Instructor: Bruce L. Venarde, Associate Professor of History
Office: WWPH 3P56, 624-8437
Office hours: Thursdays 11:30-1:00 and by appointment


LAT 0030/LAT 1030/MRST 1022 is an intermediate-level course in Latin language and literature that also serves as an introduction to medieval Latin culture.  Readings will suggest something of the range of Latin literature from the third century to the twelfth, with emphasis on Mediterranean and western European writing.  Texts will be in a variety of genres and subjects in prose, poetry, and drama, including short pieces and excerpts plus four longer texts: a saint’s life (Passio Sanctarum Perpetua et Felicitatis),  an epic poem (Waltharius), and two Christian Latin plays (Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim’s Dulcitius and Paphnutius).  There will be some attention to linguistic differences between the medieval Latins and their classical antecedents, especially in regard to vocabulary and grammar.  Most of the course and the classes will be concerned with reading medieval Latin and situating it in historical, literary, and cultural contexts. For most students, three semesters of college Latin or the equivalent will constitute sufficient preparation.


As regards vocabulary, “medieval Latin” is just as overgeneralized a term as “modern English” – that is, words can mean a variety of things, different things in different contexts, and their usual or accepted meanings change over time.  Alas, there is nothing quite like the OED for medieval Latin.  The two best one-volume reference works are J.F. Niermeyer, Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus and R.E. Latham, Revised Medieval Latin Word‑List from British and Irish Sources.  The vast Thesaurus Linguae Latinae has the best claim to OED-like completeness.  All three, and several other medieval Latin dictionaries, are available for consultation in Hillman Library. Since the editions we will use have extensive notes, you will probably find that a good standard classical Latin dictionary will suffice.  The Book Center has a one-volume dictionary of ecclesiastical Latin (see “Books,” below) that covers much of what classical Latin dictionaries lack for medieval texts; if you don’t want to invest in that, there is an extensive if not fabulous  on-line word-list with emphasis on medieval Latin at 

Just as there is no one medieval Latin language, there is no one medieval Latin grammar.  The Sidwell anthology (see “Books”) has an extremely helpful appendix on major similarities and differences between classical and post-classical usages.

For further information on reference and research tools, philology, and literature, see the essays in F.A.C. Mantello and A.G. Rigg, Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide.

On the whole, you will find that although medieval Latin writings will contain a fairly large number of words (or usages) rarely or never seen in classical Latin, medieval syntax is generally somewhat less complex than in late Republican or early Imperial verse and prose.


Obviously, it is critical to keep up class by class; you should be prepared to translate any portion of a given day’s assignment.   You should make note of passages that confuse or surprise you; we will not have time to translate everything in class but you will have to opportunity to ask questions, either in class or in office hours.   On Thursdays we will do sight-reading in the plays of Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim. There will also be three written assignments:

1. In-class midterm examination, prepared passages: Thursday, September 23rd
2. In-class midterm examination, prepared and sight passages: Thursday, November 4th
3. Final examination or paper, choice of formats to be discussed later (exam time Saturday, December 18th, 8:00-9:50)

These will be worth roughly 15%, 20%, and 25%, respectively, of your final grade, in-class work the remaining 40%.  Marked improvement across the course of the semester will be amply rewarded.

Nota bene: If you desire additional practice in translation, you may write out a polished translation for a given week’s assignment and submit it to me.  In calculating course grades, I will add one point to your final course average for each you complete satisfactorily to a maximum of three.  You must complete these before Thanksgiving.


This class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:15. (Come with coffee, sugary snacks, or any other substance that will help you to concentrate!) If you miss class more than twice, I’ll want to know why.  There will be no class meeting on Tuesday, November 23rd.

(available at the Book Center)

Hrotsvitha, Dulcitius and Paphnutius, ed. Paul Pascal
Passion Sanctarum Perpetua et Felicitatis, ed. James W. Halporn
Keith Sidwell, ed., Reading Medieval Latin
, ed. Gernot Wieland
Leo F. Stelton, Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin (recommended only)


The intention is to assign whatever we can reasonably absorb across the course of the semester.  As noted above, we will not be able to translate everything in class.   Basically we will do four units working in chronological order, dividing our reading between the excellent Sidwell reader and the longer texts.  What’s proposed below is ambitious but feasible.

Bring your copies of Hrotsvitha’s plays on Thursdays, but you need not prepare them.   We will read both plays across the semester.

To make your planning easier, the exams will be given on the stated schedule and test whatever we have covered to that point.

I.  Weeks of August 30th-September 20th
Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis
Hrotsvitha, Dulcitius

II. Weeks of September 27th-October 11th
The Vulgate Bible and Patristic Latin: Sidwell, Reading Medieval Latin, pp. 1-14, 18-24, 29-48 
Hrotsvitha, Paphnutius

III.  Weeks of October 18th-November 15th
Hrotsvitha, Paphnutius (cont’d.)

Nota beneWaltharius is a warrior epic of some 1,450 lines.  I will excerpt it heavily since even I’m willing to admit that after a while the battle scenes get repetitive.  (Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other content, including Huns with hangovers and a spunky heroine.)

IV. Weeks of November  30th-December 6th
Poetry and Prose of the Twelfth Century:  Sidwell, Reading Medieval Latin, 256-258, 278-285,
336-340, 347-352
Hrotsvitha’s Prefaces