Towards a Global History of the Latin Language: Latinity after Antiquity

 posted by | 29/04/2022

Dr Graham Barrett, Senior Lecturer in Late Antiquity and Joint Programme Leader for Classical Studies in the School of History and Heritage, has just published a special issue of Eranos: Acta Philologica Suecana on the theme of ‘Latinity after Antiquity’, co-edited with Oren Margolis (Lecturer in Renaissance Studies at the University of East Anglia) and featuring contributions by scholars from the UK, the USA, France, Italy, and Austria.

Despite the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, Latin remained the dominant code of communication in European society and beyond for a millennium. And yet in the minds of many of its most prolific users and commentators, it has experienced a continuous cycle of existential crises.

After multiple reappraisals and re-fashionings of Latinity in the early and high Middle Ages, the self-conscious definition of language and its relationship to culture which arose in fourteenth-century Italy led to the bestowal of the much-controverted title of ‘renaissance’ on the ensuing age. But, with respect to Latinity, was (and is) this label a distinction without a difference? Not only in the Quattrocento, but also in earlier and later eras, cultivating ‘good Latin’, however this was defined, and indeed being seen to cultivate it were matters of the utmost importance, an inexhaustible wellspring of sociocultural capital.

This special issue is a first step towards writing a global history of the Latin language. The object is to study the language of the language itself: the value attributed to Latin, its standing vis-à-vis other languages, the qualities linked with it, and the issues in which it was implicated.

The remit is Latinity after Antiquity, and six essays range in focus from Christians and Muslims in late antique North Africa and the chancelleries of high medieval Europe via the public and private scholars of the Renaissance world to the Jesuits in early modern India and nationalism in nineteenth-century Hungary.

Eranos is in the process of becoming a fully open-access online journal, and ‘Latinity after Antiquity’ will be the first issue available in digital form.

For further information, please see:
Dr Barrett’s staff profile page (
The Svenska Klassikerf√∂rbundet’s webpage for the journal (
The Global and Transregional Studies Research Group (

Story submitted by Graham Barrett