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Mon, 21 Jan 2008 11:27:54 -0600
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Latein ist tot, es lebe Latein. By WILFRIED STROH. Berlin: List Press, 
2007. Pp. 415. Cloth, 18.00. ISBN 978𣛪71788295.

A book of some 400 pages on a dead language! Who would ever expect that? 
Yet the present volume gives an enormous amount of information, presented 
with the zeal and enthusiasm of an advocate for a good, and by no means yet 
lost, cause.

Stroh (hereafter S.) is emeritus professor of Klassische Philologie at the 
University of Munich. He is the author of the entry 揕ebendiges Latein in 
Der Neue Pauly, 15/1 (2001) 929, and one of the most renowned advocates of 
living Latin in Germany, indeed in all Europe, backed by an enormous Wissen 
of the history of the language covering close to 3000 years. This learning 
is underscored by a delightful, flowing style and a constantly recurring 
sense of humor. Not every book written in German is easy to read, even for 
a native, but this one carries the reader along. No chapter is excessively 
long, and each is broken into sub-sections, so that the reader is never 
fatigued by a particular subject or argument. But I must add one caveat; 
much that S. says will mean little (or nothing) to a reader who does not 
know modern Germany well, indeed the Germany of the last several centuries. 
For more than a century, certainly from the period of Friedrich August Wolf 
around the beginning of the 19th century until the advent of 
Nationalsocialism, Germany was at the forefront of classical studies. The 
reader must have some background in this period to fully appreciate many of 
S.抯 comments.

For ancient times S. focuses above all on Cicero and Vergil. It was 
Cicero抯 greatest achievement to show that all Greek philosophical thought 
could be expressed in Latin, enabling the latter to become a world 
language. Indeed, after Cicero Latin essentially did not change for 
centuries. In this sense it died, but it never faded away. The Roman empire 
kept it alive, even though by no means all its inhabitants spoke the 
language; the emperor Septimius Severus sister, for example, spoke Punic. 
In the almost two millennia that followed, the roster of great men and 
women who kept Latin alive, who continued to show that it was the language 
of international importance, is long and illustrious: Lactantius, 
Augustine, Hieronymus, Charlemagne and Alcuin, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim 
and Hildegard of Bingen, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Celtis and Hutten, Luther and 
Melanchthon, Comenius, Herder and Goethe, von Humboldt and Mommsen. These 
are only a select few.

Occasionally the reader may disagree, factually or emotionally, with what 
S. says. On p. 123, he states that Carthage was the third largest city in 
the empire after Rome and Antioch. Yet Alexandria is usually ranked second 
behind Rome. On p. 285, he ranks Richard Heinze as the greatest German 
Latinist of the 20th century. Eduard Norden would certainly get 
considerable support. And, in a few places, one detects a certain animus 
towards those on this side of the Atlantic. On p. 244, S. writes: 揥ir 
sollten das 躡erhandnehmen der Wissenschaftssprache Englisch nicht kampflos 
hinnehmen, sondern zumindest auf eine Pluralit鋞 der Sprachen dr鋘gen. Dass 
nach Franz鰏isch nun gerade Englisch an die Stelle des alten Latein ger點kt 
ist, war jedenfalls ein echter R點kschritt. [n. 1] Why? English comes much 
closer to rivaling Latin in its worldwide impact than French ever did. On 
p. 280, we read 揝o lernt man in Amerika heute Latein in der Regel erst auf 
der Universit鋞, dort zum Teil aber mit vorz黦lichen Ergebnissen. [n. 2] 
This ignores the many flourishing secondary schools, where often problems 
arise not from lack of students, but from lack of teachers.

But these are minor points, which by no means detract from the great value 
and enthusiasm of this book. Latin may by many standards be dead, but it 
proves to be a lively corpse, and has so proven throughout the centuries. 
揇enn es geh鰎t auch heute noch zu den gr鰏sten geistigen Freuden, in der 
Sprache der R鰉er zu kommunizieren, zu sprechen, zu schreiben梪nd immer 
wieder auch zu singen (p. 292). [n. 3] This from one of the founders of 
the LVDI LATINI in Bavaria. 揕atein ist seit zweitausend Jahren 憈ot und 
wurde dennoch zu allen Zeiten wie eine lebendige Sprache gepflegt. Ich bin 
黚erzeugt, dass einmal auch die Stunde kommen wird, wo man Latein nicht 
mehr als eine 憈ote Sprache, sondern wieder als die K鰊igen der 
Fremdsprachen unterrichten wird (pp. 3067). [n. 4]

In recent years S. has continued the good fight. Two fresh articles deserve 
mention: 揕atein als Weltsprache梔as Erbe der Gr鰏se, in E. 
Stein-H鰈keskamp and K.-J. H鰈keskamp, eds., Erinnerungsorte der Antike. 
Die r鰉ische Welt (Munich, 2006) 185201, and 揕ateinstadt M黱chen, his 
farewell address on the occasion of his retirement, in Gymnasium 113 (2006) 
11750. In the latter, he remarks that Munich was twice the leading Latin 
city in the world, Rome of course excepted: in 1559, when Herzog Albrecht 
invited the Jesuits to the city, and in 1900, when the first fascicle of 
the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae appeared.

But we must conclude with the volume under discussion. 揕ector inquam 
損laude, sententiae nobiles doctaeque tibi cordi sint. Tolle, lege!

HERBERT W. BENARIO
Emory University

[n. 1] We should not accept the advance of the scientific language English 
without resistance, but at the least should push for a number of languages. 
That now after French precisely English has moved into the place of old 
Latin was certainly a real step backwards. [n. 2] Now in America Latin is 
usually first learned in the university, but there in part with remarkable 
results. [n. 3] Even today it is one of the greatest intellectual joys to 
communicate in the language of the Romans, to speak, to write梐nd again and 
again even to sing. [n. 4] Latin has been 揹ead for two thousand years and 
nonetheless was at all times cultivated as a living language. I am 
convinced that some day the hour will also come, in which Latin will no 
longer be taught as a 揹ead language, but again as the queen of foreign 
languages.


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