Sunday, 9 July 2017

A Latin Library on Your Phone

by Caroline Lawrence

We live in an extraordinary age of access to research and resources. Every day more and more photo galleries, manuscripts and scholarly articles come online. 

As an author of historical fiction set in Ancient Rome I have at my fingertips all the primary sources, commentaries and maps any scholar could ask for. 

But one of my favourite tools is an app I bought a few years ago for less than a fiver. Paul Hudson devised the SPQR app as a resource for teachers and students of Latin. 

It has tons of useful features but the ones I use most are the Latin dictionary, the Latin parser and a select library of Latin authors, most with translation included. These are all available offline, so you don't need access to the internet once you've got the app. 

You can find the works of Apuleius, Augustine, Augustus (Res Gestae), Bede, Caesar, Cato, Catullus, Cicero, Horace, Jerome, Juvenal, Livy, Martial, Ovid, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Propertius, Sallust, Suetonius, Tacitus, Tibullus, Virgil and Vitruvius just to name a few. 

Those that come with the English translation include St Augustine, Caesar, Catullus, some of the Cicero, Horace, Jerome, Juvenal, Livy, Martial, Ovid, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, most of Suetonius, Tacitus, Virgil and Vitruvius. 

In my Roman Quests books for kids, I use a Latin word for each chapter header and invite my young readers to guess the meaning and then check if they are right at the back. 

To make sure I’m using the best word, I type in the word and do an author search both in English and Latin. 

Because Hudson has used translations out of copyright, they are sometimes outdated. So the ruder Catullus poems are left blank as they were in some earlier translations. But some of the out-of-copyright translations are a revelation. Dryden’s translation of Virgil's Aeneid, for example. 

The wound pours out a stream of wine and blood;
The purple soul comes floating in the flood.

Or this translation of Aeneid 9.571ff

His shield thrown by, to mitigate the smart,
He clapped his hand upon the wounded part:
The second shaft came swift and unespied,
And pierced his hand and nailed it to his side,
Transfixed his breathing lungs and beating heart:
The soul cam issuing out, and hissed against the dart. 

It was thanks to this app I discovered Dryden. For that alone it was worth the money. 

But I use it every day.  

For a full list of features go HERE.

The producers of the SPQR app also offer an utterly addictive version of Latin hangman. So next time you want to play a game, forget about angry birds and candy jewels... 

...go revive your Latin!

Caroline Lawrence has written the million-selling Roman Mysteries and is now writing books for kids aged 8+ set in Roman Britain, The Roman Quests. The third one, Death in the Arena, is out 13 July 2017.


Unknown said...

I found this post really interesting, Caroline. When I went on an archaeological holiday to Tunisia, some years ago, Dryden's translation of the Aeneid was one of the books on the reading list - specifically, the section about Dido.

I'd always assumed that Dryden's poetry was overblown 18th century bombast, but I was wrong. I found myself reading the Dido section out loud and, I can assure you, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up! It's really powerful stuff.

Caroline Lawrence said...

Wonderful feedback, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing.