Loving Latin at the End of the World

Joel Christensen:

Imagine the rush to leave your doomed city—the fires, the smoke, the uncertainty of where you will go, how long you will stay when you get there. In those few moments to consider your possessions, you think, “Ah, but I might have time for a book!” What do you pull from your shelves? A sacred text? Some handy and serviceable issues of Popular Mechanics? Or perhaps, like the Oxford Renaissance literature professor Nicola Gardini, you reach for Vergil’s Aeneid. “In the event of global catastrophe,” he writes in his newly translated book Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language, that would be “the book to salvage.” At that moment you become Aeneas, bending to carry the pater of a dying patria: your Anchises is the epic of Imperial Rome—and the legacy and detritus that comes with it.