In Roman-speak, what exactly does 'a piece of plate' mean?

Jul 2017
1
Australia
I ask this question because, while reading Suetonius's Life of Domitian, I came upon a passage confusing to me. It reads as follows...
"He is said to have passed the period of his boyhood and his early youth in great poverty and infamy. For he did not possess a single piece of plate"...
Suetonius ? Life of Domitian (Link to online source to provide further context)
I at first assumed that this either meant armor or expensive plate-ware... but I am unsure. Can anyone clarify?
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
I ask this question because, while reading Suetonius's Life of Domitian, I came upon a passage confusing to me. It reads as follows...
"He is said to have passed the period of his boyhood and his early youth in great poverty and infamy. For he did not possess a single piece of plate"...
Suetonius ? Life of Domitian (Link to online source to provide further context)
I at first assumed that this either meant armor or expensive plate-ware... but I am unsure. Can anyone clarify?
Ave!

Looking at the Latin (luckily it's the first few sentences of the book, so I didn't have to dig!), it says "argenteum", which I'm presuming means silver. So silver or high-quality eating ware and other valuables, most likely.

"Plate" was a common English word in the past for silver eating ware, etc., deriving from older words in other languages for silver (e.g., River Platte in South America, named for the silver shipped from there). It doesn't help us modern folks when reading old translations like this one! But no, it's not an armor reference.

Always go back to the original language if you can! Many treasures are hidden there, and many misconceptions revealed.

Matthew

PS: That multi-colored text of yours is hard to read, on this dark background. I hate dark backgrounds... (corrected by mod.)
 
Oct 2016
1,162
Merryland
+1
'plate' traditionally meant 'silver'

some families had a fair amount of their wealth tied up in silver tableware / utensils. (Old movie line 'hide the silverware Jeeves')

I remember reading a pirate book with a chapter entitled 'pieces of eight and silver plate'
 
Last edited:
Jun 2017
9
Italy


Ave!

Looking at the Latin (luckily it's the first few sentences of the book, so I didn't have to dig!), it says "argenteum", which I'm presuming means silver. So silver or high-quality eating ware and other valuables, most likely.
That's correct. It says argenteum vas which can mean "silver vase" or, more generically, "silver equipment".

Pubertatis ac primae adulescentiae tempus tanta inopia tantaque infamia gessisse fertur, ut nullum argenteum vas in usu haberet.
 
Feb 2017
427
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Yep. Argentum itself can mean either silver or can be an alternative word for wealth/money.