Filed Under (Latin) by sunderda on 12-10-2012

If you think Latin died 2000 years ago, get ready to learn. Neo-Latin, the form of latin between Medieval and Contemporary, was used up to the early 1700’s conversationally and in written works. One common use was in international treaties because, like English today, it was the only internationally learned language in Europe. It was quite a bit different from the classical Latin that we learn here at Willamette but if you were there you would still be able to understand, basically, what was going on, at least in writing. Some of the great Enlightenment and Renaissance intellectuals even wrote works in Latin so that they could reach a wider audience. For example Newton and Galileo each wrote books in Latin as well as their native languages. While Neo-Latin may have died out because of the French influence, Contemporary Latin, or Living-Latin, is still alive today. So if anyone tells you that Latin died out with the Romans, you can tell them otherwise!


1 Comment So Far

oknorr on 15 October, 2012 at 9:48 am #

A handy list of 69 Neo-Latin authors that gives access to their works is available online at http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/neo.html. Among the works included are, e.g., the humorous writings of Heinrich Bebel (1472-1518), several works by the French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes (1596-1650), the wonderful “Underground Journey of Nicolaus Klim” (Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum, 1741), a bestselling Utopian satire by the Danish-Norwegian writer Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), the 1835 highschool graduation essay of the founder of Communism, Karl Marx (1818-1883), and an Ode to Spring by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891).

Even this is, of course, only a fraction of what was published in Latin until the early 20th century. Among the authors who are conspicuously missing one could name, for example, the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carl LinnĂ© (1707-1778) who created the modern system of biological nomenclature, and the German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1601/02-1680) whose “Ars magna lucis et umbrae” (1645) discusses, among other things, the projection of images and text with mirrors and light across several hundred feet into a camera obscura and who is now seen as one of the people who made film projection possible. Kircher was a scholarly superstar of his time, publishing also in the fields of geology, medicine, Egyptology, and Sinology and keeping up a correspondence with more than 760 scholars worldwide.