I took Latin in high school. It was part of my master plan to start with Latin, as the basis for learning several of the Romance languages. You know — Italian, French, Spanish… because I would use all of those someday. Because at age 14, everything seemed possible and there was so much time coming down the pike that throwing in a few extra languages should not be a problem as I launched my brilliant career.
It’s only been a little over thirty years, and I have not gotten around to that little romance language project yet, but no worries. I still have the podcast Italian language course on my ipod, and if I get right on that, I’ll be caught up in no time.
But, back to Latin. Sure, it was considered a “dead language”. It did not have any applicability to what would turn out to be a career in marketing management and the food industry, which made Latin a nonsensical curriculum choice in the 1980’s. But at the time, it represented endless possibilities.
Here we are decades later, and the trip to Rome brought me back to those Latin classes over and over. Not that I could read most of the Latin inscriptions on the monuments and the art. My conversational Latin had been limited to phrases such as “The girl is standing by the aqueduct”, which does not come up much. Because we did not go see the aqueduct. Otherwise I would have been set.
We did see the Tiber River, and that always figured prominently in the lessons: “Romulus and Remus sat by the Tiber River…”, that kind of thing. The Tiber looked just as I had pictured. A no-nonsense kind of river. That’s why I took a picture of a bridge instead of the brown water.
And this little guy has been watching over the river since before high school Latin classes were invented.
Romulus and Remus are popular figures in the art and lore of Rome. Their likenesses grace many postcards and are sold at most souvenir stands, along with their “mother”. According to Roman mythology, they are the traditional founders of Rome. In addition, they hold the distinction of being “pre-eminent among the famous feral children in mythology and fiction”, or so says wikipedia. And that is saying something, because those feral children can get quite famous. Which all just serves to remind me that when they say truth is stranger than fiction? Sometimes it is true, but not always.
And the Latin? It turns out it is not dead yet. More on that later.