Romans conquered the Greek-speaking south of Italy, it was said that “The colonisers were colonised by the colonised”, to indicate the influence that the militarily defeated Greeks had on the developing Latin culture and language. It is not a case that the first recorded Latin literary text is the translation of a Greek text by a Greek slave.
Latin did not become an influencing language until much later when history and the evolution of the language led to its transformation into an “Official Language” spoken by the Catholic Church and the Scientists (until well into the 17th Century, Latin was the language in which a Scientist wrote if he wanted to be understood by his peers, a bit like English today) and in the creation of the languages of the so called Neo Latin Family: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Romanian.
The language that these countries and institutions inherited is a very complex and articulated one. However early Latin was a very basic language that borrowed heavily from its neighbours, especially Etruscan and Greek, a language descending from the same Indo-European family. Most Latin grammatical structures are similar to the Greek ones, including Verb tenses and the concept of declinations, that are particularly relevant while analysing Aveo Amacuse.
A Couple of Points on Latin Grammar
Forewarning: This article is written with mainly an English speaking audience in mind, so I will take time to explain some points of Latin grammar that may be new to an English speaking audience.
Latin Verbs: Entire, very boring books have been written on the subject. If you have ever tried to learn French irregular verbs, you may have an idea of the complexity of the language. There are between 10 and 15 different verb tenses, each one with its particularities. To us, only two of them are relevant: the Present and the Imperative. One of the main difference between Latin and English verbs is that English has basically two forms for each tense: one for the third person singular (s/he) and one for all the other persons. Latin has different forms for each of the 6 possible persons. This however does not apply to the imperative, where do we have one form for the single person and one for more than one person, e.g. Vale (I salute you as an individual), Valete (I salute you as a group of people).
Declinations: Where most modern languages (with the exception of German) use articles, other particles and position in the sentence to determine the context of a word in a phrase, Latin uses suffixes. There are 6 basic declinations (types of suffixes) and which ones you use is influenced by the requirements of the verb you use, by the meaning that you are trying to convey, and by the gender and number of people that you were talking to. For example, in Classic Latin, if Jack had wanted to say Goodbye Friend to Daniel he would have said: Ave Amicus. If Jack had wanted to say Goodbye Friend to Sam he would have said: Ave Amica. If Jack had wanted to say Goodbye Friend to the Team he would have said: Ave Amici.
However this would have been in Classic Latin and not Ancient Latin. I will try now, using Classic Latin and basic philological techniques to analyse Aveo Amacuse and come up with its possible meanings. I will analyse each word in itself and then bring everything together.
According to the Calonghi Badellino Dictionary, the verb Aveo has two possible meanings:
1. To strongly desire, to crave something or somebody
2. Especially in the imperative form Ave, it was the Latins normal form of salutation.
Whatever interpretation we prefer, the verb tense is clearly the First person singular of the Present. While this does not create problems with the ‘desire’ meaning, Aveo as a form of salutation is extremely rare. Ave, the imperative, is the most commonly used form, the common correspondent to our Goodbye.
Possible derivations: While the root of this word is clearly that of the verb Amo (to love), and there are no recorded instances of the word Amacuse itself, there are two words that could have inspired the Stargate scriptwriters:
Amatus: meaning beloved
Amicus: meaning friend
While the use of the second A (AmAcuse) relates it to the first meaning, the C (AmaCuse) links it clearly to the second option. It is difficult to identify the word as singular/plural and/or male/female, because of the absence of any recognisable markers for the Classic Latin language.
While for the first word (Aveo), my personal inclination would be to follow Dr Jackson’s lead and go for the second interpretation (Goodbye), who exactly Jack was directing his goodbyes (the Amacuse), to his team, his lover (male or female), his friend (male or female) is still open for discussion and interpretation. Every fan is free to make what they want with it and to write stories using their personal interpretation.
Calonghi-Badellino Latin-Italian Dictionary
Traina-Pasqualini Morfologia Latina Traina-Bernardi Perini Propedeutica al Latino universitario.