Latin - Do you care about it at all?

I've recently started trying to learn Latin, in part because of playing Ars Magica and wanting to add a little verisimilitude and flavour to my saga. So far, so good. It's a nice, scientific language in many respects.

What I was really wondering was, however, how many of the people on this board do speak or read Latin, to what level, and why? How many of you were inspired to learn it by Ars Magica? And, indeed, do any of you instead think that the use of Latin terms doesn't add anything to the game?

While I do not speak or read latin, I encounter it often in snippets in my legal studies.
Certain terminology for the legal profession (in the United States) is latin....

That having been said, I personally only speak fluent English and bad spanish... but I do know one phrase in several languages..

"don't shoot me"...

I recommend anyone who travels to learn that particular phrase in as many languages as you can manage

Dont really "speak" it at all, but can often understand at least vaugely what something means.
But my "experience" with latin is mostly thanks to that my mom studied latin during her school days( in the 50s when among other you could choose "classic"(latin) or "semi-classic(?)"(greek) as additional classes in higher education ).

My own intentional language studies have instead gone towards mainly Japanese, to a lesser degree German and minimally Spanish and Italian. So, not much room left over for more, maybe next decade... :stuck_out_tongue:
As a translator and proofreader, the more experience with different languages, the better.

And sure the latin "touch" adds something to the game, thanks to the history of latin(we┬┤re used to that anything in latin is either scientifical or (thanks to all those movies with chanting in latin) mystical). Even if it can get inconvenient or messy at times its a great touch. Only problem is that it was alot easier to come up with words while i still lived "home", thanks to my moms excellent dictionaries. :wink:


Did one year of Latin in high school. Never touched it again. We get a latin dictionary and go for a cool sounding name, if we bother using it at all. My fellow players are all into techie/social professions not dealing much with dead languages.


When i introduced my girlfriend to ArM5 over summer, the latin aspect really put her off - she really didnt like it - not even the names of the Arts :frowning:

Which is a shame as I like the flavor that the Latin adds to the game - when i was playing ArM4 a few years back, I got hold of a couple of Latin phase books, but then never got round to reading them as the game folded and I moved and now their at my parents place 100 miles away...


I shamefully regret not reading any Laton. I am also painfully aware that whenever I do try to use the little I have picked up I am doubtless abusing it with misappropriating inflections. I seem to remember a few editions back an errata or something correcting some of the Latin errors in ArM. It is a cmplicated language it seems and as a professional pedant i sure wish I had picked it up to berate others for getting it wrong!

I don't know much latin, but I do like the language generally.

I think - and have always, since I first encountered ArM2 in '89 - loved the use of latin. I think it really gives the agme the medieval flavour, with ties to ancient Rome, and what have you.

I see the structure and understand a lot of words and phrases in general, but can't grasp the grammar fully. Despite not knowong any language of the romance group, being firmly set in the germanic group (nativ language Danish, secondary language English, tertiary languare German...fleetingly).
In one of my groups, a female player really it into Latin, and is quite good and trying to get better. I've tried learning ot from a book, but only got through the first chapter. Just too much to do and I have trouble focusing and concentrating on it. I'd like to though. The group tries to use asmuch Latin as we can, say for book titles,

I find that the use of latin just add so much flavor to the game, it would be a waste not to use it.

That's why I have the project to create a hermetic book title generator...

I (used to? I haven't practiced much recently) read Latin at an advanced level required by the Ph. D. requirements of my department. I think the Latin provides a significant amount of flavour to the game, though my enjoyment is often reduced by some of the absolutely cringe-worthy attempts at latinate names and flavor that get into products (especially character names). I would like to see more of a recognition that in the Eastern Mediterranean, those Tribunals likely use Greek as their language, and, in general, a more nuanced and complicated language map of the Hermetic world.

The fact that people who do not speak Latin use Latin just makes it more medieval for me. It's like we are all ex Misc...
I often regret that I do not remember more of my school Latin - I used to be good at it, when I was young and pretty and sharp and witty... But alas, time has done her terrible work to this head of mine

I'm ok on figuring out the odd prefix and suffix, and slinging names together... but I find it very hard to to 'weem' seriously... and as for 'wees'...

I did Latin for 4 years at high school (I think we did the 5 year Cambridge course which was great fun as well / lots of insight into Roman life).

I like the aspect it brings to the game but it can be off-putting for some. It's not really necessary but...

As the origin of the vernacular Romance languages, knowing Latin helps a lot with grammar and structure and I can get a gist of what other phrases in other languages mean.

It's also very helpful for working out what odd scientific / pseudo-scientific English words mean - but that's not much use for Ars.

For names, I'm leaning towards: A Year with the OED ... 290&sr=8-1

It's got some amazing (and amazingly useless) words but they are a source of inspiration.

I don't recall enough Latin to get things correct for names usually (sorry larkvi...), but I think that's half the point in paradigm as Hermetic Latin is probably a distinct dialect unto itself. That said I agree with larkvi - I see no reason why there should not be Hermetic Arabic and Greek in Iberia, Thebes and the Levant...



I'm working my way though the Cambridge Latin Course now and finding it very easy going, and very well structured to. The fact that it adds in the bits of history and puts things into perspective along the way is a very nice touch, and helps. The humour as well (ancilla Caecilium delectat. ancilla Metellam non delectat) does a lot.

::grins:: My players often forget those ones, but have no problems with saying them. Flambeau, however, they have decided is the most camp name ever created. Since my saga is in Iberia, and they've just made a major mistake, I intend for them to soon learn their error.

I can imagine that in day to day life, Greek would see more use, but Latin is the language of scholars in Europe. Educated tomes, even if originally in Greek, would make their way through the continent as their Latin translations, and the use of Latin as the language of teaching means than a Jerbiton from Hibernia and a Tremere from Transylvania can easy communicate with each other, if not each other's grogs. In much the same way that French used to be the language of diplomats and English is now the language of business, I have no problems with Latin being the internal language of the order. It makes it easy for characters to travel, too, because they know they can communicate with priests and accountants the world over. (As an aside, the White Council in the Dresden Files books, a very Order of Hermes type institution in many respects, uses Latin for these reasons.)

Odd. There are two artists, one engineer and three scientists in my group. The scientists are all interested in Latin, the engineer decided to learn Lojban and the artists are both monolingual. Out of interest, do you think the close relationship between the various Spanish languages and Latin makes it less important or interesting for you?


Of course, to provide a game with a little extra flavor, have all the characters speak Pig Latin.



I, like larkvi, would like to see a little more "greekness" in the Order of Hermes. After all, the Byzantine Empire was the direct successor of Ancient Rome and Constantinople was the biggest city in Europe by a large margin. A lot of ancient texts lost to the Western world were still in libraries there. So if Aristotle works are so important to Hermetic Magi, why did the Magi in the East didn't just copied those books from the Greek libraries? Why had they to come through Arabic translations (that were translated for the most part from byzantine greek texts...) in the 12th century when they were available in Constantinople in the 9th and 10th century? [There are reference to Aristotle Physics and Metaphysics (and maybe others) in the Suda, a byzantine "encyclopedia" of the 10th century ]. I understand the choice of using a very Western Mythic Europe perspective, but the Eastern part always had access to academic ressources considered important in 1220, so why were they not used before? A Tribunal of Thebes sourcebook might have to adress that issue... :wink:

I'm sure they did copy the books once they learned of them, and then translated them into Latin. All their peers read and write in Latin. They were taught magic in Latin, using books written in Latin. There are (likely) words in Hermetic Latin which do not exist in any other language because they describe concepts unique to Hermetic Magic. As to why they came through Arabic translations, that's because in the real world, that's broadly how they did it. Academic snobbery is just as real as any other, and if everyone speaks Latin and knows that all the best books are in Latin, why would they ever bother learning Greek? Alfonso el Sabio was a man ahead of his time when he organised mass translation of books out of Arabic and into, amongst other things, Castillian.

To put it another way, Sergei Lukyanenko's Watch novels are widely considered good books. Until they were translated out of Russian and into English, however, the number of native English speakers who had heard of them probably numbered in the hundreds and the number who had read them, a handful, of whom evidently one had enough clout to get them translated and marketed. The history of the Order is written in Latin, and that sort of legacy takes a long time to change.

I was not suggesting that it wouldn't be easier if everyone spoke Latin, I was suggesting that it would be more historically accurate and flavorful if Greek was used in the areas it would have been used as a scholarly language in medieval Europe (and also the same for Hebrew, Arabic). I also like to control power levels by requiring multiple languages, which eat up a lot of ability points, and I also like to give different characters a chance to shine in areas where they have created characters that look like real medieval scholars, not D&D mages. Keep in mind that the early 13th century is a time of significant translation into Latin, and that a lot of work you might be familiar with in a Latin version may not have been translated in medieval Europe--barring some appropriate story reason, I prefer that it not be translated in Mythic Europe.

Certainly, most of The Order has a big emphasis on Latin, but that is a really good reason for some magi to not want to use exclusively Latin. I could imagine Mystery Cults wanting to use obscure languages (not Greek, that's relatively common too) for their records and Initiation Scripts. Particularly Mystery Cults that purport to have an ancient pedigree. Bjornaer using Gothic, for example. As an aside, using an odd language for spell casting should also lessen the chances of other magi successfully fast casting defenses against you.

Also, as I understand it, Greek was considered the language of the educated by the Romans. So some ancient literature of value to magi --- perhaps Cult of Mercury rituals, etc --- might well be in Greek rather than Latin. Magi may even feel (rightly or wrongly) that such rituals (and other non-mainstream magics) don't work properly if translated into Latin.

I like all these things too. I never did see much rationale for that "Magic only works in Latin" concept. Adding richness of background while at the same time slowing advancement by requiring study of additional languages sounds like a win win to me.