Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ancient News - You Heard It Here First.

As my old mate Erasmus once said...."In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is King."

Actually what he said was..... "In regione caecorum rex est luscus" but he was a clever clogs and liked to show off by speaking in Latin.

It's a little known fact, but I was taught Latin and Greek at school. And Ancient History.

I actually chose two of those and the other, Latin, was thrust upon me. I think that back in the day in Northern Ireland, every Catholic child was taught Latin if only to make the Mass a bit more interesting as you could translate as it went along !

Sadly this never worked for me and going to Mass EVERY day, I simply 'learned' the words parrot fashion and hadn't a clue what they meant. Thus I could recite large chunks of Latin to anyone who cared to listen but couldn't order a case of wine from an Italian vineyard if you paid me. Not that they spoke Latin either but my point is, combining the Latin from the Mass with the Latin I learned in school has been as much use to me in later life as the high hopes I had for the condom I bought in the hot summer of 1968.

Basically.....no use whatsoever.

And then there was Greek. Oh not modern Greek which might have been useful on a later trip to Greece. No, this was Ancient Greek. Another dead language. I could talk about battles and generals and what Leonidas wore to a Friday night orgy (not much as it happens !) but as for shopping at a modern Athenian mall, I'd have been clueless.

So why pick it ? Well it was a choice between Greek or Irish so for me it was a no brainer. I always felt a bit sorry for the 98% of the Greek class who had actually chosen Irish but to even out the numbers and ensure the 2 of us who chose Greek weren't lonely, they were forced to learn Greek. Hehe. No actually I didn't feel sorry for them at all.

Since leaving school in 1970, I've never uttered a word of ancient Greek and to my knowledge the only Latin words I've spoken have been a few temper fugits and the occasional semper fi (semper fidelis really) when getting into a modern war movie. Oh and I may have thrown in a few other well known phrases ad nauseam.

Including ad nauseam if fact.

Now I know a lot of legal and medical terms have Latin or Greek roots but then again I'm not a lawyer or a doctor so it's hard for me to take comfort from that fact. I guess my 45 year old knowledge of Latin/Greek can come in handy when I hear some new technical word as I can have a decent stab at what it means.

But I've never regretted choosing Ancient History as a school subject. As a teenager I loved Homer's stories long before they were used as a basis for The Simpsons. Being a shy child at boarding school, I'd often transport myself to the golden age of classical heroes and battle with the Cyclops and Medusa and sail the Aegean Sea finding adventures and excitement galore. Often I'd be a Spartan warrior with my helmet and shield (and not a lot else it seems) and fight anyone who glared at me. School bullies beware !

In reality, I'd probably have been one of the many babies thrown off the cliffs when it became clear I'd need glasses and be bald in later life ! Only the bestest kids survived in Sparta.

(I know, I know. This myth has been debunked by experts now but once again, this is MY blog)

Strictly speaking, Ancient History wasn't really about all that but it did give me a life long love of The Iliad and The Odyssey and I think everyone should read them in some form. Just don't watch any version of Jason And The Argonauts. Hollywood crap.

Now if you're wondering when I'm going to get to the point and tie all this Latin/Greek/Ancient History stuff in with something that maybe happened on, say, the golf course yesterday.........well you'll have a long wait.

I just woke up this morning and for some unknown reason, that "one-eyed King" phrase popped into my head and a blog post was born.

Sometimes, just sometimes, a blog post can be that random.


Daphne said...

Greek has always been all Greek to me, but I did Latin at school and rather liked it. I can still remember such things as "A tener slave with an asper ring, his legs were lacer poor miser thing. If I were liber and prosper, he said, I'd have frugifer hands and a plumiger head." Adjectives that keep the e! Yes, the mysterious world of Latin and I have to say it has never been much practical use, though I quite enjoy trying to translate inscriptions on graves.

open face helmets said...

Not that they spoke Latin either but my point is, combining the Latin from the Mass with the Latin I learned in school.

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