Here is a page from Book V of Commentarii de Bello Gallico
by Julius Caesar.
This was required reading when I was a student. Today I can barely capture the gist of it and am -all these years later- rather traumatised by the memory of the long hours I spent with a dictionary in hand, translating it with pencil and paper. My copy resides at my family home and I still can't look at the shelf it stands upon without wincing.
On this page Caesar is relating events from his 57 B.C. battle against a particularly bellicose tribe called the Nervii
, in what was then Gaul
and is now modern day Belgium.
He makes passing reference to two rival centurions, Titus Pullo and Lucius Varenus, who broke the XI Legion
ranks to engage the Nervii in hand-to-hand combat. Pullo and Varenus fought bravely and saved one another's lives, returning to the Roman line to the cheers of their comrades and the immortality of mention in Julius Caesar's dispatches.
The fictionalised (but broadly historically accurate) HBO
is wonderfully played from the perspective of these two jokers. Knowing the source material and having watched the series, I'm grateful to the producers for the nod to all the Latin students who -like me- suffered this text under tutelage.
-SRA. Auckland, 10/x 2018.Addendum:
I don't think Latin students should be taught Caesar. Commentaries
may encompass significant historical aspects of the Late Republic but it is propaganda, and novice students of the language are not well served by a writer who refers to himself in the third person like a dickhead. George Bernard Shaw
's inscription to Pygmalion
reads: I lay my eternal curse on whomsoever shall now or at any time hereafter make schoolbooks of my works and make me hated as Shakespeare is hated. My plays were not designed as instruments of torture. Cicero
, the greatest proponent of Latin prose (and oratory in any language) suffers Shaw's fate.