A Biography of Latin
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In his erudite and entertaining "biography," Nicholas Ostler shows how and why (against the odds, through conquest from within and without) Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa. Its cultural creep toward Greek in the East led it to copy and then ally with it in an unprecedented, but invincible combination: Greek theory and Roman practice, delivered through Latin, became the foundation of Western civilization. Christianity, a latecomer, then joined the alliance, and became vital to Latin's survival when the empire collapsed. Spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east. But a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europe's New World in the Americas. E pluribus unum.
Illuminating the extravaganza of its past, Nicholas Ostler makes clear that, in a thousand echoes, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.
- Bloomsbury Publishing, May 2009
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