What Does "Damnatio Memoriae" Mean? 'Teen Wolf' May Put A Dark Spin On The Latin Phrase

Teen Wolf is back, and already Season 5B has thrown some crazy twists at fans. Tuesday night's episode promises to bring even more intense action, and the best way to prepare for what's ahead is to analyze every little clue we have. So what does "Damnatio Memoriae" mean? As the title of the Jan. 12 episode, it might hold some hints as to what's in store for Scott and Kira, who will be making her Season 5B debut.

Before getting into the Teen Wolf-specific theories about what that could mean for the show, let me explain the origins of the phrase "Damnatio Memoriae." According to Livius.org, it's a Latin phrase that can be literally translated as the purposeful erasure of a memory or choosing to forget something. In context, ancient Romans would use the phrase when they would condemn a dead politician — senator or caesar — to be forgotten rather than remembered and honored after death.

Livius describes the practice as a debate where members of the Senate would decide whether the recently deceased politician should be deified and worshipped, venerated with statues, official documents in their honor, called "apotheosis" (a phrase still used today, albeit in a slightly different context), or if they should be totally forgotten.

If the senator or caesar was condemned with damnatio memoriae, rather than deified, they would be totally forgotten. As Livius quotes from Pliny the Younger, "How delightful it was, to smash to pieces those arrogant faces, to raise our swords against them, to cut them ferociously with our axes, as if blood and pain would follow our blows." So "Damnatio Memoriae" is basically the toughest response to a bad leader. It's not just forgetting them, but also erasing any evidence that they existed after their death. Pretty damning. So, how could that connect to the upcoming Teen Wolf?

Well, it looks like the search for "The Beast" will capture a lot of the story, and since it's an ancient legend, the series may have chosen the Latin in order to evoke a legendary air for the episode. But the more probable explanation is that it has something to do with a leader of some kind... the way Scott is the leader of his pack. And since he's going to try to mend his broken pack in the episode, he might not be looked at too fondly by the end of it. Hopefully, Scott's pack won't subject him to the full Roman damnatio memoriae treatment, but you'll have to watch Teen Wolf to find out for sure.

Image: MTV