John Moore '13
I wish I started Latin before going abroad, since it makes the things that you see much more relevant. If I had, I would have been able to read the inscriptions we saw, not to mention had an even better background in the history. Anywhere you go where the Romans or Greeks reached--England, Spain, France, Italy, and even Eastern Europe--there are ancient cities or towns to visit.
The history and the languages can integrate well if you want them to. Looking at passages that you want to write about in their original language can be a big help with writing papers, since you can then research specific words.
Latin poetry is a nice perk of the language. It’s always fun and sometimes vulgar--no translation but your own can do it justice.
I enjoy the ancient history and language classes because the history is interesting, and the language can be fun. Unlike most of the modern courses, the history is much less about defining endless “-isms” and trends than about values that the culture held highest. It is more pleasing to study values than “-isms” because they more clearly relate to each other and to the peoples discussed. For the most part, in ancient classes you will read about events and then ask what they mean, not the other way around. Sometimes history that is too attached to modern prejudices thinks deductively. For example, early US history becomes meaningless if before you pick up a single book you already assume that White Americans did something to wrong Native Americans. Doing it that way simply reaffirms an existing prejudice and will ensure that you learn nothing of value. Rather, thinking about a subject like “Does Livy’s account of this battle sound like Polybius’? Where do they agree? They both say such-and-such about the armor the troops wore, what might that mean about the army?” is more inductive, and opens your mind to thinking more creatively. Of course, it goes much further than that, though.
The language classes are some of the most fun classes that I have taken, ever. Translating feels more like playing a game with words than doing work. Poetry is more fun than prose, since you get to know the authors intimately and have the opportunity to look for the references and subtleties in the language. Besides, poets deal with topics that everyone who is human can relate to (Sorry Cicero, but no one liked your poetry so it was lost and your political writing can get boring after a while). Also, the language is not exactly like the modern languages where you have to write it and always end up talking about everyday affairs. Writing about daily life at PC gets old much faster than finding all sorts of unexpected references in a poem or reading the story of the three brothers from Rome fighting in “single” (triple?) combat against three brothers of another state to decide a major battle before it started when both armies had lined up, about to engage. As Latin grows more and more exciting the deeper I delve into it, other modern languages cannot match it.