SDMB Dead Languages Society

The question has arisen lately what an individual should know in order to be considered educated.

The other night I was staring at my dog-eared copy of Thyestes, a rip-roaring good play by the Roman author Seneca. I love Seneca. I love the play to pieces. But I got up from my desk and spent the night playing Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. This is not the best way to get edumicated, though I had an unrepentant good time.

There are lots of folks here with an interest in the archaic, several of whom have some real classical training. Offhand I can think of Athena, Olentzero, Medea’s Child, msrobyn, and probably scads of others. We all want to be decent, educated people. We all know what an enormous pain in the ass it is, especially since many of us are out of school. And it’s real hard doing it by oneself.

So here’s what I propose. A touch of weekly reading, taken from any dead language that most or all of us know. If you’ve forgotten all your Greek (or you don’t know any but are interested nevertheless), just read the stuff in English. This is the place for all of the Homer and Vergil-lovers to drink tea, talk pretentiously, and read about all of the glorious sex, violence, perversion, and generally bizarre stuff that characterizes the so called Classical World.

Don’t worry about having to run out and buy expensive classical texts. There’s tons available on the internet, and I have a fairly considerable library on my own. I’ll post the relevant passages and commentary on my website. I’ll also toss up some historical background on the author of the week/month/whatever for added context.

This is also the place for those who are interested in learning a bit more about mythology from the original authors who have never even cracked open D’Aulaires or Bulfinch. Anyone with the slightest interest should join the club.

I hope there are some takers out there. Post on the thread and show your support! :wink: I’d be happy to select the first passage, unless someone else has a really strong preference.


Can we throw in the Scandinavian sagas, too?

Haven’t read any in a good long time, but some were pretty nifty.

I’m up for it!


Only Greek I know is modern. I did study Old English at Georgetown for a semester (still have the books for both courses) but the only reading I have is Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowrulf. um… yeah.

Sounds great! It’ll even give me something to keep my mind occupied…

I’ll second the request for Scandinavian sagas, and also suggest some Celtic myths… good stuff there.

Woo-Hoo! Wonderful stuff!

Maeglin called me classically trained. How in any god’s name you got that opinion, I have no clue. To be more accurate I would say I am in the process of getting educated. Being an undergrad philosophy student and all.

Anyway, count me in the club. We should toss in the Norse and Celtic stuff too. A warning, I’m awful at the pretentious stuff, I misspell things when I try to look smart. (Okay, so I misspell things all of the time, but the point is…) but I’ll be happy to dish out my silly opinions and judgements on just about any topic/story on the table.

I propose Egil’s Saga or Njal’s (sp?) Saga. Both are wonderful.

Me, please! Me, please! I did Latin & ancient greek at school…and no, neither of them were my first language! :stuck_out_tongue:

In an even greater fit of sadness, I even bought all the test books that we had used for our Latin course (& a friend gave me the greek text book…so we can study Caecilius est pater…and I have an obel…).

[slight hijack]
If you really want to do latin or greek, the open university do courses …and they are a distance learning organisation that does sell courses to the states. I haven’t done their classics courses (I’m doing their computing courses), but I have lurked & posted on their (OU students only) conferences…in fact we did a translation Hyginus together which is available on the web…
I don’t know the cost of the classics courses, but I do know that the students all enjoyed them. They have assignments & exams, which are good if you need stuff like that to motivate you, but I’m sure if you wrote to your assigned tutor & said that you were doing it for interest and won’t be handing in the assignments etc, they wouldn’t mind.

Sorry if this sounds like an advert for the OU, but I personally don’t know of anywhere else that you can do this…most distance learning/evening classes type of places tend to concentrate on modern languages.

Courses start February & run to October, but you may be able to just buy the course material anyway, which is bound to be cheaper.

Are we going to start a thread per book in MPSIMS, or a yahoo club or what?

Noted dumbass checking in. Been reading Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica off my Project Gutenburg CD. Nobody’s gotten killed yet; he’s concentrating on their biographies. But it’s just a matter of time…

My new office is like two blocks from Project Gutenburg’s offices. If they had offices, rather than some guy from Illinois Benedictine doing it on the side.

This beats doing 19th century domestic novels, like my wife reads. Nobody gets killed OR screwed–what’s the point?

Well, I have small (very small) Latin and less Greek - maybe I could semi-lurk and see how erudite you are all planning to be? Actually, though, I think it would be great fun - all that sex and violence without even having to leave the house. Yes, on reflection, can I play too please?

[hijack] Fierra You are doing OU computing courses? I start T171 in Feb. and I don’t know whether it will be scary or fun. Still, you sound like a happy OU advert.[/hijack]

I don’t have either Latin or Greek, but I’d love to learn more about the texts and will surely join in. I do have a little Irish (not quite yet a dead language, I guess) so I would contribute more actively if we did some Celtic at some point in the future as well.

The Icelandic (not Scandinavian) sagas would be wonderful. I have some background in those as well, as I was supposed to go to Iceland to study them for three years (another long story). Egil’s and Njal’s Sagas are indeed wonderful. In our wider cultural context, however, I think the Saga of the Volsungs claims more currency. Then we could do the Niebelungenlied, my personal favorite epic of all, in Middle High German. :wink:

I was aiming for Latin and Greek, as I really wanted to keep up my skills, but there is absolutely nothing in the world to stop us from doing it all.

You take Latin. In this world, that’s enough to be counted as classically trained. :wink:

fierra, we should probably start a thread per book right here. That would be the best way of generating more interest. If it gets cumbersome we could certainly move elsewhere.

The Argonautica is great stuff! We’ll be sure do to some passages from it.

So it looks like we have a pretty good group so far! We can probably get the ball rolling tomorrow!


I’m in.

Clearly, I was mistaken in the belief that a Latin minor would be applicable in the real world.

That is, unless translating Winnie-ille-Pu counts as a valid use.

As soon as I posted the OP, I knew I had egregiously left out LNO in my list of people whom I knew had some classics background. Good to have you.
And check yer email, too.


ooh! ooh! I sort of know Latin (besides the *e plurbus unum * stuff.


Occasionally I append Se non e vero, e ben trovato to posts (especially in GQ).

*vidi vici veni * :slight_smile:

<andy dons an ascot>

Earl Grey? Anyone?

I’m in. :slight_smile:

All of my respect for the Roman Empire went out the window when I read that that is supposed to be pronounced “wainy weedy weeky.” How the hell are you supposed to conquer the world talking like that?

I’m in.

Coincidentally, I was talking to my brother, who thinks I am not only wonderful with this stuff, but I should teach it. Hmmm…


There has been significant dispute on this subject recently. Many scholars have argued that even in the age of Cicero Romans began to pronounce v’s as v’s, not as w’s.

And I agree with your brother, msrobyn. Good to have you aboard.


Oh my! Oh my! Somebody NOTICED! I’m in the company of people who actually CARE that I studied Greek & Latin! <OH HEAVEN!> Maeglin you should’ve emailed me, I just found this thread!

That said, it’s been ten years, I’ve forgotton just about everything except … ummm… I can’t even remember the phrase I was about to write… Guess it’s time to take Fierra up on the OU thing.

<sits down in comfortable Victorian Library (Really! I have one! In my house!) and pours herself a glass of Claret.> “To hell with Earl Grey, andygirl, only red wine or Scotch for this scholar!”

So, chaps, what’re we reading first? My vote is for something Roman, as I’ve watched “Gladiator” about six times since Christmas (Mr. Athena bought it for me) and have just started in on the 3 DVD set of “I, Claudius.” I’m in sort of a Roman mood, I’d say. How 'bout Herodotus?

<Does a little happy dance…>

I vote for Martial for January, and Catullus for February. Gotta throw a little life into the Pit :wink: