I have a project!

Hieronymus Cock (Flemish, 1507-1570)
Daniel Speaking Before Cyrus, 1565
Engraving
Purchase, 1967
McMaster Museum of Art
(Photo credit: John Tamblyn)

A while ago, I volunteered to do some Latin translation for the McMaster Museum of Art. Today I received my first batch of translations to do, and here is the first of those. the inscription reads:

Daniel Regi suo Cyro declara se simulachra manufacta non coler

There are some real problems with this passage. declara is an imperative, as if Daniel is ordering his king, Cyrus, “Announce this!”

I suspect that it’s supposed to be declarat and thus translate, Daniel declares to his king, Cyrus, that…

coler is similarly troublesome. As is, it looks like the first-person subjunctive passive of colo, -are: “to filter, purify”. Translated, I might be purified or Let me be purified. It makes no sense in this sentence.

There is, however, another possibility. Verbs of speaking or thinking are often accompanied by infinitive verbs, indicating indirect speech. coler might be colere, “to worship”. In that case, the sentence falls together. 

Daniel declares to his king, Cyrus, that he does not worship handmade likenesses.

Or more coloquially:

Daniel declares to his king, Cyrus, that he does not worship false idols.

This is a scene from the deuterocanonical book, Bel and the Dragon, often added as a 14th chapter to Daniel. It portrays Daniel 14:4.

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