Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Influence of Latin

I love Latin (not refers to geographical region or people from specific racial group).

I've been doing a special ritual every Christmas morning for almost 5 years; wake up early  in the morning just to watch a live Mass ceremony from Vatican. The point of doing so is because the Roman Church use Latin in their rituals. I even keep a note on what are they saying and the translation of it, like "venite adoremus" (let us adore), or simple words such nobis (us) and pacem (peace). 

I don't care if Latin is a dead language. My passion on learning Latin comes from history books. As you know, I have a huge interest on reading stories from the past, especially about Renaissance and Medieval royals' bloodshed in Europe-Middle East. Latin was playing a very significant role during those entire periods, it was once the language of science & then took a part as the language of church in Christendom. Some magnificent sources of history that we familiar with nowadays are based on the discovery of Latin documents. 

Also, Latin has played a good role on the term of transferring scientific method from West to East then back to West again. The cycle of knowledge has come like this: first the Greek (Archimedes, Aristotle, Plato, Anaxigoras, Homer, etc) find out amazing stuff about this world. They are genious, they smart enough to write those ideas down on scripts. The Roman take those pearls into their account; by translating them into Latin, their imperial language. The ages of darkness came like nights when all the translations from antiquity are gone with the great fire on Alexandrian Library. Some of them are safed, transferred into the new heirs of knowledge; Islamic Empire. 

Umayyads and Abbasids caliphates hired lots of translator in order to absorb sciences from Latin, Greek, Persian and Sanskrit's books. This translation movement is official when Caliph Harun Al-Rashid of Abbasids build the House of Wisdom (Baitul Hikmah) in Baghdad as library & translation institute. His effort marks the Islamic Golden Age. Hundred of years later, the crusaders are lining up in front of Jerusalem's walls and ready to rock that city with swords. After several cruel battles, those crusaders back to their livestock in Europe bringing new things that they get from their Saracen counterpart: books about philosophy, history, and science in arabic.

Monks have a well-known tradition as them who very pleased to copy holy scriptures in Latin. Now after the crusades, they have a new job inside the monastery: translating those books back into Latin. Triggered by several well-educated monks or scholars such Adelard of Bath, Michael Scot, and Gerard de Cremona. A very eccentric priest called Gerbert d'Aurillac gained his knowledge and arabic ability in Moorish Andalusia (Spain), then back to Rome with translated books in various field of science. He later then selected as Pope Sylvester II. From this era, Latin becomes more important as the spread of intellectual informations are sprouting from it. 

In these days, I can't tell you how wide is the influence of Latin toward European languages. Latin spread to many Mediterranean regions, and the dialects spoken in these areas, mixed to various degrees with the autochthonous languages, developed into the Romance tongues, including AragoneseCatalanCorsicanFrenchGalician,ItalianPortugueseRomanianRomanshSardinianSicilian, and Spanish (Bryson, Bill 1996).  Lex dura sedtamen scripta, pact sunt servanda, lex loci arbitri, lex specialis derogate lege generalis, audi et alteram partem, uti posidentis, nulla poena sine praevia, are some of example on the using of Latin as legal terms. Latin is also widely used in academic, philosophy, biology, and medical term. In abbreviations we are similar with Latin words such as subpoena duces tecumq.i.d. (quater in die: "four times a day"), and inter alia (among other things). Using Latin as organization name or motto could bring us a classical feeling, or if it's allowed to say, to make it more sounds professional & sophisticated. Take a look Nec pluribus impar (literally: "Not unequal to many"), a Latin motto adopted by Louis XIV of France from 1658. In varietate concordia or United in Diversity, the motto of European Union, and Semper Fidelis ("Always Faithful") which is well known in the United States as the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Reading some phrases in Latin brings me a depiction of Roman Empire or medieval world, glory of the past. If this post still couldn't make you understand my desire toward this dead language, I guess this sentence will best respond my inexplicable feeling: disce aut discede ("take/learn it or leave it"). :)

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