The Challenges of Etymology and Historical Linguistics: Varro, On the Latin Language, V. 5

“The passing of time degrades most things; it destroys many. The man you saw as a handsome boy you find distorted in old age. A third generation does not see the same man the first witnessed For this reason, the things which memory has stolen from our forebears, despite the work of Mucius and Brutus to track the fugitives down, cannot be brought back. If I am not able to track things down, I will not be slower because of it, but quicker in pursuit if possible. For the shadows in the forests where these things must be sought are not modest and there are no worn paths to the places we want to pursue—and, certainly, no few obstacles which may stand in the tracker’s way.”

Vetustas pauca non depravat, multa tollit. Quem puerum vidisti formosum, hunc vides deformem in senecta. Tertium seculum non videt eum hominem quem vidit primum. Quare illa quae iam maioribus nostris ademit oblivio, fugitiva secuta sedulitas Muci et Bruti retrahere nequit. Non, si non potuero indagare, eo ero tardior, sed velocior ideo, si quivero. Non mediocres enim tenebrae in silva ubi haec captanda neque eo quo pervenire volumus semitae tritae, neque non in tramitibus quaedam obiecta quae euntem retinere possent.

Marcus Terentius Varro was a Roman scholar who lived from the time of the Gracchi until after the Battle of Actium (116 BC to 27). He wrote 25 books on the Latin language, of which we have barely 20%

Leave a Reply