Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Manilius, G P Goold, Rheinisches Museum, Perhaps More Life Left In Latin Than I'd Thought?

I had not been aware of Manilius and his work,

until, browsing in my favorite 2nd-hand bookstore, I came across the Loeb edition and translation by G P Goold. Glad I stumbled across this. I like Manilius. I was very surprised by the assertion on the Loeb dust jacket that Manilius' Astronomica is the oldest work on astrology which we possess, but the more I research that question, the more it appears to be true. Astrology goes back much further than Manilius, who wrote around the time of the change from BC to AD (and yet, astonishingly, makes no mention whatsoever of Jesus!), having been practiced in Mesopotamia long before there was a Rome, and astrology is mentioned in many works written long before Manilius, and also it appears that some entire works were devoted to it before him, but that this is the oldest volume whose text we now possess devoted entirely to astrology. (It also appears, unfortunately, that most of the Amazon reviews of Goold's edition/translation have been written, not by philologists, but by people who actually believe in, or even practice, astrology, but whaddygonnado.)

Just in case there was any doubt whatsoever in anyone's mind: I do not believe in astrology. But that will stop me from enjoying a 2000-year-old author who did believe in it, fervently, even, as little as my not believing in the literal existence of Zeus will stop me from enjoying Homer.

Manilius' feud with Lucretius doesn't bother me either, even though I'd naturally almost always side with Lucretius. It doesn't bother me because Manilius can write.

And so can G P Goold, who edited and translated Manilius for the Loeb series. I like Goold just as I like Manilius, and just as I was surprised that I didn't know who Manilius was, so too I was surprised that I hadn't heard of Goold. Goold mentions that the latest English translation of Manilius before his (1977) appeared in the 17th century. Which explains to some extent why I hadn't heard of either of them.

So, this one little Loeb volume acquainted me with Manilius, and with Goold, and an article referred to on page cxx of Goold's introduction was doubly an eye-opener, because it appeared to have been published in 1956 in the Rheinischem Museum, and, possibly, in Latin. Its title is in Latin. As time goes on, annoyingly, articles which have Latin titles in academic journals seem more and more often to be written in vernaculars, why the misleading Latin titles, academics? does it make you feel smart? it doesn't make you look smart -- but in this case I was hopeful. (Goold actually IS smart.)

You see, I'd often heard of the Rheinischen Museum (it's a journal about ancient Greek and Latin), but it had always been in connection with the 19th century and guys like Boeckh and Ritschl (who were among its editors) and Nietzsche (who published a couple of pieces in it -- yes, in Latin -- when he was Ritschl's protogee at the University of Bonn, before he switched from philology to philosophy and poetry). (PS, 28. January 2015: CORRECTION: Some of Nietzsche's contributions to the Rheinischen Museum were in Latin and some were in German) I'd had no idea that it was still in operation as late as 1956. And naturally if Goold had published something in a philological journal in Latin as late as 1956 then he was my boy all the more so, because journal articles in Latin had by 1956 become just a wee bit exotic, and, as regular readers of The Wrong Monkey know, I am for the preservation of Latin as a living language. (No, it ain't quite dead yet, that's bullshit. It's been feeling poorly the past century or so, and as we speak it might be getting sicker rather than recuperating, but it ain't dead yet.)

So I looked around, and not only was the Rheinische Museum still being published in 1956, it's still being published now, thank you, God, and every single bit of every issue of it from 1827 until 3 years ago can be seen here, absolutely free. (They wait for 3 years before putting new issues online.)

And not only is Goold's article in the Rheinischen Museum in Latin, but I've also found articles in Latin published in the journal as recently as 1993. Most of the articles in the Museum by the 1950's were in vernaculars, German or English or Italian or French, but by the 1950's most of the (annual) issues still had at least 1 or 2 pieces in Latin. Not as many as in the 1820's admittedly, and by the 1990's Latin pieces had become rarer still than in the 1950's, but still.

And the question is not Why do they still write things in Latin now and then but Why don't they do it oftener. IT'S A JOURNAL ABOUT ANCIENT LATIN AND GREEK. How on Earth does it make more sense to assume that its readers are fluent in German, English, Italian and French, than to suggest that its authors write in Latin? Some -- no, many journals, and not just journals about ancient literature, but also journals about mathematics and biology and other subjects still, were by the late 19th century still written mostly or often entirely in Latin, and the question is not Gee, why, did they do that, it's so quaint, but Why did they stop doing that, it's so stupid. An international language not favoring any one contemporary nation, truly, impartially international, and people just decided to stop using it, why? Stupid.

Well, it's not quite dead yet. I haven't checked all of the issues of the Rheinischen Museum yet, it may be that articles in Latin continue to have an occasional home there. It may be that other journals of which I'm not aware still accept Latin. Thank Christ, Oxford and Teubner and other publishers still put out new volumes with prefaces in Latin, at least. It's not the same as volumes of new original writing entirely in Latin which as late as 1900 still weren't so unusual even if they had nothing to do with the Catholic Church, which of course still published boatloads of Latin right up until 1962 -- but it's something.

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