“Once upon a time the whole world spoke Latin.”
The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has been the foundation of our education and defined the way we express out thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions. Indeed, the language has proved far more enduring than its empire in Rome, its use echoing on in the legal codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science and, until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic church, the most populous form of Christianity. It is the unseen substance that makes us members of the Western world.
In this groundbreaking biography of Latin, Nicholas Ostler examines the reasons why Latin made such a long-lasting impact on language, and how it managed to survive and thrive despite the cultural superiority of Greek. He investigates how Latin's sturdy roots remained untouched while empires rose and fell and why the language has proved more far reaching than its creators.
Ostler makes clear that in a thousand ways, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.