Archives For ancient languages

Global Latinists

August 19, 2018 — Leave a comment

A brief history of the alf—entirely in Latin, of course—is found on their website. It began rather promisingly in Rome in 1966 with an Omnium gentium ac nationum Conventum Latinis litteris linguaeque fovendis,a Conference of All Peoples and Nations for the Promotion of Latin Language and Literature. Several important people gave their support to the conference and were made members of the society honoris causa, including Giuseppe Saragat, the President of Italy, Aldo Moro and Giulio Andreotti, both future prime ministers, and his Eminence Antonio Cardinal Bacci, the Latin secretary to the pope. More than five hundred people attended that conference, from forty-one nations, including Cuba, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, Morocco, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. After this successful conference, the Academy was officially formed as a subdivision of the Italian government’s Istituto Nazionale di Studi Romani.

At the time of the alf’s founding, the use of Latin as a vehicle for scholarly work was uncommon but not implausible. The Roman Catholic Church had been conducting its theology, scripture, and canon law studies entirely in Latin for centuries, and had just concluded an ecumenical council (Vatican II) entirely in Latin. The Church had run the Italian school system for decades, and Italian scholars in particular had heard Latin their entire lives. An international body needed a common language, and it made sense that scholarship pertaining to Latin be written in Latin, especially by scholars in Morocco or Thailand. To conduct business in English or Russian—the dominant languages of the day—was tantamount to making a political statement the alf did not intend to make (the second alf conference, in 1970, was held on the other side of the Iron Curtain, in Bucharest). But cultural conditions changed very quickly. During the 1970s, Latin was in retreat everywhere in the world. The year 1977 witnessed what might have been the alf’s most intriguing moment: a lavish conference staged by the Senegalese president (and passionate defender of Latin), Leopold Sedar Senghor, in Dakar. But the number of scholars who could create competent academic work in Latin was shrinking by the year. When Pietro Romanelli, the first alfpresident, died in 1981, his successor Luigi de Nardis thought speaking Latin was a dead-end. Decades of infighting and uncertainty and decay followed. After much handwringing, the use of Latin was preserved at alf events, but the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Romani cut the alf loose. Funding dried up. Members argued over alfstatutes such as conditions for membership and whether or not there could be a non-Italian in the role of president. A conference given in 1989 in East Berlin had almost no participants.


Reich: I think so. I know there are extremists who are interested in genealogy and genetics. But I think those are very marginal people, and there’s, of course, a concern they may impinge on the mainstream.

But if you actually take any serious look at this data, it just confounds every stereotype. It’s revealing that the differences among populations we see today are actually only a few thousand years old at most and that everybody is mixed. I think that if you pay any attention to this world, and have any degree of seriousness, then you can’t come out feeling affirmed in the racist view of the world. You have to be more open to immigration. You have to be more open to the mixing of different peoples. That’s your own history.


Newer findings complicate the story, however. In a study published last June in the Journal of Human Genetics, researchers sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 12 Yamnaya individuals, along with their immediate predecessors and descendants. The remains were found in burial mounds, or kurgans (from which the theory takes its name), in modern-day Ukraine. They had been buried in layers atop one another from the end of the Stone Age through the Bronze Age, between about 4500 and 1500 B.C.—the same time as the genetic replacement event in Europe. The earliest and midrange specimens’ mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited from the mother) was almost entirely local. But the mitochondrial DNA of the most recent specimens included DNA from central Europe, including present-day Poland, Germany and Sweden. This discovery indicates that “there were pendulum migrations back and forth,” says lead author Alexey Nikitin

Astonishingly, despite being copied four centuries after the last reference to his Gospel commentary, this manuscript seemed to preserve the original form of Fortunatianus’ groundbreaking work.

Such a discovery is of considerable significance to our understanding of the development of Latin biblical interpretation, which went on to play such an important part in the development of Western thought and literature. In this substantial commentary, Fortunatianus is reliant on even earlier writings which formed the link between Greek and Latin Christianity. is a production of LatinTutorial, a site and YouTube channel designed to help Latin students all around the world learn and practice Classical Latin. Most of the videos produced by LatinTutorial involve Latin grammar, but learning Latin is more than just the language. Embedded in the study of Latin is all of ancient Roman and Greek culture. So when you visit LatinTutorial or watch videos on YouTube, you’ll see a wide range of topics on the ancient world.

I would say this is accurate. While I certainly enjoy learning various languages I often do so for my own pleasure rather than for intelligence points. It is rather flustering to be in situations where language learning isn’t adequate to the task. But of course this only serves as more motivation to hit the books with more gusto.