Catholic priest Father Foster estimates the number of fluent Latin speakers to no more than 100. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin has contributed many words to the English language. How many Latin words are there? Around 200, 000. By contrast the English language has about 750,000–1 million (no-one has counted them all), and Latin words have many different meanings originating in which context they are used. In particular, Latin (and also ancient Greek) roots are used in a lot of English descriptions in theology, most sciences, medicines, and § law & justice.
The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
By the late Roman Republic (75 BC), Old Latin had been standardised into Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin was the colloquial form spoken during the same time and attested in inscriptions and the works of comic playwrights like Plautus and Terence and author Petronius. Late Latin is the written language from the 3rd century and Medieval Latin was used from the 9th century to the Renaissance which used Renaissance Latin. Later, Early Modern Latin and New Latin evolved. Latin was used as the language of international communication, scholarship and science until well into the 18th century, when it began to be supplanted by vernaculars. Ecclesiastical Latin remains the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.
Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, up to seven noun cases, five declensions, four verb conjugations, three tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two or three aspects and two numbers.
Latin essentially “died out” with the fall of the Roman Empire, but in reality, it transformed — first into a simplified version of itself called Vulgar Latin, and then gradually into the Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. Thus, Classical Latin fell out of use.
Do people speak Latin?
Yes, you can, just like any other language. The only problem one would encounter is the lack of modern vocabulary. The reason almost no one speaks Latin is that almost no one speaks Latin: It is perfectly possible to do, but as no one does it, it is not a language to communicate anymore.
Latin is still the official language in the Vatican, and spoken by the Pope though.
There are not many occasions when a reporter needs a grasp of Latin. But one came on a Monday when the Pope made a short announcement.
Most of the reporters present had to wait for the Vatican's official translations into Italian, English and languages that people actually speak.
But not Italian wire service reporter Giovanna Chirri, who had clearly been paying attention in secondary school. Her Latin was up to the job and she broke the story of the Pope's resignation to the world.
Above image: Father Foster and four popes.
Father Foster served the church for 52 years.
In his office at the Vatican, Father Reginald Foster says "we always spoke Latin". It was Foster's job to write the Latin for the Church's official documents and encyclicals.
But he worries for the future of the language in the Church. He estimates the number of fluent Latin speakers as no more than 100. And he does not see things getting better.
"The text of Vatican II has glorious passages in Latin but can the young priest walking across St Peter's Square understand it? I don't think so."
A sketchy understanding of the language is not good enough. "Take the sentence urinabor in piscinam: if you are guessing, you might think it means 'I will urinate in the swimming pool' but it doesn't. It means 'I will dive into the swimming pool'. "
"Latin is a language," Foster stresses. "It didn't come down in a golden box from Heaven. You don't have to be clever to speak it. In ancient Rome it was spoken by poor people, prostitutes and bums."
And how good is his Latin?
"I can make jokes in Latin and my students can follow my jokes."
The Roman Colosseum, a.k.a. “Amphitheatrum Flavium” (Flavian Amphitheatre), is one of the major tourist attractions in Rome and is the world’s largest amphiteater ever built.
Above image: Below the Colosseum was a labyrinth of underground passages called the hypogeum. These passages allowed for animals, actors, and gladiators to suddenly appear in the middle of the arena. They would use trap doors to add in special effects such as scenery. The walls of the Colosseum were built with stone.
Its construction began under the emperor Vespasian in 72 d.C. and was completed under Titus in 80 d.C.. The Colosseum was used mainly for gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles and other kinds of spectacles.
The Colosseum could hold up to 75.000 spectators. Each sector was reserved to a specific class of citizens, based on their importance. However, the entrance was free for anybody.
Usually the daily program was the following:
morning: venationes (hunts or fights between men and animals)
lunch time: executions
afternoon: gladiator contests
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