Greetings, I'm the new kid on the blog. I began Latin in year 9 and I was deeply excited at the prospect. I had always enjoyed ancient history, and indeed history more generally, been fascinated by mythology (fuelled in no small part by Harryhausen's awesome fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts), and I enjoyed languages. Bingo. Latin ticked all three boxes. And it offered a refreshingly new (yeah, I know ironic given it's a 'dead' language) approach to language. By new, I mean an approach that was new to me. It is a very logical language. A sentence can be taken apart piece by piece when translating. It is more like algebra and taking apart an equation. There is no need for guess work.
Why Latin is Cool
How cool is it that the following sentences all mean exactly the same thing:
puella puerum vocat
vocat puella puerum
puerum vocat puella
puella vocat puerum
They all mean the 'girl calls the boy'. Note that 'puella' does not change. She has 'a' on the end in each case. This tells us that she is performing the action. 'puerum' does not change either, this tells us that the boy is on the receiving end. All that changes here is emphasis. Now try and do the same with the the English sentence. You can't. You either change the meaning or you have to have 'the girl the boy calls', which is not nice English. Latin is so much more flexible. Don't get me wrong, I love English, and it is perhaps my favourite language for humour (watch the Two Ronnies, if you're not convinced). But a language with such a logical, yet flexible structure is awesome.
You get to read Cool Stuff
I really wanted to read Latin and Greek literature in the original. I had little knowledge of specific poets at the time, although I had read some Homer in translation, and remembered my mother saying how much she enjoyed studying Cicero at school. It is true, one does not have to study it in the original. But I wanted to. I liked the challenge it presented, wanted to see more of Latin and Greek's rich potential linguistically and stylistically, and also wanted to learn their terminologies and values that mattered to the many different peoples that ancient word offered. I found my favourite in the third term of my second year at university (four year course, bliss!) - the Greek historian Polybius. I'll say more about him at another time.
A Whole New World?
Yes and no. New languages, new people, new events, new ideas...ah, hang on! One of Classics' most fascinating lessons was not so much how much there was to learn, but how much we had forgotten. Theories I had thought of as modern were suddenly being spoken to me in Latin verse from two-thousand years ago, to take one example. This was the Roman poet Lucretius, who devoted part of his great work 'On the Nature of Things' to atomic theory. Yes, atomic theory. Suddenly, the rather self-congratulatory nature of our own society in its attitude to technology made me wonder. Maybe we had advanced, but had we really moved forward? A recent post I saw online praised an innovatory water gathering tool, except as one reader pointed out, it was the Archimedes' screw and hardly 'new'.
Classics made me pause for thought. What does this great subject, its rich history, discoveries tell us about being human?
And this is one of the reasons that Classics Matters!