Natalie Harwood, author of


                  1st published in 2000,  now revised and published in a 2nd Edition    

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- More pronunciation helps

 - Translations immediately follow the Latin to lessen the "Flip Factor"

 - More fables of Aesop

 - More vocabulary

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This page is for Latin language readers and has new, easy Latin selections.  For the Latin impaired, the translations follow. These and similar selections will be found in the next edition of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Latin.  I am going through Latin literature chronologically, finding Latin readings that are fairly simple yet applicable to the 21st century.

Gnaeus Naevius (270 – 201 B.C.) was a Roman citizen, a plebeian and a soldier in the First Punic War.  At the age of 35 he began to write plays, some of which were so critical of living Romans that he was thrown in jail.  From there he wrote 2 plays apologizing and was subsequently released.  However evidently the apologies were not well taken for he was immediately exiled to North Africa where he died.


Ever wonder why there are two founders of Rome, Aeneas and Romulus?  A commentator on Naevius has this explanation;


Naevius et Ennius Aeneae ex filia (Ilia) nepotem Romulum conditorem urbis tradunt.


Naevius and Ennius maintain (tradunt) that Romulus, the founder of the city, was the grandson of the daughter of Aeneas (Ilia).


Naevius gives us this gem, a proverb that shows something is impossible, much like “when Hell freezes over.”


atque prius pariet lucusta Lucam bovem


But first a lobster will give birth to an elephant.


(a Lucanian cow is an elephant because the Romans first saw elephants in Pyrrhus’ army in Lucania.)


Finally, an example of people speaking as they would on the street; a virtual tape recording of the average Roman. From the play AGITATORIA, THE DRIVER.


A. Eho, an vicimus?

B. Vicistis.

A. Volup est. Quo modo?

B.  Dicam tibi.


A. Hey! did we win?

B. You did.

A. Great! How?

B. I will tell you.



Caecilius Statius, born in 225 B.C.  He was either a Gaul or Celt named Statius, brought to Rome as a POW between 200 and 194.  Freed from slavery, he took on his master’s name.  He was a friend of Ennius, albeit 14 years younger.  He wrote comedies of the Greek model, fabulae palliatae, in what was considered a rough Latin.  He improved over time and flourished around 179.  He died soon after Ennius, maybe in 168 B.C.


Here are a few of his fragments, useable in today’s situations, either in the classroom, at home, in the courtroom, wherever.


Stultus! stolidus!  stupid! idiot!

Di boni!   Good God!

Ei perii! Yikes!  I’m done for!

Fuge domum!  Run home!

Qui, homo ineptitudinis cumulatus, cultum oblitus es? You, a mound of ineptitude, have you forgotten your manners?

Mirum adeo nisi frater domi ebriatus turbam aliquam dedit.  It will be just wonderful if my drunken brother has not raised another riot at home.

Manete ilico! Stay right there!




    Ennius, one of the first recorded authors who wrote in Latin, was born in 239 B.C. in a small town near Brundisium.  After serving in the Roman army, he was befriended by Cato, brought to Rome and lived out his time teaching Greek, tending a temple on the Aventine Hill and writing poetry and drama. He was never rich, had only one servant and wrote only when drunk. He introduced into Latin poetry the Homeric hexameter and the notion of long and short syllables. His Annals begin with the assertion that Homer appeared to him in a dream and said that he (Homer) had been a peacock and from there came into Ennius’ soul.  Talk about being drunk. And here’s his most famous line;


At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit.


And the trumpet with terrible tone trumpeted “taratantara.”


A man who spoke Oscan, Greek and Latin, Ennius was obviously in love with languages and their sounds.


Viri validis cum viribus luctant. (Annals, 307)


The soldiers struggled with sturdy strength.


Ennius’ annals include all the battles and confrontations of Rome up to his time. About the Macedonian War, he makes this observation;


Qui vicit non est victor nisi victus fatetur. ((Annals 485)


He is not the conqueror until the conquered says so.


Ennius has many sayings that have been quoted by Roman authors because of their universality;


Moribus antiquis res stat Romana virisque. ((Annals 467)

The Roman state stands on ancient ways and men.


Sicut fortis equus, spatio qui saepe supremo vicit Olympia, nunc senio confectus quiescit. (Annals, 588)


Just as a brave horse who has often won in the last lap at Olympia,  now the old man, finished, rests.









How about singing a round?

Rem, rem, remiga,

In rivo leni

Hilare, hilare, hilare, hilare

Vita larva est.



Frater Marce, Frater Marce,

Dormisne? Dormisne?

Tintinnabula sunt.

Tintinnabula sunt.

Tinc, tinc, tonc

Tinc, tinc, tonc.


 I’ve Been Workin’ On the Railroad



Laborabam in carpento, in perpetuum.

Laborabam in carpento, mod’ ut otium teram.

Sonorem audisne, vocat,

Nunc surge mane sic bene.

Clamorem ducis audisne,

Dina, tubam fla.


Dina, tubam  fla,

Dina, tubam fla,

Dina, tubam claram fla, fla, fla,

Dina tubam fla,

Dina tubam fla,

Dina tubam claram fla.


Aliquis cum Dina est coquus

Aliquis cum Dina est scio o o

Aliquis cum Dina est coquus

Cantiunculam cantat


Cantat, tat,


Fee, fi, fiddly, i o

Fee, fi, fiddly i o o o o

Fee, fi, fiddly i o

Cantiunculam cantat.


The Frogs Who Wanted a King

Ranae Regem Petunt I.2 (adapted)

Ranae, libenter palantes in paludem,

clamore magna ab Iove regem petunt

qui ranas dissolutos modos consistere iuberet.

Pater deorum ridet atque illis dat parvum lignum

quod in aquam iacit subito et  motu sonoque aquarum ranas terret.

Lignum in limo diu manet.  Deinde fortis una rana tacite appropinquat et inspectat lignum regem.

Lignum tanget. Nihil accidit.  Id tanget identidem. Rex non ei nocet! Laete omnes evocat. Illae non iam timent et fortiter ad regem natant. In lignum stant et rident. Saliunt et gaudent. Contumeliam iniuriae addunt.

Tum alium legatum ad Iovem mittunt qui petit alium regem ab Iove quod hoc rex utilis non est. Iuppiter mittit illis hydrum, qui dente magno ranas singulas edere committit.  Igitur auxilium petunt ab Iove.  Sed Iuppiter dicit “Quod noluistis bonam vitam nunc malam habetis.”

Sententia: Tene malum, ne peius sit.           

The Frogs Who Wanted a King

Frogs, wandering freely through the swamp

with a loud voice ask Juppiter for a king

so that the king might order the frogs to stop their dissolute ways.

The father of the gods laughs and gives to them

a small log, which he throws suddenly into the water.

Juppiter  frightens the frogs by the motion of the water and the sound.

The log stays in the mud for a long time.

Then one brave frog  approaches quietly and looks at the log king. He touches the log.  Nothing happens. He touches it again and again.  The king is not harming him! He calls out joyfully to the others.  They do not fear now and bravely swim toward the log. They stand on the log and they laugh.  They dance and rejoice. They add insult to injury.

But they are not happy.  Again the frogs send another messenger to Juppiter, asking for another king, because this king is useless.  Juppiter sends a water snake to them, which commences to eat the frogs one by one with his sharp tooth.

  Therefore they seek help from Juppiter. But Juppiter says, “Because you didn’t want your good life, now you have a bad one.”

Moral: Hang on to your evil, lest it become worse.



She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain . . .Latine!


Circum montem ambulabit, cum venit. Woo, Woo!

Circum montem ambulabit, cum venit  Woo, Woo!

Circum montem ambulabit, montem ambulabit

Circum montem ambulabit, cum venit Woo, Woo!


Sex equos albinos aget, cum venit. Cunctar! (Whoa back!)

Sex equos albinos aget, cum venit, Cunctar!

Sex equos albinos aget, equos albinos aget,

Sex equos albinos aget, cum venit Cunctar! Woo, Woo!


Et nos omnes clamabimus, cum venit, Salve!

Et nos omnes clamabimus cum venit, Salve!

Et nos omnes clamabimus, omnes clamabimus,

Et nos omnes clamabimus, cum venit, Salve! Cunctar! Woo, Woo!


Geret togam puniceam, cum venit, Heia!

Geret togam puniceam, cum venit, Heia!

Geret togam puniceam, togam puniceam,

Geret togam puniceam, cum venit, Heia! Salve! Cunctar! Woo, Woo!


Et pavonem cenabimus, cum venit, Euge!

Et pavonem cenabimus, cum venit, Euge!

Et pavonem cenabimus, pavonem cenabimus,

Et pavonem cenabimus, cum venit, Euge! Heia! Salve! Cunctar!, Woo,Woo!


From Aesop’s Fables via Phaedrus

The Fox and the Stork

Vulpes et Ciconia I.26 (adapted)

Olim vulpes ciconiam ad cenam invitat.

Vulpes liquidum ius in patella ponit.

Nullo modo ciconia edere potest quod longum rostrum habet.

Et igitur fame abit.

Tum ciconia vulpem ad cenam invitat.

Ciconia cibum in altam lagonam ponit.

Ciconia ipsa rostrum longum in altam lagonam ponit et edit.

Vulpes non rostrum longum habet

Et igitur fame abit.

Sententia: Si tu alicui noces, idem tibi habere necesse est.

The  Fox and the Stork

Once upon a time a fox invites a stork to dinner.

The fox puts soup in a wide shallow plate.

The stork is not able in any way to eat because he has a long beak

and therefore he goes away hungry.

Then the stork invites the fox to dinner.

The stork puts the food in a tall bottle.

The stork herself inserts her long beak in the tall bottle and eats.

A fox does not have a long beak

and so he goes away hungry.

Moral: One bad turn deserves another.

Literally; If you harm someone, it is necessary for you to have the same.


Translation tip: Mecum facile redeo in gratiam is an idiomatic expression, literally meaning “with myself, easily I return in thanks”, more popularly, “I can live with that,” or “I’m okay with that.”

Ultor, “the avenger,” and ultio, “revenge” are of course related to ulciscor, “to avenge.”  As in English, there are many words that derive from a common root.

Venia, “a pardon, a favor” is related to the word “venerate” meaning “to honor.”


Musca et Calvus V.3 (adapted)


Musca caput nudum calvi mordit.

Calvus, temptans muscam caedere,

sibi gravem alapam dat. Tum illa musca, ridens, dicit

Vis ulcisci morte ictum muscae parvae?

Nunc iniuriae addis contumeliam!”

Calvus respondit: “Mecum facile redeo in gratiam,

quia non habeo in animo nocere.

Sed te, turpis generis animal,

quae amat bibere humanum sanguinem,

facile impune te caedere possum.


Sententiae; 1) Ultio ultori nocet.

2) Si aliquis casu nocet, veniam dare decet. Sed si aliquis consilio nocet, poenam dare decet.


The Fly and the Bald Guy

A fly bites the bare head of the bald guy.

The bald  guy, trying to kill the fly, gives himself a serious slap.

Then the fly, laughing, says,

“Do you want to to punish with death the bite of a small fly? Now you add insult to injury!”

The man responds,” I‘m okay with that because

I didn’t have in mind to cause harm.

But you, an animal of contemptible type,

who loves to drink human blood,

I could easily kill you with impunity.

Morals: 1) Revenge hurts the avenger.

2) If anyone does harm by chance, it is right that he be pardoned. But if anyone does harm on purpose, he should pay the penalty.


An easy Aesop's Fable;

 Masks were used in ancient times for dramatic presentations. Greek drama, which began as a celebration of Dionysus in the 6th century B.C., at first had only one actor who needed different masks to portray different people. As plays developed, adding comedies and more actors, so the masks varied and often portrayed stock characters; the old man, the woman, the fool. In later theatrical performances, because the audience was some distance from the stage, masks helped identify the character and magnify the voice.

 A noble Roman would place masks or wax portraits, imagines, of his dead ancestors in the atrium of his home and the masks were often worn in funeral processions.

The English word persona means the social front or mask a person assumes to show the world the role he is playing. The Latin persona means mask and is probably from the Etruscan phersu which means a masked figure.

  This little fable, since it is from Aesop, a Greek from the 5th century B.C. is about a dramatic mask, specifically from a tragedy, and was probably one made from terra cotta as opposed to linen or wax.


              Vulpes ad Personam Tragicam


Personam tragicam vulpes videt,

quam postquam huc illuc vertit

“O quale caput” inquit “cerebrum non habet!”


Sententia: Hoc illis dictum est quibus honorem et gloriam

Fortuna tribuit, sed sensum communem abstulit.





              The Fox and the Mask


A fox sees a tragic mask

which he turns this way and that and then afterward says,

“Oh what kind of head does not have a brain!”


Moral: This is said to those to whom Fortune has attributed honor and glory, but has taken away common sense.

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