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From: "James Wynn" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Latro's Greek
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2003 00:54:53 -0600

Chris speculates:
> Hmm. This, combined with some other posts, made me wonder about languages.
> Our Lucius was fairly fluent in Greek (even if his memory problem leads to
> some strange interpretation).

Latro does know a lot about Zoroastrianism and perhaps he speaks Persian.
But his knowledge of Greek was not formally learned. We know this because
while he can speak it fluently **he cannot write it**. There is only one way
people learn foreign languages that way. The following is part of my notes
I've been making as I am reading SotM again:

The Silent Country -- 
Lakedaimonia; the environs ruled by the city of Sparta. The Greek word for
Spartan was "Lakon", and for Sparta was "Lakedaimon" The Latin
transliteration is "Laconicus". Wolfe's explanation of Latro's calling
Sparta "the silent country" is that "he seems to have heard some taciturn
person referred to as having Laconic manners and to have concluded that
'Laconia' meant 'the Silent Country''.

Wolfe is correct in saying that the translation of "Spartan" is NOT "silent
person". The word "laconic" meant "acting like a Spartan", because Spartans
had a historical reputation for being concise. This use of the word is a
metaphor, just as the original meaning of the word "stoic" defined as
"impassive toward pleasure or pain" meant no more or less than exhibiting
the precepts of the philosophy of Stoicism." Eventually, the word
"Laconicus" for "Spartan" did enter the Latin language with the same meaning
"laconic" has today, but the Spartan code probably did not have a reputation
outside of the Peloponese. So Latro must have picked up the word "laconic"
by way of a user that understood its meaning, but in a manner in which Latro
himself did not previously understand its derivation -- otherwise he would
have translated it properly as "having to do with the Lakons".

So where could Latro have heard the word "laconic" in absence of a knowledge
of the Spartans? Certainly not during his campaign in Greece. In Egypt?
Perhaps. There were a lot of Greek colonies there, but if he learned the
word as an adult, he would have recognized the word as foreign and learned
been curious about its etymology. The Forward also states that Latro spoke
"Greek fairly fluently, but...read it poorly or not at all." This
characterization suggests that Latro was neither formally educated in Greek,
nor was his knowledge merely "practical" -- picked up during his travels. He
must have learned Greek in his childhood, and learned the word "laconic" in
the manner in which Yiddish, Cajun, and Spanish words enter the lexicon of
New Yorkers, New Orleanians, and Texans. In this case the most likely
location of Latro's farm was in Southern Latium, rather than being near the
city of Rome in the north. It would have been just north of the Grecian
colony Kynai or even Neopolis (modern Naples), both settled around 200 years
prior to the beginning of "Soldier of the Mist".

-- Crush


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