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Latin/In Oculis Animus Habitat


I was interested in finding out some more detail on the Latin phrase In oculis animus habitat which I believe is translated as The soul dwells in the eyes
I was hoping to find out some details on its historic and religious background.
Thanks in anticipation,

This phrase occurs in chapter 11.37.54 (section 145) of Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia (Natural History), an encyclopaedia of ancient knowledge written around the first century after Christ.

It is a common belief, which Pliny reflects, that somehow the eyes reveal the inner soul.  Even in modern English we have such phrases as "the eyes see into the soul" and "evil eye."  Even our word "envy," which comes from the Latin "invidia," literally means "to see into."

Since you are interested in secular and religious history, you may be interested to know that not only was Pliny the Elder a noted natural philosopher of his day, but was the uncle of Pliny the Younger, who, in the early second century after Christ, became the imperial governor of the Roman province of Bithinia-Pontus, just east of modern Turkey.  There he represented the Roman emperor Trajan and wrote one of the most important descriptions of early Christian practice from the perspective of a non-Christian.

Pliny the Elder was in charge of the Roman fleet around the Bay of Naples.  When on that fateful day in A.D. 79 Mount Vesuvius erupted, he was quite effective in deploying the fleet to save whatever he could of the populace.  Unfortunately, he perished while courageously performing his task.  His nephew wrote two letter to Tacitus, the contemporary Roman historian, detailing the eruption of the volcano and his uncle's activities.  It is the only first-hand report that we have of the famous eruption.


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Ph.D. Cand. in Classical Languages. Conversant with all forms of the language: classical, mediaeval, and modern.


I have 50 years of teaching at all levels of Latin from high school through university postgraduate. I read, write, and speak Latin daily.

American Classical League, American Philological Association

A.B., M.A., Ph.D. Cand. in Classics.

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