The Office / by Anthony Gibbins

officium is a Latin word meaning a helpful or beneficial act done to someone in fulfilment of an obligation, a service, or similar. It was originally a compound of two words, facere to do or to make and ops power, ability, strength, dominion, influence, resources, means of action, wealth, property. The meaning of officium expanded to encompass one’s duty or obligations to individuals or the state, the role one needed to fulfil due to their position, a task undertaken as a duty, and employment, post or position.

As the classicist Peter Jones points out in his recently published Quid Pro Quo

It expanded into meaning one’s job, function, task, but that sense of duty about it was never entirely lost. Cicero’s dialogue de officiis (On Duties) was a discussion of the proper obligations of the state and the individual.

In the mid-13th Century the word office entered English meaning a post, an employment to which certain duties are attached. The first recorded use of it meaning a place for conducting business was in the 1560’s. Interestingly, the term office hours goes right back to 1841.

sedes is a Latin word meaning seat in the widest possible sense. It can simply be somewhere to sit, or the seat of a particular activity. sedes officii seat of duty, has become the standard Latin translation for our 1560’s sense of an office.

Marcellus climbs the stairs to the second story and looks around. It is not difficult for him to find the office of Augustus.