Last weekend I finished reading Ciceronis filius by U.E Paoli (PDF, 8 MB). Thinking that it is worth reading if someone is learning Latin, I decided to write a short review.
The sub-title gives a good impression of what it is about: puerilis narratio ad domesticos Romanorum mores illustrandos in usum scholarum redacta. However, this is also a bit misleading. Contrary to other Latin readers, especially those geared towards absolute beginners (e.g. Reed's Julia or Fay's Carolus et Maria), it is not "puerile". The book (91 pages of actual text with many pictures) instead uses the story of Cicero's son to illustrate Roman life. The story providing the framework begins with the birth of Cicero's son and ends with the death of his father, drawing an often quite critical (but not entirely damning) picture of the father. Filling out the framework are passages covering many aspects of Roman life (the material world, customs). The most important ones:
- Birth and customs associated with it
- House (also about the insulae)
- Feasts, Eating, Kitchen (including utensils)
- Children's games
- School (and utensils)
- Furniture: beds and tables
- Mail service
- Villa rustica
- Travel (and carts)
- War (trated only very briefly)
- Clothes, hats, shoes
Language: Paoli uses the entire Latin grammar (including subjunctive, conditional sentences, etc.). The difficulty level stays the same from the beginning to the end. I think that it is a good book to read right after finishing learning Latin grammar.
De secundis mensis.
Perfecta cena, non ante secundarum mensarum initium fiebat, quam dominus Laribus, vino mero in mensam effuso, libasset. Larium parva signa in mensa ad id statuebantur; omnes bona omina proferebant. In secundis mensis placentae adponebantur melle vel caseo confectae, variis cum pomis, atque ad irritandam gulam, quo libentius convivae potarent, sicca bellaria, uva passa, arida ficus. Tempus enim potandi erat, nec ulla iam edendi cupiditate satur conviva tenebatur.
This passage is quite representative, also for the size of these. The longest ones are not more than twice the size of it.
A small hint: use Anthony Rich's Illustrated Companion to the Latin Dictionary and Greek Lexicon while reading this book (in my opinion a must-have, at least as a PDF).