By Denis Feeney

Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Horace, and different authors of historical Rome are so firmly tested within the Western canon this present day that the start of Latin literature turns out inevitable. but, Denis Feeney boldly argues, the beginnings of Latin literature have been whatever yet inevitable. The cultural flourishing that during time produced the Aeneid, the Metamorphoses, and different Latin classics was once one of many strangest occasions in history.

Beyond Greek lines the emergence of Latin literature from 240 to a hundred and forty BCE, starting with Roman degree productions of performs that represented the 1st translations of Greek literary texts into one other language. From a latest point of view, translating foreign-language literature into the vernacular turns out completely basic. yet in an historic Mediterranean international made from many multilingual societies with out corresponding to the text-based literature of the Greeks, literary translation used to be strange if no longer exceptional. Feeney exhibits the way it allowed Romans to systematically take over Greek types of tragedy, comedy, and epic, making them their very own and giving start to what has turn into referred to as Latin literature.

The progress of Latin literature coincides with a interval of dramatic swap in Roman society. The robust yet geographically constrained Roman city-state of 320 BCE had conquered all of Italy simply fifty years later. by the point Rome turned the unquestioned dominant energy within the Mediterranean over the process the subsequent century, its electorate may possibly boast of getting a different vernacular literature, in addition to a historic culture and mythology, that placed them in a distinct courting with Greek culture.

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98 The permeability between different textual formats is quite different from the permeability between spoken languages. The same script can occlude differences between languages, as we see in the case of Chinese characters: conversely, the same language can become opaque through being written in different scripts. What are today called Standard Urdu and Standard Hindi are essentially the same language, still mutually intelligible (even if drifting further and further apart, especially as a result of intense pressure on the Urdu side to “Arabize”), but Urdu is written in a Perso-Arabic script and Hindi is written in an adaptation of the Devanagari script used for transcribing Sanskrit, so that they are mutually unintelligible on paper.

9 Yet in Alexandria we see these sophisticated literate cultures living in conditions of intimacy at the élite level for a 20 Beyond Greek long time without a systematic translation project getting under way—and even without the Greek-speaking élite developing an engagement with the languages or writings of their new subjects. 11 As Most puts it, “it is only scant, unreliable, and late evidence that provides any support at all for the view . . 18 The Indian case alerted us to the fact that translation is not something we should just expect to happen whenever literate cultures overlap with Translation 21 each other, and the case of early Ptolemaic Alexandria bears this out.

26 Beyond Greek The scholarly glossaries that we know of from the Hellenistic period, for example, are not the product of a bilingual Greek world, nor are they designed to assist Greeks in reading or speaking Near Eastern languages. Overwhelmingly, they are lists of recherché words in Greek dialects. ”52 As the recent editor of this Oxyrhynchus Glossary, Francesca Schironi, puts it, “Glossaries on papyrus . . 54 It is in fact very difficult in general to assess how many Greeks learned other languages, and how much variability there was according to social standing, region, or period.

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