Classical Latin

Classical Latin is the modern term used to describe the form of the Latin language recognized as standard by writers of the late Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. In some later periods, it was regarded as "good" Latin, with later versions being viewed as debased or corrupt. The word Latin is now taken by default as meaning "Classical Latin", so that, for example, modern Latin textbooks describe Classical Latin. Marcus Tullius Cicero and his contemporaries of the late republic, while using lingua latina and sermo latinus to mean the Latin language as opposed to Greek or other languages, and sermo vulgaris or sermo vulgi to refer to the vernacular, referred to the speech they valued most and in which they wrote as latinitas,[1] "Latinity", with the implication of good. Sometimes it was called sermo familiaris, "speech of the good families", sermo urbanus, "speech of the city" or rarely sermo nobilis, "noble speech". But besides latinitas, it was mainly called latine (adverb), "in good Latin", or latinius (comparative degree of the adverb), "in better Latin".

Latinitas was spoken as well as written, and it was the language taught in schools. Prescriptive rules therefore applied to it, and where a special subject was concerned, such as poetry or rhetoric, additional rules applied. Now that the spoken Latinitas has become extinct (in favor of various other registers later in date) the rules of the, for the most part, polished (politus) texts may give these the appearance of an artificial language, but Latinitas was a form of sermo, or spoken language, and as such retains spontaneity. No texts by Classical Latin authors are noted for the type of rigidity evidenced by stylized art, except possibly the repetitious abbreviations and stock phrases of inscriptions.

Classical Latin
LINGVA LATINA, lingua latina
Rome Colosseum inscription 2
Latin inscription in the Colosseum
Native toRoman Republic, Roman Empire
RegionMare Nostrum region
Era75 BC to AD 3rd century, when it developed into Late Latin
Early form
Classical Latin alphabet 
Official status
Official language in
Roman Republic, Roman Empire
Regulated bySchools of grammar and rhetoric
Language codes
ISO 639-3
The range of Latin, AD 60

Philological constructs


Good Latin in philology is "classical" Latin literature. The term refers to the canonicity of works of literature written in Latin in the late Roman Republic and the early to middle Roman Empire: "that is to say, that of belonging to an exclusive group of authors (or works) that were considered to be emblematic of a certain genre."[2] The term classicus (masculine plural classici) was devised by the Romans themselves to translate Greek ἐγκριθέντες (encrithentes), "select", referring to authors who wrote in Greek that were considered model. Before then, classis, in addition to being a naval fleet, was a social class in one of the diachronic divisions of Roman society according to property ownership by the Roman constitution.[3] The word is a transliteration of Greek κλῆσις (clēsis) "calling", used to rank army draftees by property from first to fifth class.

Classicus is anything primae classis, "first class", such as the authors of the polished works of Latinitas, or sermo urbanus. It had nuances of the certified and the authentic: testis classicus, "reliable witness." It was in this sense that Marcus Cornelius Fronto (an African-Roman lawyer and language teacher) in the 2nd century AD used scriptores classici, "first-class" or "reliable authors" whose works could be relied upon as model of good Latin.[4] This is the first known reference, possibly innovated at this time, to classical applied to authors by virtue of the authentic language of their works.[5]


David Ruhnken - Imagines philologorum
David Ruhnken

In imitation of the Greek grammarians, the Roman ones, such as Quintilian, drew up lists termed indices or ordines on the model of the Greek lists, termed pinakes, considered classical: the recepti scriptores, "select writers." Aulus Gellius includes many authors, such as Plautus, who are currently considered writers of Old Latin and not strictly in the period of classical Latin. The classical Romans distinguished Old Latin as prisca Latinitas and not sermo vulgaris. Each author (and work) in the Roman lists was considered equivalent to one in the Greek; for example Ennius was the Latin Homer, the Aeneid was a new Iliad, and so on. The lists of classical authors were as far as the Roman grammarians went in developing a philology. The topic remained at that point while interest in the classici scriptores declined in the medieval period as the best Latin yielded to medieval Latin, somewhat less than the best by classical standards.

The Renaissance brought a revival of interest in restoring as much of Roman culture as could be restored and with it the return of the concept of classic, "the best." Thomas Sébillet in 1548 (Art Poétique) referred to "les bons et classiques poètes françois", meaning Jean de Meun and Alain Chartier, which was the first modern application of the word. According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the term classical, from classicus, entered modern English in 1599, some 50 years after its re-introduction on the continent. Governor William Bradford in 1648 referred to synods of a separatist church as "classical meetings" in his Dialogue, a report of a meeting between New-England-born "young men" and "ancient men" from Holland and England.[6] In 1715 Laurence Echard's Classical Geographical Dictionary was published.[7] In 1736 Robert Ainsworth's Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Compendarius turned English words and expressions into "proper and classical Latin."[8] In 1768 David Ruhnken (Critical History of the Greek Orators) recast the mold of the view of the classical by applying the word canon to the pinakes of orators, after the Biblical canon or list of authentic books of the Bible. Ruhnken had a kind of secular catechism in mind.[9]

Ages of Latin

Wilhelm Siegmund Teuffel - Imagines philologorum
Wilhelm Sigismund Teuffel

In 1870 Wilhelm Sigismund Teuffel in Geschichte der Römischen Literatur (A History of Roman Literature) innovated the definitive philological classification of classical Latin based on the metaphoric uses of the ancient myth of the Ages of Man, a practice then universally current: a Golden Age and a Silver Age of classical Latin were to be presumed. The practice and Teuffel's classification, with modifications, are still in use. His work was translated into English as soon as published in German by Wilhelm Wagner, who corresponded with Teuffel. Wagner published the English translation in 1873. Teuffel divides the chronology of classical Latin authors into several periods according to political events, rather than by style. Regarding the style of the literary Latin of those periods he had but few comments.

Teuffel was to go on with other editions of his history, but meanwhile it had come out in English almost as soon as it did in German and found immediate favorable reception. In 1877 Charles Thomas Cruttwell produced the first English work along the same lines. In his Preface he refers to "Teuffel's admirable history, without which many chapters in the present work could not have attained completeness" and also gives credit to Wagner.

Cruttwell adopts the same periods with minor differences; however, where Teuffel's work is mainly historical, Cruttwell's work contains detailed analyses of style. Nevertheless, like Teuffel he encounters the same problem of trying to summarize the voluminous detail in a way that captures in brief the gist of a few phases of writing styles. Like Teuffel, he has trouble finding a name for the first of the three periods (the current Old Latin phase), calling it mainly "from Livius to Sulla." The language, he says, is "…marked by immaturity of art and language, by a vigorous but ill-disciplined imitation of Greek poetical models, and in prose by a dry sententiousness of style, gradually giving way to a clear and fluent strength…" These abstracts have little meaning to those not well-versed in Latin literature. In fact, Cruttwell admits "The ancients, indeed, saw a difference between Ennius, Pacuvius, and Accius, but it may be questioned whether the advance would be perceptible by us."

Some of Cruttwell's ideas have become established in Latin philology. While praising the application of rules to classical Latin, most intensely in the Golden Age, he says "In gaining accuracy, however, classical Latin suffered a grievous loss. It became cultivated as distinct from a natural language… Spontaneity, therefore, became impossible and soon invention also ceased… In a certain sense, therefore, Latin was studied as a dead language, while it was still a living."[10]

A second problem is the appropriateness of Teuffel's scheme to the concept of classical Latin, which Teuffel does not discuss. Cruttwell addresses the problem, however, altering the concept of the classical. As the best Latin is defined as golden Latin, the second of the three periods, the other two periods considered classical are left hanging. While on the one hand assigning to Old Latin the term pre-classical and by implication the term post-classical (or post-Augustan) to silver Latin Cruttwell realizes that this construct is not according to ancient usage and asserts "…the epithet classical is by many restricted to the authors who wrote in it [golden Latin]. It is best, however, not to narrow unnecessarily the sphere of classicity; to exclude Terence on the one hand or Tacitus and Pliny on the other, would savour of artificial restriction rather than that of a natural classification." The contradiction remains; Terence is and is not a classical author depending on context.[11]

Authors of the Golden Age

Bakalovich at Maecenas' reception
At Maecenas' Reception, oil, Stepan Bakalovich, 1890. An artist's view of the classical. Maecenas knew and entertained everyone literary in the Golden Age, especially Augustus.

After defining a "First Period" of inscriptional Latin and the literature of the earliest known authors and fragments, to which he assigns no definitive name (he does use the term "Old Roman" at one point), Teuffel presents "the second period", his major, "das goldene Zeitalter der römischen Literatur", the Golden Age of Roman Literature, dated 671–767 AUC or 83 BC – 14 AD according to his time reckoning, between the dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix and the death of the emperor Augustus.[12][13] Of it Wagner translating Teuffel writes

The golden age of the Roman literature is that period in which the climax was reached in the perfection of form, and in most respects also in the methodical treatment of the subject-matters. It may be subdivided between the generations, in the first of which (the Ciceronian Age) prose culminated, while poetry was principally developed in the Augustan Age.

The Ciceronian Age was dated 671–711 AUC (83 BC – 43 BC), ending just after the death of M. Tullius Cicero, and the Augustan 711–67 AUC (43 BC – 14 AD), ending with the death of Augustus. The Ciceronian Age is further divided by the consulship of Cicero in 691 AUC or 63 BC into a first and second half. Authors are assigned to these periods by years of principal achievements.

The Golden Age had already made an appearance in German philology but in a less systematic way. In Bielfeld's 1770 Elements of universal erudition the author says (in translation): "The Second Age of Latin began about the time of Caesar [his ages are different from Teuffel's], and ended with Tiberius. This is what is called the Augustan Age, which was perhaps of all others the most brilliant, a period at which it should seem as if the greatest men, and the immortal authors, had met together upon the earth, in order to write the Latin language in its utmost purity and perfection."[14] and of Tacitus "…his conceits and sententious style is not that of the golden age…".[15] Teuffel evidently received the ideas of a golden and silver Latin from an existing tradition and embedded them in a new system, transforming them as he thought best.

In Cruttwell's introduction, the Golden Age is dated 80 BC – 14 AD ("from Cicero to Ovid"), which is about the same as Teuffel's. Of this "Second Period" Cruttwell says that it "represents the highest excellence in prose and poetry," paraphrasing Teuffel. The Ciceronian Age is now "the Republican Period" and is dated 80–42 BC through the Battle of Philippi. Later in the book Cruttwell omits Teuffel's first half of the Ciceronian and starts the Golden Age at Cicero's consulship of 63 BC, an error perpetuated into Cruttwell's second edition as well. He must mean 80 BC as he includes Varro in Golden Latin. Teuffel's Augustan Age is Cruttwell's Augustan Epoch, 42 BC – 14 AD.


Marcus Tullius Cicero, after whom Teuffel named his Ciceronian period of the Golden Age
Bust of Gaius Iulius Caesar in Naples
Julius Caesar

The literary histories list all authors canonical to the Ciceronian Age even though their works may be fragmentary or may not have survived at all. With the exception of a few major writers, such as Cicero, Caesar, Virgil and Catullus, ancient accounts of Republican literature are glowing accounts of jurists and orators who wrote prolifically but who now can't be read because their works have been lost, or analyses of language and style that appear insightful but can't be verified because there are no surviving instances. In that sense the pages of literary history are peopled with shadows: Aquilius Gallus, Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, Lucius Licinius Lucullus and many others who left a reputation but no readable works; they are to be presumed in the Golden Age by their associations. A list of some canonical authors of the period, whose works have survived in whole or in part (typically in part, some only short fragments) is as follows:


The Golden Age is divided by the assassination of Julius Caesar. In the wars that followed the Republican generation of literary men was lost, as most of them had taken the losing side; Marcus Tullius Cicero was beheaded in the street as he enquired from his litter what the disturbance was. They were replaced by a new generation that had grown up and been educated under the old and were now to make their mark under the watchful eye of the new emperor. As the demand for great orators was more or less over,[16] the talent shifted emphasis to poetry. Other than the historian Livy, the most remarkable writers of the period were the poets Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. Although Augustus evidenced some toleration to republican sympathizers, he exiled Ovid, and imperial tolerance ended with the continuance of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Augustan writers include:

Authors of the Silver Age

Tiberius NyCarlsberg01
The frowning second emperor, Tiberius, limited free speech, precipitating the rise of Silver Latin, with its emphasis on mannerism rather than on solid content, according to Teuffel's model

In his second volume, on the Imperial Period, Teuffel initiated a slight alteration in approach, making it clearer that his terms applied to the Latin and not just to the age, and also changing his dating scheme from years AUC to modern. Although he introduces das silberne Zeitalter der römischen Literatur, "the Silver Age of Roman Literature", 14–117 AD,[17] from the death of Augustus to the death of Trajan, he also mentions regarding a section of a work by Seneca the Elder a wenig Einfluss der silbernen Latinität, a "slight influence of silver Latin." It is clear that he had shifted in thought from golden and silver ages to golden and silver Latin, and not just Latin, but Latinitas, which must at this point be interpreted as classical Latin. He may have been influenced in that regard by one of his sources, E. Opitz, who in 1852 had published a title specimen lexilogiae argenteae latinitatis, mentioning silver Latinity.[18] Although Teuffel's First Period was equivalent to Old Latin and his Second Period was equal to the Golden Age, his Third Period, die römische Kaiserheit, encompasses both the Silver Age and the centuries now termed Late Latin, in which the forms seemed to break loose from their foundation and float freely; that is, literary men appeared uncertain as to what "good Latin" should mean. The last of the Classical Latin is the Silver Latin. The Silver Age is the first of the Imperial Period and is divided into die Zeit der julischen Dynastie, 14–68; die Zeit der flavischen Dynastie, 69–96; and die Zeit des Nerva und Trajan, 96–117. Subsequently, Teuffel goes over to a century scheme: 2nd, 3rd, etc., through 6th. His later editions (which came out in the rest of the late 19th century) divide the Imperial Age into parts: the 1st century (Silver Age), the 2nd century: Hadrian and the Antonines and the 3rd through the 6th Centuries. Of the Silver Age proper, pointing out that anything like freedom of speech had vanished with Tiberius, Teuffel says[19]

…the continual apprehension in which men lived caused a restless versatility… Simple or natural composition was considered insipid; the aim of language was to be brilliant… Hence it was dressed up with abundant tinsel of epigrams, rhetorical figures and poetical terms… Mannerism supplanted style, and bombastic pathos took the place of quiet power.

The content of new literary works was continually proscribed by the emperor (by executing or exiling the author), who also played the role of literary man (typically badly). The talent therefore went into a repertory of new and dazzling mannerisms, which Teuffel calls "utter unreality." Cruttwell picks up this theme:[20]

The foremost of these [characteristics] is unreality, arising from the extinction of freedom… Hence arose a declamatory tone, which strove by frigid and almost hysterical exaggeration to make up for the healthy stimulus afforded by daily contact with affairs. The vein of artificial rhetoric, antithesis and epigram… owes its origin to this forced contentment with an uncongenial sphere. With the decay of freedom, taste sank…

Marcus Aurelius Metropolitan Museum
Marcus Aurelius, emperor over the last generation of classicists and himself a classicist.

In Cruttwell's view (which had not been expressed by Teuffel), Silver Latin was a "rank, weed-grown garden", a "decline."[21] Cruttwell had already decried what he saw as a loss of spontaneity in Golden Latin. That Teuffel should regard the Silver Age as a loss of natural language and therefore of spontaneity, implying that the Golden Age had it, is passed without comment. Instead, Tiberius brought about a "sudden collapse of letters." The idea of a decline had been dominant in English society since Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Once again, Cruttwell evidences some unease with his stock pronouncements: "The Natural History of Pliny shows how much remained to be done in fields of great interest." The idea of Pliny as a model is not consistent with any sort of decline; moreover, Pliny did his best work under emperors at least as tolerant as Augustus had been. To include some of the best writings of the Silver Age, Cruttwell found he had to extend the period through the death of Marcus Aurelius, 180 AD. The philosophic prose of that good emperor was in no way compatible with either Teuffel's view of unnatural language or Cruttwell's depiction of a decline. Having created these constructs, the two philologists found they could not entirely justify them; apparently, in the worst implications of their views, there was no classical Latin by the ancient definition at all and some of the very best writing of any period in world history was a stilted and degenerate unnatural language.

The Silver Age also furnishes the only two extant Latin novels: Apuleius's The Golden Ass and Petronius's Satyricon.

Perhaps history's best-known example of Classical Latin was written by Pontius Pilate on the placard placed above Jesus' Cross: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which translates to Jesus the Nazarean the King of the Judeans (Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews).

Writers of the Silver Age include:

Through the death of Trajan, 117 AD

Germanicus Caesar
Duble herma of Socrates and Seneca Antikensammlung Berlin 07
Ancient bust of Seneca, part of a double herm (Antikensammlung Berlin)

Through the death of Marcus Aurelius, 180 AD

Of the additional century granted by Cruttwell and others of his point of view to Silver Latin but not by Teuffel the latter says "The second century was a happy period for the Roman State, the happiest indeed during the whole Empire… But in the world of letters the lassitude and enervation, which told of Rome's decline, became unmistakeable… its forte is in imitation."[22] Teuffel, however, excepts the jurists; others find other "exceptions," recasting Teuffels's view.

Apuleius - Project Gutenberg eText 12788
Sketch of Apuleius

Stylistic shifts

The style of language refers to repeatable features of speech that are somewhat less general than the fundamental characteristics of the language. The latter give it a unity allowing it to be referenced under a single name. Thus Old Latin, Classical Latin, Vulgar Latin, etc., are not considered different languages, but are all referenced under the name of Latin. This is an ancient practice continued by moderns rather than a philological innovation of recent times. That Latin had case endings is a fundamental feature of the language. Whether a given form of speech prefers to use prepositions such as ad, ex, de for "to", "from" and "of" rather than simple case endings is a matter of style. Latin has a large number of styles. Each and every author has a style, which typically allows his prose or poetry to be identified by experienced Latinists. The problem of comparative literature has been to group styles finding similarities by period, in which case one may speak of Old Latin, Silver Latin, Late Latin as styles or a phase of styles.

The ancient authors themselves first defined style by recognizing different kinds of sermo, or "speech." In making the value judgement that classical Latin was "first class" and that it was better to write with Latinitas they were themselves selecting the literary and upper-class language of the city as a standard style and all sermo that differed from it was a different style; thus in rhetoric Cicero was able to define sublime, intermediate and low styles (within classical Latin) and St. Augustine to recommend the low style for sermons.[23] Style, therefore, is to be defined by differences in speech from a standard. Teuffel defined that standard as Golden Latin.

John Edwin Sandys, for many decades an authority on Latin style, summarizes the differences between Golden and Silver Latin as follows.[24] Silver Latin is to be distinguished by

  • "an exaggerated conciseness and point"
  • "occasional archaic words and phrases derived from poetry"
  • "increase in the number of Greek words in ordinary use" (the Emperor Claudius in Suetonius refers to "both our languages", Latin and Greek[25])
  • "literary reminiscences"
  • "The literary use of words from the common dialect" (dictare and dictitare as well as classical dicere, "to say")

See also


  1. ^ When rarely used in English, the term is capitalized: Latinitas. In Latin it was written all in uppercase: LATINITAS, as were all words in Latin.
  2. ^ Citroni 2006, p. 204.
  3. ^ Citroni 2006, p. 205.
  4. ^ Citroni 2006, p. 206, reported in Aulus Gellius, 9.8.15.
  5. ^ Citroni 2006, p. 207.
  6. ^ Bradford, William (1855) [1648]. "Gov. Bradford's Dialogue". In Morton, Nathaniel. New England's Memorial. Boston: Congregational Board of Publication. p. 330.
  7. ^ Littlefield 1904, p. 301.
  8. ^ Ainsworth, Robert (January 1736). "Article XXX: Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Compendarius". The Present State of the Republic of Letters. London: W. Innys and R. Manby. XVII.
  9. ^ Gorak, Jan (1991). The making of the modern canon: genesis and crisis of a literary idea. London: Athlone. p. 51.
  10. ^ Cruttwell 1877, p. 3.
  11. ^ Cruttwell 1877, p. 142.
  12. ^ Teuffel 1870, p. 216.
  13. ^ Teuffel 1873, p. 226.
  14. ^ Bielfeld & Hooper 1770, p. 244.
  15. ^ Bielfeld & Hooper 1770, p. 345.
  16. ^ Teuffel 1873, p. 385, "Public life became extinct, all political business passed into the hands of the monarch..."
  17. ^ Teuffel (1870) p. 526.
  18. ^ Teuffel 1870, p. 530.
  19. ^ Teuffel & Schwabe 1892, pp. 4–5.
  20. ^ Cruttwell 1877, p. 6.
  21. ^ Cruttwell 1877, p. 341.
  22. ^ Teuffel & Schwabe 1892, p. 192.
  23. ^ Auerbach, Erich; Mannheim, Ralph (Translator) (1965) [1958]. Literary Language and its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages. Bollingen Series LXXIV. Pantheon Books. p. 33.
  24. ^ Sandys, John Edwin (1921). A Companion to Latin Studies Edited for the Syndics of the University Press (3rd ed.). Cambridge: University Press. pp. 824–26.
  25. ^ Suetonius, Claudius, 24.1.


  • Bielfeld, Baron (1770), The Elements of Universal Erudition, Containing an Analytical Abridgement of the Science, Polite Arts and Belles Lettres, III, Hooper, W (Trans.), London: G Scott
  • Citroni, Mario (2006), "The Concept of the Classical and the Canons of Model Authors in Roman Literature", in Porter, James I, The Classical Tradition of Greece and Rome, Packham, RA (Trans.), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 204–34
  • Cruttwell, Charles Thomas (1877), A History of Roman Literature from the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius, London: Charles Griffin & Co
  • Littlefield, George Emery (1904), Early Schools and School-books of New England, Boston: Club of Odd Volumes
  • Settis, Salvatore (2006), The Future of the ‘Classical’, Cameron, Allan (Trans.), Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press
  • Teuffel, Wilhelm Sigismund (1873), A History of Roman Literature, Wagner, Wilhelm (Trans.), London: George Bell & Sons
  • Teuffel, Wilhelm Sigismund; Schwabe, Ludwig (1892), Teuffel's History of Roman Literature Revised and Enlarged, II, The Imperial Period, Warr, George CW (Trans.) (from the 5th German ed.), London: George Bell & Sons

Further reading

  • Allen, William Sidney. 1978. Vox Latina: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dickey, Eleanor. 2012. “How to Say ‘Please’ in Classical Latin.” The Classical Quarterly 62, no. 2: 731–48. doi:10.1017/S0009838812000286.
  • Getty, Robert J. 1963. "Classical Latin meter and prosody, 1935–1962." Lustrum 8: 104–60.
  • Levene, David. 1997. "God and man in the Classical Latin panegyric." Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 43: 66–103.
  • Lovric, Michelle, and Nikiforos Doxiadis Mardas. 1998. How to Insult, Abuse & Insinuate In Classical Latin. London: Ebury Press.
  • Rosén, Hannah. 1999. Latine Loqui: Trends and Directions In the Crystallization of Classical Latin. München: W. Fink.
  • Spevak, Olga. 2010. Constituent Order In Classical Latin Prose. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins.

External links

Augustan literature (ancient Rome)

Augustan literature is the period of Latin literature written during the reign of Augustus (27 BC–AD 14), the first Roman emperor. In literary histories of the first part of the 20th century and earlier, Augustan literature was regarded along with that of the Late Republic as constituting the Golden Age of Latin literature, a period of stylistic classicism.Most of the literature periodized as Augustan was in fact written by men—Vergil, Horace, Propertius, Livy—whose careers were established during the triumviral years, before Octavian assumed the title Augustus. Strictly speaking, Ovid is the poet whose work is most thoroughly embedded in the Augustan regime.


Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, airplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. Captain is a military rank in armies, navies, coast guards, etc., typically at the level of an officer commanding a company of infantry, a ship, or a battery of artillery, or similar distinct unit. The terms also may be used as an informal or honorary title for persons in similar commanding roles.

The term "captain" derives from katepánō (Greek: κατεπάνω, lit. "[the one] placed at the top", or "the topmost") which was used as title for a senior Byzantine military rank and office. The word was Latinized as capetanus/catepan, and its meaning seems to have merged with that of the late Latin "capitaneus" (which derives from the classical Latin word "caput", meaning head). This hybridized term gave rise to the English language term captain and its equivalents in other languages (Capitan, Capitaine, Capitano, Capitão, Kapitan, Kapitän, Kapitein, Kapteeni, Kapten, kapitány, Kapudan Pasha, Kobtan, etc.).


A cognomen (; Classical Latin: [koːŋˈnoːmen]; Latin plural cognomina; from con- "together with" and (g)nomen "name") was the third name of a citizen of ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. Initially, it was a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name (the family name, or clan name) in order to identify a particular branch within a family or family within a clan. The term has also taken on other contemporary meanings.


In architecture, a cupola is a relatively small, most often dome-like, tall structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.The word derives, via Italian, from the lower Latin cupula (classical Latin cupella from the Greek κύπελλον kupellon) "small cup" (Latin cupa) indicating a vault resembling an upside down cup.The cupola is a development during the Renaissance of the oculus, an ancient device found in Roman architecture, but being weatherproof was superior for the wetter climates of northern Europe. The chhatri, seen in Indian architecture, fits the definition of a cupola when it is used atop a larger structure.Cupolas often appear as small buildings in their own right. They often serve as a belfry, belvedere, or roof lantern above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a spire, tower, or turret. Barns often have cupolas for ventilation.The square, dome-like segment of a North American railroad train caboose that contains the second-level or "angel" seats is also called a cupola.Some armored fighting vehicles have cupolas, called commander's cupola, which is a raised dome or cylinder with armored glass to provide 360-degree vision around the vehicle.


Deus (Classical Latin: [ˈde.ʊs]) is Latin for "god" or "deity".

Latin deus and dīvus ("divine") are descended from Proto-Indo-European *deiwos, "celestial" or "shining", from the same root as *Dyēus, the reconstructed chief god of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon.

In Classical Latin, deus (feminine dea) was a general noun referring to a deity, while in technical usage a divus or diva was a figure who had become divine, such as a divinized emperor. In Late Latin, Deus came to be used mostly for the Christian God.

It was inherited by the Romance languages in French Dieu, Spanish Dios, Portuguese and Galician Deus, Italian Dio, etc., and by the Celtic languages in Welsh Duw and Irish Dia.

Ecclesiastical Latin

Ecclesiastical Latin, also called Liturgical Latin or Church Latin, is a later form of Latin used to discuss Christian thought. It was created from the vulgar Latin of the third century. Ecclesiastical Latin includes words of Greek, Hebrew, and Classical Latin origin re-purposed with Christian meaning. It is less stylized and rigid in form than Classical Latin and commonly its pronunciation is based on Italian.Ecclesiastical Latin was the language of liturgical rites in the Catholic Church, as well as the Anglican Church, Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, and in the Western Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Today, ecclesiastical Latin is primarily used in official documents of the Roman Catholic Church, but it is still learned by clergy. The Ecclesiastical Latin that is used in theological works, liturgical rites and dogmatic proclamations varies in style: syntactically simple in the Vulgate Bible, hieratic in the Roman Canon of the Mass, terse and technical in Aquinas' Summa Theologica and Ciceronian in Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter Fides et Ratio.

History of Latin

Latin is a member of the broad family of Italic languages. Its alphabet, the Latin alphabet, emerged from the Old Italic alphabets, which in turn were derived from the Greek and Phoenician scripts. Historical Latin came from the prehistoric language of the Latium region, specifically around the River Tiber, where Roman civilization first developed. How and when Latin came to be spoken by the Romans are questions that have long been debated. Various influences on Latin of Celtic dialects in northern Italy, the non-Indo-European Etruscan language in Central Italy, and the Greek of southern Italy have been detected, but when these influences entered the native Latin is not known for certain.

Surviving Latin literature consists almost entirely of Classical Latin in its broadest definition. It includes a polished and sometimes highly stylized literary language sometimes termed Golden Latin, which spans the 1st century BC and the early years of the 1st century AD. However, throughout the history of ancient Rome the spoken language differed in both grammar and vocabulary from that of literature, and is referred to as Vulgar Latin. In addition to Latin, the Greek language was often spoken by the well-educated elite, who studied it in school and acquired Greek tutors from among the influx of enslaved educated Greek prisoners of war, captured during the Roman conquest of Greece. In the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which became the Byzantine Empire, the Greek Koine of Hellenism remained current and was never replaced by Latin. It continued to influence the Vulgar Latin that evolved into the Eastern Romance languages.

Late Latin

Late Latin (Latin: Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written Latin of late antiquity. English dictionary definitions of Late Latin date this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD, and continuing into the 7th century in the Iberian Peninsula. This somewhat ambiguously defined version of Latin was used between the eras of Classical Latin and Medieval Latin. There is no scholarly consensus about exactly when Classical Latin should end or Medieval Latin should begin. However, Late Latin is characterized (with variations and disputes) by an identifiable style.

Being a written language, Late Latin is not the same as Vulgar Latin. The latter served as ancestor of the Romance languages. Although Late Latin reflects an upsurge of the use of Vulgar Latin vocabulary and constructs, it remains largely classical in its overall features, depending on the author who uses it. Some Late Latin writings are more literary and classical, but others are more inclined to the vernacular. Also, Late Latin is not identical to Christian patristic Latin, used in the theological writings of the early Christian fathers. While Christian writings used a subset of Late Latin, pagans also wrote extensively in Late Latin, especially in the early part of the period.

Late Latin formed when mercenaries from non-Latin-speaking peoples on the borders of the empire were being subsumed and assimilated in large numbers, and the rise of Christianity was introducing a heightened divisiveness in Roman society, creating a greater need for a standard language for communicating between different socioeconomic registers and widely separated regions of the sprawling empire. A new and more universal speech evolved from the main elements: Classical Latin, Christian Latin, which featured sermo humilis (ordinary speech) in which the people were to be addressed, and all the various dialects of Vulgar Latin. The linguist Antoine Meillet wrote, "Without the exterior appearance of the language being much modified, Latin became in the course of the imperial epoch a new language", and, "Serving as some sort of lingua franca to a large empire, Latin tended to become simpler, to keep above all what it had of the ordinary".


Latin (Latin: lingua latīna, IPA: [ˈlɪŋɡʷa laˈtiːna]) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language, initially in Italy and subsequently throughout the western Roman Empire. Vulgar Latin developed into the Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Romanian. Latin, Greek, and French have contributed many words to the English language. In particular, Latin (and Ancient Greek) roots are used in English descriptions of theology, biology, science, medicine, and law.

By the late Roman Republic (75 BC), Old Latin had been standardised into Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin was the colloquial form spoken during the same time and attested in inscriptions and the works of comic playwrights like Plautus and Terence. Late Latin is the written language from the 3rd century, and Medieval Latin was used from the 9th century to the Renaissance which used Renaissance Latin. Later, Early Modern Latin and New Latin evolved. Latin was used as the language of international communication, scholarship, and science until well into the 18th century, when it began to be supplanted by vernaculars. Ecclesiastical Latin remains the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

Latin is taught in primary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions around the world.Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, up to seven noun cases, five declensions, four verb conjugations, three tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two or three aspects and two numbers.

Latin-script alphabet

A Latin-script alphabet (Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet) is an alphabet that uses letters of the Latin script.

The 21-letter archaic Latin alphabet and the 23-letter classical Latin alphabet belong to the oldest of this group. The 26-letter ISO basic Latin alphabet, adopted the earlier ASCII alphabet (developed by standard organisations in the United States) and contains the 26 letters of the English alphabet, it in turn has been incorporated into more recent international standards that include additions to handle the other alphabets derived from the classical Latin alphabet.

Apart from alphabets for spoken languages, there exist phonetic alphabets and Spelling alphabets.

Some letters of the Latin script were altered slightly for use in particular languages, although the main letters are largely the same. There were several general types of alterations made to extend the alphabet's uses, depending on the language: diacritics could be added to existing letters; two letters could be fused together into ligatures; additional letters could be inserted; or pairs or triplets of letters could be treated as units (digraphs and trigraphs).

Any additional letters were often given a place in the alphabet by defining an offer she the alphabetical order or collation sequence, which can vary between languages. Some of the additions, especially letters which only have diacritics added to them, were not considered distinct letters for this purpose. For example, the French é and the German ö are not listed separately in their respective alphabet sequences. In some languages, digraphs are included in the collation sequence (e.g. Hungarian CS, Welsh RH).

The International Phonetic Alphabet is also derived mainly from the Latin script.

Latin alphabet

The Latin or Roman alphabet is the writing system originally used by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language. Due to its use in writing Germanic, Romance, and other languages first in Europe and then in other parts of the world and due to its use in Romanizing writing of other languages, it has become widespread (see Latin script). It is also used officially in China (separate from its ideographic writing) and has been adopted by Baltic and some Slavic states. The Latin alphabet evolved from the visually similar Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet, which was itself descended from the Phoenician abjad, which in turn derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Etruscans, who ruled early Rome, adopted the Cumaean Greek alphabet, which was modified over time to become the Etruscan alphabet, which was in turn adopted and further modified by the Romans to produce the Latin alphabet.

During the Middle Ages, the Latin alphabet was used (sometimes with modifications) for writing Romance languages, which are direct descendants of Latin, as well as Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and some Slavic languages. With the age of colonialism and Christian evangelism, the Latin script spread beyond Europe, coming into use for writing indigenous American, Australian, Austronesian, Austroasiatic, and African languages. More recently, linguists have also tended to prefer the Latin script or the International Phonetic Alphabet (itself largely based on the Latin script) when transcribing or creating written standards for non-European languages, such as the African reference alphabet.

The term Latin alphabet may refer to either the alphabet used to write Latin (as described in this article), or other alphabets based on the Latin script, which is the basic set of letters common to the various alphabets descended from the classical Latin alphabet, such as the English alphabet. These Latin-script alphabets may discard letters, like the Rotokas alphabet, or add new letters, like the Danish and Norwegian alphabets. Letter shapes have evolved over the centuries, including the development in Medieval Latin of lower-case, forms which did not exist in the Classical period alphabet. English is the only major modern European language requiring no diacritics for native words (although a diaeresis may be used in words such as "coöperation").

Latin script

Latin or Roman script is a set of graphic signs (script) based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet. This is derived from a form of the Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet used by the Etruscans.

Several Latin-script alphabets exist, which differ in graphemes, collation, and phonetic values from the classical Latin alphabet.

The Latin script is the basis of the International Phonetic Alphabet, and the 26 most widespread letters are the letters contained in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Latin script is the basis for the largest number of alphabets of any writing system and is the

most widely adopted writing system in the world (commonly used by about 70 per cent of the world's population). Latin script is used as the standard method of writing in most Western, Central, as well as in some Eastern European languages, as well as in many languages in other parts of the world.

Latin spelling and pronunciation

Latin spelling, or Latin orthography, is the spelling of Latin words written in the scripts of all historical phases of Latin from Old Latin to the present. All scripts use the same alphabet, but conventional spellings may vary from phase to phase. The Roman alphabet, or Latin alphabet, was adapted from the Old Italic script to represent the phonemes of the Latin language. The Old Italic script had in turn been borrowed from the Greek alphabet, itself adapted from the Phoenician alphabet.

The Latin alphabet most resembles the Greek alphabet around 540 BC, as it appears on the black-figure pottery of the time.

Latin pronunciation continually evolved over the centuries, making it difficult for speakers in one era to know how Latin was spoken in prior eras. A given phoneme may be represented by different letters in different periods. This article deals primarily with modern scholarship's best reconstruction of Classical Latin's phonemes (phonology) and the pronunciation and spelling used by educated people in the late Republic. This article then touches upon later changes and other variants.

Lucius (praenomen)

Lucius (; Classical Latin: [ˈluːkɪ.ʊs]) is a Latin praenomen, or personal name, which was one of the most common names throughout Roman history. The feminine form is Lucia (; Classical Latin: [ˈluːkɪ.a]). The praenomen was used by both patrician and plebeian families, and gave rise to the patronymic gentes Lucia and Lucilia, as well as the cognomen Lucullus. It was regularly abbreviated L.Throughout Roman history, Lucius was the most common praenomen, used slightly more than Gaius and somewhat more than Marcus. Although a number of prominent families rarely or never used it, it was amongst the most frequently given names in countless others. The name survived the collapse of the Western Empire in the 5th century, and has continued into modern times.

Medieval Latin

Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying degrees. Latin functioned as the main medium of scholarly exchange, as the liturgical language of the Church, and as the working language of science, literature, law, and administration.

Medieval Latin represented, in essence, a continuation of Classical Latin and Late Latin, with enhancements for new concepts as well as for the increasing integration of Christianity. Despite some meaningful differences from Classical Latin, Medieval writers did not regard it as a fundamentally different language. There is no real consensus on the exact boundary where Late Latin ends and Medieval Latin begins. Some scholarly surveys begin with the rise of early Ecclesiastical Latin in the middle of the 4th century, others around 500, and still others with the replacement of written Late Latin by written Romance languages starting around the year 900.

The terms Medieval Latin and Ecclesiastical Latin are often used synonymously, though some scholars draw distinctions. Ecclesiastical Latin refers specifically to the form that has been used by the Roman Catholic Church, whereas Medieval Latin refers more broadly to all of the (written) forms of Latin used in the Middle Ages. The Romance languages spoken in the Middle Ages were often referred to as Latin, since the Romance languages were all descended from Classical, or Roman, Latin itself.

Non sequitur (literary device)

A non-sequitur (English: ; Classical Latin: [noːn ˈsɛkᶣɪtʊr] "it does not follow") is a conversational literary device, often used for comedic purposes. It is something said that, because of its apparent lack of meaning relative to what preceded it, seems absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing.

This use of the term is distinct from the non-sequitur in logic, where it is a fallacy.

Old Latin

Old Latin, also known as Early Latin or Archaic Latin, refers to the Latin language in the period before 75 BC: before the age of Classical Latin. (In New and Contemporary Latin, this language is called prisca Latinitas ("ancient Latin") rather than vetus Latina ("old Latin"), as vetus Latina is used to refer to a set of Biblical texts written in Late Latin.) It is ultimately descended from the Proto-Italic language.

The use of "old", "early" and "archaic" has been standard in publications of Old Latin writings since at least the 18th century. The definition is not arbitrary, but the terms refer to writings with spelling conventions and word forms not generally found in works written under the Roman Empire. This article presents some of the major differences.

The earliest known specimen of the Latin language appears on the Praeneste fibula. A new analysis performed in 2011 declared it to be genuine "beyond any reasonable doubt" and dating from the Orientalizing period, in the first half of the seventh century BC.


The pandura (Ancient Greek: πανδοῦρα, pandoura) was an ancient Greek string instrument belonging in the broad class of the lute and guitar instruments. Musical instruments of this class have been observed in ancient Greek artwork from the 3rd or 4th century BC onward. Lutes have been present in ancient Greece since the 4th century BC.

Vulgar Latin

Vulgar Latin or Sermo Vulgaris ("common speech"), also Colloquial Latin, or Common Romance (particularly in the late stage), was a range of non-standard sociolects of Latin (as opposed to Classical Latin, the standard and literary version of the language) spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire. Compared to Classical Latin, written documentation of Vulgar Latin appears less standardized.

The Romance languages, such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian all evolved from Vulgar Latin and not from Classical Latin.

Works written in Latin during classical times and the earlier Middle Ages used prescribed Classical Latin rather than Vulgar Latin, with very few exceptions (most notably sections of Gaius Petronius' Satyricon), thus Vulgar Latin had no official orthography of its own. In Renaissance Latin, Vulgar Latin was called vulgare Latinum or Latinum vulgare.

By its nature, Vulgar Latin varied greatly by region and by time period, though several major divisions can be seen. Vulgar Latin dialects began to significantly diverge from Classical Latin by the third century during the classical period of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, throughout the sixth century, the most widely spoken dialects were still similar to and mostly mutually intelligible with Classical Latin. The verb system [...] seems to have remained virtually intact throughout the fifth century [...] the transformation of the language, from structures we call Latin into structures we call Romance, lasted from the third or fourth century until the eighth, "So its history came to an end – or to put it another way, the language becomes a 'dead' language – when it stops functioning in this way and is no longer anybody's natural mother tongue," In Gaul from the mid-eighth century many people were not able to understand even the most straightforward religious texts read to them in Latin. In Italy the first signs that people were aware of the difference between the everyday language they spoke and the written form is in the mid-tenth century. The period of most rapid change occurred from the second half of the seventh century. Until then the spoken and written form (though with many vulgar features) were regarded as one language.

The Latin of classical antiquity changed from being a "living natural mother tongue" to being a language foreign to all, which could not even be used or understood even by Romance-speakers except as a result of deliberate and systematic study. If a date is wanted "we could say Latin 'died' in the first part of the eighth century", and after a long period 650–800 A.D. of rapidly accelerating changes. Even after the end of Classical Latin, people had no other names for the languages they spoke than Latin, lingua romana, or lingua romana rustica (to distinguish it from formal Latin) for 200–300 years. Modern people call these languages proto-Romance.

The flaw in the death metaphor for Latin is summarized in the first line of Wright's essay, "Did Latin die?": "Latin isn't dead, you know." Wright explains that the hundreds of millions of people whose first language is one of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan, etc., speak evolved Latin as surely as English speakers use the evolved continuation of Old English. While traditional Classical Latin was eventually reduced in use as a written code and abandoned as a useful secondary "roof language" (Dachsprache), naturally spoken Latin changed as all languages do.

In terms of regional differences for the whole Latin period, "we can only glimpse a tiny amount of divergence with the actual written data. In texts of all kinds, literary, technical, and all others, the written Latin of the first five or six centuries A.D. looks as if it were territorially homogeneous, even in its 'vulgar' register. It is only in the later texts, of the seventh and eighth centuries, that we are able to see in the texts geographical differences that seem to be the precursors of similar differences in the subsequent Romance languages."In the Eastern Roman Empire, Latin gradually faded as the court language over the course of the 6th century; it was used in Justinian's court, but during the reign of Heraclius in the early 7th century, Greek (which was already widely spoken in the eastern portions of the Roman empire from its inception) was made the official language. The Vulgar Latin spoken in the Balkans north of Greece became heavily influenced by Greek and Slavic (Vulgar Latin already had Greek loanwords before the Roman Empire) and also became radically different from Classical Latin and from the proto-Romance of Western Europe.

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