More sources for the meaning of “bruma”; winter solstice? midwinter? etc

Following this post, in which I listed the supposed sources for the meaning of the term “bruma” and quoted some, I have been looking up some more.  The English translations are not specially concerned with this word, so should be treated only as a guide.

Ovid, Fasti, book 1, line 163:

quaesieram multis; non multis ille moratus
contulit in versus sic sua verba duos:
bruma novi prima est veterisque novissima solis:
principium capiunt Phoebus et annus idem.’  (from here)

[161] Thus questioned I at length; he answered prompt and tersely,
throwing his words into twain verses, thus:
Midwinter is the beginning of the new sun and the end of the old one.
Phoebus and the year take their start from the same point.”  (from here).

 Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares (Letters to his friends) 3.7.3:

Quid? cum dabas iis litteras, per quas mecum agebas, ne eos impedirem, quo minus ante hiemem aedificarent, non eos ad me venturos arbitrabare? tametsi id quidem fecerunt ridicule; quas enim litteras afferebant, ut opus aestate facere possent, eas mihi post brumam reddiderunt. (from here)

What! at the time you delivered that letter to them, in which you remonstrated with me against preventing them from finishing their building before winter, did you suppose that they would not come to me? However, on that point, at least, they made a ridiculous blunder: for the letter they brought with them asking to be allowed to carry on the work in the summer, they delivered to me after midwinter. (from here)

Caesar, Gallic Wars 5.5:

In hoc medio cursu est insula, quae appellatur Mona: complures praeterea minores subiectae insulae existimantur, de quibus insulis nonnulli scripserunt dies continuos triginta sub bruma esse noctem. Nos nihil de eo percontationibus reperiebamus, nisi certis ex aqua mensuris breviores esse quam in continenti noctes videbamus. (from here)

In the middle of this voyage, is an island, which is called Mona: many smaller islands besides are supposed to lie [there], of which islands some have written that at the time of the winter solstice it is night there for thirty consecutive days. We, in our inquiries about that matter, ascertained nothing, except that, by accurate measurements with water, we perceived the nights to be shorter there than on the continent. (from here)

Vitruvius 9.3.3:

3. scorpionem autem cum sol ingressus fuerit occidentibus vergiliis, minuit progrediens ad meridianas partes longitudines dierum. escorpione cum percurrendo init in sagittarium ad femina eius, contractiorem diurnum pervolat cursum. cum autem incipit a feminibus sagittarii, quae pars est attributa capricorno, ad partem octavam, brevissimum caeli percurrit spatium. ex eo a brevitate diurna bruma ac dies brumalis appellantur. e capricorno autem transiens in aquarium adauget ex aequa sagittarii longitudine diei spatium. ab aquario cum ingressus est in pisces favonio flante, scorpionis comparat aequalem fursum. ita sol ea signa circum pervagando certis temporibus auget aut minuit dierum et horarum spatia. Nunc de ceteris sideribus quae sunt dextra ac sinistra zonam signorum meridiana septentrionalique parte mundi stellis disposita figurataque dicam. (from here)

3. When the sun enters into Scorpio at the setting of the Pleiades, he diminishes, in passing to the southern parts, the length of the days; and from Scorpio passing to a point near the thighs of Sagittarius, he makes a shorter diurnal circuit. Then beginning from the thighs of Sagittarius, which are in Capricornus, at the eighth part of the latter he makes the shortest course in the heavens. This time from the shortness of the days, is called Bruma (winter) and the days Brumales. From Capricornus passing into Aquarius, the length of days is increased to that of those when he was in Sagittarius. From Aquarius he passes into Pisces at the time that the west wind blows; and his course is equal to that he made in Scorpio. Thus the sun travelling through these signs at stated times, increases and diminishes the duration of the days and hours. I shall now treat of the other constellations on the right and left side of the zodiac, as well those on the south as on the north side of the heavens. (from here)

Livy 43.18.1:

[18] Perseus principio hiemis egredi Macedoniae finibus non ausus, ne qua in regnum uacuum inrumperent Romani, sub tempus brumae, cum inexsuperabilis ab Thessalia montes niuis altitudo facit, occasionem esse ratus frangendi finitimorum spes animosque, ne quid auerso se in Romanum bellum periculi ab iis esset,… (from here)

[43.18](B.C. 170-69) In the early days of winter Perseus did not venture beyond his frontiers for fear of the Romans attempting an invasion while he was absent from his kingdom. About mid-winter, however, when snow had blocked the mountain passes on the side of Thessaly, he thought it a good opportunity for crushing the hopes and spirits of his neighbours, so that there might be no danger from them while his attention was wholly devoted to the war with Rome. (from here)

Columella, De arboribus (On trees) 24:

XXIV [1] Piros autumno ante brumam serito, ita ut minime dies quinqueet viginti ad brumam supersint. Quae ut sint feraces, cum iam adoleverint, alte ablaqueato et iuxta ipsam radicem truncum findito. In fissuram cuneumpineum tedae adicito et ibi relinquito; deinde obruta oblaqueatione cineremsupra terram spargito. (from here)

[English translation to be found]

Manilius 2.404.

Temporibus quoque sunt propriis pollentia signa:          265
aestas a Geminis, autumnus Virgine surgit,
bruma Sagittifero, ver Piscibus incipit esse.
quattuor in partes scribuntur sidera terna;
hiberna aestivis, autumni verna repugnant.

quod si forte libet, quae sunt contraria, signa
per titulos celebrare suos sedesque, memento
solstitium brumae, Capricornum opponere Cancro,
Lanigerum Librae (par nox in utroque diesque est),          405
Piscibus Erigonen, iuvenique urnaeque Leonem;
Scorpios e summo cum fulget, Taurus in imo est,
et cadit Arcitenens Geminis orientibus orbi.  (from here)

[English translation]

Censorinus, De die Natali (The birthday book) 21:

[12] Initia autem istorum annorum propterea notavi, ne quis eos aut ex kal. Januariis aut ex aliquo tempore simul putaret incipere, cum in iis conditorum voluntates non minus diversae sint, quam opiniones philosophorum:[13] idcirco aliis a novo sole, id est a bruma, aliis ab aestivo solstitio, plerisque ab aequinoctio verno, partim ab autumnali aequinoctio, quibusdam ab ortu vergiliarum, nonnullis ab earum occasu, multis a canis exortu incipere annus naturalis videtur. (from here)

I have indicated at what epoch these years commence, so that nobody should suppose they always dated from the calends of January, or from any other like day; because on the question of aeras, one does not find less diversity among the statements of their founders than amongst the opinions of the philosophers. Some make the natural year commence at the Birth of the Sun, that is to say, at Brumalia, and others at the Summer Solstice; some make it the Vernal Equinox, and others the Autumnal Equinox; some at the rising and some at the setting of the Pleiades, while still others fix it at the rising of the Canicular star. (from here).

J’ai dû indiquer à quelle époque commencent ces années, pour empêcher qu’on ne pensât qu’elles commençaient toujours aux calendes de janvier, ou à quelque autre jour semblable ; car, sur la question des diverses ères, on ne remarque pas moins de divergence dans les volontés de leurs fondateurs que dans les opinions des philosophes. Aussi les uns font-ils commencer l’année naturelle au lever du soleil nouveau, c’est-à-dire en hiver, les autres au solstice d’été, plusieurs à l’équinoxe de printemps, les autres à l’équinoxe d’automne, ceux-ci au lever, ceux-là au coucher des Pléiades, d’autres enfin au lever de la Canicule. (from here)

Pliny the Elder, Natural History, book 18:  (There are several references, which I must work on more):

221: horae nunc in omni accessione aequinoctiales, non cuiuscumque die significantur —, omnesque eae differentiae fiunt in octavis partibus signorum, bruma capricorni a. d. VIII kal. Ian. fere, aequinoctium vernum arietis, solstitium cancri, alterumque aequinoctium librae, qui et ipsi dies raro non aliquos tempestatum significatus habent. …

227: miretur hoc qui non meminerit ipso brumali die puleium in carnariis florere….

231: a kal. Novemb. gallinis ova supponere nolito, donec bruma conficiatur. in eum diem ternadena subicito aestate tota, hieme pauciora, non tamen infra novena. Democritus talem futuram hiemem arbitratur, qualis fuerit brumae dies et circa eum terni; item solstitio aestatem. circa brumam plerisque bis septeni halcyonum feturae ventorum quiete molliunt caelum. sed et in his et in aliis omnibus ex eventu significationum intellegi sidera debebunt, non ad dies utique praefinitos expectari tempestatum vadimonia.

lxiii   232: Per brumam vitem ne colito. vina tum defaecari vel etiam diffundi Hyginus suadet a confecta ea septimo die, utique si septima luna conpetat; cerasa circa brumam seri. bubus glandem tum adspergi convenit in iuga singula modios. largior valetudinem infestat, et quocumque tempore detur, si minus xxx diebus continuis data sit, narrant verna scabie poenitere. materiae caedendae tempus hoc dedimus. …

lxiv  234: A bruma in favonium Caesari nobilia sidera significant, III kal. Ian. matutino canis occidens, quo die Atticae et finitimis regionibus aquila vesperi occidere traditur. pridie nonas Ian. Caesari delphinus matutino exoritur et postero die fidicula, quo Aegypto sagitta vesperi occidit. (from here)

221: The winter solstice begins at the eighth degree of Capricorn, the eighth day before the calends of January, in general…

[More English to be added, when I can find it]

Others to find: Terence Ph. 709; Cicero Div. 2.52; solis accessus discessusque solstitiis brumisque cognosci; Cicero Natura Deorum 2.19.

2 Responses to “More sources for the meaning of “bruma”; winter solstice? midwinter? etc”


  1. MHB


    For what it’s worth, St. Isidore of Seville discusses bruma in Etymologies 5.35.6. W. M. Lindsay’s (1911) Latin text is

    Hiemem ratio hemisphaerii nuncupavit, quia tunc breviori sol volvitur circulo. Vnde et hoc tempus bruma dicitur, quasi βραχύς, id est brevis; vel a cibo, quod maior sit tunc vescendi appetitus. Edacitas enim Graece βρῶμα appellatur; unde et inbrumarii dicuntur quibus fastidium est ciborum.

    (Isidore is on the Web at. e.g., http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/texts/Isidore/home.html.)

    Stephen A. Barney et al.’s (2006) translation is

    The condition of the celestial hemisphere (hemisphaerium gives its name to winter (hiems), because at that time the sun wheels in a shorter course. Hence this season is also called bruma, as if it were βραχύς, that is, short (brevis). Or the name “winter” is from food, because at that time there is a greater appetite for eating, for ‘voracity’ in Greek is called βρῶμα (lit. “food”) — hence also a person who is squeamish about food is called inbrumarius.

    Priscilla Throop’s (2005) translation is similar, except for “for “voracity” in Greek . . .”, she has “Gluttony in Greek is called βρῶμα; whence those with an aversion for food are called inbrumarii.”

    Isidore discusses solstices and equinoxes in 5.34. There he states that the winter solstice is 25 December (“VIII Kal. Iul.”).

  2. Roger Pearse

    Very interesting, and thank you. I think the term “bruma” may have acquired a broader meaning as time went on, thanks to the poets and their use of it to mean “winter”. But I’m not certain of this.