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Learn Latin - Lesson 20

September 2016

It’s striking that most of the terms for literary and rhetorical devices – metaphor, hyperbole and oxymoron among them – come from Greek. The Greeks laid out the parameters of literature and speech-making; the Romans, not least Cicero, became obsessed with the devices behind the art. We use them still today in English. Take ‘periphrasis’, which literally means ‘circumlocution’ in Greek, and is used to mean the embellishment of a simple statement. So, instead of saying, ‘Now, night is falling’, Virgil writes, in the Eclogues, ‘Et iam summa procul villarum culmina fumant, maioresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae.’ See if you can translate it. One of the loveliest-sounding figures of speech is hysteron-proteron – literally meaning ‘latter-former’ in Greek. This is used to describe the mixing up of events, where you put the earlier one later. Thus – again in Virgil – ‘Moriamur et in media arma ruamus.’ Translate please. When...

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