What does the phrase to immolate someone to one’s manes mean as it used in the following pair of literary citations?

After long ratiocinations upon to immolate (someone) to one’s manes, I settled upon the following meaning: “to seek revenge upon someone”. I would nevertheless like certain further explanation both of grammar and of meaning regarding how this idiomatic phrase has been used in the two citations provided above.

My specific questions are:

  1. What does august refer to? To the way the retaliation should be committed?
  2. Is the manes the character of the person who should be avenged?
  3. What does paternal refer to? To the person who should be revenged?
  • Please add links and attributions. We could be wasting our time if these are merely some modern historical novelist's attempts to sound period. // 'Immolating someone to their august manes' brings to mind a more modern (fixed) phrase, 'grabbing someone by the short and curlies'. And 'paternal manes', 'She's got her father's hair'. Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 10:17
  • First sentence: Jean de La Fontaine : "The obsequies of the lioness" Second one: here 'Le Antichità di Ercolano' Esposte
    – Romain
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:25
  • And did you look up the meaning of immolate? Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:46
  • Immolate means to offer as a sacrifice, does it not ?
    – Romain
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:47
  • 1
    Well, La Fontaine was writing about a mythical world of talking animals, and the other reference is to classical antiquity - not Rome, admittedly, but maybe the ancient Greeks had a similar belief. If anyone were to use the expression today, it would be as a metaphor. Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


Manes (Latin) - (in ancient Roman belief) the souls of dead ancestors, worshipped as benevolent spirits. (Definition from Oxford Dictionaries).

August = highly respected (presumably referring to the queen's spirit).

Paternal - presumably the spirit of the subject's father.

  • 1
    Ah, general reference. And educated guesswork. Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:01

The verb immolate

To kill as a sacrifice especially by fire

The term "august manes" in La Fontaine may have the double meaning of "great ancestor" but also "great hair" like a lion's mane. However I would be surprised if that particular wordplay exists in the original French.

  • Suggested improvements: “However❟ I would be surprised if that particular jeu de mots existed in the original French.”
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 15:11
  • In French, a lion's hair is called a crinière, so if it was a pun, it would have to have been a bilingual pun. I wouldn't rule this out, though. Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 17:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.