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Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

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Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:57 pm

I've been studying Latin for about 15 years as a hobby. I remember about 10 years ago, I picked up a Teubner edition of the Histories of Tacitus. Confident and cocky after a few Latin courses, a couple textbooks, a fair amount of reading from abridged anthologies of Cicero, Caesar, etc., I opened up the first pages of the Histories. I understood nothing. It came as a shock, a terrible blow to the ego. I dismissed Tacitus as an oddity, reassuring myself that my Latin was reasonably good, and went on with life.

My Latin progressed at a snail's pace. At this time I was studying law and working part time, so I didn't have much time for hobbies.

A few years later, I decided to improve my Latin. The only way to become fluent in a language is by exposing yourself to it. With a dead language, that means lots of reading. So I read a lot. I read most of Cicero's speeches, and to alleviate tedium (how's that for Latinate English?), I also read some translations of modern novels, such as Treasure Island by Arcadius Avellanus.

Eventually, I picked up a copy of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita, book 1, that had been laying in my bookshelf for a few years. I had read some excerpts of Livy before, and seemed to remembered that he was neither easy nor hard, but reading straight Livy with no notes was more difficult than expected. I drudged through book 1, and when the time came to get book 2, I decided on a bilingual edition. This helped me get the hang of Livy, and after a few books I stopped looking at the translation altogether, referring only to my dictionary. The more I read, the easier it got.

That Teubner edition of Tacitus's Histories was still sitting on my bookshelf mocking me. So I gave it a go. It was very difficult, but manageable. Two things gave me the ability to read Tacitus: First, my Latin had improved a lot. Second, I had developped an uncanny ability to "expugnate" or take a passage by force. It's hard to describe. It involves staring at a passage for 10 minutes or more, looking up words you think you know, but then realizing that a shade of meaning in this particular context is the key that unlocks an obscure passage, reading ahead to get clues as to the meaning of a previous sentence, and more generally thinking outside the box, being creative to guess what the author could mean. This is how I realized that reading Latin is as much a question of practice as it is of knowing vocabulary and grammar.

Tacitus is notorious for omitting implied words and being so brief and concise as to create ambiguity. But he is a pleasure to read. His style is unique. His is a different kind of eloquence than Cicero, I would say more sophisticated, less polished.

I challenge you to take the Tacitus test. If you can read several pages with the help of a dictionary but without referring to a translation, then your Latin is at least as good as mine. If not, then you need to read lots of Latin from other authors. I suggest Livy because it worked for me. If you manage to read the first and third decades (books 1-10, 20-30) of Ab Urbe Condita, your Latin will improve drastically and as a bonus you will learn a lot about Roman culture and history from Rome's greatest historian, which will help with other authors.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby thesaurus » Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:09 pm

Thank you for this post. I cannot agree more with your statement, "This is how I realized that reading Latin is as much a question of practice as it is of knowing vocabulary and grammar." Grammar and then vocabulary are the beginning of learning to read Latin, although when you are first learning the language they seem like the end of the road. Understandably, we like to think that once we've learned most of the grammar, worked through the textbooks, and drilled enough vocabulary, we will "know" Latin and be able to casually read whichever text that we pick up.

Learning to read Latin comfortably is a hard and long road, but one that is not without pleasure. I think the people who are successful in this task are those who enjoy the journey for its own sake. If you are only eager to start reading Cicero or Virgil as fast as possible, chances are that you'll get frustrated and stop before you get there.

I took the Tacitus test at your prompting and read the first 11 sections of Annales book I. Even though I've dipped into Tacitus in the past and have plenty of experience reading Latin prose, I still felt like I was getting a serious workout. It feels like every sentence forces me to think fast, stay flexible, and keep on my toes.

It's good to keep encountering periodically harder Latin texts. Of course, they can't get infinitely harder, but reading a new style or author forces you to stay in shape. Whenever I'm feeling overly confident in my Latin, it usually doesn't take long to find a text that humbles me quickly.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:03 pm

thesaurus wrote:I think the people who are successful in this task are those who enjoy the journey for its own sake.

That's why amateurs are sometimes better Latinists than academics who study the classics professionally, regardless of academic qualifications.

I took the Tacitus test at your prompting and read the first 11 sections of Annales book I. Even though I've dipped into Tacitus in the past and have plenty of experience reading Latin prose, I still felt like I was getting a serious workout. It feels like every sentence forces me to think fast, stay flexible, and keep on my toes. It's good to keep encountering periodically harder Latin texts.

Yes, that's a good description of what it's like to read Tacitus. I'm glad you passed the test. If you know of something harder, please let me know so I can give it my best shot.

After reading the Histories, I took a break and read another author for a while (Augustine), then returned to Tacitus and started the Annals and realized that I had gotten rusty after only a couple months. It's really like a workout.

Of course, they can't get infinitely harder, but reading a new style or author forces you to stay in shape. Whenever I'm feeling overly confident in my Latin, it usually doesn't take long to find a text that humbles me quickly.

As you said, texts can't get infinitely harder, but we humans can never attain perfection so there's always room for improvement (usually lots of room), and the only way to improve is to read lots of challenging texts.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Mon Mar 21, 2016 7:15 pm

I've always fretted over the lack of annotated Latin prose anthologies with ample grammar notes. Right now I have Wheelock Latin Reader and Casesar's De Bello Gallico (full version, ample grammatical and lexical help) at home. I shall then purchase Cicero's Pro Caelio and Pro Archia (with notes).

I thought of buying Livy's Selected Readings or Pliny the Younger's Selected Letters, but much of the content overlaps with that in Wheelock Latin Reader. Also, the numerous Bristol Classical Press student editions are either out of print, or they are too expensive to collect into a full series. For instance, a 100-something-page Livy Book I costs at least 21 USD - if I want to read five books that would already be $105! OCTs, Teubners and Cambridge 'yellow and green' series, on the other hand, would be too advanced for me.

I'm really amazed at how you could read most of Cicero's speeches! How could you collect so many volumes? In your opinion, would a student completing Wheelock Latin Reader or those sort of anthologies be able to read Loebs?

I'm asking this since I'm thinking of buying a few Cicero's Loebs and delve into them, having gone through my Caesar.

Is Seneca a good start for beginner-to-intermediate students?
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby swtwentyman » Mon Mar 21, 2016 7:43 pm

It would be a bit of a leap to go from a student edition of Caesar to a Loeb of Cicero speeches (that's similar to what I foolishly pulled and I needed a lot of help, though I learned a lot from it. Thanks Hylander!). Ciceronian sentences are nothing like those of Caesar: they can be long and flowing and interweaving and hard to figure out where Caesar's are direct and straightforward.

The commentaries in student editions are invaluable and beyond just giving -- often needed -- grammatical help they put the texts in context (an infelicitous few words) and give background and historical information. They come aimed at different levels but if you look them up on Amazon you'll usually find reviews indicating that such-and-such an edition gives little grammatical help; however even these editions can nudge you towards resolving problems on your own (and they can offer much: the green-and-yellow Eclogues (Vergil) really helps with appreciating them). Loebs do give limited information in footnotes (although unhelpfully they put the subscripts indicating footnotes on the English side) but you're on your own with trickier parts and parts with less-obvious grammatical/vocabulary uses and other nuances.

I have more mixed feelings about vocabulary being given in student editions; they seem like more of a crutch for me and they discourage me from learning the vocab. These editions are worth the price in my opinion even given their brevity; I read more slowly than many and Latin/Greek is just one of my hobbies, so I spend less on books than someone else might -- but I often buy CDs and if I didn't have that interest and went without them I could afford more Latin/Greek books. A volume of Latin literature might take longer than you think (I'd advise against Livy at the level of just having completed Caesar).

Try this:

http://www.amazon.com/Cicero-Archia-Poe ... pro+archia

or this:

http://www.amazon.com/Cicero-Senectute- ... +senectute

They're aimed at the entry level.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:47 am

sydneylam19 wrote:I've always fretted over the lack of annotated Latin prose anthologies with ample grammar notes. Right now I have Wheelock Latin Reader and Casesar's De Bello Gallico (full version, ample grammatical and lexical help) at home. I shall then purchase Cicero's Pro Caelio and Pro Archia (with notes).


I'm not sure annotated editions are all that useful, at least they were not for me. If you know basic grammar and have read a fair amount of adapted Latin, you should be able to figure it out with the help of a dictionary and a translation. The French have a term for reading with the help of a translation: faire du petit latin (make little Latin). It means to refer to the translation only when you get stuck. This is the method I found most useful, and I still refer to a translation when reading to assure myself that I understood a difficult passage correctly or when a corrupt passage makes little sense and the translator had to be creative to wring out a meaning. Even the best authors sometimes don't express themselves very well, and it helps to see how someone else understood the passage. So Loebs are a good investment both for beginners and for advanced readers, if used properly.

I should describe how to use a Loeb with maximum profit. One should do all he can to avoid looking at the translation. When you first come across a passage you don't understand, read it several times and think it through, rearrange the words, try to think of various possible meanings for polysemic words, read all the examples in the dictionary entry, read ahead to check for clues, set the book down and go get a cup of coffee while considering the problematic phrase, and if it's late, shut off the light and sleep on it. It's amazing the number of times the meaning is clear the next morning. The translation usually serves as an answer key: it confirms that you understood it correctly on your own. Sometimes you just don't get it, and you have to give in and check the translation to understand the meaning. You lost the battle that time, but you'll remember what caused your downfall and you won't repeat the same mistake (i.e. you'll have learned something). That's the proper way to use a Loeb edition, and in my opinion, it's far more instructive than a mere annotated edition without the translation.

I'm really amazed at how you could read most of Cicero's speeches! How could you collect so many volumes? In your opinion, would a student completing Wheelock Latin Reader or those sort of anthologies be able to read Loebs?


I read them online for the most part. Eventually I got them all in older critical editions ordered off ABE.

In answer to your second question, I think someone who has just completed a second-year reader is not in an enviable position. He will find it very difficult to read authentic Latin, no matter the author, but it's a necessary step. It might help to read as much adapted Latin as possible before tackling the authors, but it's still a challenge when you finally do take the step. A Loeb edition of Caesar would be an appropriate place to start, if the translation is used properly, then Cicero's speeches, then Livy.

I'm asking this since I'm thinking of buying a few Cicero's Loebs and delve into them, having gone through my Caesar.


That's a good idea. You can get them cheap on abebooks.com. I just noticed a volume with five speeches for $7.89. Be sure to ask the bookseller before hand to personally check if there's any underlining or markings.

Is Seneca a good start for beginner-to-intermediate students?


Good question. I only read Seneca later on, and didn't find him difficult, but I had considerable experience by then. On the other hand, Seneca is so interesting that I would recommend him to anyone anytime.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Tue Mar 22, 2016 2:33 am

swtwentyman wrote:It would be a bit of a leap to go from a student edition of Caesar to a Loeb of Cicero speeches (that's similar to what I foolishly pulled and I needed a lot of help, though I learned a lot from it. Thanks Hylander!).


That may be so. It might be a good idea to start with student edition of in Catilinam or in Verres. And I wouldn't recommend Livy too early either.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 7:52 am

[/quote]

I'm not sure annotated editions are all that useful, at least they were not for me. If you know basic grammar and have read a fair amount of adapted Latin, you should be able to figure it out with the help of a dictionary and a translation. The French have a term for reading with the help of a translation: faire du petit latin (make little Latin). It means to refer to the translation only when you get stuck. [/quote]

I absolutely agree with you. Let me also share how I leaped from basic grammar to reading Caesar. The secret is not astonishing, but that would be quite uncanny for some. I read the Second Reading from the Latin Breviary on my phone app, which is usually the writing of Church Fathers spanning several centuries. This method is effective in enhancing my 'sense' of Latinity. First I got stuck in the vocabulary and had to look up word by word on Wiktionary - there's no translation attached. But then I gradually came to appreciate how Latin sentences are formed and gain a vague idea of prose. Then by comparing writings by Augustine and Leo the Great with Latin translations from the Greek Fathers, I suddenly saw the 'non-Latinity' in those weird constructions and vocabulary! I also got to know about abbreviations like PG (Patrologia Graeca), PL (Patrologia Latina), CSEL (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latiniarum) and MGH (Monumenta Germaniae Historia), which further fueled my interest in manuscript transmission, bibliography and textual criticism. Then I went straight to my De Bello Gallico and, magically, the obstacle seemed to vanish in many circumstances!
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 7:55 am

swtwentyman wrote: The commentaries in student editions are invaluable and beyond just giving -- often needed -- grammatical help they put the texts in context (an infelicitous few words) and give background and historical information. They come aimed at different levels but if you look them up on Amazon you'll usually find reviews indicating that such-and-such an edition gives little grammatical help; however even these editions can nudge you towards resolving problems on your own (and they can offer much: the green-and-yellow Eclogues (Vergil) really helps with appreciating them). Loebs do give limited information in footnotes (although unhelpfully they put the subscripts indicating footnotes on the English side) but you're on your own with trickier parts and parts with less-obvious grammatical/vocabulary uses and other nuances.



Thanks for your recommendation. The two books have been added to my shopping cart. It seems, as you said before, even editions with minimal 'grammatical' help are still very helpful to me.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:43 am

sydneYlam19 wrote:I Read The Second Reading From The Latin Breviary On My Phone App, Which Is Usually The Writing Of Church Fathers Spanning Several Centuries.


The value of later Latin is often underestimated. It is an excellent path to classical Latin. It's a pity that it's scorned by so many latinists, especially considering that it constitutes the bulk of Latin literature. A good regimen for a beginner would be to start with the gospels of the Vulgate, then the psalms, then the rest of the bible, then move on to some of the easier Latin fathers, and eventually Augustine and Jerome. I personally read almost the entire City of God around the time I was working through Livy. Unfortunately the City of God gets pretty weird at some points and I admit to skipping parts. I think Jerome's Latin is better than Augustine's, but its pretty hard.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:57 pm

Nesrad wrote:
The value of later Latin is often underestimated. It is an excellent path to classical Latin. It's a pity that it's scorned by so many latinists, especially considering that it constitutes the bulk of Latin literature. A good regimen for a beginner would be to start with the gospels of the Vulgate, then the psalms, then the rest of the bible, then move on to some of the easier Latin fathers, and eventually Augustine and Jerome. I personally read almost the entire City of God around the time I was working through Livy. Unfortunately the City of God gets pretty weird at some points and I admit to skipping parts. I think Jerome's Latin is better than Augustine's, but its pretty hard.


Jerome is definitely more well-versed in Latin and Greek than Augustine. Augustine in an occasion expressed his bafflement towards Greek, and I think his contribution lies more in the fields of Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law, having built up a strong foundation on Rhetoric and Law in his early days.

I find, however, both Jerome and Augustine's style queer at times, the former being too heavily influenced by Greek in his very literal Vulgate translation, which was criticized by his contemporaries and Augustine (but I forgot the exact reasons proposed), while the latter wrote concisely at the expense of clarity.

Leo the Great's style is reputed for his his Cursus Leonicus and sermo humilis which have influenced subsequent Latinists in their writing style. Please refer to another thread by me (The Latin Style of Leo the Great).

I have Enchiridion Patristicum, an old anthology first published in 1910s to 1920s (1923 for my version) by Herder Verlag (Verlag is the German word for publisher) at Freiburg, comprising the most influential Latin and Greek writings by early Church Fathers. Each piece of Greek writing is accompanied by a corresponding Latin translation, which is ideal for beginning Greek students like me.

While not all Classicists are Christians, these later writings do pave the way for the beauty of 'authentic Classical authors', let alone the fact that Latin exerted its prolonged impact on European civilization outlasting the survival of Roman Empire exactly through these 'degraded', 'perverted' literature.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 2:12 pm

I have decided to try Seneca's De Brevitate Vitae in parallel with Cicero's various speeches and philosophies. By the way, how would you comment on the style of Tacitus? Have you read Sallust before? Did you learn Greek as well?

Regarding one of your previous replies in this thread, I agree that amateurs could be as competent as professional Classicist in mastering languages. Nowadays all curricula are heavily compressed into production lines, giving little time for students to fully immerse in the style and any literati and see the world from the authors' perspectives. This is why I am not at all convinced that dabbling in excerpts of a wide range of writers would yield as much benefit as focusing on several masters and ruminate on the text.

Sorry for overloading this thread..... :lol:
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby jondesousa » Tue Mar 22, 2016 3:34 pm

@sydneylam19

Can you share the app you use for the Roman Breviary? that would be a helpful resource!
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Tue Mar 22, 2016 9:23 pm

sydneylam19 wrote:I have decided to try Seneca's De Brevitate Vitae in parallel with Cicero's various speeches and philosophies.


My favourite works are Seneca's dialogues and letters, and Cicero's Tusculan disputations (his masterpiece in my opinion). I wouldn't necessarily recommend them for their Latinity, but they are necessary reading for any educated person. If they end up being too hard, just come back later.

By the way, how would you comment on the style of Tacitus?


Hard, terse, and masterful. His style is unique, and for that reason alone he should be put off until later, not to mention his incredible difficulty. But he is possibly the last of the "magna ingenia" he speaks of in the preface of the Histories when referring to the great authors of the Golden Age who precede him.

Have you read Sallust before?


Yes, a nice short read. From what I remember, pretty straightforward. I wasn't particularly impressed with his style or subject-matter.

Did you learn Greek as well?


Unfortunately I haven't gone as far in reading fluency. You kind of have to choose your battles, because you can't win them all. I wonder what other people would have to say about achieving reading fluency in Greek, and what authors they would recommend.

Regarding one of your previous replies in this thread, I agree that amateurs could be as competent as professional Classicist in mastering languages. Nowadays all curricula are heavily compressed into production lines, giving little time for students to fully immerse in the style and any literati and see the world from the authors' perspectives. This is why I am not at all convinced that dabbling in excerpts of a wide range of writers would yield as much benefit as focusing on several masters and ruminate on the text.


With declining admiration for classical knowledge, it seems to me that the focus has shifted from philology to something that resembles archaeology. People no longer wish to benefit from the wisdom of the past, which they look down upon as outdated and naïve. Instead, they look at the past from a historical and sociological perspective, hoping to understand and explain the Greco-Roman world scientifically. This broadens the subject-matter and makes it impossible to spend as much energy on the classical languages, which they see as a one tool among others for understanding the past. The result is that mere amateurs, who have an intrinsic motive for studying Latin and Greek, have the potential to surpass professionals.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby seneca2008 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 11:27 pm

With declining admiration for classical knowledge, it seems to me that the focus has shifted from philology to something that resembles archaeology. People no longer wish to benefit from the wisdom of the past, which they look down upon as outdated and naïve. Instead, they look at the past from a historical and sociological perspective, hoping to understand and explain the Greco-Roman world scientifically.


I think this gives a very misleading impression of contemporary scholarship.

It is true that at school level even where latin and greek is taught much less time is devoted to the study of classical languages than was the case in the the early part of the twentieth century. Consequently those who study classics at university are not as well prepared as their predecessors. Many learn either Greek or latin from scratch. Having said that classical philology seems to be alive and well. There are ever more critical editions and commentaries. It is easy to romanticise the past. Indeed the very idea of a golden age is to be found in Hesiod as I am sure you know. The one sure thing is that in the past they did things differently.

I have a particular problem with your claims about both the "wisdom of the past" and the straw men who apparently regard it as " as outdated and naïve". I have never read any contemporary scholar who writes from this point of view. Scholarship is about discovering things not making up your mind in advance.

The development of a coherent theory of the reception of texts enables us to take the different ways in which ancient texts have been interpreted on their own terms, rather than privileging particular readings. Rather than rubbishing or romanticising the past this enables us to take a more nuanced and plural view. It also shows us that we too cannot stand outside the process of reception, we are as implicated in our readings as were past readers.

Of course you have a strong point that now that Greek and Latin are not widely taught most people are cut off from directly appreciating their classical heritage. But I think you are overly pessimistic about the state of academic classics. Moreover, western europe was "to all intents and purposes Greekless..[until] the 15th century" (Hardie) and whilst we imagine Latin as a past lingua franca, it was only thus for scholars, most people could not even read their own tongue.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:26 am

jondesousa wrote:@sydneylam19

Can you share the app you use for the Roman Breviary? that would be a helpful resource!


Here is it - the online version with Spanish translation

Liturgia Horarum

http://www.almudi.org/Portals/0/docs/Br ... iario.html
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:40 am

I guess what Nesrad wanted to say is that, in the past the Classics were 'revered' by the learned as an invaluable treasure with wisdom cogent to contemporary needs, which could eventually enhance our quality of life and create more common good for an ideal civilization, an attitude now largely gone in the academia, in which every piece of writing is merely deemed one of the many materials for archaeology journal articles - the study of the 'Classics' is now rendered 'History' study.

I am pretty uneducated in the Intellectual History of Altertumswissenschaft, so I could only interpret Nesrad's comments as above.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby seneca2008 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 12:32 pm

I guess what Nesrad wanted to say is that, in the past the Classics were 'revered' by the learned as an invaluable treasure with wisdom cogent to contemporary needs, which could eventually enhance our quality of life and create more common good for an ideal civilization, an attitude now largely gone in the academia, in which every piece of writing is merely deemed one of the many materials for archaeology journal articles - the study of the 'Classics' is now rendered 'History' study.


I think you have now broadened the argument and again I see no evidence for what you say. "revered " is a very peculiar word to use in this context. Whatever love or admiration one might have for the works of classical authors one has also to put those works in context and interrogate them rather than adopting a deferential attitude. I am not sure many of us now have much faith in the idea of an "ideal civilization". Certainly we wouldn't turn to civilisations which depended on slavery for our model, not that this one issue invalidates the achievements of those civilisations. Even in antiquity the authority of ancient authors was criticised. I think the Ion shows Plato's views on the difficulty of accepting (in this case) Homer as a source of wisdom.

I also think the way you have characterised the collapse of classical scholarship into the study of History is misguided and not supported by the evidence.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby bedwere » Wed Mar 23, 2016 2:14 pm

sydneylam19 wrote:
jondesousa wrote:@sydneylam19

Can you share the app you use for the Roman Breviary? that would be a helpful resource!


Here is it - the online version with Spanish translation

Liturgia Horarum

http://www.almudi.org/Portals/0/docs/Br ... iario.html


If you want the old breviary (you can choose different rubrics and translations):

http://divinumofficium.com/

Apps based on this site: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deve ... erna&hl=en
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby jeidsath » Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:09 pm

seneca2008 wrote:Having said that classical philology seems to be alive and well. There are ever more critical editions and commentaries.


I can't speak for Latin, but for Greek, quantity is up while quality is (far) down. You see lots of publications that are relatively easy to create. Many new commentaries lightly summarize older commentaries in slightly different wording. Publications that require elite knowledge of Greek, and that are therefore harder to create are rare. Greek composition is mostly dead. The Brill dictionary, that we discussed in the other thread, is mostly a summary (and in places a bad summary) of the LSJ. What of value that is created is almost always the product of specialized crabbing scholarship rather than a breadth of knowledge.

You simply cannot judge a field by the quantity of paper produced. Quantity of publication is mostly driven by public funds, indirectly through student loans, etc., supporting staff positions at universities, and it is highly problematic to mistake that for real intellectual output. It's often mostly spam.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby seneca2008 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:45 pm

I can't speak for Latin, but for Greek, quantity is up while quality is (far) down.


I suppose it depends over what time period you are talking about. The late Martin West produced some of the finest greek commentaries we have ever seen. Nagy produces stunning work - see The best of the Achaeans. Finglass of the younger generation has produced exemplary commentaries on Ajax and Electra and Pindar.

All commentaries rely on previous work thats how scholarship works.

I thought the exchanges about the Brill dictionary were rather superficial. Good knockabout fun but scarcely an academic exchange. Time will tell how useful it is as a working dictionary.

I am sure a lot of papers are written that are not very good, it was ever thus. As an undergraduate I was very disappointed in a number of commentaries. I didnt find Davies on Trachiniae as helpful as Easterling.

I am not judging contemporary classics by the quantity of paper produced. But the idea that the work done nowadays is no match for the past is factually incorrect and merely another version of the golden age trope.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby jondesousa » Wed Mar 23, 2016 7:22 pm

@sydneylam19 and @bedwere

Thank you both kindly for your recommendations.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 9:19 am

bedwere wrote:
sydneylam19 wrote:
jondesousa wrote:@sydneylam19

Can you share the app you use for the Roman Breviary? that would be a helpful resource!


Here is it - the online version with Spanish translation

Liturgia Horarum

http://www.almudi.org/Portals/0/docs/Br ... iario.html


If you want the old breviary (you can choose different rubrics and translations):

http://divinumofficium.com/

Apps based on this site: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deve ... erna&hl=en



Thanks for your recommendation!

Could anyone inform me of how to use the Old Breviary? Was there a Lectio Altera as the new Liturgy of the Hours in the old Breviary? I find the old one too complicated at times.....
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 9:20 am

seneca2008 wrote:
I can't speak for Latin, but for Greek, quantity is up while quality is (far) down.


I suppose it depends over what time period you are talking about. The late Martin West produced some of the finest greek commentaries we have ever seen. Nagy produces stunning work - see The best of the Achaeans. Finglass of the younger generation has produced exemplary commentaries on Ajax and Electra and Pindar.

All commentaries rely on previous work thats how scholarship works.

I thought the exchanges about the Brill dictionary were rather superficial. Good knockabout fun but scarcely an academic exchange. Time will tell how useful it is as a working dictionary.

I am sure a lot of papers are written that are not very good, it was ever thus. As an undergraduate I was very disappointed in a number of commentaries. I didnt find Davies on Trachiniae as helpful as Easterling.

I am not judging contemporary classics by the quantity of paper produced. But the idea that the work done nowadays is no match for the past is factually incorrect and merely another version of the golden age trope.


Perhaps a few decades later Classics lovers would refer NOW as a 'golden age' :lol:
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 9:21 am

Do Classics Have A Future?

Mary Beard

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/01 ... ve-future/
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby seneca2008 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 10:48 am

Perhaps a few decades later Classics lovers would refer NOW as a 'golden age' :lol:


Thanks for the link to the interesting Mary Beard article. She makes this very point.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 11:24 am

seneca2008 wrote:
I can't speak for Latin, but for Greek, quantity is up while quality is (far) down.


I suppose it depends over what time period you are talking about. The late Martin West produced some of the finest greek commentaries we have ever seen. Nagy produces stunning work - see The best of the Achaeans. Finglass of the younger generation has produced exemplary commentaries on Ajax and Electra and Pindar.

All commentaries rely on previous work thats how scholarship works.

I thought the exchanges about the Brill dictionary were rather superficial. Good knockabout fun but scarcely an academic exchange. Time will tell how useful it is as a working dictionary.

I am sure a lot of papers are written that are not very good, it was ever thus. As an undergraduate I was very disappointed in a number of commentaries. I didnt find Davies on Trachiniae as helpful as Easterling.

I am not judging contemporary classics by the quantity of paper produced. But the idea that the work done nowadays is no match for the past is factually incorrect and merely another version of the golden age trope.


Sorry to be tangential to the original post. I just want to know how the term 'quality' is defined. Could anyone share his observation regarding the latest development in Latin and Greek LITERATURE research?

By the way, the Handbook of Classical Research by Routledge (Brill? Forgotten which publisher but it must be this kind of big name) mentioned that research on the style of Ciceronian Rhetoric receives less attention than it deserves. Is this true?
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 11:32 am

It appears to me that Oxford Classical Texts and Teubners are churning out at snail speed - Loebs appear to be the foot stop for colossal series of Classics texts.

Another thing I observe in many Latin courses is that teachers often put too much emphasis on poetry than on prose, which makes little sense to me as prose is supposed the convention of a language, which also paves the way for verse literature. I wonder who else, though, one should read for Latin prose, after Caesar, Cicero, Livy, Pliny the Younger, Seneca, or even Tacitus and Sallust. Are these the only Latin prose masters?

As far as the 'induction' method is concerned, I think JACT's Reading Latin has done a pretty bad job. The readings are disorganized, and I don't know why the editors have included so much Plautus while neglecting other more important readings.

I think there should really a primer for reading Latin instead of grammar itself - how to appreciate the style of writing and integrate prior knowledge on declension, conjugation and sentence construction. :D
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Thu Mar 24, 2016 1:15 pm

I've mentioned before on another thread that the use of poetry for beginners seems very counter-productive. I think teachers do this because prose is seen as boring. They hope to motivate the students with the subject matter. But what is less motivating than not being able to understand what you're reading? It also seems like a relatively recent innovation. All the older textbooks I've seen concentrate on prose, often exclusively on Caesar. I wonder if the use of poetry this way has anything to do with girls being admitted to the study of Latin.

You've mentioned the major prose authors, and I would add Nepos, Pliny the Elder (Natural History), and Cato's de Agricultura. There's enough there to last a lifetime. Cicero alone will take me many more years, if I ever muster up enough interest for his works on oratory.

I'm not sure what you mean about a primer for reading Latin instead of learning grammar. Isn't that what all courses do with the Latin readers published for the second year?
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby seneca2008 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 1:26 pm

I wonder if the use of poetry this way has anything to do with girls being admitted to the study of Latin.


Another of your little jokes I imagine.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby sydneylam19 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 2:26 pm

Nesrad wrote: I'm not sure what you mean about a primer for reading Latin instead of learning grammar. Isn't that what all courses do with the Latin readers published for the second year?


Not really. Some older Latin readers that I have seen discourage reading by parsing each line into separated English words. Consequently that would be like translation exercise or English reading.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby seneca2008 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 2:44 pm

Another thing I observe in many Latin courses is that teachers often put too much emphasis on poetry than on prose, which makes little sense to me as prose is supposed the convention of a language, which also paves the way for verse literature.


I Think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between prose and poetry in the ancient world. In antiquity the difference between prose and poetry is arguably a question of genre. Although there are differences between poetic and prose diction those differences are not unbridgeable. The idea that prose has some kind of priority over poetry seems entirely misplaced. Prose was written with just as much care for rhythm liveliness and effect as was poetry. As to temporal priority the early Latin authors, or what we have, wrote poetry rather than prose.

EDIT: I am ignoring epigraphic evidence here and I do realise that what we have is an accident of survival.

As far as the 'induction' method is concerned, I think JACT's Reading Latin has done a pretty bad job. The readings are disorganized, and I don't know why the editors have included so much Plautus while neglecting other more important readings.


Jact reading Latin is a method to teach Latin not a reader as such. The Plautus is so heavily adapted that it is almost unrecognisable. There are so many readers available so there are others for you to to choose from. At school we "read" de bello gallico, more like we had the key passages for the exam drummed into us. JACT seems a more humane experience to me.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Thu Mar 24, 2016 7:12 pm

seneca2008 wrote:Another of your little jokes I imagine.


No. Did you find that somehow funny?
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby Nesrad » Thu Mar 24, 2016 7:19 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Another thing I observe in many Latin courses is that teachers often put too much emphasis on poetry than on prose, which makes little sense to me as prose is supposed the convention of a language, which also paves the way for verse literature.


I Think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between prose and poetry in the ancient world. In antiquity the difference between prose and poetry is arguably a question of genre. Although there are differences between poetic and prose diction those differences are not unbridgeable. The idea that prose has some kind of priority over poetry seems entirely misplaced.


Wow. Just wow. You're very entertaining.
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Re: Take the Tacitus Test (or How I learned to read Latin)

Postby bedwere » Thu Mar 24, 2016 7:33 pm

Gentlemen, please don't make me use my moderator powers. Thank you.
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