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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

The Latin is one but the forms of talk it were many

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Latin is a language that has maintained a remarkable unity as a written language for over 25 centuries. In many of these centuries, in reality along most of them, remained only as a written language.

But from the spoken Latin, the official language of the vast Roman Empire,  came   many different languages, so-called Romance languages, more than twenty, some missing or in danger of collapsing, (Italian, Sicilian, Spanish or Castilian, portugues, Asturian, French, Occitan, Catalan, Romanian, Sardinian, Romansh, etc..). This diversity is explained as Latin dialect variations due to the action of local substrates,  of the actual differences in pronunciation depending of the territory and the insulation of the peoples or groups.

But in Rome itself and Italy and in each of the territories is different the Latin of the scholars as one  of the illiterate and is different at one moment  or another in history. Of course, its pronunciation varied in time and space. All these issues are the subject of several linguistic disciplines that analyze the issue.

The differences in the pronunciation of Latin are therefore as old as Latin itself and so we have numerous references from the very ancient times. I will cite two or three curiosities, one refers to Hispania, which illustrate the issue and suggest some questions.

Emperor Septimius Severus (146-211) was born in Leptis Magna in North Africa, near Tripoli in Libya today. He spoke Latin with a special accent that identified him as an African and could not leave it along  his life, despite his Latin, the result of the study with tutors and education, was perfect. In the Historia Augusta, Spartianus, Vita Severii, 19, 7-10 we read:

His clothing was of the plainest; indeed, even his tunic had scarcely any purple on it, while he covered his shoulders with a shaggy cloak. He was very sparing in his diet, was fond of his native beans, liked wine at times, and often went without meat.  In person he was large and handsome. His beard was long; his hair was grey and curly, his face was such as to inspire respect. His voice was clear, but retained an African accent even to his old age.  After his death he was much beloved, for then all envy of his power or fear of his cruelty had vanished.

Hic tam exiguis vestibus usus est ut vix et tunica eius aliquid purpurae haberet, cum hirta chlamyde umeros velaret. cibi parcissimus, leguminis patrii avidus, vini aliquando cupidus, carnis frequenter ignarus.  ipse decorus, ingens, promissa barba, cano capite et crispo, vultu reverendus, canorus voce, sed Afrum quiddam usque ad senectutem sonans.  ac multum post mortem amatus vel invidia deposita vel crudelitatis metu.

Shortly before it had commented Spartianus another anecdote that reveals the difficulties of generalization of Latin in North Africa. He  tells us in Historia Augusta, Vita Servii, 15.7:

When once his sister of Leptis went to visit him, and she  could barely speak Latin, the emperor reddened of much embarrassment; granted to her son the “laticlava” toga and herself  many gift, and ordered she to return home with his son, who  died after a short life.

cum soror sua Leptitana ad eum venisset vix Latine loquens, ac de illa multum imperator erubesceret, dato filio eius lato clavo atque ipsi multis muneribus redire mulierem in patriam praecepit, et quidem cum filio, qui brevi  vita defunctus est.

The second anecdote directly affects Spanish, older Hispanics, as is documented by some peculiarity in the tone or slight accent of Latin of the Hispanics, especially in Baetica, present Andalusia.
Cicero, in his speech Pro Archia poet, 26 (In defense of the poet Archias, 26) says:

Especially so since Metellus was so keen to have his deeds written about that he even gave an audience to poets of Cordoban birth, though their style sounded coarse and outlandish.
(Note: he refers to the facts rof Metellus  in the Sertorian War)

qui (Metellus) praesertim usque eo de suis rebus scribi cuperet, ut etiam Cordubae natis poetis, pingue quiddam sonantibus atque peregrinum, tamen auris suas dederet..

But above all, it is revealing an appointment referred to the Emperor Hadrian in the already quoted above Historia Augusta, Vita Hadriani, 3.1.

Hadrian (76-138) was born on January 24, probably in Italica, near modern Seville, as Trajan,(he was his nephew),  from an old family settled here in Italy. Other sources say he was born in Rome. In any case, their relationship to Hispania and Italic is absolute.

He held the quaestorship in the fourth consulship of Trajan and the first of Articuleius, and while holding this office he read a speech of the Emperor's to the senate and provoked a laugh by his somewhat provincial accent. He thereupon gave attention to the study of Latin until he attained the utmost proficiency and fluency

Quaesturam gessit Traiano quater et Articuleio consulibus, in qua cum orationem imperatoris in senatu agrestius pronuntians risus esset, usque ad summam peritiam et facundiam Latinis operam dedit.

It seems  that in the Baetica then, as in Andalusia today, was a remarkable peculiarity in the pronunciation. This important issue poses some questions: if these peculiarities are due as early as the first century, how spoken in Andalusia (Andalucía) in the fourth century? What about the VI and VII?, And considering that the Muslim invaders in 711 and later were  few in number, how it was spoken in Al-Andalus in the VIII, IX, X, XI centuries?

Since then, the language of the Andalusian is not at all a "Castilian" degraded, as sometimes even claim illustrious ignorants.

   
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