Fiat justicia ruat caelum


Senior Member
We see sometime the phrase "fiat justicia ruat caelum" in American court movies. While the meaning is clear "let justice be done though the heavens fall", the grammar is unclear to me. It looks like "there shall be justice, heaven shall fall". Why don't they prefer for example the straightforward "fiat justicia et ruens caelum"?

Fiat justitia ruat caelum - Wikipedia
  • bearded

    Senior Member
    I think it is a shortened/synthetical formulation for ''fiat justitia, et si ruat caelum'' ,
    the second part meaning ''even if heavens should fall'' (concessive/hypothetical clause).

    "fiat justicia et ruens caelum"
    That would mean ''let be justice and falling heavens'' - not really convenient here...
    (just in case, it might be ''et ruente caelo'' (= even with/by falling heaven), but the original sounds way more classic).
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    Senior Member
    I had in mind structure like the 2nd half of: timeo danaos et dona ferentes.
    The difference is that 'ferentes' still refers to Danaos (same direct object, depending on 'timeo'), whereas 'iustitia' and 'caelum' are separate/different subjects (iustitia is the subject of fiat, caelum is the subject of ruat). So the two sentences are not really comparable.


    Senior Member
    saluete amici!

    With all respect to lagartija68: this cannot be quite right. In Virgil's famous timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, the participial phrase is indeed concessive ('I fear the Greeks, even if [they are] bearing gifts'). But syntactically, this is not comparable with fiat iustitia ruat caelum, where ruat caelum, while similarly concessive in force, is a separate clause with a new subject (caelum), while in et dona ferentes the participle is in apposition to the grammatical object (Danaos) of the principal clause timeo Danaos. One could likewise imagine timeo Danaos et pulchros ('I fear the Greeks even if [they are] handsome'). So bearded (## 2, 4) is right. And as bearded remarked, et ruente caelo (ablative absolute) would carry the same sense, but it lacks the epigrammatic punch of the original formulation. et ruens caelum would amount to a 'nominative absolute', which is not completely unknown in classical Greek, but is wholly alien to Latin.

    I hope this clears things up!

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