Having finally concluded Gibbon (perhaps for the last time) I found the experience of reading a work with access to exhaustive resources so enjoyable that I’ve launched on the Aeneid again, with Perseus and Lewis & Short as my twin Achates this time. Every single word is clickable and with arma I noted this:
Implements of war, arms, both of defence and offence (but of the latter only those which are used in close contest, such as the sword, axe, club; in distinction from tela, which are used in contest at a distance; hence, arma and tela are often contrasted
I wondered if there existed an English term with tela as its root with the same Latin contrast with arma, perhaps some sort of spear. I felt sure I’d come across such a word but unless I missed it OED was unobliging. But what fun I had discovering that! I found myself in company with Ancient Greek sanitation tsars, Russian carts, exploded theories of genetics, French Canadian soap operas, the opposite of acrostic, old words for grumbling and whittling, and a wonderfully precise French phrase for just as it is. Details below.
And all this from the very first word of the Aeneid. I don’t know whether to wish the internet were around when I was young or not. I may not have read so much but by God I would certainly have read more deeply!
telearch - a magistrate in ancient Thebes, responsible for keeping the streets clean and in good repair.
telega - in Russia: a roughly or simply constructed four-wheeled cart, without springs.
telegony - the (supposed) persistent influence of a previous sire on progeny of subsequent matings of the
same dam with different sires.
teleroman - a French Canadian television soap opera.
telestich - a poem in which the final letters of the lines, taken in order, spell a word, phrase, or
teling - blame, reproof; slander. In later use: grumbling, complaining.
tel quel - just as it is; without improvement or modification.
telwe - to thwite, to whittle (a stick)
Now it’s back to Virgil with a resolution not to be distracted at every word. It would take me a century to finish it.
NB Just a follow-up about Lewis & Short. Their comprehensive Latin lexicon is also a wonderful resource for English lovers of words. The entries are packed with details of English etymologies. Dunderhead that I am I should have realized that before but better late then never.