For almost three centuries, Latin dominated the civic and sacred worlds of Europe and, arguably, the entire western world. From the moment in the sixteenth century when it was adopted by the Humanists as the official language for schools and by the Catholic Church as the common liturgical language, it was the way in which millions of children were taught, people prayed to God, and scholars were educated. Francoise Waquet’s history of Latin between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries is a highly original and accessible exploration of the institutional contexts in which the language was adopted. It goes on to consider what this conferring of power and influence on Latin meant in practice. Among the questions Waquet investigates are: What privileges were, and are still, accorded to those who claim to have studied Latin? Can Latin as a subject for study be anything more than purely linguistic or does it reveal a far more complex heritage? Has Latin’s deeply embedded cultural legacy already given way to a nostalgic exoticism? Latin: A Symbol’s Empire is a valuable work of reference, but also an important piece of cultural history: the story of a language that became a symbol with its own, highly significant empire.
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