Authentic classics

Quasus

Civis Illustris
The works of classical authors present the core of Classical Latin, the variation of Latin that has been the object of study throughout the centuries. That is Caesar, Cicero and others are our fundament. The more confusing for me sounded the following words (from a forum):
It's like the Bible in Church Slavonic: nowadays it's quite different from what it used to be in Nikon's time - lots of antiquated words have been replaced with more intelligible ones, the same is true in in respect of antiquated grammatical and syntactic turns. The same thing was happening to Latin texts. They were not being corrupted, but people just tried to write them in a more intellegible way. Besides, there were different sorts of scribes: one of them used to copy texts scrupulously like maniacs, others, on the contrary, rather rendered them in a free manner.
The words belong to a man whose erudition I doubt not in the least. Yet I strongly hope he is wrong this time. Are there evidences available that texts ascribed to Caesar & Co. are authentic rather than a fake of first millennium's scribes?
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
to dispose of = to get rid of

It's true that some scribes made changes in the Latin texts (or usually simply errors) when they copied them, but most texts have come down to us in different manuscripts ... with some scientific methodology it is possible to reconstruct the architype of the texts to a large extent.
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
This is an important issue. Most of our manuscripts are mediaeval copies. If you read the introduction to a text, you will usually find a discussion of which manuscripts are available, their relative reliability, and how they were merged to achieve the best approximation of the original.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
On the other hand, think of the Late Empire and Dark Ages when the native language of a scribe could be Latina uulgaris or a kind of Latina rustica. Is it inconceivable that such a scribe could, say, slightly inverse the word order so that the text sounded more naturally from his point of view?
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
You need to be a bit careful with the term Dark Ages. Don't forget that it was during the enlightened period of the Carolingian renaissance that many of these texts were copied, and if they had not been, we would not have them at all.

But answering your question, yes it happened fairly regularly. It is not necessarily deliberate. It is quite difficult to write out an entire book without errors. There is a branch of codicology which deals with how to reconstruct the original text from manuscripts. Have a read of the discussion at the beginning of one of the critical editions and you will get some idea of what they have done.
 

Big Horn

Active Member
The best reading is generally the hardest reading. That's been an axiom of textual criticism since the days of Aristophanes of Byzantium. The reason is simple. A scribe would be unlikely to substitute a more difficult construction because he couldn't understand a simpler one, but he would likely provide a simpler construction if he didn't understand the more difficult but more sophisticated original and thought it must be incorrect.

The subject of textual transmission is fascinating. I suggest Scribes and Scholars for an introduction to the subject. The Fourth Edition is the current edition. I have the Third Edition which has served me well for many years. This work belongs in the library of every classicist. Those of us with no university affiliation can really appreciate it.

https://www.amazon.com/Scribes-Scholars-Guide-Transmission-Literature/dp/0199686335/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506229147&sr=1-1&keywords=scribes+and+scholars
 
Top