Plutarch Learned Latin In the “Decline of His Age” and We Can Too!

Speaking of Plutarch, years ago I commonplaced this encouraging glimpse into his self-education in Latin from the Life of Demosthenes:

. . . having had no leisure, while I was in Rome and other parts of Italy, to exercise myself in the Roman language, on account of public business and of those who came to be instructed by me in philosophy, it was very late, and in the decline of my age, before I applied myself to the reading of Latin authors. Upon which that which happened to me may seem strange, though it be true; for it was not so much by the knowledge of words that I came to the understanding of things, as by my experience of things I was enabled to follow the meaning of words. But to appreciate the graceful and ready pronunciation of the Roman tongue, to understand the various figures and connection of words, and such other ornaments, in which the beauty of speaking consists, is, I doubt not, an admirable and delightful accomplishment; but it requires a degree of practice and study which is not easy, and will better suit those who have more leisure, and time enough yet before them for the occupation.

Seems like we reading mothers (excepting you blessed second-generation reading mothers!) are not the only ones who are late to the party. Plutarch was probably around 50 years old when he began writing his Lives. Two thousand years later, we’re still reaping the benefits of his late-in-life efforts in literary language and eloquent expression.

So, whether you are in the decline of your age or not, no excuses! Get to work.

Zacharias by Michelangelo, 1512

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