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Customer Review

on 22 November 2008
An African Goddess once answered the question: How to save the environment? Her answer, through her Oracle: "Know the history of the people!". This book touches its light everywhere across the history of Europe, tracing roots and connections, dispelling shadows, making it make sense. For Latin is everywhere, hiding just beneath the surface of our cultures, and often slipping into plain view even in the most Germanic of contexts. Ostler does a brilliant job of explaining the creation of Latin in the crucible of early Rome, its remarkable spread, its extraordinary persistence, its transmutation from the language of the state, elite and army to that of the church, scholar and romantic. Also, how the glamour of Latin infested the originators of local successor languages, further colouring the European spirit. There are also nuggets of surprise: for example, why is Britain the only former Roman colony in western Europe to speak a Germanic rather than a Latin language? The answer: sixth-century plague amongst the resident Latin-speakers, followed by invasions of Angles, Saxons and other German-speaking language snatchers. Another mystery solved! And this wonderful book, amplifying messages in Ostler's global masterpiece Empires of the Word, is just the thing for making other deep discoveries on a dark winter's night.
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