Latin Quotes, Sayings, Tattoos, Phrases & Mottos

Most texts and materials on this site have to do with the Latin language, including its perception in popular culture: movies, tattoos, inscriptions, engravings, bits of ancient philosophy, online Latin resources and company names. There is also information about learning Latin and Greek: textbooks, dictionaries, DVDs and software that can be used in a homeschooling environment.

Harvard faculty to the rescue! Kathleen Coleman and the makers of "Gladiator"

Monday, March 3, 2008, 16:27 - Learn Latin Language, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
A lengthy, but quite interesting article about some experiences of Harvard faculty members, who are often called upon to help out with Latin (from translating mottos to consulting movie-makers).

Kathleen Coleman's short-lived experience as a consultant for the movie "Gladiator" is especially amusing:

She recalled one exchange between the filmmakers in a 2005 Financial Times article: “Kathy, we need to get a piece of evidence which proves that women gladiators had sharpened razor blades attached to their nipples. Could you have it by lunchtime?”

“That was not a very good experience for her,” department administrator Teresa T. Wu said. “I think she won’t work with Hollywood again.”

I sure hope this article does not result in more people calling the Classics Department with questions they could have resolved otherwise.

French phrases for mottos, slogans and language learning

Friday, February 29, 2008, 20:30 - French Language, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans, Heraldry, Symbols and Emblems
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Made a new little list:
French phrases used as heraldic mottos.

French phrases adopted as mottos, in my opinion, have slightly different connotations, as opposed to the Latin ones. They have a certain air of chivalry and perhaps a distinctly feudal sense of duty and allegiance. Or, perhaps, Latin mottos better represent the aspirations and ideals of the well educated religious and academic elite, while French mottos are more indicative of the warrior culture of the Middle Ages. It is my belief, of course, that it is not a bad idea to start learning a language by noticing that you may already have some knowledge of it. Mottos are exactly the kind of thing that can be known to people who otherwise are clueless about the actual grammar or vocabulary of a given language.

Latin course online - paid for by the British government!

That's right! A simple course, good enough for a beginner is available at the website of the National Archives:

The tutorial covers the period between 1086 and 1733, when Latin was the official language of documents written in England.

Knowing Latin will help you to read documents from this period. After 1733, official documents were written in English.

No previous knowledge of Latin is required.

Their mission is pretty clear and laudable. What makes these efforts special, they are aimed to teach Medieval Latin, which is somewhat rare, even though the demand for such courses is quite high, I believe. You can find a good number of quality textbooks online that cover Classical Latin, but for Medieval Latin there are only a few books that you probably have to buy. I particularly enjoy, as I have made it clear, the government involvement in this project.

Latin Course online (Beginner's Level)

Latin Course online (Advanced Level)

Latin vs. Sanskrit

Monday, February 18, 2008, 14:22 - Books, dictionaries and texts, World History: Ancient, Medieval & Modern, Learn Latin Language
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Interesting article: ... nscrit.asp

I’ve seen a figure of 1.4 million Sanskrit manuscripts currently in existence. For Classical Greek and Latin combined, there are 30,000 manuscripts. This is Sanskrit’s monument, that vast scope of surviving, hand-written documents sitting in people’s libraries and temples. The size of the corpus is absolutely enormous. And the breadth of material boggles the imagination. Everyone knows the Kama Sutra, for example, which is a manual on sexual technique. But there are also texts on elephant-raising, architecture, astrology, medicine, grammar, spiritual traditions, geography – the vast scope of subjects covered by Sanskrit documents is amazing.

An elderly Sanskrit scholar, who had spent 50 years studying the language, was once asked what it was like to have spent so long on the subject. He replied, “Sanskrit is a boundless ocean, and I am still standing on the shore”. There is no such thing as finishing Sanskrit. You don’t have to worry about getting anywhere. You should always look behind you and get your satisfaction from what you’ve done, because it’s a journey without an end.

What is its future?

I am the only person, possibly in the world, who truly believes that Sanskrit is the language of the future. We can’t easily read Shakespeare without a glossary. There’s no way you can read Chaucer without a glossary because English is changing so quickly. But I can pick up a Sanskrit document written in the last 2,000 years and make a good fist of it. It hasn’t changed. In 1,000 years time, Sanskrit will still be the same, but every other language will have changed beyond in recognition.

How fortuitous! I was just thinking about picking up another book on elephant raising! Seriously, I have deep respect for Sanskrit literature, but my allegiance forever lies with Latin. I also know a few people who are convinced that Latin is the language of the future, of which I am highly doubtful. There is also a small discrepancy in saying that Sanskrit is a boundless ocean (and even an elderly scholar feels like he is only standing on its shore) and proclaiming that Sanskrit has not changed and one can easily understand ancient texts. True, it must have been better codified early on, but Classical Latin ain't changing either. Besides, if you know Classical Latin you can read with ease many medieval texts. Anyway, I just don't see the point in saying that a certain language is so much better and more important than others. Those other languages are equally important linguistically (kudos to Mr. Chomsky!) and may have produced great literatures, even if the people who wrote in those languages did not have much to say about elephant raising!

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