Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

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Cuman Boi
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Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Cuman Boi » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:30 pm

Hello there,
I am currently engaged with learning Latin and I am just seeking to be able to read ancient classics.
Started my journey with a grammar book ( Latin for Beginners by Benjamin L. D'ooge) after studying 10 hours more or less I changed my main book and went for Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata Series accompanied by sub-books (Fabulae Latinae, Fabulae Syrae, Exercita Latina etc.)
My Question is though, As a person only aiming to read classics in their original context ; How should my study method be like and What should I over emphasize than the rest?

Any response striving to answer my question will be appreciated.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Constantinus Philo » Sat Jun 22, 2019 2:58 am

my method is: pic up the most complete grammar available, like Gildersleeve and read it carefully, then go to Woodcock, then to Thomas/Ernout (in French), then other good grammars that you may find in German, then read whatever you like provided there are comments.
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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by ragnar_deerslayer » Sat Jun 22, 2019 1:51 pm

Justin Slocum Bailey has some good advice based on his road to fluent Latin reading:
http://indwellinglanguage.com/reading-l ... tensively/
Read my blog! --> Study Greek

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seneca2008
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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by seneca2008 » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:40 am

My Question is though, As a person only aiming to read classics in their original context ; How should my study method be like and What should I over emphasize than the rest?
This is a question asked many times here in the past. You might profit from reading some old threads.

Philo's idiosyncratic approach is not to be recommended. Far better just to choose a text book you like and work through it. You should aim to learn your declensions and conjugations by heart. I am not familiar with the books you are using having studied through a more traditional route - JACT reading Latin.

This site looks helpful for the route you are taking

http://www.lingvalatina.com

You need to find what works for you. But if you want to progress its impossible to avoid having to memorise accidence.

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:16 pm

Seneca beat me to it here. A good beginning text with clear explanations of the grammar and a healthy amount of readings and exercises is a vastly preferable approach. I think you'll have a good experience with Ørberg -- I recently reviewed it for a change in curriculum where I teach, and I was very impressed with the approach. I think Joel, jeidsath, one of the forum moderators is working through Ørberg right now. There's also a lot of online support for it. As a self learner, you might also want to have more than one text available. Wheelock is a good fairly grammar intensive traditional text also with a good deal of online support and very good explanations. If an explanation or example doesn't make sense in one book, looking at another text can make the difference (also check out the resources right here on Textkit).

As for Philo's approach, I'm glad it worked for him, but he is quite the rarrissima avis, and I would not suggest it as a model.

Sidenote: I also couldn't help chuckling at your title for the thread. "Only to Understand Classics..." For most of us, that's the main reason for learning the language... :D
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Cuman Boi » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:44 pm

Thank you all for your kind responses.
I've gone through all of them and I must say I've learnt much from them.
I will also go through the articles you have linked here to this article by taking notes, if possible.

As a side note here: I saw some people still actively using Latin as a language for conversation. So, I thought adding "Only to understand classics" would mean I dont want to spend time by listening or reading daily conversations.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by scotistic » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:23 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:16 pm

Sidenote: I also couldn't help chuckling at your title for the thread. "Only to Understand Classics..." For most of us, that's the main reason for learning the language... :D
Speaking for myself, while I do love Virgil, Cicero, and Ovid, I learned Latin primarily to read the medieval scholastics and for the Catholic liturgy. These days I use Latin mostly for reading the western Church Fathers.

Now *Greek* I study only for the classics! But I think the Greek classics are in general greatly superior to the Roman ones.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Jun 25, 2019 10:22 am

scotistic wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:23 pm
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:16 pm

Sidenote: I also couldn't help chuckling at your title for the thread. "Only to Understand Classics..." For most of us, that's the main reason for learning the language... :D
Speaking for myself, while I do love Virgil, Cicero, and Ovid, I learned Latin primarily to read the medieval scholastics and for the Catholic liturgy. These days I use Latin mostly for reading the western Church Fathers.

Now *Greek* I study only for the classics! But I think the Greek classics are in general greatly superior to the Roman ones.
Of course, and not bad reasons at all. In another life I had quite a bit to do with Reformation and post-Reformation era authors, and Latin of course was quite useful for such studies. As for the superiority of the Greeks to the Romans, well the Romans themselves tended to acknowledge that, but neither do I think they should be sold short... :)
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by seneca2008 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:57 pm

As for the superiority of the Greeks to the Romans, well the Romans themselves tended to acknowledge that, but neither do I think they should be sold short
Horace may have quipped about it but are we really to take it at face value? Romanisation/Hellenisation is a difficult topic to tease out. There is a strong argument that the Romans took what the Greeks had started and made something entirely original out of it. In terms of influence Seneca's plays were much more important in modern times to the development of western theatre than greek tragedy. In the 19th century when the idea of "historical priority" became important their reputation suffered but thankfully that is now past and we can appreciate them as being radically different from Greek tragedy.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by jeidsath » Wed Jun 26, 2019 1:21 pm

As a side note here: I saw some people still actively using Latin as a language for conversation. So, I thought adding "Only to understand classics" would mean I dont want to spend time by listening or reading daily conversations.
But what if that sort of practice helps you to understand the classics?
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by scotistic » Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:01 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:57 pm
As for the superiority of the Greeks to the Romans, well the Romans themselves tended to acknowledge that, but neither do I think they should be sold short
Horace may have quipped about it but are we really to take it at face value? Romanisation/Hellenisation is a difficult topic to tease out. There is a strong argument that the Romans took what the Greeks had started and made something entirely original out of it.
This is very true, I think. Watching Virgil at work, Propertius said "Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Grai!
Nescio quid maius nascitur Iliade. - Give way Roman writers, give way Greeks! Something (I know now what) greater than the Iliad is being born." Is the Aeneid greater than the Iliad? I have severe doubts about that - just as I doubt but entertain the notion that Dante is greater than either of them - but it is certainly something very different, once you get past the superficial similarities. Romanisation does not simply produce a pale imitation of Hellenic culture but makes a new thing.

You mention Seneca's tragedies, but my predominant interest is in philosophy, and here the Greeks are the clear winners. There are no Roman competitors to Plato or Aristotle, none within a thousand miles. There are no real Roman equivalents to Plutarch and Plotinus at all. I like Cicero and Seneca but they're just not playing in the same ballpark. I appreciate Caesar and as a world-historical figure he's far more important, but his writings have only some of the many virtues of Xenophon, who combines history and the graceful simplicity of style with philosophy and fiction. Livy and Tacitus have many virtues but I don't find them superior to Herodotus and Thucydides. The Greeks don't really have anyone to match Cicero or Ovid, I think, but then I find those two to be rather second-tier figures even if that still places them very high.

So for me anyway the Latin classics have many fine virtues but in spite of the good things it adds does not manage to surpass the Greeks in quality - especially in the areas I'm most interested in - until antiquity is nearly over. Boethius is very fine, Augustine is the rival or superior of any of the Greek Fathers, and medieval Latin seems to offer at least as much in scope and variety and quality as medieval Greek.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by seneca2008 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:12 pm

So for me anyway the Latin classics have many fine virtues but in spite of the good things it adds does not manage to surpass the Greeks in quality
I think you would do well to make a distinction between what you like as opposed to the value judgements you make about their supposed superiority. These comparisons were popular at one time but I am not sure they add much value.

Seneca was a fine philosopher and his stoicism once belittled as "eclectic" and inferior (again) to the naturally superior and prior Greek is now regarded as a notable and independent contribution to the development of Stoicism. Without Cicero's attempts to provide a Latin vocabulary for Greek philosophy I wonder how far Boethius or Augustine would have got.

Cicero was in his speeches clearly influenced by previous Greek exemplars. Those who read Demosthenes would disagree that there are no comparable Greek Rhetoricians. Ovid too has his roots not only in Homer but in Hellenistic poetry, quite apart from his debt to Virgil.

The Greeks cast a long shadow but I would contend that their influence is one mediated by the Romans. To attach importance to works simply because they came first is a deceptively attractive but flawed way of thinking.

As you might have read in another thread I think its impossible, to read any Greek text without thinking about its latin successors and vice versa.

It is interesting that there is much more activity on this board in the Greek section compared to the Latin. I wonder if this is something to do with the perception of Greek having greater prestige? Certainly in the Uk where classics is in retreat at school level, Greek is virtually non-existent in the state sector and only available to a few at exclusive private schools.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by scotistic » Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:23 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:12 pm

I think you would do well to make a distinction between what you like as opposed to the value judgements you make about their supposed superiority. These comparisons were popular at one time but I am not sure they add much value.

Seneca was a fine philosopher and his stoicism once belittled as "eclectic" and inferior (again) to the naturally superior and prior Greek is now regarded as a notable and independent contribution to the development of Stoicism. Without Cicero's attempts to provide a Latin vocabulary for Greek philosophy I wonder how far Boethius or Augustine would have got.

Cicero was in his speeches clearly influenced by previous Greek exemplars. Those who read Demosthenes would disagree that there are no comparable Greek Rhetoricians. Ovid too has his roots not only in Homer but in Hellenistic poetry, quite apart from his debt to Virgil.

The Greeks cast a long shadow but I would contend that their influence is one mediated by the Romans. To attach importance to works simply because they came first is a deceptively attractive but flawed way of thinking.

As you might have read in another thread I think its impossible, to read any Greek text without thinking about its latin successors and vice versa.

It is interesting that there is much more activity on this board in the Greek section compared to the Latin. I wonder if this is something to do with the perception of Greek having greater prestige? Certainly in the Uk where classics is in retreat at school level, Greek is virtually non-existent in the state sector and only available to a few at exclusive private schools.
I'm not arguing that Cicero and Seneca weren't important for their contributions to the development of philosophy in Latin. I'm saying that no informed philosopher at any time in history would ever have admitted that either of them were superior as philosophers to Plato or Aristotle.

You may have misunderstood what I was saying about Cicero. Of course he was influenced by Greek exemplars, both in oratory and in philosophy. My point is that there is no comparable *figure* in Greek, in the sense of a great orator and a great writer who was extremely important for the development and codification of the language, and who was *also* an extremely important political and historical figure. It would be as though Pericles and Demosthenes and, I don't know, Theophrastus or someone were combined in a single person. And similarly of course Ovid draws on Greek poetry, what I meant is that no Greek poet combines his poetic quality with his very wide range of material.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by seneca2008 » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:50 pm

I'm saying that no informed philosopher at any time in history would ever have admitted that either of them were superior as philosophers to Plato or Aristotle.
Well that's a view and not one which is I think is true. No modern philosopher would ever try to make such a comparison as they were trying to do very different things.

As for the rest of your post one of us has fundamentally misunderstood the other's post.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Cuman Boi » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:21 pm

scotistic wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:23 pm
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:16 pm

Sidenote: I also couldn't help chuckling at your title for the thread. "Only to Understand Classics..." For most of us, that's the main reason for learning the language... :D
Now *Greek* I study only for the classics! But I think the Greek classics are in general greatly superior to the Roman ones.
As for my part, I am more obsessed with the works of Romans. Because their vast empire required complex govermental systems, regulations. Roman Army and its professional nature paved the way for brilliant work of art known as "De Re Militari". I have interests in Military History, International Relations and Politics. So the Roman works of literature closely match up with my interests as you can clearly see.
Last edited by Cuman Boi on Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Cuman Boi » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:24 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 1:21 pm
As a side note here: I saw some people still actively using Latin as a language for conversation. So, I thought adding "Only to understand classics" would mean I dont want to spend time by listening or reading daily conversations.
But what if that sort of practice helps you to understand the classics?
Of course, but they can be secondary objective of mine as they don't promote one with enough means to be able to read comprehensibly.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by scotistic » Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:32 am

seneca2008 wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:50 pm
No modern philosopher would ever try to make such a comparison as they were trying to do very different things.
Seeing as I have a doctorate in philosophy myself, there is at least one counterexample. But I don't believe I am alone in my assessment. No disrespect to your namesake intended.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by seneca2008 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:05 pm

Seeing as I have a doctorate in philosophy myself, there is at least one counterexample. But I don't believe I am alone in my assessment. No disrespect to your namesake intended.
Well I think we would all benefit from your wisdom here.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by SamParkinson » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:32 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:12 pm
It is interesting that there is much more activity on this board in the Greek section compared to the Latin. I wonder if this is something to do with the perception of Greek having greater prestige? Certainly in the Uk where classics is in retreat at school level, Greek is virtually non-existent in the state sector and only available to a few at exclusive private schools.
I suspect the reason is simpler - there are vastly more resources, online and off, for Latin. There are more people learning Latin. It's easier to find support. A lot of us who do Greek come here because it's near the only place for that sort of support and discussion.

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by Aetos » Mon Jul 01, 2019 5:39 pm

50 years ago, my first year Greek class had 3 students (myself included). My Catullus class filled a average sized classroom (let's say 30 desks). Amazingly, they have kept the Greek program alive to this day!

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Re: Learning Latin only to understand Classics.

Post by seneca2008 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:18 pm

Amazingly, they have kept the Greek program alive to this day!
Excellent news.

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