Something you may not know

2015_0205_0909_56Editions of primary texts in ancient history, particularly quite old editions, are often written entirely in the language concerned. The introduction, the footnotes, the index, the bibliography, even the editors’ names are Latinised.

The first time you encounter this as a student, it’s a hurdle. It’s very intimidating to be without the safety net of your own language, the guarantee of being able to understand the footnotes when not the text itself. I’m still intimidated by the sheer proficiency demonstrated by the chief editor, to write an entire introduction in Latin.

(I translate. I do not speak Latin, much to the disappointment of relatives asking what I do at university.)


But I like these old editions now. Though the mono-lingual edition feels like a wall when first encountered, it’s intended to make the texts, and their critique, accessible. It succeeds. The book pictured in this post is a German edition, edited by Germans, first printed in 1887. The 50s reprint I’m working from lives in a library in Auckland, New Zealand, to be consulted and read by English-speaking students who write English essays about Latin works and authors.

I’m used to being told that I need to learn German, Italian, and French (at the very least) to succeed in navigating academia. Mediterranean Ancient History is studied across Europe, and at higher levels the pool of English scholarship alone is insufficient, and often inadequate. In this environment, it’s nice to see something written in a language that I wanted to learn from the beginning.



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