A Latin Reading Resource

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PfifltriggPi
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A Latin Reading Resource

Postby PfifltriggPi » Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:43 pm

Patterned on the other two such threads we already have here for French and Italian, I thought that a more dedicated spot for discussing and finding interesting things to read in Latin might be useful to others.

Ever since I finished them, I have been meaning to do a more detailed write-up on Virgil's Eclogues, but have not gotten around to doing it until today.

For those who might not yet know, the Eclogues are one of three works of Virgil, along with the Georgics and the Aeneid, and are by far the shortest as well as, almost certainly, the earliest. They consist of 10 narrative or lyric poems, all of which are rather short, usually around 100 lines. There are a number of characters, almost all shepherds somewhere in the Italian countryside, who appear between multiple poems, but there are also several poems which are not at all narrative and have no characters, such as Eclogue IV, which is my personal favourite and usually considered the most important.

These works taken together are much more heterogeneous than the Georgics or the Aeneid are, and, as such, one can easily read and enjoy any one poem without having to read all the others to understand it, although the order in which they are is not without reason. They are also, in my opinion, easier than the rest of Virgil's corpus, and, as such, make a good introduction to his style and champ lexical, whether for a student who lacks the competence or confidence to read the Aeneid, or as a "warm up exercise" before reading the other, longer poems.
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guyome
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby guyome » Mon Nov 30, 2020 10:42 pm

I just finished reading the Gesta Gregorii Peccatoris, a Latin translation of a Middle High German poem, the Gregorius, written by Hartmann von Aue. The Latin translation was done by Arnold von Lübeck around the year 1200.
I've had a scan of the 1986 edition sitting on my computer for quite some time but it's only last week that I finally got to it. The book can be downloaded from the site of the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek, so I assume it is legal.

As Wikipedia puts it, Gregorius "tells the story of a child born of the incestuous union of a brother and sister, who is brought up in a monastery, ignorant of his origins, marries his mother, repents of his sins and becomes pope." (in the Latin translation, Gregorius is actually brought up by a fisherman, while being taught by the abbot of the nearby monastery).

While no life-changing experience, I found the story enjoyable enough and Arnold's translation quite pleasant to read. Most of the text is made of rhyming pairs of 8-syllable verse, which gives the whole thing a nice rythm. The Latin is very medieval, so beware of that if your more at home with Classical texts.

The following extract is from Book IV. Gregorius has now left his mother-aunt-wife and is looking for a place where he can devote himself to God and atone for his sins.
Et relicto palacio
fervor erat Gregorio
cuncta simul relinquere
et errata corrigere.
Sic crucis Christi baiulus,
mundum relinquens cupidus,
latam viam deseruit
et iter artum arripuit,
quo ad deum perveniat,
et hoc ut factis impleat
strata relicta publica
se transtulit per devia,
ut declinaret homines,
quos noverat ut complices,
et pertimescit obvios
quos quondam rexit subditos.
Per plana ergo et aspera,
per saltus et per nemora
nudis laborans pedibus
iter carpit Gregorius.
Oracionis pabulum
huic fuerat assiduum;
refectio per biduum
non erat aut per triduum.
Sic dum ut errans cursitat,
artam forte invenerat
graminibus circumdatam
obscuram satis semitam.
Fit tamen illi dubium,
an sit hec callis hominum
an bestiarum semita
ipsarum ad cubilia.
Sed dum diu procederet
et mansionem quereret,
ubi stet solitarius
deo vacans continuus.
Occurunt fluctus marium
per litora sonancium
et postea tugurium,
ubi petit hospicium.
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PfifltriggPi
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby PfifltriggPi » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:56 am

As I said in my log, I recently read De Monarchia by Dante Alighieri. This relatively short work presents Dante's arguments for the restoration of the Roman Empire and the establishment of a Universal Monarch ruling over the whole world as a temporal counterpart to the papacy.

The work is divided into three parts. In the first, Dante argues for why a Universal Monarchy would benefit the human race, concluding that a global Holy Roman Empire would prevent lives and resources from being wasted either in wars between independent nations or in political squabbles between different factions, allowing humanity to put its full effort into philosophy, science and the arts, for which Dante claims that we were created. In the second section he argues that such an empire should be headed by Rome specifically, because the Romans came closest to doing so in history, because numerous times in there history so many fortunate and unlikely events happened to their benefit that they seemed to be favoured by Providence and because their founder Aeneas was a man of great piety. In this section as well, Dante quotes my favourite passage of the Aeneid, which is nice. In the last section, Dante argues why this Universal Empire should be headed by a temporal Monarch and not the Pope. He concludes that just as man has two natures, one immortal and one mortal, so to does man have two purposes in life : spiritual holiness to gain Heaven and philosophical virtue to promote beauty, wisdom and tranquility in this life. As a result, Man ought to have two guides to these two ends : the Church headed by the Pope guides humanity to heaven, and the Empire headed by the Monarch guides humanity in peace to beauty and philosophy in this life.

Every Latin author has some idiosyncrasies, and Dante is no exception. Unique spellings such as Ytalia aside, most of Dante's Latin works are much easier for a modern reader than much of Classical poetry, especially if one speaks another Romance language. In addition, this particular work is a good and relatively brief example of Mediaeval philosophy and thinking. The way the Mediaevals did logic and constructed arguments may well seem rather strange to many moderns, but if one is willing to come to them on their terms one will soon discover that, although they thought rather differently than most people do today, their worldview was cohesive, consistent and, often, produces quite impressive synthesizes of what the modern world would consider vastly separate branches of knowledge.
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PfifltriggPi
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby PfifltriggPi » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:12 am

Given the preceding two posts have been about Mediaeval works, I thought I would mention to everyone that if you are interested in reading more than a small sampling of Mediaeval Western European works, whether literary, scientific or philosophical, I would highly recommend reading C. S. Lewis's The Discarded Image before you begin. Although written in English and thus, sadly, not Latin, this is quite probably the best and most accessible introduction to the overall worldview of Mediaeval Western Europe.

Lewis begins with an discussion of how the Mediaevals viewed Classical Antiquity and introduces the major classical writers and works commonly known and cited during the Middle Ages : his list is rather different from what most modern classicists would consider the major works of Classical Antiquity. Lewis then proceeds with a systematic introduction to the various aspects of the Mediaeval worldview, including chapters on such things as metaphysics, cosmology, biology, the fée (what could perhaps be called "metabiology"?), physics, the human soul and spirit and the Liberal Arts.

If you will pardon me my soap box, it is important to remember that the Mediaeval world view, although alien to the modern world, is still cohesive, rationally thought out and consistent, with all its parts informing the other in ways which, according to the way the Mediaevals understood the term, logically descend from obvious truth. The Middle Ages was not simply an era where humanity forgot how to be civilized, spent 1000 yeas "running around in the dark babbling about Jerusalem" and then, all of a sudden, "decided not to be stupid anymore".

The Middle Ages was one of the richest literary, philosophical and metaphysical periods in Western history and it is a pity that its great thinkers and works are so poorly known. However, starting in on a study of Mediaeval literature without an understanding of the worldview behind it will often leave the reader confused or, what is worse, with a false understanding of what is being said. (That is certainly what happened to me.) The Discarded Image is an excellent way to inform yourself before beginning that reading and will, in addition, provide you with a good sized list of works with which to start, in Latin and several other languages. Lewis here flexes his philological muscles more than in any of his other writings and this is, in my opinion, his best work.
Last edited by PfifltriggPi on Sun Jan 10, 2021 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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guyome
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby guyome » Tue Dec 15, 2020 12:41 pm

Thanks for the reference, PfifltriggPi! That sounds like an interesting book.

Apart from a rather general and shallow knowledge gained in school and university, I got introduced to the medieval world and mind, so to speak, by Sidwell's Reading Medieval Latin and Beeson's Primer of Medieval Latin. Both offer a large collection of extracts, with Sidwell having useful introductions and notes about grammar/vocab, while Beeson only has some vocab notes. Both books have an appendix outlining the specificities of Medieval Latin. The books also differ slightly in the kind of texts they focus on (Beeson has a lot more anecdotes/exempla) but both help paint a rounded picture.

After having read those, I never stopped reading a lot of Medieval Latin and I'm always amazed at the richness and diversity of its literature. There is a lot not to like about the Middle Ages but these people were not stupid, at least not more than the Romans or the Renaissance humanists. And yet, the idea that these were "Dark Ages" is very much alive, maybe even more in historically Protestant countries, who look at this era through the filters of both Renaissance humanism and Protestant Reformation.

It always amazes me that some people can be very critical of the Middle Ages (sometimes with good reasons, sometimes just rehashing old bad-history tropes) but are at the same time able to look at Antiquity with rose-tinted glasses and a fondness they are unwilling to extend past, say, Marcus Aurelius's reign.


And to (maybe) contribute something useful to this thread: a few days ago, I read Aquinas's De Sortibus, a short treaty on oracles. I haven't read a lot of Aquinas over the years because I lack the intellectual bagage but this short work is very accessible.

Aquinas starts by defining when oracles are used. For instance, it would be laughable to use oracles to ask about things that can't be in any doubt (like whether 3+2=5). Some other things, while displaying a tendency to stability, are subject to variation (what will the weather be this summer). You'd think that would be ground enough to justify the use of oracles, but Aquinas adds a wrinkle here: nobody would use oracles just to know if there will be rain in another country. What people are interested in is to know whether there will be rain for their own crops or whether the flood will reach their own house, etc. Oracles are used for things that concern us directly. But even that doesn't mean people use oracles all the time just because something matters to them personally. Things that are entirely up to us (what will I eat for lunch?) are not subject to oracles. Chapter 1 then concludes that men use oracles for things that 1) matter to them personally and that 2) they can't verify or make happen by themselves.

Chapter 2 starts from the conclusion reached at the end of Chapter 1 and goes deeper by outlining three types of cases where people use oracles:
1) about the possession of something we don't have
2) about the use of something we already have (including ourselves)
3) about the future.
Type 1 is about dividing/attributing things like goods, honors, or punishments. It is called sors divisoria.
Type 2 is about acting, i.e. what should be done. It is called sors consultatoria.
Type 3 is about knowning future events. It is called sors divinatoria and is (should be) the realm of God alone.

Chapter 3 deals with the various kinds of oracles (astrology, birds, dreams, palm reading,...).

Chapter 4 is the longest and most technical one. In it, Aquinas considers whether these oracles can achieve anything.
He mentions for the record that some people believe human affairs to be entirely free from any superior power (res humanas nullo superiori regimine gubernari), everything happens fortuitously. Consequently, they have no use for oracles of type 2 and 3. Type 1 can be useful though, when a decision can't be reached through reason. Their opinion, though, denies God's influence over men and should be rejected.
Others say that human actions are submitted to the movement of planets and the like. And since these don't move randomly, their movements can be studied to predict future events interesting humans. These people accept all three types of oracles as valid. Type 1 is also of use to them, not just to solve a practical problem (who should have what) but also because it ensures that things are attributed according to how celestial disposition would have it.
Aquinas then moves on to refuting this position, using Aristotle and the idea that something immaterial is more noble than something material. Since celestial bodies are physical matter, they cannot influence the human intellect which is immaterial. And since our actions stem from our intellect and our will, they cannot be influenced by celestial bodies.
But there is a nuance here: celestial bodies can have an influence on things like droughts or rain for instance, and these phenomenons can in turn affect our intentions (potest dici quod ex dispositione celestium corporum aliqua inclinatio fit in nobis ad hec uel illa facienda). But wise men can always bridle this inclinatio, only the fools act upon it.
The chapter goes on, investigating the role of God and divine providence but I won't summarise it here.

Chapter 5 sort of brings it all together by investigating whether it is allowed to use oracles.
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PfifltriggPi
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby PfifltriggPi » Sun Jan 10, 2021 1:00 am

As I mentioned in my Log, I have been reading and recording videos of Tacitus' Germania which we will, apparently, be "reading" in my Latin class this coming term.

The Germania is one of Tacitus' more minor works, and as such is relatively short : the total run-time of my reading of it is about an hour. That said, it is still an important witness and explanation of how the Romans viewed the people to their north and Tacitus' comparison of their virtues, vices and way of live compared with those of the Romans and, contrary to how the work is usually described, I believe that he did a pretty good job of avoiding both castigating them as barbarians or eulogizing them as "noble savages", while still honestly and objectively recognizing the superiority of the Romans or Germans in different aspects of their culture or society.

In fact, I quite enjoyed the book. Quite possibly my favourite part of reading it was seeing the how the names of the various Germanic tribes were filtered down to the present day giving us such place names as "Estonia", "Schwabia", "Bohemia" and "Frisia". In fact, Tacitus' grasp of geography is excellent, much better than the modernists would give him credit for having. Towards the end of the work is also found one of my favourite passages from Roman Latin literature : Tacitus' description of the Arctic Ocean. I will not spoil it here but it, although it is not long, it is really quite special.
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Valerius
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby Valerius » Sun Jan 10, 2021 12:39 pm

I have not looked into it yet, but Latinitium has published a collection of French fairy tales:

https://www.latinitium.com/books/fabulae-gallicae
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PfifltriggPi
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby PfifltriggPi » Fri Jan 29, 2021 12:20 am

As I mentioned in my log, I finished another work of Tacitus, the Agricola. This book chronicles the career of Julius Agricola, the father in law of Tacitus, and a distinguished Roman general who stabilized Britain and conquered all of Scotland although those conquests were to go unfulfilled, since the situation on the rest of the frontier had deteriorated.

In my opinion, one of the more interesting parts of the book was Tacitus' description of the various people of Britain, especially when contrasted with the Germania. I suppose it is somewhat possible that the Romans' description of them has somehow affected Scottish consciousness in the years since Tacitus, but there is, at the risk of stating the obvious, something incredibly Scottish about the Caledonians even those from 1900 years ago.

In addition, the life and exploits of Agricola himself are quite interesting. Tacitus' is far from unbiased, obviously, but that notwithstanding, Agricola was still in many respects a model of a Roman soldier and gentleman one who, as Tacitus said "Admiratione te potius et immortalibus laudibus et, si natura suppeditet, similitudine colamus: is verus honos, ea coniunctissimi cuiusque pietas." ("To you is due admiration and immortal praise and, if we are able, imitation. This is true honour and genuine devotion")

All in all, the Agricola is slightly longer and slightly more difficult than the Germania, although the narrative structure of the Agricola is probably more engaging and easier to follow than the description within the Germania. Like in the former book, the syntax and writing style of Tacitus is surprisingly simple for a Roman history.
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guyome
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby guyome » Thu Apr 01, 2021 5:06 pm

Over the last couple of days, I've read a 1890 Latin translation of the life (and martyrdom) of Saint Kardagh, a 4th. c. high-ranking official of the Sasanian empire and convert to Christianity from what is now Iraq. Overall, the Life itself is not too different from what you can read about Western saints from the same period but a few things stood out:
- the pagans here are, of course, Zoroastrians/fire-worshippers/"magi" instead of the "usual" Roman/Greek idol-worshippers
- throughout the text, some local(?) customs and devotions are mentioned (rubbing your armor and horse with dust from a sanctuary before going on an expedition against Roman and Arab robbers who plundered his city and kidnapped his parents)
- I don't know if it extends to other Syriac saints, but Kardagh seems to be slightly more prone to derision and violence than what I'd expect. For instance, he has no qualms fighting against (and killing in cold blood) those who are sent to talk him into apostasy while he is waiting for God to signify him that the moment of his death has arrived.
[His father is not too pleased with his son's conversion and new blend of almsgiving and turning fire-temple into monasteries]
Itaque statim scripsit ei pater ejus sic: etsi tu odio habeas teipsum, et spernas vitam tuam, et factus sis Nazarenus, et probro affeceris genus nostrum, et feceris nos probrum aequalibus nostris; tamen facultates et opes pyrei non potes tu distribuere Nazarenis. Beatus autem ut accepit epistulam patris sui ac perlegit eam, risit valde et dixit: multum insanit vetus noster et ad gehennam properat. Et scripsit ei responsum in hunc modum: O vetus, tu ignem adoras, quia per ignem torquendus es; ego vero dabo possessiones meas Christo, quia cum ipso mihi fruendum erit, et in illum ego spero atque in illo confido; porro pyrea, de quibus gloriaris tu, brevi templa Christi ego faciam, et altaria splendida in eis figam, et mihi tecum pars et hereditas non est, quia Christus vocavit me et ad se adduxit, et fecit me filium patris sui absconditi.

[Preparations before a punitive expedition]
Cumque terminassent orationem suam, accepit pulverem sanctum de coram sanctuario, et aspersit super armaturam suam et super equum suum et super milites suos, atque crucem auream in qua affixum erat lignum sanctum crucis redemptoris nostri appendit (...)

[Kill the messenger!]
Unus autem eorum, nomine Sibarzadh incurvans se sumpsit pulverem e terra, et sparsit contra Beatum dicens: en ori isti quod blasphemat in deos. Beatus autem innuit uni e servis suis ut daret ipsi arcum et sagittam unam, apprehenditque arcum suum occulte sub protectione unius ex pinnis moenium, et posuit in eo sagittam, et tetendit percussit que magum istum in ejus ore, ita ut sagitta per posticum (caput) exierit. Et cecidit et mortuus est in loco suo. Beatus risit et dixit illi: accipe mercedem amoris tui erga deos tuos et regem tuum. Tum magi omnes fugerunt celeriter, ululantes; et nobiles cognati ejus reversi sunt tristes.
Acta Mar Kardaghi Assyriae praefecti qui sub Sapore II martyr occubuit

Overall, it is an interesting read and I'm looking forward to reading more Syriac texts in Latin translation, using these to get more familiar with Syriac and the Syriac world. I have gathered some interesting resources and will post some links later.
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guyome
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Re: A Latin Reading Resource

Postby guyome » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:36 pm

My interest in Syriac and the Syria world was (re)kindled last week when I listened to this podcast on the monasteries of the Tur Abdin region (south-east Turkey). I generally try to combine my interests (if only to save time), so I started looking for Latin texts about Syriac matters. Turns out that there's a wealth of them, which is not that surprising given the importance of Syriac in Christian Studies.

Here is a list of some bilingual titles grouped by genre (except for the CSCO series).

Life of Saints
Acta Martyrum Orientalium, pars 1 & pars 2 (1748)
Acta S. Pelagiae syriace (1879)
Acta Sancti Maris (1885)
Historia Mar abdu'l Masich (1886)
Historia Sancti Mar Pethion (1888)
Acta Mar Kardaghi (1890)
John of Ephesus, Commentarii de Beatis Orientalibus. Syriac text in Land, Anecdota Syriaca, vol. 2 (1868), translation (1889)

History
BarHebraeus, Chronicon, vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3 (1872-1877)
Rerum seculo decimo quinto in Mesopotamia gestarum (1838)

Patristics
Patrologia Syriaca, vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3 (1894-1926)
Amun the Hermit, Epistolae (1915)
Philoxenus of Mabbug, Dissertationes decem de uno e sancta Trinitate incorporato et passo (1920)
Thomas of Edessa, Tractatus de Nativitate (1898)

Abdisho of Nisibis, Carmina Selecta (1888)
Ephrem the Syrian, Hymni et Sermones, vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4 (1882-1902)
Ephrem the Syrian, Carmina Nisibena (1866)
Isaac of Antioch, Opera Omnia, vol. 1, vol. 2 (1873-1877)

Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores Syri (Syriac in one volume, translation in another; sometimes the scan I link to has both in the same file)
Chronica Minora
Vitae virorum apud monophysitas celeberrimorum
Philoxeni Mabbugensis tractatus tres de Trinitate et Incarnatione
Ishoyahb Patriarcha III, Liber epistularum
Bar Salibi, Expositio Liturgiae
Bar Salibi, Commentarii in Evangelia
Timotheus Patriarcha I, Epistulae, vol. 1 (textus), vol. 2 (versio)
Babai magnus, Liber de unione
Eliae metropolitae Nisibeni opus chronologicum, vol. 1 (textus), vol. 2 (textus), vol. 1-2 (versio)
Historia Ecclesiastica Zachariae Rhetori Vulgo Adscripta, vol. 1 (textus), vol. 1 (versio), vol. 2 (textus), vol. 2 (versio)
Anonymi Auctoris Chronicon Ad Annum Christi 1234 Pertinens I (textus, versio)
Chronicon Pseudo Dionysianum Vulgo Dictum I (textus, versio)

Studia Syriaca (several volumes, 1902-1909)

Studies
Abbeloos, De vita et scriptis S. Jacobi Batnarum Sarugin in Mesopotamia episcopi (1867)
Bickell, Conspectus rei Syrorum literariae (1871)
Chabot, De S. Isaaci Ninivitae vita, scriptis et doctrina (1892)
Forget, De vita et scriptis Aphraatis (1882)
Labourt, De Timotheo I Nestorianorum patriarcha (1904)

Study tools (language, geography, patrology)
Palacios, Grammatica Syriaca (1954), actually looks like a decent textbook, with lessons, vocab lists, exercises.
Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, vol. 1, vol. 2 (1879-1901)
Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3 (1740)
Ignatius Ortiz de Urbina, Patrologia Syriaca (1958)
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