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The Gate to Cæsar   By: (100 BC - 44 BC)

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[This text is intended for users whose text readers cannot use the "real" (Unicode/UTF 8) version of the file. Some characters have been shown in alternative forms:

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The breve is very rare. Braces and circumflex accents do not occur elsewhere in the text.

As explained in the editor's Introductory Note, readings are given in two forms. For this e text, line breaks and numbers were retained in the simplified version for use with the Notes. In the unchanged version, each chapter is a single paragraph, with the page and line range given in brackets at the end of each chapter.

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Head Master Roxbury Latin School


Copyright, 1891, By William C. Collar. All Rights Reserved.

Typography by J. S. Cushing & Co., Boston, U.S.A. Presswork by Ginn & Co., Boston, U.S.A.


The recent discovery of a work of Aristotle has interested and delighted the whole learned world; but one may venture to say that if, instead, a book had been found written in the best period of the Latin language for the amusement or instruction of youth, by some Roman De Foe, or Goldsmith, or Lamb, or Burnett, there would be ten times the reason for rejoicing. Unhappily there is no likelihood that we shall ever congratulate ourselves on such a "find," for probably no such work ever existed. What a misfortune that it did not occur to Cicero to divert himself in some leisure hour by writing a story for Roman youth! Millions of boys and girls in these later ages would have had good reason to bless his name. Cæsar could have done it; but to him, too, the gods denied such an inspiration, and we must suffer for it. Seeing that he had composed a treatise on Latin Grammar, one almost wonders that a mind so original and fertile should not have conceived the idea of adapting his Gallic War, or some part of it, to the powers and comprehension of youth. What measureless gratitude would he not have won from unborn generations of schoolmasters, who have now to struggle desperately and often unavailingly to make clear to their pupils the meaning of his intricate periods, and untwist the strands of his knotty syntax!

Cæsar is a difficult author. Some parts of his Gallic War are as hard, or nearly as hard, as any prose Latin that has come down to us. Yet it has somehow strangely enough become the fashion to read that work first in a Latin course. My own conviction is that for young learners a year's reading in easier Latin is not too much before taking up the less difficult books of the Gallic War. Even then the transition to Cæsar comes with something of a shock; for the learner is soon and often brought face to face with sentences that seem to him of most bewildering intricacy, however they may, as commentators sometimes remark, beautifully illustrate most important principles of Latin order and construction. There is a sentence in the second book, by no means the most difficult one to be found, that extends through eighteen lines, that is, something more than half a page, containing twenty one distinct ideas, and having the verb separated from its subject by ninety four words.

I know no more disheartening task than that of undertaking to carry a class unprepared in age and knowledge of the language through Cæsar's Gallic War. Yet it is precisely this disheartening task that thousands of teachers are set to do, or set themselves to do, every year. The results are often dismal enough. Teachers are blamed, they blame themselves, they blame their pupils. Pupils may sometimes be stupid, teachers may lack knowledge of the language and the subject, but the fault may also lie wholly with the author or with the Latin language itself; if with the latter, there is no help... Continue reading book >>

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