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11 April 2005

LUSITANIA & a Latin grammar lesson

DespicableTeacher has posted and immediately erased a Comment. I suspect she was thwacking me on the knuckles for getting the name of the Roman province of Portugal wrong -- it was LUSITANIA. (I knew that, doh.)

Switzerland, of course, was HELVETIA. Pizza Slice Honor System -- brain only, no surfing -- for the names the Romans called Ireland and Scotland. Four slices if you know what they called Wales, I don't.

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se differunt.

-- Julius Cæsar, "de Bello Gallico"

Romania was DACIA. Miss Murphy told us that Romanian is the closest living language to Latin today. On Internet Relay Chat, I swear, I can actually understand a lot of what they're saying! That's really scary! Buna!

But was I right about the Visigoths? Did Visigoths used to live in Lusitania?

In Monty Python's "Life of Brian," Brian is a teenage Jewish boy who lives in Roman-occupied Jerusalem contemporary with Jesus. He would have been a native speaker of Aramaic.

(Until about ten years ago, Aramaic was believed to be a dead language, but then a linguist stumbled on a tiny town in the mountains of Syria where they still speak Aramaic. Both the Muslims and the Christians conduct their religious services in Aramaic. All the teenage kids who listen to eastern Mediterranean big-city radio think their Aramaic-speaking parents are incredibly square fossils, and are embarrassed. The population now consists of 371 Aramaic-speakers and 900 European linguists with tape recorders.)

One night Brian sneaks out with a bucket of paint to do a little anti-Roman graffitiing. Just as he has painted


he is caught in the act by a drunken Roman centurion in full combat gear.

CENTURION: What is this then? Romanes eunt domus, "People called Romanes they go the house"?

BRIAN: It -- it says, "Romans, go home!"

CENTURION: No, it doesn't! What's Latin for "Roman"? [grabs Brian's ear] Come on, come on!

BRIAN: Romanus!

CENTURION: Goes like?

BRIAN: Annus!

CENTURION: Vocative plural of annus is ...?

BRIAN: Anni?

CENTURION: [writes] Romani. And eunt? What is eunt?

BRIAN: "Go"! Let --

CENTURION: Conjugate the verb "to go."

BRIAN: Ire: eo, is, it, imus, itis, eunt!

CENTURION: So eunt is ...?

BRIAN: Third person plural, present indicative. "They go!"

CENTURION: But "Romans, go home" is an order, so you must use the ...?

BRIAN: The ... imperative!

CENTURION: Which is ...?


CENTURION: [twisting Brian's ear] And how many Romans do we want to go home?

BRIAN: [yelling] I ... Plural, plural! Ite, ite!

CENTURION: [writing] Ite. Domus? Nominative? But "go home," it is motion towards, isn't it, boy?

BRIAN: Dative, sir!

[The centurion draws his swords and presses it against Brian's throat.]

BRIAN: No, not dative! Not the dative, sir! No! The ... accusative, accusative! Domum, sir, ad domum!

CENTURION: Except that domus takes the ...?

BRIAN: The locative, sir!

CENTURION: Which is?

BRIAN: Domum!

CENTURION: [writing] Domum ... -um. [Sheathes his sword.] Understand?

[Brian nods eagerly]

CENTURION: Now, write it out a hundred times!

BRIAN: Yes, sir, thank you, sir! Hail Caesar!

CENTURION: Hail Caesar. If it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off!

BRIAN: Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar and everything, sir!


Gratias tibi ago to a former Latin student in Stockholm.


Blogger Joana said...

NO!NO! I was sleepy and posted a comment with a typo, not knowing how to edit this stuff I erased it. I just wanted to add you were damn right about the brothel in Pompeii ( it is called Lupanarum btw). The tours when I was there would NOT include women, so I made my Dad make a detailed account on what was inside. LOL

Blogger Joana said...

...and what a coincidence. I make my students watch «The Life of Brian» ;)

Blogger Joana said...

this part of «The Life of Brian« is also great:

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Attendee: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace - shut up!
Reg: There is not one of us who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.
Dissenter: Uh, well, one.
Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah, there's one. But otherwise, we're solid.


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