A Natural History of Latin by Tore Janson

By Tore Janson

No identified language, together with English, has completed the luck and toughness of Latin. French, Spanish, Italian, and Romanian are between its direct descendants, and numerous Latin phrases and words contain the cornerstone of English itself. A usual historical past or Latin tells its historical past from its origins over 2500 years in the past to the current. Brilliantly conceived, popularizing yet authoritative, and written with the fluency and light-weight contact that experience made Tore Janson's communicate so appealing to tens of hundreds of thousands of readers, it's a masterpiece of adroit synthesis. The ebook commences with an outline of the origins, emergence, and dominance of Latin over the Classical interval. Then follows an account of its survival in the course of the center a while into sleek instances, with emphasis on its evolution during the heritage, tradition, and non secular practices of Medieval Europe. through really apt citation of Latin phrases, words, and texts the writer illustrates how the written and spoken language replaced, zone via zone through the years; the way it met resistance from local languages; and the way for this reason a few whole languages disappeared. Janson bargains a shiny demonstration of the price of Latin as a way of entry to a colourful previous and a persuasive argument for its persevered worthy. A concise and easy-to-understand creation to Latin grammar and an inventory of the main widespread Latin phrases, together with 500 idioms and words nonetheless in universal use, supplement the paintings.

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One was wax tablets, strictly speaking pieces of wood which had been coated with a layer of wax. It was then easy to write letters in the wax with a pointed stick called a stilus (from which our word style comes and which literally means ‘a way of writing’). This method was eminently suitable for notes, short letters, and the like which did not have to be saved. Indeed, people often bundled together several tablets to make a sort of notebook. The material for larger texts which people wanted to save was papyrus.

All power and almost all the money was concentrated in a few people in a single city. This naturally led to widespread dissatisfaction amongst the poor in Rome and amongst everyone in the rest of the empire. In the long run such a state of affairs became untenable. And yet it did not prove easy to change things. For a little over a century a serious power struggle went on in Rome. It started with a proposed land reform, which would have meant that the rich could no longer own huge tracts of land and work them with slaves.

A key word is of course amor ‘love’, and amare ‘to love’, but just as important is something else, the family’s fortune or money. The general word for ‘money’ is pecúnia (derived from pecus ‘livestock’, since the bartering of animals preceded the use of money), but the Romans also had coins of silver (argentum) and gold (aurum). Hence in French the word for money is argent, from the Latin word for silver while the word gold is the source of öre, the name of the smallest unit of currency in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway (worth approximately a tenth of a penny).

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