How has the Latin word for a bird's beak (rostrum) come to be used in English to mean a speaker's platform?
The prow of an ancient warship was fitted with a metal attachment that served to ram an enemy vessel. As it resembled a bird's beak, it was known as a rostrum.
After their success at the Battle of Antium in 338 BCE, the Romans began the practise of attaching the rostra of captured ships to the front of a stone platform in the Forum, which was used by speakers to address the people. The platform duly came to be known as the rostra. In the 18th century the word rostrum entered the English language.
Images of rostra can be seen on some of the many palazzi that were erected in Rome after it became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy in 1871.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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