Latin literature

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Latin literature, the body of written works in the Latin language, remains an enduring legacy of the culture of ancient Rome. The Romans produced many works of poetry, comedy, tragedy, satire, history, and rhetoric, drawing heavily on the traditions of other cultures and particularly on the more matured literary tradition of Greece. Long after the Western Roman Empire had fallen, the Latin language continued to play a central role in western European civilization.

Latin literature is conventionally divided into distinct periods. Few works remain of Early and Old Latin; among these few surviving works, however, are the plays of Plautus and Terence, which have remained very popular in all eras down to the present, while many other Latin works, including many by the most prominent authors of the Classical period, have disappeared, sometimes being re-discovered after centuries, sometimes not. The period of Classical Latin, when Latin literature is widely considered to have reached its peak, is divided into the Golden Age, which covers approximately the period from the start of the 1st century BC up to the mid-1st century AD, and the Silver Age, which extends into the 2nd century AD. Literature written after the mid-2nd century has often been disparaged and ignored; in the Renaissance, for example, when many Classical authors were re-discovered and their style consciously imitated. Above all, Cicero was imitated, and his styled praised as the perfect pinnacle of Latin. Medieval Latin was often dismissed as "Dog-Latin"; however, in fact, many great works of Latin literature were produced throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, although they are no longer as widely known as the ancient Romans.

For most of the Medieval era, Latin was the dominant written language in use in western Europe. After the Roman Empire split into its Western and Eastern halves, Greek, which had been widely used all over the Empire, faded from use in the West, all the more so as the political and religious distance between the Catholic West and the Orthodox, Greek East steadily grew. The vernacular languages in the West, the languages of modern-day western Europe, developed for centuries as spoken languages only: most people did not write, and it seems that it very seldom occurred to those who wrote to write in any language other than Latin, even when they spoke French or Italian or English or another vernacular in their daily life. Very gradually, in the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, it became more and more common to write in the Western vernaculars.

It was probably only after the invention of printing, which made books and pamphlets cheap enough that a mass public could afford them, and which made possible modern phenomena such as the newspaper, that a large number of people in the West could read and write who were not fluent in Latin. Still, many people continued to write in Latin, although they were mostly from the upper classes and/or professional academics. As late as the 17th century, there was still a large audience for Latin poetry and drama; no-one found it strange, for example, that, besides his works in English, Milton wrote many poems in Latin, or that Francis Bacon or Baruch Spinoza wrote mostly in Latin; on the other hand, many people did find it strange that Shakespeare, having received very little formal education, was not fluent in Latin; his lack of Latin was unusual for a playwright of his time, and is one of the main reasons for the persistent accusations that he did not write the plays which appeared under his name.

Although the number of works of fiction and poetry, history and philosophy written in Latin has continued to dwindle, the Latin language is still not dead. Well into the nineteenth century, some knowledge of Latin was required for admission into many universities, and theses and dissertations written for graduate degrees were often required to be written in Latin. Treatises in chemistry and biology and other natural sciences were often written in Latin as late as the early 20th century. Up to the present day, the editors of Latin and Greek texts in such series as the Oxford Classical Texts, the Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana and some others still write the introductions to their editions in polished and vital Latin. Among these Latin scholars of the 20th and 21st centuries are R A B Mynors, R J Tarrant, L D Reynolds and John Brisco.


[edit] Early Latin literature

[edit] Poetry


[edit] Comedy


[edit] Classical Latin

[edit] Golden Age

[edit] Poetry

Lucretius : On the Nature of Things
Virgil : Aeneid
Ovid : Metamorphoses

[edit] Prose

Julius Caesar : Gallic Wars
Cicero : Catiline Orations

[edit] History


[edit] Silver Latin

[edit] Poetry


[edit] Prose

Petronius : Satyricon
Pliny the Elder : Natural History
Pliny the Younger
Aulus Gellius

[edit] Theater


[edit] Satire


[edit] History

Suetonius, especially Lives of the Twelve Caesars

[edit] Latin Literature in the Late Antique period

[edit] Christians

Saint Augustine of Hippo
Boethius and Consolation of Philosophy
Paulinus of Nola
Sidonius Apollinaris
Sulpicius Severus

[edit] non-Christians

Ammianus Marcellinus
Distichs of Cato
Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius
Scriptores Historiae Augustae (anonymous)
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus

[edit] Medieval Latin literature

[edit] Theology and Philosophy

Pierre Abélard
Albertus Magnus
Thomas Aquinas : Pange Lingua : Summa Theologiae
Roger Bacon
Jean Buridan
Duns Scotus
Gregory of Tours
Saint Jerome : Vulgate
Siger of Brabant
Tommaso da Celano : Dies Iræ
Venantius Fortunatus
Walter of Châtillon
William of Ockham
Sir Thomas More :Utopia

[edit] Poetry

The Archpoet
Carmina Burana
Peter of Blois

[edit] History

Albert of Aix
Fulcher of Chartres
Matthew Paris
Orderic Vitalis
Otto of Freising
William of Malmesbury
William of Tyre

[edit] Pseudo-History

Geoffrey of Monmouth

[edit] Encyclopedia

Isidore of Seville : Etymologiæ

[edit] many different genres


[edit] Renaissance and Neo-Latin

(Most of these authors wrote in their various vernaculars as well as in Latin, but each produced a body of Latin work significant in quantity and quality.)

Dante Alighieri
Francis Bacon
Jacob Bidermann
Giovanni Boccaccio
Thomas Hobbes
John Milton
Thomas More
Baruch Spinoza
History of Literature
Ancient literature
Babylonian literature
Indian literature
Bengali literature
Hindi literature
Kannada literature
Marathi literature
Malayalam literature
Sanskrit literature
Tamil literature
Urdu literature
Chinese literature
Greek literature
Latin literature
Arabic literature
Persian literature
Pahlavi literature

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[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Latin literature

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