Etymology of the word ‘libel’

by 5ocietyx

Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey

Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey

libel (n)
c.1300, “formal written statement,” especially, in civil law, “plaintiff’s statement of charges” (mid-14c.); from O.Fr. libelle (fem.) “small book; (legal) charge, claim; writ; written report” (13c.), from L. libellus “a little book, pamphlet; petition, written accusation, complaint,” dim. of liber “book” (see library). Broader sense of “any published or written statement likely to harm a person’s reputation” is first attested 1630s.

A libellus (plural libelli) was a document given to a Roman citizen to certify performance of a pagan sacrifice, hence demonstrating loyalty to the authorities of the Roman Empire. They could also mean certificates of indulgence, in which the confessors or martyrs interceded for apostate Christians…

Participating in pagan sacrifices was a sin for Christians and punished by excommunication, because the New Testament forbade Christians to either participate in “idol feasts” or to eat “meat sacrificed to idols”. However, not participating made one liable to arrest by the Roman authorities. A warrant to arrest a Christian (POxy 3035) was also found at Oxyrhynchus, this too has been dated precisely—to the year 256. The grounds for this arrest are not documented, however, and it predates the persecution under the emperor Valerian by about a year.

At various times under Roman rule, failure to sacrifice was punishable by death. Christian theologians (for example Cyprian) debated whether the threat of the death penalty mitigated the sin of having communion with idols, leaving room for forgiveness and restoration to the Christian community. The unresolved debate became moot when the emperor Constantine I became a Christian (early 4th century).

Dionysus

Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus and Liber (also Liber Pater). Liber (“the free one”) was a god of male fertility, wine, and growth, whose female counterpart was Libera.

In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Liber (“the free one”), also known as Liber Pater (“the free Father”) was a god of viticulture and wine, fertility and freedom. He was a patron deity of Rome’s plebeians and was part of their Aventine Triad. His festival of Liberalia (March 17) became associated with free speech and the rights attached to coming of age. His cult and functions were increasingly associated with Bacchus and his Greek equivalent Dionysus, whose mythologies he came to share…

li-bel
lib-el

Bel means ‘Lord’ and is the equivalent of the Babylonian King Marduk. ‘El’ is the name for the deity Saturn. This is where words like ‘elite’, ‘elect’, ‘elder’ and ‘elevate’ derive from.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libellus
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=libel

 

Advertisements