Dead Languages

What sort of Dead Languages would magi have access to?
I'm aware that Latin (obviously), Gothic and Hebrew are widely available
I'm less certain if Magi have regular access to Egyptian, Aramaic, or Pictish. I see Coptic is listed as a Dead Language in Ancient Magic - I thought it wasn't entirely dead then, or is its declining use considered a sufficient categoric shift, like Aramaic?
Also, to clarify: Medieval Greek is sufficiently intelligible with Ancient Greek that Living Language (Greek) functions for understanding it, largely anyway, yes?

I thought for sure I'd find something about this in Art and Academe or searching the forum but, to my shock, very little of aid.

If I remember correctly, the living Greek counts as -2 when speaking Ancient Greek, but you cannot read Ancient Greek with the living Greek language. I might have misread, it has been a few weeks since I was doing heavy reading of the Theban book.

As for Coptic, IMO I would allow Coptic to be either a living spoken language in 13th century or a written dead language.... I would not get picky but there would have to have been a teacher of it so probably make it a dead language then?

I have never heard of any two educated persons agree on Pictish so good luck getting a consensus on that one. :smiley:

I am mostly unlearned so I agree with nearly anything.

Wikipedia tells me that Coptic is a flourishing living literary and spoken language in the 13th century. Coptic is the "modern" dialect of Egyptian. Although, it might not help much with Old Egyptian, and it is written in a different script. In the same way that being fluent in modern English, doesn't make you fluent in old English.

There are various forms of Aramaic, it should still be a living language in the 13th century (in the right places), as it still available (but rare) as a living language today. Although again, speaking 13th century Aramaic might not help much in speaking Old Aramaic, or biblical Aramaic.

Egyptian hieroglyphs and other ancient languages (Sumerian, etc) were only relatively recently translated (19th-20th century). So, probably aren't readable by mundanes in the 13th century. Cuneiform (which Sumerian, Akkadian and other languages was written in) wasn't even unanimously recognised as writing until the 19th century.

On the other hand, in Mythic Europe exotic readers, like ghosts, people stuck in timeless regios, magic creatures that have lived forever, etc might be able to read (and teach) otherwise unreadable script.

That's basically what I'm uncertain about, which languages are available to Magi, even if only in spoken form. Obviously, Ancient Egyptian literature was only recently discovered (but that's only because no one ever understood the purpose of any dual-documents like the Rosetta stone. A magus or linguistic scholar would probably be a bit quicker on the uptake.)

Egyptian has 3 scripts: hieroglyph, demotic and coptic (modified greek). Without a Rosetta Stone, there can be no access to early writings. Medieval Coptic can be seen as an evolution of ancient Egyptian. "Until the 10th century, Coptic remained the spoken language of the native population outside the capital." ... mic_period

Not so sure about Gothic actually, outside of house Bjornear.

Although remember that as this is Mythic Europe, you can always ask a sphinx to translate for you (or similar).

In Mythic Europe everything is conceivably translatable --- it is just up to your saga to decide whether magi have access to the right resources or not.

And i would bet that someone, or probably more than one already have done that, so the question becomes wether you know of one, can find one, or have to do it again yourself... :wink:

So the short version is that Egyptian is by no means accessible to the Magi at the start of 1220 without extraordinary means, over and done.

What about other dead languages?

Greek is an interesting case because the spoken form was a modernized "Medieval" Greek while most literature was still being written in a Classical style. Biblical Greek was somewhere in between.

I'd be generous in letting characters take a single skill and specialize in one of these versions. I'd rather the players find it worthwhile to learn languages, rather than throwing up their hands and using magic to communicate in lieu of learning three or four different skills just within the sphere of Greek.

I agree.

But if they were the member of the right Mystery Cult or whatever, then they could. I would rule that taking, say, a Minor Virtue to give access would be fine...and would probably give you 50 free XP in it.

Pretty much the same, I think. The languages are dead. Unless the magus is a member of a community that still speaks/reads it for some reason.

There is an example of this in Legends of Hermes, so yes, this can be done. If you do not know how to read, just ask a ghost to read if for you and use thoughts within babel to know what he is talking about :slight_smile:


That was a surprisingly perfect mistype. :mrgreen:

Actually, it is a perfect miss-remembering :stuck_out_tongue: Or not. IIRC in the Spanish 3rd edition of Ars Magica it is how the spell is called. I have to say that it has sense and it sounds MUCH grander than the rather lame name of the official spell. It has always been called like "babel" IMS.


For a society that includes necromancers most dead languages should be eminently available for anyone able to make enough of an effort, yes?

Probably, although it's not completely straight-forward.

You do need to locate the correct dead people (or at least Arcane Connections to them), and the "long dead" are often unavailable for various reasons (or are mad, or uncooperative, or unintelligible). Also you need some old texts or something to read, to make it all worthwhile.

Lol, didnĀ“t know that. :smiley:

This is a couple editions ago, but in Lion of the North the ability 'Speak Pictish' is known only by gruagach. I don't have 5th ed Hedge Magic, so I'm not sure if that's still the case. No idea about the written language.


Hey thanks for remembering.

In 5th Ed Hedge Magic they do cover the Pictish language. They call it a dead language that only the gruagach know. It is considered sacred and they use it as magi use Magic Theory.

HM, pg. 56 Gruagach Abilities ... if it helps Jachra

There are also endless smaller "tribal" languages, of various Germanic/Celtic tribes that were wiped out by each other or the Romans. There are far more unknown (or unheralded) "lost" languages than known dead ones.

But that level of effort is the question.

For instance, Linear A ( ) appears (best guess) to be Minoan of some sort, but how tough would it be to find an AC to a person whose society disappeared ~2.5 millenia before the AM era, and the central cities by a massive volcanic explosion/sunami. But it would make an interesting quest for the right mage/player!