2000 Years of Latin Prose | History and Literature

2000 Years of Latin Prose – Preface

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Medley of Latin authors. From the left: Hroswitha, Hieronymus, Descartes, Cicero, Caesar, Heloise and Abelard, Copernicus, Nepos, Dante, St. Perpetua

2000 Years of Latin Prose

This project, 2000 years of Latin Prose, has sev­er­al faces: It is a dig­i­tal anthol­o­gy over Latin Prose; it is a course that will teach not only about texts writ­ten in Latin but about the authors who wrote them and their con­texts; it is an odyssey, a jour­ney through two mil­len­nia of Latin lit­er­a­ture, prose to be exact. 

We will set out on this odyssey, this anthol­o­gy, with Ennius, 200 years B.C., and work our way through Antiq­ui­ty, the Mid­dle Ages, the Renais­sance, and Ref­or­ma­tion on towards Indus­tri­al times. 

What you can expect

Every now and then, a new text in Latin will be pub­lished here on Latinitium.com accom­pa­nied by an Eng­lish trans­la­tion, a short intro­duc­tion to the author, and the work from which the text is tak­en. If nec­es­sary we will also make sure to pro­vide you with a short expla­na­tion of the con­text in which the text was writ­ten. There will also be an audio file and a video with the audio and text com­bined so that you can lis­ten and read the text eas­i­ly. We aim for the videos to have option­al Eng­lish sub­ti­tles, how­ev­er, this might vary due to time. 

Should we deem it nec­es­sary, you will also find key­words and com­men­taries to the text.

Charlemagne, Tycho Brahe and Ennius
From the left: Charle­magne, Tycho Bra­he and Ennius.

With 2000 years of Latin prose we want to show the range of Latin prose through­out his­to­ry and give you an insight into how rich it is. This means you will not only be met with famous authors, but also with his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant texts, curi­ous things, per­haps fun­ny texts and for­got­ten gems. You will meet not only texts rep­re­sen­ta­tive of elo­quent, well-writ­ten Latin but also texts about unex­pect­ed sub­jects and from unex­pect­ed sources. 

We will pub­lish the texts more or less chrono­log­i­cal­ly, at times it is dif­fi­cult to know exact­ly when a text was writ­ten — we then make an edu­cat­ed guess and fit them where we see prop­er. This means you will also trav­el through time and see before your eyes a Latin Prose time­line develop.

This odyssey through Latin Prose is also, as men­tioned, a grand course in the his­to­ry of Latin lit­er­a­ture, as well as a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for every­one, no mat­ter what lev­el of Latin you know, to learn more Latin — and get a blood­ed tooth for more. 

How to use the anthology

This anthol­o­gy can be used in sev­er­al ways:

  • As an oppor­tu­ni­ty to read Latin
  • As a way to dis­cov­er more Latin
  • As a way to learn more Latin
  • As an insight to Latin Prose history
  • As a way to devel­op a study habit
  • As enjoy­ment

Should you want to use it to bet­ter your Latin or learn more Latin — which we high­ly rec­om­mend — here are some tips:

  • Always begin by read­ing the intro­duc­tion to the author and the works. It is always eas­i­er to under­stand a text when you know who wrote it, when, in what genre and in what context.
  • Lis­ten to the audio or watch the video sev­er­al times.
  • When read­ing the orig­i­nal text, make sure to use the key­words and the com­men­tary for the text. They will help you with odd­i­ties that some authors might be using.
  • Don’t hes­i­tate to use the trans­la­tion if you feel you need to.
  • In what order you lis­ten, read or read and lis­ten togeth­er is up to you and what suits you best. We sug­gest you use the text, the audio and the video at least once each, as dif­fer­ent input of the same mate­r­i­al trig­gers dif­fer­ent parts of your brain.
  • Final­ly, rep­e­ti­tion is key to learn­ing a lan­guage. So watch the video (with or with­out sub­ti­tles) over and over again, until you inter­nalise the language. 
  • Check out this arti­cle for a method of study­ing Latin texts.

About pronunciation

We have cho­sen to record the texts with a restored clas­si­cal pro­nun­ci­a­tion. This might not seem like an odd choice when it comes to clas­si­cal texts, but we have decid­ed to keep the pro­nun­ci­a­tion the same through­out the anthol­o­gy. So, even though it can be argued that we should read medieval texts with say soft C:s, we have cho­sen to keep the pro­nun­ci­a­tion con­se­quent throughout.

The rea­son we have cho­sen to keep to restored clas­si­cal pro­nun­ci­a­tion is to make it as easy as pos­si­ble to under­stand the texts as you lis­ten to them, and to make it easy to learn Latin and its vocal lengths, not to pro­duce some­thing that sounds like it might have been. For this rea­son, to keep it sim­ple and easy to lis­ten to and learn, we have also cho­sen not to use elision.

Hildegard von Bingen and Marco Polo.
Hilde­gard von Bin­gen and Mar­co Polo.

The pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the Latin lan­guage has changed through­out 2000 years, it has also dif­fered from region to region, mak­ing a “cor­rect” pro­nun­ci­a­tion very dif­fi­cult. Should one research into spe­cif­ic eras? Into spe­cif­ic regions? Take into account how an author whose first lan­guage was not Latin might have sound­ed him- or her­self as they read their work out loud? The vari­ables are so many.

So, we aim instead to keep it sim­ple. The pur­pose of 2000 years of Latin Prose is after all to intro­duce you to fan­tas­tic texts and help you under­stand them and learn from them.

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself

Remem­ber to enjoy the texts. Take a deep breath and read the texts as you would a good book in your native lan­guage. Try to under­stand what they are try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate. What is being said to you through the text?

If you find your­self dis­sect­ing and pick­ing the text apart too much, twist­ing and turn­ing every idiom, every word, every gram­mat­i­cal con­struc­tion; make sure you take a break and take a deep, long breath.

Then come back and try to enjoy the text again. 

Don’t fret if you find the texts dif­fi­cult. These are not begin­ner texts. These are pas­sages from some of the most bril­liant mas­ters of the Latin language.

Go through them, use the trans­la­tions, and then as your Latin gets bet­ter with study and time, come back to them. They are meant to be exam­ples of all the won­der­ful Latin lit­er­a­ture there is to explore through­out his­to­ry. And, if you find some­thing you real­ly like – go to the library, read more. Cher­ryp­ick if you want to! 

2000 years of Latin Prose is meant as an anthol­o­gy, as a course, as an odyssey, as a jour­ney, an adven­ture and a peak into the trea­sure-trove of Latin lit­er­a­ture. So sit back and enjoy the ride! 

Collage of Latin authors, from the left: Karl Marx, Thomas Hobbes, Carolus Linneaus, Isidorus Hispalensis , Jean Jaurès, Augustus, Galileo Galilei, Ennius, Cato Maior, Einhard
From the left: Karl Marx, Thomas Hobbes, Car­o­lus Lin­neaus, Isidorus His­palen­sis , Jean Jau­rès, Augus­tus, Galileo Galilei, Ennius, Cato Maior, Einhard
Amelie Rosengren

Amelie Rosengren

Amelie Rosengren, M.A. and co-founder of Latinitium, is a published author, illustrator and historian. She specializes in daily life, has a soft spot for historic curiosities, and works as a museum educator at the world’s oldest open air museum, Skansen.
Written by Amelie Rosengren

Written by Amelie Rosengren

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