Colloquial Latin (presentation: need feedback)

By Callaina, in 'Latin Culture', Oct 24, 2018.

  1. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Canada
    As part of my Latin tutorial on Friday, we're going to be looking at a few excerpts from the Satyricon. To introduce this, I've made a few overheads discussing colloquial Latin and what/how we know about it.
    This isn't at all my area of specialty, so I would appreciate feedback, particularly if you spot any glaring errors.

    Overhead 1: Colloquial/"Vulgar" Latin

    Most people did not speak in the elite/ learned style of Cicero, Virgil, etc.!
    How do we know how common people spoke?
    - Graffiti (at Pompeii & elsewhere) [accompanying "comic strip" picture from Pompeii]
    - Plays of Plautus/Terence (but in meter = not entirely trustworthy!)
    - Inscriptions (gravestones, etc.)
    - The Vulgate (Christian Bible translated into ”language of the people (vulgus)” – but is later Latin!)
    - Two Latin novels: Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (complete) & Petronius’ Satyricon (fragmentary)

    Overhead 2: Petronius and The Satyricon
    - Gaius Petronius Arbiter (27-66 CE): lived during Nero’s reign
    - Served as consul in 62; later, elegentiae arbiter (“fashion adviser”) to Nero
    - Generally portrayed as pursuing a life of high luxury and pleasure at Nero’s court
    - Accused of treason & arrested in 65; chose to take his own life

    - The novel The Satyricon is usually attributed to him (uncertain authorship!)

    Overhead 3: The Satyricon
    - 141 chapters preserved (possibly much longer!)
    - Relates the adventures of Encolpius (retired gladiator) & Giton (his slave/lover)
    - Prosimetric (contains passages of prose alternating with poetry)
    - Mostly humorous/satirical in nature
    - Not moralizing; highly erotic & explicit (contains many sexual scenes)

    - Reflects/satirizes decadence of Nero’s court? Cena Trimalchionis (= “Trimalchio’s dinner”)

    Overhead 4: What can the Satyricon tell us about colloquial Latin?
    - Depicts the lives/speech of lower/middle-class characters
    - Idiomatic phrases, common sayings, slang
    - Hapax legomena = words that appear only once in the entire (Classical Latin) corpus (meaning uncertain!)
    -> e.g. ...(amāvī) Melissam Tarentīnam, pulcherrimum bacciballum
    ...I loved Melissa Tarentia, a very pretty little ball of fluff (??)
    - Grammatical “mistakes” (use of “wrong” case/preposition; “wrong” conjugations of verbs)
    - Alternate forms of words
  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    No glaring mistakes (I haven't checked all the biographical facts about the perhaps Petronius; but it seems to tally with what I remember reading), but a couple of details:
    I would say something like "how do we know what (little) we know", because we don't in fact know that much.
    Though it may favor a couple of "vulgar" constructions over classical ones (the most obvious example being quod/quia instead of accusative and infinitive), the Vulgate is a literal translation of Hebrew and Greek religious texts; it is very unlikely to reflect how people actually spoke.
    Apuleius's complex and highly idiosyncratic literary style also is unlikely to mirror colloquial speech, except possibly in a few dialogues (but, if memory serves, most of them are rather literary too).
  3. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Canada
    Ok, thanks. :)
  4. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    Perhaps you could add Cicero's letters to your list as being colloquial to some extent.
  5. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Canada
    Well, I guess it's a sort of "elite colloquial Latin", but probably still too highbrow for my list.
  6. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    The caveat here is that people usually wouldn't write an epitaph quite in the same way as they would speak in an informal context (would you?), but it's true that gravestone inscriptions teach us about some non-standard forms and constructions.
  7. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Canada
    Yes, good point.
  8. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Speaking of Petronius, I came upon this video a few days ago. I recommend the site as a whole, by the way.
  9. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Petronius gives us a samples of how people from a variety of social classes spoke. I found a great series of papers on the topic a while ago, but I can't seem to find them...
  10. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Of course, it was A Companion to the Latin Language by James Clackson. Chapter 28 The Social Dialects of Latin
    Callaina likes this.
  11. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    We also don't know for sure which Petronius*/guy wrote the Satyricon... (^so you may want to hold your horses with all that biography ;p)
    Last edited by Godmy, Oct 27, 2018
  12. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Also some speech in Petronius may be a parody of how libertini Greeks / freed Greek slaves used Latin in Rome, a parody of non-native sometimes maybe even faulty Latin, the things only the Greeks would consistently do in Latin enough to be recognized by the natives. (in some cases)
    Last edited by Godmy, Oct 25, 2018
  13. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    The truth is that we have nothing on the common speech of the city of Rome of the golden classical era. All we have is either speech from much earlier (and metrical) or from much later and often not from the City itself. And, the Vulgate is a double-edged sword, as noted, both by age and by the method it was written.
  14. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    My guess is that if you remove the endless embedded clauses from Cicero, if you remove the Graecisms and intricate terminology/vocabulary, you add some elisions + common vocabulary for everyday terms that don't appear in the usually philosophical/poetic literature etc., you get pretty much spoken Latin of the city of Rome of the golden era. But Caesar is often a good example enough...
    Last edited by Godmy, Oct 25, 2018
  15. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    She did write:
    Godmy likes this.
  16. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Ah, me and my skimming... apologies!
  17. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    But what do you mean by "which Petronius"? There were more than one? Or is the work only generally ascribed to the author we know as "Petronius"? Kinda like the gospels are attributed to the apostles?
  18. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Well, all we know (if I remember my classes on the Latin novel) that Satyricon was written by some guy which was called some way (Arbiter?) (there are some indices for it) and we only think it could have been the Petronius Arbiter, but, iirc, there are either also some other candidates or it was some guy we don't know at all.
  19. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
  20. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Hence, it's also difficult to date this work and therefore to also date the Latin...

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