Latin vs. Philology, Part XXII

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part XXII):

“But since I seem to have shown at more than sufficient length that Latin speech was that which, not being corrupted, was common to both the learned and the unlearned alike, in which there was room neither for solecism nor for barbarism, and which had no admixture of foreign or inept speech, or of excessively antiquated or uncustomary diction, I should be content to have proved the same with two or three examples.

Sallust, whom they would have as the most observant of uncorrupted Latin, left this behind in his history on the Jugurthine War: ‘There Jugurtha was with the majority. Then, when he learned of Bochus’ arrival, he turned to the infantry and said in Latin (for he had learned to speak in Numantia) that our men are fighting in vain, and Marius had killed himself shortly before with his own hand.’

Livy, in relating the battle of Tullus Hostilius against the Fidenates, wrote, ‘The terror transferred to the enemies, and they had heard it spoken with a clear voice, and a great part of the Fidenates, and those colonial citizens who had been added to the Romans, knew Latin.’

To this, the same Livy adds in his seventh book on the Second Punic War: ‘Furthermore, Hannibal approached the city at about the fourth quarter of the night. The first men in the line were Roman deserters, and had Roman arms. When they came to the gates, they all spoke Latin, woke up the guards, and ordered them to open the gate.’ Now who will doubt from these examples that it was that Latin language, which Romans spoke as a common and daily language?”

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Sed quoniam iam satis ac super mihi videor ostendisse locutionem latinam esse eam, quae non depravata doctis erat indoctisque communis, in qua nec soloecismo foret nec barbarismo locus, quaeque nihil peregrini ineptique sermonis, aut nimis etiam prisci aut inusitati haberet admixtum, idem comprobasse duobus quoque tribusve exemplis contenti simus.

Salustius, quem sincerae latinitatis observantissimum extitisse volunt, in historia de Bello Iugurthino ita reliquit scriptum: “Ibi Iugurtha cum pluribus erat. Deinde, cognito Bochi adventu, ad pedites conversus inquit latine – nam apud Numantiam loqui didicerat – nostros frustra pugnare, paulo ante Marium sua manu interfectum”.

Et Ti. Livius, in Tullii Hostilii pugna adversus Fidenatis: “Terror ad hostes transiit: et audiverant clara voce dictum, et magna pars Fidenatium, et qui coloni additi Romanis erant, latine sciebant”.

Ad haec idem Livius, libro septimo de Bello Punico secundo: “Praeterea Hannibal quarta vigilia ferme ad urbem accessit. Primi agminis erant perfugae Romanorum, et arma romana habebant. Hi, ubi ad portam est ventum, latine omnes loquentes excitant vigiles aperirique portam iubent”. Num quisquam dubitarit, vel ex huiusmodi exemplis, linguam latinam eam extitisse, qua vulgo Romani utebantur?

Et fieri nulla ratione potuisse Leonardus ait, ut latinitas hominibus indoctis foret cognita, eandemque putat esse latinitatem ac litteraturam, adducitque in medium supellex et alia nonnulla nomina, quae dicit declinari ab illitteratis nullo pacto per suos casus potuisse, idemque facit de verbis.

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