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How Do I Love Thee? Say it in Latin!

February 14, 2013
Contacts: 

Dave Ottalini 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The ancient Romans knew a little something about celebrating love - but it was March, not February when they had their fun. "Love celebrations did not show up on the ancient Roman calendar until March 1, which was sacred to Juno, goddess of marriage," says University of Maryland Classics Professor Judith Hallett. "On that day husbands would pray for the health of their wives and give them presents, and wives would dress up."

Poems were a favorite way to express that love - for instance, the poet Catullus (ca. 55 BCE) sent this missive to his married lover (translation by Dorothea Wender (1934-2003):

Catullus (ca. 55 BCE) sent this missive to his married lover (translation by Dorothea Wender (1934-2003)

Hallett says there are many, many examples of romantic poems sent by one Roman lover to another.

But for a romantic looking to express his or her love in the 21st Century, Hallett suggests something a bit...different. A more modern love song - translated into Latin, for example, might just be the perfect way to woo a lady's heart. Take the classic "As Time Goes By" (by Herman Hupfeld. Copyright 1931 by Warner Brothers) made famous in the movie Casabanca (scroll down to hear the audio version).

"As Time Goes By" (by Herman Hupfeld. Copyright 1931 by Warner Brothers)

Listen to As Time Goes By in Latin - sung by:

John Starks

Assistant Professor of Classics

State University of New York at Binghamton

 

Roman Playwright Plautus c. 254 - 184 BCEHallet's recent research has focused on ancient Roman "love talk." In a new essay published in Advances in the History of Rhetoric, Volume 9 (published at Maryland and edited by Professor Robert Gaines of the Communications Department), she focuses on the writing of Plautus' Phoenicium (Pseudolus 41-73). In that comedic work, Plautus - who was a 2nd century BCE (Before Christian Era) playwright - looks at the different ways in which two men of very different social classes assess the erotically-charged words of one specific woman.

"Plautus, in his characteristically funny way, illustrates that social class, that of the critic and that of the writer, plays a major role in how Roman women's writings, and in this case erotic Latin writings, were judged by men," says Hallett.

Professor Hallett's Faculty Home Page

Gender, Class, and Roman Rhetoric: Assessing the writing of Plautus' Phoenicium (Pseudolus 41-73) by Prof. Judith Hallett (PDF)

 Classics Department at the University of Maryland