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I saw a quote of the poet Naevius: "ITAQVE POSTQVUAM EST ORCHI THESAURO," that was rendered as ...the vault of Orchus [the Underworld].  I have googled ORCHI,and ORCHUS and only found references to the flower, to testicles and to game Dungeons and Dragons. Which is the ultimate etymology of orchi? Why only the developers of Dungeons & Dragons appear to have some knowledge of Orchus or Orchi?


First of all, with regard to  the  word “Orchi” that we read in the quote “Itaque postquam est Orchi traditus thesauro” (literally meaning:”after he  was delivered to  the vault/the secret sanctuary of Orchus”), which is the third line  of an epitaph that the Roman  epic poet and dramatist  Gnaeus Nevius would have written himself, according to  what we read in Aulus Gellius, “Attic Nights”, Book I, 24,2.( read more below), I have to tell you that:

1. the  word “Orchi” is the genitive case of  the masculine name “Orchus” (2nd declension) which however is the archaic obsolete form of  “Orcus” without the “h”.
Note that we find the form “Orchus” in its genitive case “Orchi” just in Gnaeus Naevius who lived in the Old Latin period, for he died in ca .201 BC, while in classical Latin the correct form is “Orcus” (without the “h”) meaning  “Orcus”, which in ancient Etruscan and Roman mythology  was the name of  the god of the infernal regions, later named Hades or Pluto (from the Greek equivalents Ἁδης transliterated as “Hades” and  Πλούτων transliterated as Pluton ).

2.the name  Orcus was also used in Latin poetry to mean “death” with reference to the infernal regions, i.e. the Underworld, as Orcus was just the god of the Underworld.

3. Orcus was portrayed in Etruscan tombs as a hairy, bearded giant. A temple to Orcus may have existed on the Palatine Hill in Rome.

4. Lastly, the Latin  name Orcus derives from the Greek Ὅρκος (transliterated as Orcos) who in Greek mythology was however a divinity who punishes the false and perjured, so that he was the punitive companion of the goddess Dike (=Justice) and is described by Hesiod as the son of Eris, the goddess of Discord, and the avenger of  perjury(Hesiod, Theogony,  231), whereas in Roman mythology  Orcus was the god of the infernal regions.
So, the Greek Ὅρκος (transliterated as Orcos) and the Latin Orcus are not the same divinity, of course.

5.To sum up, the  archaic form  “Orchi” is  in Latin the genitive singular of the archaic masculine name “Orchus“ whose classical form is “Orcus“, i.e .the god of the Underworld.

As for “Orchi” and “Orchus” with reference to the flower or  to testicles, please note that in Latin there is the feminine noun “orchis” (3rd declension), which is the Latin transliteration of  the ancient Greek  masculine noun ὄρχις (= testicle) and means “orchid”, a plant which is  so called from the shape of its roots which are similar to the testicles, as we read in Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia (The Natural History), book 26, chapter 62 (mirabilis est orchis herba…. gemina radice testiculis simili ).

In short, the archaic form “ Orchus“ which stands for the classical form “Orcus“ (the name of the god of the  Underworld),  has nothing to do with the Latin noun “orchis“ (Greek, ὄρχις) meaning “orchid”, a plant with beautifully coloured flowers that have an unusual shape  which is similar to the testicles, according to the ancient Greek term ὄρχις just meaning “testicle” which in Latin is “testiculum”.

Hope I made myself understood. Feel free however to ask me again.

Best regards,

P.S. Here's the epitaph attributed to Nevius:

Immortales mortales si foret fas flere,
flerent diuae Camenae Naeuium poetam.
Itaque, postquam est Orchi traditus thesauro,
obliti sunt Romani loquier lingua Latina

If immortals were allowed to weep for mortals,
the divine Muses would weep for the poet Naevius.
And so after he was delivered to the secret vault of Orc[h]us,
Romans forgot how to speak the Latin Language.
(Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, Book I, 24,2)  


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