I picked up an old library copy of the illustrated Scribner's edition of Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet and am having fun reading it and pondering the seemingly artless and unresolved juxtaposition of the 1940's-sexist first section of the book with the final section involving the matriarchal Venerian society. But I have a much simpler sci-fi trivia question to ask here.

What is the meaning of the name of the ship that is called P.R.S. Aes Triplex? I checked with my medievalist wife, and she told me "aes" was pronounced like English "ace," then looked up the word and found that it meant "bronze," or some related meaning involving bronze coins or payments. So "triple bronze?" Huh? I'm guessing that "triplex" somehow relates to the three planets with native intelligent life: Venus, Earth, and Mars.


This is a reference to Horace, Ode 1.3:

Illi robur et aes triplex circa pectus erat qui fragilem truci commisit pelago ratem primus

My Latin is rusty, but basically "the first man to sail fragile ships in the deep ocean wore armor of oak and three layers of bronze around his chest.

The term "aes triplex" becomes from this a metaphor for courage, especially relevant to the Space Patrol.

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    Awesome answer. I probably read this first ca. 1974, wondered but never knew the answer until now. – Ben Crowell Oct 30 '18 at 3:05
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    Google translate: "Oak and triple bronze was the heart of the fragile raft first committed" – Yakk Oct 30 '18 at 17:32
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    Seems much more likely that oak & bronze comprise the ship's hull (per Yakk's translation) rather than the costume of its captain. – Timbo Oct 30 '18 at 19:38
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    And of course I now realize the context is a poem, so metaphor and parallelism are to be expected. – Timbo Oct 30 '18 at 20:04

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