Cibos Belo appositos a sacerdotibus uxoribus et liberis de nocte consumuntur

Hieronymus Cock (Flemish, 1507-1570)
The Priests of Bel in Bel’s Temple, 1565
Purchase, 1967
McMaster Museum of Art
(Photo credit: John Tamblyn)

This sentence is a bit of a puzzle. There doesn’t appear to be a subject. cibos, “food”, would be a good subject–it’s a plural and fits well with the passive plural verb, consumuntur, i.e. “the food is eaten”. cibos, however is accusative, and therefore the object of a verb, not the subject. It should be cibi (and appositos would likewise be appositi). I’m not sure how else to read the sentence. Either the artist used poor Latin, or made use of a rule of Latin grammar that is unknown to me. The translation I’m going to go with is

The food placed before Bel is consumed by the priests, their wives, and their children during the night.

I stuck some possessive adjectives for the wives and children. The Latin doesn’t do this, but it sounds weird in English if your don’t.

This continues the story of Bel and the Dragon. It depicts Daniel 14:13. Daniel has fed them some rope, now they’re wrapping it around their neck. I wonder how this will all play out.

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