The Current

Translations of ancient Latin give unique insights into Roman culture

A classic scholar has given new life to a dead language by translating ancient world manuals on how to learn Latin. She's the first to investigate these centuries-old language manuals and what she reveals about life in the ancient world may surprise you.
Learn to insult your friends in classical Latin with newly translated ancient Roman texts in Eleanor Dickey's book, Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks from the Ancient World. (Neha Viswanathan/Flickr cc)
Listen23:53

If you ever sat through Latin lessons in school, you might be inclined to believe there's no such thing as an "easy way" to learn the ancient language. Recently translated ancient texts would seem to suggest that that's been the case for centuries.

Carpe diem with these Latin insults:

  • Your master will hear about this if he encounters me!
  • Are you insulting me, scoundrel? May you be crucified!
  • Why? Because I am a free-born man, and you are a useless slave.

Eleanor Dickeyis a classics professor at the University of Reading, in England and is first to translate centuries-old Latin-as-a-second-language teaching materials into English. She joined The Current's Friday host Laura Lynch to explain how the ancients learned Latin and what it reveals about Roman civilization that influences our world today.     

Dickey is the author of Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks from the Ancient World. (Link downloads text)

Newly translated ancient Latin texts reveal Roman baths weren't all that clean. The water was never changed and it meant having to scrape oneself off with a metal scraper known as a strigil to remove dirt after leaving the bath. (Lucy/Flickr cc)


Are you struggling to learn Latin? Share your experience.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli.