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Author Topic: 'Latins' in England  (Read 13361 times)

Jayson

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'Latins' in England
« on: February 18, 2011, 07:57:24 PM »
---I've just borrowd an old coy of 'Bede's Ecclestiastical History of England' and in Chapter 1, under 'The Situation of Britain and Ireland, and of their ancient inhabitants', I've found the following:

'This island at present...cntains five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts and Latins...'

I've never before seen mention of Latins living in England at that time (approx. 700) and am not sure to whom Bede is referring?  Does he mean the descendants of the Romans who perhaps did not return to Rome with the soldiers but stayed on in Britain?   If not  --  who? 

Any ideas?
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Linden

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2011, 09:44:53 PM »
Were you reading it in Latin or whose translation are you reading?  As I understand it, Bede referred to four - not five - peoples (the English, British, Scots and Picts) but five languages of which Latin was used by all for the common study of the scriptures.
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leofwin

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2011, 02:05:26 PM »
yes, languages rather than people. Latin, the language of the Church

Jayson

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2011, 03:52:44 PM »
Reply to Linden:   beleive me, I'm reading it in English  --  Old English is hard enough and I'd never be able to tackle the Latin language!   It's an Everyman library book by J M Dent and Sons, probably published at the end of the 19th century, edited by Ernest Rhys and with an introduction by Vida D Scudder.

It is as I have written above:  the island at present...contains five NATIONS.   He doesn't mention languages until later when he says that 'the latin language has, by the study of the scriptures, become common to all'.

So  --  any idea which 'nation' he's referring to?   Later Bede does mention Ambrosius who fought against the 'Germanic races' and was a descendent of Roman nobility in the island.   Was there likely to be many such descendents of Romans and would these be the people he was referring to?
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Linden

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2011, 05:05:06 PM »
...   It's an Everyman library book by J M Dent and Sons, probably published at the end of the 19th century, edited by Ernest Rhys and with an introduction by Vida D Scudder.
...........................
It is as I have written above:  the island at present...contains five NATIONS. 


OK - In what I believe to be that book the translation of what I believe to the the passage in question is as follows:-

"There are in the island at present, following the number of the books in which the Divine Law was written, five languages of different nations employed in the study and confession of the one self-same knowledge, ....to wit, English, British, Scottish, Pictish , and Latin, the last having become common to all by the study of the Scriptures."

If this is the passage referred to, it does not state that there are 5 nations but "five languages of different nations". i.e. those used by the 4 nations speaking the other named tongues individually and Latin (a foreign language to all of them) which is used by them all.

« Last Edit: February 19, 2011, 05:07:08 PM by Linden »
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Linden

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2011, 07:24:27 PM »
Further to my previous post

I've finally found a site where its does indeed say "five nations" although it does not give the reference to the translation in question.  I assume that this (rather than the one I referred to earlier) must be the one you have acquired?

http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/bede/bl-bede-1-1.htm
"This island at present, following the number of the books in which the Divine law was written, contains five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts, and Latins, each in its own peculiar dialect cultivating the sublime study of Divine truth. The Latin tongue is, by the study of the Scriptures, become common to all the rest. "

But what Bede actually wrote was:-

"Haec in praesenti, iuxta numerum librorum, quibus lex diuina scripta est, quinque gentium linguis, unam eandemque summae ueritatis et uerae sublimitatis scientiam scrutatur, et confitetur, Anglorum uidelicet, Brettonum, Scottorum, Pictorum et Latinorum, quae meditatione scripturarum ceteris omnibus est facta communis. "

That is to say - "five languages of nations" not "five nations". 

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Jayson

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2011, 05:47:37 PM »
---thanks, that makes much more sense.   Shows that translations and books vary and that one has to be careful.   The trouble is that if you don't know the original language you have to rely on other peoples' translations.
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Linden

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2011, 06:53:54 PM »
---thanks, that makes much more sense.   Shows that translations and books vary and that one has to be careful.   The trouble is that if you don't know the original language you have to rely on other peoples' translations.

It's not only translations either! - as I've found with the Exeter Book.  Various editors alter what a manuscript actually says and change the meaning of whole lines by doing so.  Some of the riddles I am working on actually become (more) solvable when the text and punctuation of the original manuscript is restored - the editorial amendments are as much a hindrance as a help.  It would be really nice to have facsimile copies available of all the manuscripts.  I do wonder how many works other than the riddles have been substantially altered from the original intent by editing.  It's like a game of "Chinese Whispers".
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David Cowley

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2011, 02:25:36 PM »
There is the question of when Latin stopped being used as a spoken, community language. 400s, 500s or later? We don't know the answer to that. It had been spoken by many well to do families, including native Britons, and of course stayed in use for some purposes (admin, church).
I feel sure that the relative status of Latin and British at the time of the migrations was part of the reason why OE adopted so few British loan words: because in SE Britain in particular, British was a peasant tongue, already weakened by Latin. If the English hadn't come, its a moot point whether Britain would have end up with its own Latin-derived tongue in the long-run, though clearly British was always strong outside the more Romanised SE (and British actually ousted Latin in what was to become Brittany).

Linden

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2011, 03:42:11 PM »
............If the English hadn't come, its a moot point whether Britain would have end up with its own Latin-derived tongue in the long-run, .......................

An interesting thought.  My exploration of the riddles is showing that the Anglo-Saxons too were quite comfortable with the odd Latin term and there are many, many words in Bosworth and Toller which, although shown as adopted into OE, had their origins in Latin.  Perhaps, if OE had not been subsequently mixed with Norman French, it would have continued this trend with adoption of further Latin terms?
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leofwin

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2011, 11:17:02 PM »
The old English translation of Bede gives the phrase 'boc-leden', or 'book-latin. I think this implies that although it was a lingua franca (sorry!) for churchmen and others across the Christian world, it was recognized to be an academically learned language, rather than a living language learned at the mother's breast...

Linden

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2011, 12:56:17 AM »
---thanks, that makes much more sense.   Shows that translations and books vary and that one has to be careful.   The trouble is that if you don't know the original language you have to rely on other peoples' translations.

....and here's someone else misinterpreting the "five languages" quote from Bede.

"He writes: 'At the present time there are five languages in Britain'. Each language represented a different cultural and ethnic group."

.............and then going on to cite it as a precedent for "multi-culturalism" ignoring the fact that the island was still more a collection of warring tribes than anything approaching united at the time.

http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/news/Yoursfaithfully/article-3256392-detail/article.html
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 12:59:37 AM by Linden »
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David Cowley

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2011, 09:17:39 AM »
Quote Linden: ''Perhaps, if OE had not been subsequently mixed with Norman French, it would have continued this trend with adoption of further Latin terms?''
Many of the early Latin loans were technical and/or churchly terms. There may well have been an ongoing trickle/ flow of these - very likely I think. The replacement already-existing English words by French/ Latin equivalents that seems to have been at its height in the 12-1300s of course went a lot further than this.

Jayson

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2011, 04:51:03 PM »
Replying to Linden's 'multiculturalism' bit:

The Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians (and later the Danes) who settled in Britain came from a very small area in Northern Germany and any differencies could be likened to those between an inhabitant of Devon and an inhabitant of Yorkshire in, say, 1945.   The culture would have been much the same and the way they spoke would have been simply a variety of dialects of the North Germanic language.   Not sure about the Celts...
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peter horn

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Re: 'Latins' in England
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2011, 09:01:59 PM »
Replying to Linden's 'multiculturalism' bit:

The Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians (and later the Danes) who settled in Britain came from a very small area in Northern Germany and any differencies could be likened to those between an inhabitant of Devon and an inhabitant of Yorkshire in, say, 1945.   The culture would have been much the same and the way they spoke would have been simply a variety of dialects of the North Germanic language.   Not sure about the Celts...

The term 'Celt' can be meaningfully applied to a certain type of design, but used, without qualification, to denote a group of people is otherwise a meaningless term. More meaningful terms would be Britons or RB's.
I assume the Britons, living in what would become England, would have spoken Old Welsh.
peter
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