Decretum Sequendum - or "Why you should care about the LatinLanguage blog."

At the foot of the webpage for the Finnish YLE radio service's weekly broadcast of World News in Latin, readers can find a rather apt quotation from the 1st century teacher Quintilian (X.3.12):

Accidit etiam ingeniosis adulescentibus frequenter, ut labore consumantur et in silentium descendant nimia bene dicendi cupiditate.
"It happens quite often to talented young people that they are devoured by the task and descend into silence because of a fastidious desire to speak well."

This is excellent advice--not just for orators, but for advancing Latin students who must move beyond memorizing the simple paradigms of grammar. Perfection is a laudable goal, but Latin is a language, and languages are to be read, written, spoken, and heard--no matter how dim it is, keeping your lamp under the bushel is far worse. Modern Latinists have provided a wealth of resources to help both Latin neophytes and those farther along on the journey. Besides the aforementioned YLP's Nuntii Latini, there is the excellent Conventiculum Latinum workshop for spoken Latin at the University of Kentucky, the Latin Forum discussion board, the on-line Latin newspaper Ephemeris, and a whole host of personal blogs that feature writers chronicling a wide variety of thoughts and experiences in Latin. I apologize now if I missed your favorite Latin source, but I think we can all agree there are plenty of people making heroic efforts to keep the language alive in our modern culture.

Nevertheless I add this blog to the mix because despite the recent revival in Latin language studies, I feel a small but critical point is all-too-frequently missed. It is not enough to simply keep Latin alive, we need to encourage others to see the beauty and potential of the language, the glories present certainly in past greats but even, in my opinion, in some of the work done in later and even present ages. In short, I believe Latin shouldn't just be sustained; it also needs to be loved.

To that end I've created this blog as a place to point out old and new bits of Latin, with a sketch of what IMO makes them interesting, intriguing, or even artistic. That doesn't mean I plan to bury the reader with the kind of analytical drone that languishes in dusty footnotes. Despite centuries of instruction by dull, tweedy professors, Latin can actually be fun; I know that sounds hard to believe, but trust me; if you give this blog a few weeks, maybe you'll come to believe people actually spoke this language in a natural and human way, rather than in the hope they could torture future students with esoteric and inscrutable puzzles.

You'll also find my personal take on whats good and not-so-good with the Latin renaissance we're experiencing now. To give just one example: Though I can appreciate Peter Needham's excellent translation of the Harry Potter books, unless Latinists are talking about this book in terms of it's literature (or at least the challenges of translation), it's little more than a vanity one thumbs thru once, sticks on the shelf, and pulls down once every few years as a curio for the visiting J.K.Rowling fan.

I think Needham and other contemporary Latinists deserve better, and I think the movement in general will only grow as more students move beyond the strict decoding of the grammatical regimen. No doubt manyare attracted to the language because its highly organized structure follows exact (if complicated) rules. Arguments over points of grammar or the exact meaning and usage of classical words have their place, but they can also be examples of missing the forest for the trees, of understanding the words but overlooking the eloquence they contain.

To close, let me borrow another few words from Quintilian (X.1.2) which, in my opinion, neatly summarize the issue I hope this blog addesses:

Qui sciet quae quoque sint modo dicenda, nisi tamen in procinctu paratamque ad omnis casus habuerit eloquentiam, velut clausis thesauris incubabit.
"He who knows what and how everything ought to be said, but nevertheless does not have eloquence prepared at the ready for all situations, shall brood over it as if over locked treasure chests."
This blog then is about opening treasures, and perhaps using Latin to find within ourselves that rare coin of eloquence and art.