The Meaning Behind the Motto: Civitas Resonet

We started the National Bell Festival to bring people together, so to help spread the word and tell our story, we wanted to adopt a rally cry – something bold, something brilliant, something to put into just a few words all we envisioned for the organization. A tall order, no? If anyone had mastered this skill, it was the ancient Greeks and Romans. These were the people of molon labe and carpe diem. Big shoes to fill.

A motto is born

Admittedly, we’ve let the cobwebs encroach on the memories of our early Latin lessons, so we turned to a gentleman whose grasp of classical literature is regarded from here to Rome: Dr. Josiah Osgood, Chair of the Department of Classics at Georgetown University. Under his good counsel, we waded through Latin phrases and bon mots until we landed upon one singular motto fit to encapsulate the National Bell Festival ethos: civitas resonet, “let the community ring!”

To us, civitas resonet is more than a clever saying with classical resonance. It’s a call to the community – a call to start a New Year in the spirit of togetherness, camaraderie, and a shared vision of our city as a whole and not as disparate parts. We celebrate the diversity of our people and the uniqueness of our neighborhoods, but we also recognize how alike we are as Washingtonians. The reverberating ring of a bell crosses over boundaries and wards. It cares not for social or economic differences. We don’t even mind if our neighbors in Maryland and Virginia hear the ringing, too. Because we are stronger together.

History, linguistics, and pride

Cicero, that ancient sage, defined civitas in his writings during the late Roman Republic as a social body bound together by two equal ideals: a duty to the whole and a respect for the individual. Moving forward in our shared journey while celebrating individual creativeness is the spirit behind the National Bell Festival. What better idea to ring out, to sound from the rooftops on New Year’s Day in Washington, D.C.? Citizenship, fellowship, community, people – all are possible translations of civitas in Latin, and each gives us a subtle, nuanced interpretation of the term. What does civitas mean to you?

Let the community ring!

This New Year’s Day, make some noise. Join one of our exciting listening parties, events, performances, or activities at locations across the city. Bring your friends. Meet a neighbor! And take a moment to enjoy the rich, bellowing tolls that bring us all a little bit closer together.