Page:Latin for beginners (1911).djvu/22

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TO THE STUDENT

hundred years. The importance of Latin increased with the growth of Roman power, and what had been a dialect spoken by a single tribe became the, universal language. Gradually the language changed somewhat, developing differently in different countries. In Italy it has become Italian, in Spain Spanish, and in France French. All these nations, therefore, are speaking a modernized form of Latin.

The Romans and the Greeks. In their career of conquest the Romans came into conflict with the Greeks. The Greeks were inferior to the Romans in military power, but far superior to them in culture. They excelled in art, literature, music, science, and philosophy. Of all these pursuits the Romans were ignorant until contact with Greece revealed to them the value of education and filled them with the thirst for knowledge. And so it came about that while Rome conquered Greece by force of arms, Greece conquered Rome by force of her intellectual superiority and became her schoolmaster. It was soon the established custom for young Romans to go to Athens and to other centers of Greek learning to finish their training, and the knowledge of the Greek language among the educated classes became universal. At the same time many cultured Greeks — poets, artists, orators, and philosophers — flocked to Rome, opened schools, and taught their arts. Indeed, the preëminence of Greek culture became so great that Rome almost lost her ambition to be original, and her writers vied with each other in their efforts to reproduce in Latin what was choicest in Greek literature. As a consequence of all this, the civilization and national life of Rome became largely Grecian, and to Greece she owed her literature and her art.

Rome and the Modern World. After conquering the world, Rome impressed her language, laws, customs of living, and modes of thinking upon the subject nations, and they became Roman; and the world has remained largely Roman ever since. Latin continued to live, and the knowledge of Latin was the only light of learning that burned steadily through the dark ages that followed the downfall of the Roman Empire. Latin was the common language of scholars and remained so even down to the days of Shakespeare. Even yet it is