Brexit: Is There a British Strategy?

Brexit: Is There a British Strategy?
A Speech Given in Bratislava
on Tuesday the 6th August 2019
to the
Institute of Economic and Social Studies

One of my Books
Learn More

Introductory Note: I made this speech to an audience of Slovak journalists, politicians and diplomats. It was a view of the British situation that none had seen before. I hope it turns out to be a correct view of the situation. I hope this because I want it to be true, and because anything less than this will damage my reputation in Slovakia as an oracle for all things British. It probably is correct. However, we are dealing with a contest between human beings in which chance is at least as important as the grand forces. If I am wrong, it will show that the British ruling class is more fractured and unfit for government in the general sense than I presently believe it to be – and more unfit for government than is good for the future stability of the country. SIG Read more


Dem’s Dystopia: End Anglo-America, Welcome the World, Evict the Unborn

By ilana mercer

How does one distill the worldview of the Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination?

Outrace each other on racial righteousness?

End Anglo-America? Welcome The World? Evict the unborn? Speak Spanish; English is your second language?

All the above—and worse.

On display, again, during the second in a series of Democratic primary debates were the racial (read anti-white) dynamics.

Genial and meek uncle Joe Biden bowed and scraped to his multicultural rivals, whereupon they set upon him like a flash mob; a multicultural mugging, Pat Buchanan called it.

Race—more accurately, anti-white politics—is the Democrats’ central cri de coeur. They have no other passion other than hounding and excommunicating others for what are thought crimes—for thinking, speaking or tweeting in politically unpleasing ways.

But practicing ageism gives these social-justice warriors no pause. There’s no social justice for the aged in Democratic politics.

Leading the purge of the party’s elders was Eric Swalwell, a nasty bit of work who had mercifully dropped out after the first round of debates, late in June. At the time, Swalwell had called  on older Democrats to “pass the torch.” “[I]t’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.”

“If we are going to solve the issue, pass the torch. If we are going to solve climate chaos, pass the torch. If we want to end gun violence and solve student debt, pass the torch.”

Swalwell obviously imagined such ugly sloganeering was a winning strategy. And who can blame him? However, other than a writer for the cause at The Atlantic, the representative from northern California galvanized nobody with his call to expunge Democrats in their dotage. (“The Millennial Left Is Tired of Waiting,” intoned said writer. That magazine is packed with verbally incontinent Millennials, all poised to torch deviationists.)

Mr. Nasty is gone, and Democratic voters are, so far, sticking with the safe bet: Looks like the party that habitually blackens white America is hoping the next U.S. president is an old, white American.

Are these hypocrites suggesting that there’s something confidence-inspiring about this much-maligned cohort?

The women on the stage, the lovely Tulsi Gabbard and the well-mannered Marianne Williamson excepted, alternated between the roles of shrew, scold and bully (of old, white men, naturally).

Following Kamala Harris’ lead, the insufferable Kirsten Gillibrand mooed  about an old Biden op-ed in which he had warned that women entering the workforce would imperil the family. Who will write the chapter about women like Gillibrand who enter politics and imperil the nation?

For comedic relief, consider the choreography that must have gone into positioning the oddball candidates, striding onto the Fox Theater stage in Detroit. One could hardly place mini-man Pete Buttigieg—boy, has the military lowered its physical requirements—alongside candidates who’d stare down at tiny Pete from vertiginous heights.

Height, however, did nothing to increase a tall Democrat’s stature. The group’s pathological, self-immolating progressivism was the great leveler, although an unspoken pack hierarchy was certainly apparent among the candidates. Naturally, that pecking order was racial.

The culturally more exotic candidates—Harris, Booker and Castro—were the undeclared top dogs. The commonplace, palefaced Democrats were the political underdogs, with less street cred.

The first round of Democratic debates, aforementioned, saw the Spanish supremacists quickly separate themselves from the English-speaking plodders.

Indeed, disunity and discord were everywhere apparent in these Democratic duels. Separation is the operative word in Rome and beyond, in the provinces. It’s Spanish vs. English; melody vs. maniacal ululation. I am referring here to the dissonant renditions of Christian hymns and patriotic songs.

If only symbolically, even the music spoke to the nation’s disunity. “America the Beautiful” and “Amazing Grace,” first, by Detroit’s Perfecting Church Choir, then, by Flint City Wide Choir, were jarring, atonal productions. One expects a melodic, musical rendition of a much-loved, shared oeuvre. Instead, one got maniacal ululations. 

And so it went. The over-crowded Democratic field rabbited on in unison about Trump’s racism and their own grand plans for state-run everything.

Most significant were the contradictions. Bernie Sanders lamented that 500,000 Americans live on the streets, but saw no inconsistencies in inviting the world’s poor to settle the same streets.

The same “quality” of contradiction came from Kamala Harris. In response to Tulsi Gabbard’s evisceration of her record as a fair prosecutor, Harris later told an adoring press gaggle that “people want public safety.” She was not going to shy away from her record in providing it.

How does “public safety” jibe with Harris’s open-borders promiscuity? (Oh, I forgot. Anyone marching 1000 miles to jump America’s southern border is, by definition, not a criminal, “reasoned” Bernie, below.)

Prosecuting illegal aliens is “a crisis of cruelty” alliterated Buttigieg. Decriminalize border crossing, bayed the rest. Illegal crossing should be a civil-law infraction, never a criminal violation.

Immigrants are America, crowed Amy Klobuchar. Anyone who walks 1000 miles to the U.S. is no criminal, seconded the irrational Mr. Sanders.

How can such an insane bunch of sell-outs talk about a “sane immigration policy”?

In a field distinguished by its ruthlessly radical mindset, one can understand how E-Warren—let’s jazz up the senator from Massachusetts a bit—has been described by TV’s activist anchors as strong and powerful.

Compared to the other candidates and the sob stories they foisted on viewers—Michael Bennet tethered his family’s history to the Holocaust; Gillibrand squealed about her daughter’s EpiPen—E-Warren is The Man.

When E-Warren says to expand immigration, we listen. Especially when she bolsters her words with that signature muscular move of hers: make the hair flaps covering her ear tips quiver.

Yes, E-Warren is The Man among the Democratic conga-line of cretins.

One thing is clear: While constituents have ranked immigration as a top issue for 2020, the Dems’ take on the issue was to speak to the need to pry the borders ever wider. Clearly, we have a sovereignty problem, not a humanitarian problem. We Americans have no representation.

In line with their political loyalties, every single one of the candidates practically sang from the one hymn sheet, a lot of it in Spanish: “We have to do more for families looking for a better life.” And they were not speaking of American families.

Duly, Julián Castro had memorized the name of a child and father who drowned attempting to break into the USA illegally and recklessly.

If “drowning exposes the risks of illegal crossing” is a true statement—and it indubitably is—then every American murdered by an immigrant exposes the risks of mass immigration.

But of the sons and daughters of Angel Moms, Castro had no memory. If Mayor Castro can’t spare a thought for the many young Americans dead by illegal aliens, you ask, how about a word of sympathy for an American dog?

Spare a thought, will you, Mr. Castro, for poor little Estrella? She was a helpless mutt, raped to death by a constituent of yours, an illegal alien by the name of Fidel Lopez.

What viewers and voters got from Castro amounted to, Drain and dry that Rio Grande! Level the land to ease the passage of Central America into North America. Let them come in their millions, no, in their billions. Decriminalize crossings. Disband ICE. Deify DACA. Deny no asylum claim. Table a marshal plan for Central America. Immigrants are Americans, only better and more inspiring. “We want more refugees”—so said the nogoodnik who runs my state, Washington.

John Hickenlooper chimed in by calling ICE agents kidnappers and child abusers. An Hispanic anchor, during the first round of debates, even bad-mouthed Obama’s proud record of 3 million deportations. (“Migrant kids who do not have proper claims will be repatriated,” roared Barack Obama, back in the good old days.)

All the above only served to cement the old white guy’s lead in the polls. Ordinary Democrats prefer the doddering Joe Biden to demonic females and their housetrained hombres. Certainly, only media is charmed by Ms. Harris, who is an insufferable scold (with an annoying nasal twang for a voice).

When all is said and done, not even Democrats wish to be governed by the likes of Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, who rage as though permanently on the rag.

However this circus ends, let’s hope that regular Democrats continue to be put off by the rude displays coming from the demented, intersectional, social-injustice succubae overcrowding the democratic primaries.



Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. New on YouTube: “America Belongs To The World; It’s Everybody’s Home.


Boris Johnson: A Brief Assessment

Boris Johnson: A Brief Evaluation
Sean Gabb
28th July 2019

One of my books
Learn More

I have been asked to comment on Boris Johnson’s appointment as Leader of the Conservative Party and therefore as Prime Minister. Since I recently called him “a bag of living offal,” my view is unlikely to be positive. However, I will try to be fair. More to the point, I will try to relate this latest turn of events to my general analysis of British politics.

Last month, I wrote that membership of the European Union was a peripheral issue for our ruling class. The main agenda for this class is to carry through a neo-Puritan remodelling of our institutions, and indeed our minds. The details of a customs and regulatory union are less important than control of education, the media and the criminal law. This being said, membership is useful so far as it blurs the lines of accountability. It is also an article of belief among some elements of the Ruling Class. For this reason, the verdict of the 2016 Referendum was unwelcome. It meant a diversion of effort from the main purpose. It upset various important people. The obvious solution was to give us a minimal departure that would satisfy us, but would keep in place those elements of the European Project that really are important to the Ruling Class. Read more

LGBTs, Leftists and Libertarians

LGBTs, Leftists and Libertarians

By Duncan Whitmore

In a previous essay posted on this blog, the present writer explored the poisonous proliferation of identity politics in today’s political discourse. One of the themes of that essay was that identity politics has served to create false group identities which misrepresent the interests of the individuals who are supposed to make up those groups, solely for the purpose of being able to pit each group against other groups for political gain. The actual interests of the individuals within each group are served poorly, if at all.

Continuing on a similar theme, we will, in the present essay, examine how various minority groups that have been championed by the left – many of which, such as those characterised by race, religion or sexual orientation, have won genuine and much needed victories against prior legal repression – are being exploited by the left in the current culture war. Although libertarians are right to welcome a renaissance of traditional, local, cultural and religious values as bulwarks against the metastasising growth of the state, it is not minority groups (or the vindication of their rights) per se which are a threat to traditional cultures; rather, the genuine threat is the attempt by straight, white, middle class virtue signalling liberals to grant legal privileges to these groups in an attempt to attack and weaken what remains of Western civilisation. Far from having their own, long term interests preserved by allying themselves with the left, these minorities may well be leading themselves over a cliff edge if they are swept up in the backlash against leftism that is manifest in the resurgence of populism, nationalism, traditionalism and anti-globalism. Consequently, we shall why it is libertarianism that can allow minority groups to flourish, and why members of minority groups should become libertarians. Read more

Acts of the Apostles: Introduction to a Tri-Lingual Text

Acts of the Apostles
A Greek, Latin and English Parallel Text
Being an Aid for Adults to the Easier Learning
of the Classical Languages

Prepared with an Introduction
by Sean Gabb

Uncritical Introduction

One of my Books
Learn More

The main content of this book is a parallel text, in Greek, Latin and English, of The Acts of the Apostles. In making it available, I claim no excellence of scholarship. I downloaded the Greek and Latin texts some years ago from the Internet—so many years ago, indeed, that I no longer remember where from. I have read through each of them, and nothing obviously corrupt has leapt off the page. If, beyond that, I trust in their purity, it is solely because they were uploaded by people who believed they were transmitting the Revealed Word of God, and who therefore showed greater diligence in proofing than I ever have.

You may notice that, while the Greek and English texts mostly correspond, the Latin is missing several verses, and there are a few variations of numbering the verses. The reason for these textual variations is that there are two main lines of descent for the text of the New Testament. The translators of the Authorised Version used one of these lines. So, it appears, do I. St Jerome, who prepared his Latin translation in the fourth century, used the other.

As for the numbering of verses, this is an innovation that dates from the sixteenth century, when Robert Estienne prepared editions of the whole Bible in Greek, in Latin and in French. His numbering was universally copied, but with variations that have never since been standardised.

However, while these discrepancies have generated much heat between the various Christian sects, my current purpose is less to advance any religious view than to promote the learning of the classical languages.

This reservation being stated, I move the question of why anyone should learn these languages. Perhaps the only language nowadays worth learning is English. This is the language of science and technology and the main language of communication. It is also the language of two wealthy and powerful nations, with a shared great literature and with separate but equally instructive histories. If you are not a native, this is the only foreign language you need to learn or perfect. If you are a native, you may find it useful to learn another language to live or do business in a foreign country. But why bother with Greek or Latin?

There are three main answers to the question. The first is that learning either language immerses you in the only civilisation comparable in its achievements to our own. Indeed, in several respects, it was superior to our own. It is worth studying purely for itself. Second, that civilisation is the basis of our own. We cannot fully understand who we are, and where we are, without a close knowledge of the Ancients. Third, there is a practical value for those of us whose first language is English. Our language is deficient in the obvious distinctions of grammar. Most nouns have only singular and plural forms. Most verbs have only four or five distinct forms. The present participle, the gerund and gerundive all share the suffix –ing. All tenses beyond the present and past perfect are formed by compounding with auxiliaries. It is the same with the various moods. For this reason, English grammar is best learned by comparing it with that of a more inflected language. German has shed many of its inflections. Greek uses a different alphabet. That leaves us with Latin.

Which brings me to the question of how to learn the classical languages. Some time between the invention of printing and a time within living memory, the custom in England was to give boys in the better kind of school a text by Julius Caesar or Cornelius Nepos, and to have them go through it sentence by sentence. In class, they would take turns to construe the text, and the master would explain the grammar and syntax of the language. Class preparation involved memorising the declensions and conjugations and using a dictionary to make sense of the text. It was the same with Greek, only the boys were expected to know Latin, and the preferred text was by Xenophon. The first years of a traditional course could be difficult. Several hundred years of experience had shown that the best way to keep the boys attentive and willing to learn was to threaten them with violence.

This Book is Free to download, or buy a hard copy

It was not an ideal mode of instruction, and the modern softness of our manners has removed the chief incentive to learn. It is also not suited to girls or to adult learners. It has nowadays been replaced by giving students specially-composed passages, and providing each of these with a full vocabulary and just enough grammatical explanation to make sense of them. These passages run in complexity from something like Cornelia est puella Romana…, to simplified extracts from the classics.

The method works with children. Even a few months will give them some Latin and improve their English. The problem is that, unless the ascent is very steep, it can take years before a student is able to read a classical text. And it is still not suited to adult learners. If you want to learn Latin, how long will you put up with stories about trips to Eboracum to buy brooches and waxed tablets? For Greek, I still shudder at the memory of translating apparently random sentences about youths dancing in a village, or how soldiers love their horses, while sailors love their ship.

But my suggestion, if you are an adult, is to ignore every instruction course presently on the market. If there are some that cannot be avoided, many of the difficulties involved in learning the classical languages can be avoided or reduced. The method I recommend may seem rather hard. It may seem perverse. On the other hand, it immerses you from the first in the actual literature of the language; and, whatever you may think in advance, the burden it places on your memory will be lighter than with any of the other methods. Moreover, so far from perverse, this is the genuinely traditional method.

I spoke of the invention of printing. Before then, dictionaries were scarce. Of one kind or another, word lists have always existed. So far as I can tell, though, the samples dug out of the Egyptian rubbish dumps deal mostly with the meanings of foreign or unusual words. A lexicon of Greek and Latin in the modern style, or just the kind of spelling dictionary you can buy in a pound shop, would have filled dozens of papyrus rolls, and would have been available only in the libraries of places like Rome and Alexandria. Even written texts were prohibitively expensive. Therefore, if a Roman schoolboy was to learn Greek, he would sit cross-legged before a tutor who took him, word by word, through a text that he might hardly ever see. Each word would be explained. Though not read, the text would then be remembered. Together with conversation in the language, this would be how he was instructed.

It was the same in the middle ages with the teaching of Latin. Instruction was oral. The schoolmaster would be both dictionary and book of grammar. The meanings he gave to words would be appropriate to their particular context and their particular form. When Petrarch tried to learn Greek, it was by reading through The Iliad with the help of a Byzantine scholar.

This method went out of fashion around the end of the sixteenth century. Now that printed dictionaries and grammars were reasonably affordable, the custom grew of expecting boys to work out meanings for themselves. The justification was that a dictionary gave fuller information about the meaning of words than the average schoolmaster could. A grammar book was more systematic, and came with the authority of a man of great learning.

One of my books
See here for details

It would be a good justification had the method not been tried. Learning the classical languages from a dictionary and grammar can be disheartening. In Greek, most verbal forms comprise a stem with both suffixes and prefixes. Take the verb λύω (I loose or release). You will find this in the dictionary. You may be able to work out that λύονται (they are being loosed) is the third person present passive. But how about ἐλελύκεισαν? This is a third person pluperfect (they had loosed). It will not be in the dictionary. Now, λύω is one of the standard paradigms given in the grammar books. You can find all this if you look in Abbott and Mansfield. But you will have trouble locating every form of the irregular verbs.

In Latin, a limited vocabulary was overcome by giving a diversity of meanings to words. Take the verb soluo, which is the equivalent of λύω. This can mean: to undo, untie, release, free, acquit, break up, relax, weaken, cancel, remove, destroy, explain, pay, let down hair, open a letter, set sail, refute—and my own dictionary continues for half a column of definitions and illustrations. Cast most boys adrift with nothing but a dictionary and grammar, and no wonder they will need to be flogged like tired galley slaves to keep moving forward.

Though unchallenged in the best schools, this method never achieved total hegemony. There were always protests. One of the first and most notable comes from John Locke. Published in 1693, Some Thoughts Concerning Education makes this recommendation:

[If a teacher cannot be found] . . . the next best is to have [your son] taught as near this way as may be, which is by taking some easy and pleasant book, such as Æsop’s Fables, and writing the English translation (made as literal as it can be) in one line, and the Latin words which answer each of them, just over it in another. These let him read every day over and over again, till he perfectly understands the Latin; and then go on to another fable, till he be also perfect in that, not omitting what he is already perfect in, but sometimes reviewing that, to keep it in his memory. And when he comes to write, let these be set him for copies, which with the exercise of his hand will also advance him to Latin. This being a more imperfect way than by talking Latin unto him; the formation of the verbs first, and afterwards the declensions of the nouns and pronouns perfectly learned by heart, may facilitate his acquaintance with the genius and manner of the Latin tongue, which varies the signification of verbs and nouns, not as the modern languages do by particles prefix’d, but by changing the last syllables. More than this of grammar, I think he need not have, till he can read himself Sanctii Minerva, with Scioppius and Perizonius’s notes. [s167]

In short, he suggests a return to the older method of instruction, though advising reliance on printed texts as a substitute for purely oral instruction. Students are to get their vocabulary from the text, and to learn only as much grammar as is needed to make sense of the text.

Then, there was the work of James Hamilton (1769-1831). In his History, Principles, Practice, and Results of the Hamiltonian System, he recommended that all foreign languages should be learned from the study of interlinear texts. Again, there were to be no dictionaries, and grammar was to be secondary to comprehension. Despite the sneers of those already educated, his ideas were taken up by many adult learners. In his Autobiography, John Stuart Mill says that he learned German by “the Hamiltonian System.” If you look around on Google Books, you will find any number of interlinear texts of the Greek and Latin Classics.

I have no principled objection to these texts. Whatever works is right. But I have downloaded an interlinear Lucian from 1838. It begins:

I would not like to throw this at a beginner, or even at someone who already knows Latin. It strikes me as both too complex in itself and too alien in many of its assumptions. This is despite the Editor’s rearrangement of Lucan’s text from its original word order: ἄρτι μὲν ἐπεπαύμην εἰς τὰ διδασκαλεῖα φοιτῶν ἤδη τὴν ἡλικίαν πρόσηβος ὤν….

My preference is to use a parallel text of The Bible. On the one hand, most of us have read at least parts of it in English, and we know much of its background. On the other, there is none of the looseness of translation that you generally get in all but interlinear versions of the pagan classics. It is invariably translated by men who believe that the original must be followed absolutely. St Jerome made as literal a translation from Greek and Hebrew as his own language allowed. So did the commissioners appointed by King James. Each version corresponds with the original. Leave aside the slight variations, already noted, between the originals, and each version corresponds with the other. Having any one of these versions as your key, you can read the others without a dictionary.

Here, then, are my recommendations for how to proceed with the contents of this book.

One of My Books

I will first assume that you are ignorant of both Latin and Greek, and that you want to learn Latin. You should begin by getting hold of the shortest Latin grammar you can find. The best I know fills a few dozen pages in the Teach Yourself Latin Dictionary. This may no longer be in print, but there are copies to be had on Amazon, or you can find something like it on the Internet. You must read through this, to get an overview of the language. Please do not feel any obligation to memorise the declensions and conjugations. The most you need is a vague awareness of how things like accusative cases and present participles look, and enough of an overview to know where to look if the English is not clear enough as a key to the grammar of the Latin. It is only when you start looking up particular issues that you should pay attention to the details of things like ablative absolutes and subjunctives. Yes—do not try in advance to learn the grammar. It is to be consulted not committed to memory.

This done, you begin with 1:1—primum quidem sermonem feci de omnibus o Theophile quae coepit Iesus facere et docere.

Read it aloud so that you can familiarise yourself with the sound of the language. You then turn to the English—“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach. ” You puzzle out the Latin. Primum and sermonem you can guess from their English derivatives mean “former treatise.” You may recall from your skimming of the grammar that nouns ending in m are likely to be direct objects. Feci seems to correspond with “have I made.” Omnibus is used in English to mean the whole of something, and so probably means “all.” O Theophile explains itself, though you may look in your grammar to confirm that it is a vocative case—that is, a form showing that someone is being spoken to. And so you continue, corresponding Latin to English by guesswork or by looking for English derivatives.

Once you have finished with the first three verses, you commit them in both Latin and English to memory. This is not as hard as it sounds. What you have here is a text with an overall meaning. It is easier to memorise than the meanings of individual words. For example, you could look up doceo (I teach), and try to remember its various forms. I think you will do better to recognise docere (present infinitive) as a word in its context that means “to teach.” Equally, you should avoid digging round to find that feci is the perfect form of facio, and keep reciting facio, feci, factum. Do this with twenty verbs, and you will forget half of them. Trying to remember the meanings of words in themselves is harder than to remember the sentences in which they occur. Declension and conjugations do nothing to help with comprehension. They provide a system after the fact of comprehension.

This does not mean, by the way, that you have to get the whole book by heart in both English and Latin—though it will do no harm if you do. You only need to memorise those verses that introduce meanings that you might otherwise forget. For the most part, you need to read and reread the text until you have a feel for the Latin.

Reading the first chapter in this way will be hard work. If you get that far, though, the second will be easier. By the time you get to the fourth, you will be able to read simple Latin. At this point, you will have outgrown the simple grammar you started with, and can get a copy of The Revised Latin Primer, which will now become your main work of reference. As you continue, you will find that you are turning to the English version only for new words that you cannot guess from their look or context, or to resolve ambiguities in the unpunctuated Latin. As you continually turn back to revise, you will see that previous difficulties no longer exist. Long before you get to Chapter 28, you will have become moderately competent in Latin.

Let me now assume that you already know some Latin, and that you want to learn Greek. All that I have said above still applies. The difference is that you will use the Latin text as your key to the Greek. Also, you will benefit from a more comprehensive grammar. I recommend Abbott and Mansfield, which explains many points of Greek by reference to Latin. Again, you should skim this, not trying to remember, let alone memorise, what you read. The purpose is to know where to look for the answers to specific questions that may arise. You will see at once, that while it is a more complex language, with more exceptions to its general rules, Greek is structurally similar to Latin. This is because they are genetically related, and because, after about the third century BC, Latin was reshaped under Greek influence. With the present text, moreover, you will benefit from St Jerome’s concern with absolute fidelity to the Greek original.

Take, for example, the end of Acts 26. St Paul has been examined before Festus and Herod Agrippa. He thinks he has talked his way out of trouble. However, once they are in private, “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” This wonderfully ominous line in Greek is: Ἀγρίππας δὲ τῷ Φήστῳ ἔφη Ἀπολελύσθαι ἐδύνατο ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος εἰ μὴ ἐπεκέκλητο Καίσαρα. St Jerome translates this as: Agrippa autem Festo dixit dimitti poterat homo hic si non appellasset Caesarem. We have here the same order of words and the same case endings, and a close similarity of moods. If you have trouble recognising ἀπολελύσθαι as the perfect passive infinitive of ἀπολύω, you have the more easily recognised dimitti as a guide.

Once you are finished with Acts in either language, you will be ready to move to the more conventional classics. You may have read that the Greek and Latin of The Bible is somehow defective. Undoubtedly, the Greek you will find in this book is the simplified form that became standard among the educated classes after the conquests of Alexander. It avoids dual cases and classical uses of the middle voice, and there is a greater use of prepositions. But whether or not it was written by St Luke, The Acts of the Apostles was written by men who had received a good education. In other circumstances, they could probably turn out a fair imitation of Demosthenes. When you do pass to Xenophon, you will need a dictionary—or perhaps an interlinear text. But it will not be as if you were jumping from George Orwell to Chaucer. There is probably less difference between “St Luke” and Xenophon than between Xenophon and Thucydides.

It is slightly different with the Latin of St Jerome. Again, he was an educated man, and we have many other writings by him that are as classical in style as you could want. But, as said, he tried to produce a literal translation. He was also mindful of changes in the spoken language since the Roman classics and been written, and of the need to produce something that was broadly accessible by countless millions of the uneducated when it was read in church.

One consequence is the occasional avoidance of the accusative-infinitive construction in favour of quod or quia as a subordinating conjunction. See, for example, 3:17— scio quia per ignorantiam fecistis (“I wot that through ignorance ye did it”), instead of the more classical scio vos per ignorantiam fecisse (I understand you through ignorance to have done it). In this case, the words are a direct translation of οἶδα ὅτι κατὰ ἄγνοιαν ἐπράξατε.

Here, St Jerome is using a popular form that is found in the early Latin playwrights, and in Aulus Gellius, who wrote in the second century, and that became general in the middle ages. I am not enough of a scholar to say why it was so deprecated by the classical authors, especially since it was normal in Greek. But variations like this aside, if you can read The Bible in Latin, you will be well on your way to reading anything else in Latin that takes your fancy.

So here is my advice on how to learn the classical languages. Whether I am setting you on the straightest road possible, or am encouraging you to run head first into a brick wall, is entirely for you to decide. I will say no more.

Sean Gabb
October 2014

Introduction to the Second Edition

Since I prepared the first edition of this work, my formatting skills have advanced to the point where I can fit the whole three columns on a single page. I have also been able to correct a number of typing mistakes. No doubt, I have introduced others.

I will add that I have spent the years since the first edition teaching the classical languages at both schools and universities in the United Kingdom, where I have been required to put aside my possibly eccentric views on learning. On the one hand, I have come to a more positive view of the traditional methods. Not every student is capable of being dropped into a cold sea and told to swim. Many respond best to a more gradual approach. On the other, I do know students who have made impressive progress by using this book and others of its sort.

I also specialise in an updated ancient and mediaeval approach to teaching, where I sit with a student and focus on reading a text, explaining the grammar and vocabulary as we go. This works well in person. It works well on Skype

I am pleased, therefore, to issue it in the present new edition.

Sean Gabb
June 2018

Read more

A July 4th Message to my American Friends

I receive the Future of Freedom Foundation’s daily message, and today it said:

Yesterday, the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution passed without one dissenting colony, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams [July 3, 1776]

And then I looked at the preamble of your US Constitution (1788):

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, …

And I stopped right there. How did “free and independent States,” in just 12 years, turn into “a more perfect Union?” Is that not exactly the same ploy that the EU has used to try to force people in Europe into “an ever-closer Union?” When, back in 2004, I looked at the then proposed “European constitution” (which became the Lisbon Treaty), what I wrote about its very first sentence was:

“Reflecting the will of the citizens and states of Europe to build a common future.” Is this not pre-judging the question? We have not been asked.

My American friends, this July 4th, amid the fireworks and the military parades, I think you need to ask yourselves some questions. Is what you have today what your Founding Fathers intended? If no, what went wrong? Who did it? (Alexander Hamilton, I’d guess). How do you get yourselves out of the resulting mess? And how can you prevent such a thing recurring in the future?

While we your friends across the pond are struggling for Brexit, I think you should turn your minds to your own situation. Some of the needed monikers are obvious – Massexit, Calexit (good riddance! some will say) and Nebrexit, for example. Others are more obscure.

I once wrote a (very poor) article, which nevertheless had a great title. “I love Americans, but I hate America.” What I hate about America is its warfare state, and its disesteem for anyone who steps out of line in any way. But many years ago, I lived in Boston for four months and in suburban Chicago for a year. In between the two, I bicycled coast-to-coast, entering the US in Maine and finishing in California. Almost everyone I met, of all races, was good and kind to me. And since then, I have met, and learned much from, many fine human beings, who also happened to be Americans.

I didn’t plan to say anything about Donald Trump in this missive. But I will. If I had to rate Trump as the good, the bad or the ugly, I’d pick ugly. He’s done good things, and bad things. At least, he’s an order of magnitude less evil than the alternative would have been.

So, I’ll say again: I love Americans, but I hate America.

« Older Entries