Latin, history, academics, free reflections

2021-11-18 @Blog

For historical value, some knowledge of Latin is mighty useful; arguably, almost indispensible. Consider. As long as you content yourself with secondary sources, translations derived upon translations, journalistic interpretations, or Hollywood adaptations, you impose a severe limit to the crispness of the overall picture.

From late 19th century and beyond, we have photographic, video and audio footage. I certainly find incredible the amount of digitally remastered film that exists from as early as the late 1800s.

Concerning music and musical development of at least the Western civilization, we possess fairly detailed records since the Middle Ages. Paintings/tapestries/fine art also make for somewhat viable records/artifacts even further back.

Literature and writing, however, are the most detailed and informative means of recorded history when taken as an aggregate. Again, I speak of primary, untranslated sources, for otherwise you learn through the filters of modernization, through the lens of other interpreters, which, as often the case, also appeal to others of the kind.

I don’t know about you, but I draw a huge stimulus in the power to read ancient accounts as they were written. Recede sufficiently back in time, and written testimony becomes by far the most plausible form to gather some semblance of comprehensive intel.

Concerning the Latin as well as the ancient Greek writings, much (if not most) has been destroyed by various calamities up to and through the Middle Ages. Yet that preserved minority constitutes a huge pool of writings. And still, imagine if the few dozen of Sophocles other plays had survived on top of the seven or eight …

Why had Latin education plummeted sometime in the 20th century? If it’s a question of ‘practical utility’, I don’t think it was any more (or less) useful even a century before that. Or had it ceased to seem the cool thing to do?

And granted, had some school program of mine offered Latin, and had I pursued this course rather than a mainstream spoken language, history would still repeat itself. I’d still lack motivation, assimilate very little, and expend months and years of ineffective academic study until coming to awareness a decade later: to realize that I can far quicker acquire a language, dead or alive, by my own independent means. I suppose it’s more of a question, what happened to Latin forming a more integral cultural element?

Beyond Latin, my focal point, beyond Ancient Greek, I can only continue to fantasize. What of all those other Old Germanic/Norse/Scandinavian languages comprising much of the Northern European canon? Or how about all the ancestral variants of the Semitic languages?

This is when some pesky inner voice begins to blabber about the benefits of a philology background. Why hadn’t I pursued this course in life?

This is all nonsense, of course. Had I, and I’d become sick to my eyebrows with not only philology, but academics, as the general case goes. I’d then question, why I hadn’t pursued a more scientific background.

All of this, of course, leads along the same avenue. I’d feel scorn for not pursuing an independent, traveling life; for not having slept on hundreds of different bed sheets, for not having exposed my stomach to enough food illnesses; for not having hitchhiked - still haven’t - and a packed BlaBlaCar doesn’t count. Ultimately, I’d come to acquire bits of this, and bits of that by similarly independent means.

Questions, comments? Connect.