Latin literature

Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings written in the Latin language. The beginning of Latin literature dates to 240 BC, when the first stage play was performed in Rome. Latin literature would flourish for the next six centuries. The classical era of Latin literature can be roughly divided into the following periods: Early Latin literature, The Golden Age, The Imperial Period and Late Antiquity.

Latin was the language of the ancient Romans, but it was also the lingua franca of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages, so Latin literature includes not only Roman authors like Cicero, Vergil, Ovid and Horace, but also includes European writers after the fall of the Empire, from religious writers like Aquinas (1225–1274), to secular writers like Francis Bacon (1561–1626), Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), and Isaac Newton (1642–1727).


Early Latin literature

Formal Latin literature began in 240 BC, when a Roman audience saw a Latin version of a Greek play.[1] The adaptor was Livius Andronicus, a Greek who had been brought to Rome as a prisoner of war in 272 BC. Andronicus also translated Homer's Greek epic the Odyssey into an old type of Latin verse called Saturnian. The first Latin poet to write on a Roman theme was Gnaeus Naevius during the 3rd century BC. He composed an epic poem about the first Punic War, in which he had fought. Naevius's dramas were mainly reworkings of Greek originals, but he also created tragedies based on Roman myths and history.

Other epic poets followed Naevius. Quintus Ennius wrote a historical epic, the Annals (soon after 200 BC), describing Roman history from the founding of Rome to his own time. He adopted Greek dactylic hexameter, which became the standard verse form for Roman epics. He also became famous for his tragic dramas. In this field, his most distinguished successors were Marcus Pacuvius and Lucius Accius. These three writers rarely used episodes from Roman history. Instead, they wrote Latin versions of tragic themes that the Greeks had already handled. But even when they copied the Greeks, they did not translate slavishly. Only fragments of their plays have survived.

Patrizio Torlonia
Cato the Elder

Considerably more is known about early Latin comedy, as 26 Early Latin comedies are extant – 20 of which Plautus wrote, and the remaining six of which Terence wrote.[2] These men modeled their comedies on Greek plays known as New Comedy. But they treated the plots and wording of the originals freely. Plautus scattered songs through his plays and increased the humor with puns and wisecracks, plus comic actions by the actors. Terence's plays were more polite in tone, dealing with domestic situations. His works provided the chief inspiration for French and English comedies of the 17th century AD, and even for modern American comedy.

The prose of the period is best known through On Agriculture (160 BC) by Cato the Elder. Cato also wrote the first Latin history of Rome and of other Italian cities.[3] He was the first Roman statesman to put his political speeches in writing as a means of influencing public opinion.

Early Latin literature ended with Gaius Lucilius, who created a new kind of poetry in his 30 books of Satires (2nd century BC). He wrote in an easy, conversational tone about books, food, friends, and current events.

The Golden Age

Traditionally, the height of Latin literature has been assigned to the period from 81 BC to AD 17, although recent scholarship has questioned the assumptions that privileged the works of this period over both earlier and later works.[4] This period is usually said to have begun with the first known speech of Cicero and ended with the death of Ovid.

The age of Cicero

Young Folks' History of Rome illus148
Roman orator

Cicero has traditionally been considered the master of Latin prose.[5][6] The writing he produced from about 80 BC until his death in 43 BC exceeds that of any Latin author whose work survives in terms of quantity and variety of genre and subject matter, as well as possessing unsurpassed stylistic excellence. Cicero's many works can be divided into four groups: (1) letters, (2) rhetorical treatises, (3) philosophical works, and (4) orations. His letters provide detailed information about an important period in Roman history and offer a vivid picture of the public and private life among the Roman governing class. Cicero's works on oratory are our most valuable Latin sources for ancient theories on education and rhetoric. His philosophical works were the basis of moral philosophy during the Middle Ages. His speeches inspired many European political leaders and the founders of the United States.


Julius Caesar and Sallust were outstanding historical writers of Cicero's time. Caesar wrote commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars in a straightforward style to justify his actions as a general. Sallust adopted an abrupt, pointed style in his historical works. He wrote brilliant descriptions of people and their motives.

The birth of lyric poetry in Latin occurred during the same period. The short love lyrics of Catullus are noted for their emotional intensity. Catullus also wrote poems that attacked his enemies. In his longer poems, he suggested images in rich, delicate language. Contemporary with Catullus, Lucretius expounded the Epicurean philosophy in a long poem, De rerum natura.

One of the most learned writers of the period was Marcus Terentius Varro. Called "the most learned of the Romans" by Quintillian,[7] he wrote about a remarkable variety of subjects, from religion to poetry. But only his writings on agriculture and the Latin language are extant in their complete form.

The Augustan Age


The emperor Augustus took a personal interest in the literary works produced during his years of power from 27 BC to AD 14. This period is sometimes called the Augustan Age of Latin Literature. Virgil published his pastoral Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid, an epic poem describing the events that led to the creation of Rome. Virgil told how the Trojan hero Aeneas became the ancestor of the Roman people. Virgil also provided divine justification for Roman rule over the world. Although Virgil died before he could put the finishing touches on his poem, it was soon recognized as the greatest work of Latin literature.[8][9]

Virgil's friend Horace wrote Epodes, Odes, Satires, and Epistles. The perfection of the Odes in content, form, and style has charmed readers for hundreds of years. The Satires and Epistles discuss ethical and literary problems in an urbane, witty manner. Horace's Art of Poetry, probably published as a separate work, greatly influenced later poetic theories. It stated the basic rules of classical writing as the Romans understood and used them. After Virgil died, Horace was Rome's leading poet.[10]

The Latin elegy reached its highest development in the works of Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid. Most of this poetry is concerned with love. Ovid also wrote the Fasti, which describes Roman festivals and their legendary origins. Ovid's greatest work, the Metamorphoses weaves various myths into a fast-paced, fascinating story. Ovid was a witty writer who excelled in creating lively and passionate characters. The Metamorphoses was the best-known source of Greek and Roman mythology throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It inspired many poets, painters, and composers.

In prose, Livy produced a history of the Roman people in 142 books. Only 35 survived, but they are a major source of information on Rome.[11]

The Imperial Period

From the death of Augustus in AD 14 until about 200, Roman authors emphasized style and tried new and startling ways of expression. During the reign of Nero from 54 to 68, the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote a number of dialogues and letters on such moral themes as mercy and generosity. In his Natural Questions, Seneca analyzed earthquakes, floods, and storms. Seneca's tragedies greatly influenced the growth of tragic drama in Europe. His nephew Lucan wrote the Pharsalia (about 60), an epic poem describing the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. The Satyricon (about 60) by Petronius was the first picaresque Latin novel.[12] Only fragments of the complete work survive. It describes the adventures of various low-class characters in absurd, extravagant, and dangerous situations, often in the world of petty crime.

Epic poems included the Argonautica of Gaius Valerius Flaccus, the Thebaid of Statius, and the Punica of Silius Italicus. At the hands of Martial, the epigram achieved the stinging quality still associated with it. Juvenal brilliantly satirized vice.

The historian Tacitus painted an unforgettably dark picture of the early empire in his Histories and Annals, both written in the early 2nd century. His contemporary Suetonius wrote biographies of the 12 Roman rulers from Julius Caesar through Domitian. The letters of Pliny the Younger described Roman life of the period. Quintilian composed the most complete work on ancient education that we possess. Important works from the 2nd century include the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, a collection of anecdotes and reports of literary discussions among his friends; and the letters of the orator Marcus Cornelius Fronto to Marcus Aurelius. The most famous work of the period was Metamorphoses, also called The Golden Ass, by Apuleius. This novel concerns a young man who is accidentally changed into a donkey. The story is filled with colorful tales of love and witchcraft.

Latin in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Early Modernity

Pagan Latin literature showed a final burst of vitality in the late 3rd century through 5th centuries. Ammianus Marcellinus in history, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus in oratory, and Ausonius and Rutilius Claudius Namatianus in poetry all wrote with great talent. The Mosella by Ausonius demonstrated a modernism of feeling that indicates the end of classical literature as such.

At the same time, other men laid the foundations of Christian Latin literature during the 4th century and 5th century. They included the church fathers Augustine of Hippo, Jerome, and Ambrose, and the first great Christian poet, Prudentius.

During the Renaissance there was a return to the Latin of Classical times, called for this reason Neo-Latin. This purified language continued to be used as the lingua franca among the learned throughout Europe, with the great works of Descartes, Francis Bacon, and Baruch Spinoza all being composed in Latin. Among the last important books written primarily in Latin prose were the works of Swedenborg (d. 1772), Linnaeus (d. 1778), Euler (d. 1783), Gauss (d. 1855), and Isaac Newton (d. 1727), and Latin remains a necessary skill for modern readers of great early modern works of linguistics, literature, and philosophy.

Several of the leading English poets wrote in Latin as well as English. Milton's 1645 Poems are one example, but there were also Thomas Campion, George Herbert and Milton's colleague Andrew Marvell. Some indeed wrote chiefly in Latin and were valued for the elegance and Classicism of their style. Examples of these were Anthony Alsop and Vincent Bourne, who were noted for the ingenious way that they adapted their verse to describing details of life in the 18th century while never departing from the purity of Latin diction.[13] One of the last to be noted for the quality of his Latin verse well into the 19th century was Walter Savage Landor.[14]

Characteristics of Latin literature

Much Latin writing reflects the Romans' interest in rhetoric, the art of speaking and persuading. Public speaking had great importance for educated Romans because most of them wanted successful political careers. When Rome was a republic, effective speaking often determined who would be elected or what bills would pass. After Rome became an empire, the ability to impress and persuade people by the spoken word lost much of its importance. But training in rhetoric continued to flourish and to affect styles of writing. A large part of rhetoric consists of the ability to present a familiar idea in a striking new manner that attracts attention. Latin authors became masters of this art of variety.

Language and form

Latin is a highly inflected language, with many grammatical forms for various words. As a result, it can be used with a pithiness and brevity unknown in English. It also lends itself to elaboration, because its tight syntax holds even the longest and most complex sentence together as a logical unit. Latin can be used with striking conciseness, as in the works of Sallust and Tacitus. Or it can have wide, sweeping phrases, as in the works of Livy and the speeches of Cicero.

Latin lacks the rich poetic vocabulary that marks the Greek poetry. Some earlier Latin poets tried to make up for this deficiency by creating new compound words, as the Greeks had done. But Roman writers seldom invented words. Except in epic poetry, they tended to use a familiar vocabulary, giving it poetic value by imaginative combinations of words and by rich sound effects. Rome's leading poets had great technical skill in the choice and arrangement of language. They also had an intimate knowledge of the Greek poets, whose themes appear in almost all Roman literature.

Latin moves with impressive dignity in the writings of Ovid, Cicero, or Virgil. It reflects the seriousness and sense of responsibility that characterized the ruling class of Rome during the great years of the republic. But the Romans could also relax and allow what Horace called the "Italian vinegar" in their systems to pour forth in wit and satire.

See also


  1. ^ Duckworth, George Eckel. The nature of Roman comedy: a study in popular entertainment. University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. p. 3. Web. 15 October 2011.
  2. ^ Shipley, Joseph Twadell. Dictionary of world literature: criticism, forms, technique. Taylor & Francis, 1964. p. 109. Web. 15 October 2011.
  3. ^ Mehl, Andreas. Roman Historiography. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. p 52. Web. 18 October 2011.
  4. ^ Hinds, Stephen (1998). Allusion and Intertext. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge. pp. 52–98. ISBN 0521571863.
  5. ^ Eliot, Charles W. Letters of Marcus Tullius Cicero and Letters of Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus: Part 9 Harvard Classics. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. p. 3. Web. 15 October 2011.
  6. ^ Nettleship, Henry; Haverfield, F. Lectures and Essays: Second Series. Cambridge University Press, 2010. p. 105. Web. 18 October 2011.
  7. ^ Institutio Oratoria by Quintillian
  8. ^ Morton Braund, Susanna. Latin literature. Routledge, 2002. p. 1. Web. 15 October 2011.
  9. ^ Colish, Marcía L. The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages: Stoicism in classical Latin literature. BRILL, 1990. p. 226. Web. 18 October 2011.
  10. ^ Britannica Educational Publishing. Poetry and Drama: Literary Terms and Concepts. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2011. p. 39. Web. 18 October 2011.
  11. ^ Cary, Max; Haarhoff, Theodore Johannes. Life and thought in the Greek and Roman world. Taylor & Francis, 1985. p. 268. Web. 15 October 2011.
  12. ^ Grube, George Maximilian Antony. The Greek and Roman critics. Hackett Publishing, 1965. p. 261. Web. 15 October 2011.
  13. ^ D.K.Money, "The Latin Poetry of English Gentlemen", in Neo-Latin Poetry in the British Isles, London 2012, pp.125ff
  14. ^ Poems online


  • Elaine Fantham, Ph.D., Giger Professor of Latin Emerita, Department of Classics, Princeton University.
  • Fantham, Elaine. "Latin literature." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2011. Web. 18 October 2011.

External links

AP Latin Literature

Advanced Placement Latin Literature (also AP Latin Lit) was one of two examinations (the other being AP Latin) offered by the College Board's Advanced Placement Program for high school students to earn college credit for a college-level course in Latin literature.

Due to low numbers of students taking AP Latin Literature, it was discontinued after the 2008–09 year. The AP Latin exam is now the sole Latin exam offered by the College Board.


Amalasuntha (also known as Amalasuentha, Amalaswintha, Amalasuintha, Amalswinthe, Amalasontha or Amalsenta) (c. 495 – 30 April 534/535) was a regent of the Ostrogoths during the minority of her son from 526 to 534, and ruling queen regnant from 534 to 535. She was the youngest daughter of Theoderic the Great, and firmly believed in the upholding of Roman virtues and values. She is best known for her diplomatic relationship with Justinian I, who would invade Italy in response to her assassination.

Anglo-Latin literature

Anglo-Latin literature is literature from Britain originally written in Latin. It includes literature written in Latin from parts of Britain which were not in England or English-speaking: "Anglo-" is used here as a prefix meaning British rather than English.

Augustan literature (ancient Rome)

Augustan literature refers to the pieces of Latin literature that were written during the reign of Caesar 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.

Carolingian Renaissance

The Carolingian Renaissance was the first of three medieval renaissances, a period of cultural activity in the Carolingian Empire. It occurred from the late 8th century to the 9th century, which took inspiration from the Christian Roman Empire of the fourth century. During this period, there was an increase of literature, writing, the arts, architecture, jurisprudence, liturgical reforms, and scriptural studies.

The Carolingian Renaissance occurred mostly during the reigns of Carolingian rulers Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. It was supported by the scholars of the Carolingian court, notably Alcuin of York. Charlemagne's Admonitio generalis (789) and Epistola de litteris colendis served as manifestos.

The effects of this cultural revival were mostly limited to a small group of court literati. According to John Contreni, "it had a spectacular effect on education and culture in Francia, a debatable effect on artistic endeavors, and an unmeasurable effect on what mattered most to the Carolingians, the moral regeneration of society". The secular and ecclesiastical leaders of the Carolingian Renaissance made efforts to write better Latin, to copy and preserve patristic and classical texts, and to develop a more legible, classicizing script. (This was the Carolingian minuscule that Renaissance humanists took to be Roman and employed as humanist minuscule, from which has developed early modern Italic script.) They also applied rational ideas to social issues for the first time in centuries, providing a common language and writing style that enabled communication throughout most of Europe.

Classical Latin

Classical Latin is the form of Latin language recognized as a standard by writers of the late Roman Republic and Roman Empire. In some later periods, it was regarded as "good"/"proper" Latin, with later versions viewed as debased, degenerate, "vulgar", or corrupted. The word Latin is now taken by default to mean "Classical Latin." For example, modern Latin textbooks almost exclusively teach Classical Latin. Marcus Tullius Cicero and his contemporaries of the late republic used lingua latina and sermo latinus versions of the Latin language. Conversely, the Greeks used Vulgar Latin (sermo vulgaris and sermo vulgi) in their vernacular, written as latinitas, or "Latinity" (which implies "good") when combined. It was also called sermo familiaris ("speech of the good families"), sermo urbanus ("speech of the city"), and in rare cases sermo nobilis ("noble speech"). Besides latinitas, it was mainly called latine (adverb for "in good Latin"), or latinius (comparative adverb for "in better Latin").

Latinitas was spoken and written. It was the language taught in schools. Prescriptive rules therefore applied to it, and when special subjects like poetry or rhetoric were taken into consideration, additional rules applied. Since spoken Latinitas has become extinct (in favor of subsequent registers), the rules of politus (polished) texts may give the appearance of an artificial language. However, Latinitas was a form of sermo (spoken language), and as such, retains spontaneity. No texts by Classical Latin authors are noted for the type of rigidity evidenced by stylized art, with the exception of repetitious abbreviations and stock phrases found on inscriptions. For example, "IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM" ("Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum") was the titulus written on the placard above Jesus' head on the Cross, and is a rather famous example of Classical Latin.

Dies irae

Dies irae (Latin pronunciation: [ˈdi.ɛs ˈi.rɛ]; "Day of Wrath") is a Latin sequence attributed to either Thomas of Celano of the Franciscans (1200 – c. 1265) or to Latino Malabranca Orsini (d. 1294), lector at the Dominican studium at Santa Sabina, the forerunner of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome. The sequence dates from at least the thirteenth century, though it is possible that it is much older, with some sources ascribing its origin to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), or Bonaventure (1221–1274).It is a Medieval Latin poem characterized by its accentual stress and rhymed lines. The metre is trochaic. The poem describes the Last Judgment, trumpet summoning souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames.

It is best known from its use in the Requiem (Mass for the Dead or Funeral Mass). An English version is found in various Anglican Communion service books. The melody is one of the most quoted in musical literature, appearing in the works of many composers.

Erich Segal

Erich Wolf Segal (June 16, 1937 – January 17, 2010) was an American author, screenwriter, educator and classicist. He was best known for writing the novel Love Story (1970), a best-seller, and writing the motion picture of the same name, which was a major hit.

Gaelic literature

Gaelic literature (Irish: Litríocht na Gaeilge; Scottish Gaelic: Litreachas na Gàidhlig) is literature in the vernacular Gaelic languages of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Gaelic literature is recognised as one of the oldest literature traditions of Europe, excepting only Latin literature and Greek literature: literature has been written in Gaelic languages from the 1st centuries AD to the present day. Latin had been used extensively in the Gaelic lands, with the advent of Christianity, however, the Gaels were in the vanguard as regards using their own language to write literary works of merit.

Harrowing of Hell (drama)

The Harrowing of Hell is an eighth-century Latin piece in fifty-five lines found in the Anglo-Saxon Book of Cerne (folios 98v–99v). It is probably a Northumbrian piece, written in prose and verse, where the former serves either as a set of stage directions for a dramatic portrayal or as a series of narrations for explaining the poetry.

Three voices appear in the work: those of Adam, Eve, and a narrator. The prose of the "narrator" appears in the Book of Cerne in red ink setting it off from the rest of the text. The prose portions are rhythmic and may therefore have been sung, even if they were primarily directorial. Besides the three main soloists, the piece was designed for a full choir (antiqui iusti). The piece may be either an early oratorio or the earliest surviving piece of Christian drama intended to be performed.

The Harrowing of Hell has two sources: a lost Latin homily, which survives in translation as the seventh of the Old English Blickling Homilies, and a Roman psalter also in the Book of Cerne. David Dumville (1972) provides a critical edition of the Latin text and Dronke (1994) provides some English translation.

The fifty-five lines recount how Jesus Christ descended into hell to release the "prisoners", the just who were held by Satan. In typical medieval representations of this event, Adam and Eve are released immediately, but in the Harrowing of Hell they must wait and beg before they too are finally saved. The plea of Eve goes as follows:

The piece ends abruptly here, the rest apparently being lost, but if a comparable Old English piece is any indication, Eve's plea is successful.


Hexameter is a metrical line of verses consisting of six feet. It was the standard epic metre in classical Greek and Latin literature, such as in the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. Its use in other genres of composition include Horace's satires, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and the Hymns of Orpheus. According to Greek mythology, hexameter was invented by Phemonoe, daughter of Apollo and the first Pythia of Delphi.


Hiberno-Latin, also called Hisperic Latin, was a learned style of literary Latin first used and subsequently spread by Irish monks during the period from the sixth century to the tenth century.

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 poetry

The history of Latin poetry can be understood as the adaptation of Greek models. The verse comedies of Plautus are considered the earliest surviving examples of Latin literature and are estimated to have been composed around 205-184 BC.

The start of Latin literature is conventionally dated to the first performance of a play in verse by a Greek slave, Livius Andronicus, at Rome in 240 BC. Livius translated Greek New Comedy for Roman audiences, using meters that were basically those of Greek drama, modified to the needs of Latin. His successors Plautus and Terence further refined the borrowings from the Greek stage and the prosody of their verse is substantially the same as for classical Latin verse.The traditional meter of Greek epic, the dactylic hexameter, was introduced into Latin literature by Ennius (239-169 BC), virtually a contemporary of Livius, who substituted it for the jerky Saturnian meter in which Livius had been composing epic verses. Ennius moulded a poetic diction and style suited to the imported hexameter, providing a model for 'classical' poets such as Virgil and Ovid.The late republic saw the emergence of Neoteric Poets, notably Catullus—rich young men from the Italian provinces, conscious of metropolitan sophistication, and looking to the scholarly Alexandrian poet Callimachus for inspiration. Catullus shared the Alexandrian's preference for short poems and wrote within a variety of meters borrowed from Greece, including Aeolian forms such as hendecasyllabic verse, the Sapphic stanza and Greater Asclepiad, as well as iambic verses such as the choliamb and the iambic tetrameter catalectic (a dialogue meter borrowed from Old Comedy).Horace, whose career crossed the divide between republic and empire, followed Catullus' lead in employing Greek lyrical forms, identifying with Alcaeus of Mytilene, composing Alcaic stanzas, and also with Archilochus, composing poetic invectives in the Iambus tradition (in which he adopted the metrical form of the Epode or 'Iambic Distich'). Horace was a contemporary of Virgil and, like the epic poet, he wrote verses in dactylic hexameter, but in a conversational and epistolary style. Virgil's hexameters are generally regarded as "the supreme metrical system of Latin literature."

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 Vulgar Latin itself.

Michael Lapidge

Michael Lapidge, FBA (born 8 February 1942) is a scholar in the field of Medieval Latin literature, particularly that composed in Anglo-Saxon England during the period 600–1100 AD; he is an emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge and Fellow of the British Academy, and winner of the 2009 Sir Israel Gollancz Prize.

New Latin

New Latin (also called Neo-Latin or Modern Latin)

was a revival in the use of Latin in original, scholarly, and scientific works between c. 1375 and c. 1900. Modern scholarly and technical nomenclature, such as in zoological and botanical taxonomy and international scientific vocabulary, draws extensively from New Latin vocabulary. In such use, New Latin is subject to new word formation. As a language for full expression in prose or poetry, however, it is often distinguished from its successor, Contemporary Latin.


Saracen was a term widely used among Christian writers in Europe during the Middle Ages to refer to Arab Muslims. The term's meaning evolved during its history. In the early centuries of the Common Era, Greek and Latin writings used this term to refer to the people who lived in desert areas in and near the Roman province of Arabia Petraea, and in Arabia Deserta. In Europe during the Early Middle Ages, the term came to be associated with tribes of Arabia. The oldest source mentioning the term Saracen dates back to the 7th century. It was found in Doctrina Jacobi, a commentary that discussed the event of the Arab conquests on Palestine.By the 12th century, Saracen had become synonymous with Muslim in Medieval Latin literature. Such expansion in the meaning of the term had begun centuries earlier among the Byzantine Greeks, as evidenced in documents from the 8th century. In the Western languages before the 16th century, Saracen was commonly used to refer to Muslim Arabs, and the words Muslim and Islam were generally not used (with a few isolated exceptions). The term became gradually obsolete following the Age of Discovery.

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