Latin Literature

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes3Meditations on First Philosophy (Latin: Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animae immortalitas demonstrantur) by Réne Descartes was first published in Latin in 1641, appearing in a French translation in 1647.

The six meditations which make up the book describe a series of mental exercises, undertaken over consecutive days.  The first meditation introduces Descartes' method of universal doubt. The second introduces the famous argument often summarised as 'I think therefore I am' (Latin: cogito ergo sum), and cannot doubt my own existence. 

In the later meditations, Descartes arrives at conventional opinions about God and the world, while more subtly introducing the foundations of his own system of physics. It is however, the first two meditations which have more often been seen as a foundational influence on modern philosophy, although the 'Cartesian dualism' which they introduced between mind and matter has been a target of persistent criticism.

Alongside the Meditations, Descartes published seven sets of objections by distinguished scholars along with his replies. These were 1. Johannes Caterus 2. Marin Mersenne 3. Thomas Hobbes 4. Antoine Arnauld 5. Pierre Gassendi 6. Further objections collected by Mersenne. 7. Pierre Bourdin.

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The Classical Library: The Meditations, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

Gallica: Méditations métaphysiques. French text (1690). Image file format. 

Gutenberg: Meditationes de prima philosophia - Latin text. Multiple formats.

Early Modern Texts: Meditations on First Philosophy - adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Meditationes - Latin text. HTML format.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

Marxists.org: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham. HTML format.

Philosophy-Index: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

University of Leeds/Internet Archive: Hobbes' Objections to Descartes' Meditations. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text, French and English translations. HTML and other formats.

Wright State University: Descartes' Meditations. English, French and Latin texts. HTML format.

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Thomas More: Utopia

UtopiaUtopia by Thomas More inaugurated a new literary genre on its first publication in Latin at Louvain, Belgium in 1516. It's title, from a Greek term meaning 'nowhere', has become the established term for any imaginary, ideal Commonwealth.

More's Utopia took inspiration from the voyages of discovery of his own day, being ostensibly the account of Raphael Hythloday, a traveller with Amerigo Vespucci. In book 1, Hythloday and More discuss the role of the philosopher in civic life, touching on many of the ills of contemporary Europe. In book 2 before Hythloday introduces his account of the idealised society he encountered on the island of Utopia in book 2. The Utopian system of common property contrasts sharply with the enclosures then underway in contemporary England, and the sharpness of the book's satire may have contributed to its publication on the continent, under the editorship of Erasmus.

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Bartleby: Utopia - Harvard Classics, Vol. 36, Part 3. HTML format.

Gutenberg: Utopia. Multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: Utopia, Robinson translation and Latin text (1895). Multiple formats.

Marxists.org: Utopia. 1901 Cassell & Co. edition. HTML format.

Online Library of Liberty: Ideal Empires and Republics. Rousseau’s Social Contract, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Campanella’s City of the Sun, with an Introduction by Charles M. Andrews (1901). Multiple formats.

Open Utopia - 2016 translation, including letters, commendations and marginalia, with Creative Commons license. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: Utopia. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Latin text and English translation by Gilbert Burnet (1901). HTML format.

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Erasmus: In Praise of Folly

Marginal_Drawings_for_The_Praise_of_Folly_(3) _by_Hans_and_Ambrosius_HolbeinIn Praise of Folly (Latin: Moriae Encomium or Stultitiae Laus) is an essay originally written by the great Dutch classicist Desiderius Erasmus while staying in London with Sir Thomas More, who is the subject of a punning reference in its Latin title.

The work is written from the perspective of Folly herself, whose self-praise provides the vehicle for a wide-ranging satire of contemporary society.

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Christian Classics Ethereal Library: In Praise of Folly, translated by John Wilson (1688). Multiple formats.

Fordham University Modern History Sourcebook: In Praise of Folly. Single page HTML format.

Gutenberg: In Praise of Folly. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: In Praise of Folly, translated by John Wilson. Clarendon (1913). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: In Praise of Folly, translated by John Wilson. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Latin text and English translation. HTML and other formats.

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Virgil: The Georgics

Mosaïque_des_Saisons_(Louvre)_élevage_de_chèvresThe Georgics (Latin: Georgica) is a didactic poem by Virgil (70-19 BC) on agriculture and rural life, after the manner of Hesiod's Works and Days. Completed in 29 BC, it was his second major poem after the Eclogues.

Book 1 focuses on arable farming and the disruption caused by the murder of Caesar, underlining that Virgil's portrait of rural peace had political undertones. The same could be said of his praise of rural Italy in book 2, which concentrates on the cultivation of trees such as the olive and the vine, while Book 3 covers cattle farming. Book 4 deals with bee-keeping, introducing an influential metaphor for human society.

English translators of the Georgics include John Dryden, who famously accounted it 'the best poem of the best poet.'

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Gutenberg: The Georgics. English translation. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Georgics of Virgil, translated by William Sotheby (1808). Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: The Georgics. HTML and TXT formats.

Liberty Fund: Georgics, translated by Arthur S. Way. Multiple formats.

LoebulusL063N - Virgil -- Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid, Books 1-6. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Perseus: Latin text and English translation by J.B. Greenough. HTML and XML formats.

Poetry in Translation: The Georgics, translated by A.S. Kline (2001). Multiple formats.

Sacred Texts: Georgics. Latin text and prose translation by J.W. MacKail. HTML format.

Theoi: Georgics, translated by H.R. Fairclough. HTML format.

Times Literary Supplement: The Bees (Virgil’s Georgics: Book IV), translated by Peter McDonald. 6 September 2016.

University of Adelaide: The Georgics, translated by J.B. Greenough. Multiple formats.

University of Michigan: Virgil's Georgics, translated by John Dryden. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text and multiple English translations. HTML and other formats.

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Ovid: Metamorphoses

ActaeonThe Metamorphoses is a a Latin narrative poem in fifteen books by Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17/18 CE), better known in English as Ovid. The theme of transformation unites a disparate collection of legendary stories which progress from the beginning of the universe to the deification of Julius Caesar. In some tales, however, the metamorphosis is a minor element in the story, leading many scholars to look for other interpretations of the poem.

Notable English translations in the public domain include the 1567 edition of Arthur Golding, the version known to Shakespeare, who mentions no classical poet in his works except for Ovid; an edition by George Sandys in the 1620s, and the 1717 edition of Sir Samuel Garth, whose translators included John Dryden, Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope and William Congreve as well as Garth himself.

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Elizabethan Authors: The Fifteen Books of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Arthur Golding. HTML format.

Gutenberg: The Metamorphoses of Ovid, translated by Henry T. Riley (1893). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Shakespeare's Ovid, translated by Arthur Golding, edited by W.H.D. Rouse. Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: Metamorphoses, translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al. HTML and TXT formats.

Latin Library: Metamorphoses. Latin text. HTML format.

Loebulus: L042 - Ovid -- Metamorphoses I: Books 1-8. L043 - Ovid -- Metamorphoses II: Books 9-15. Public domain Loeb edition. PDF format.

Open Book Publishers: Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.511-733. Latin Text with Introduction, Commentary, Glossary of Terms, Vocabulary Aid and Study Questions. HTML and PDF formats free, others paid.

Perseus: Latin text with Golding and Brookes More translations. HTML and XML format.

Poetry in Translation: The Metamorphoses, translated by A.S. Kline (2000). Multiple formats.

Sacred Texts: Metamorphoses, translated by Garth et al. HTML format.

Theoi: Metamorphoses, translated by Brookes More (1922). HTML format.

University of Adelaide: Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Garth et al. Multiple formats.

University of Virginia Library: The Metamorphoses. Multiple texts and other resources.

Wikisource: Latin text and English translations. HTML and other formats.

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Seneca: Medea

Medea, by Artemisia GentileschiMedea by Seneca is a Latin adaptation of Euripides' play of the same name. Seneca alters some details of the plot and makes Medea a more calculating figure than in Euripides' portrayal.

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Gutenberg: Two Tragedies of Seneca - Medea and The Daughters of Troy by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, verse translation by Ella Isabel Harris. Multiple formats. 

How To Be a Stoic: Seneca on anger: the Medea, by Massimo Pigliucci.

Internet Archive: Two tragedies of Seneca, Medea and The daughters of Troy, edited by Ella Isabel Harris (1899). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Medea. Latin text, HTML format.

Loebulus. L062N -  Tragedies I: Hercules Furens. Troades. Medea. Hippolytus. Oedipus. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Theoi: Medea, translated by Frank Justus Miller. HTML format.

Wikisource: Multiple English translations. HTML format.

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Seneca: The Trojan Women

Marie-Lan Nguyen - Wikimedia CommonsThe Trojan Women (Latin: Troades) by Seneca is a Latin adaptation of Euripides' play of the same name, along with elements of the latter's Hecuba.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: Two Tragedies of Seneca - Medea and The Daughters of Troy by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, verse translation by Ella Isabel Harris. Multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: The Ten Tragedies of Seneca. Latin text with English translation by Watson Bradshaw (1902). Multiple formats.

Loebulus. L062N - Tragedies I: Hercules Furens. Troades. Medea. Hippolytus. Oedipus. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Theoi: Troades, translated by Frank Justus Miller. HTML format.

Wikisource: The Trojan Women, English translation by Miller. HTML and other formats.

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Gregory of Tours: History of the Franks

Saint_Grégoire_Sacramentaire_de_Marmoutier_à_l'usage_d'AutunThe Ten Books of Histories (Latin: Decem Libri Historiarum), more commonly known as The History of the Franks (Latin: Historia Francorum) are the major work of St Gregory of Tours (538-594 CE).

The first major historian of post-Roman Western Europe, Gregory relates the Christianization of Gaul and the rule of Merovingian Frankish kings down to his own time. He is less concerned with the interests of the Frankish Kingdom as such than with those of the church, and some modern historians have therefore seen the History of the Franks title, which was not Gregory's own, as something of a misnomer.

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Free online texts

Internet Archive: History of the Franks, translated by Ernest Brehaut (1916). Multiple formats.

Internet History Sourcebook: History of the Franks, Books I-X, abridged translation by Ernest Brehaut (1916). HTML format.

Latin Library: Libri Historiarum. Latin text. HTML format.

Wikisource: Historiarum Francorum libri X. Latin text. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

Wikimedia Commons: Division of Gaul  511 CE, map of Gaul at the death of King Clovis.

Wikipedia: Gregory of Tours

YouTube: Clovis and The Franks. YaleCourses. The Early Middle Ages, 284--1000 (HIST 210), with Paul Freedman.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Virgil: The Aeneid

Sallust: The War with Catiline - one of the classical works known to have been read by Gregory.

Martianus Capella

Orosius: Seven Books of History Against the Pagans.

Latin Resources: Online materials for learning Latin.


Seneca: The Madness of Hercules

Picture by Marie-Lan Nguyen - Wikimedia CommonsThe Madness of Hercules (Latin: Hercules Furens) by Seneca the Younger is a Latin adaptation of Euripides' play of the same name. There are some differences in the plot. For example, instead of threatening to kill Hercules' children, the Theban usurper Lycus seeks to marry his wife Megara.

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Free online texts

Internet Archive:  Three tragedies of Seneca: Hercules furens, Troades, Medea, edited by H.M. Kingery (1908). Latin text, multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Ten Tragedies of Seneca. Latin text with English translation by Watson Bradshaw (1902). Multiple formats.

Loebulus. L062N -  Tragedies I: Hercules Furens. Troades. Medea. Hippolytus. Oedipus. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Perseus: Hercules Furens. Latin text. HTML and XML formats.

Theo.com: Herculens Furens, translated by Frank Justus Miller (1917). HTML format.

Wikisource: English translations. HTML and other formats.

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Seneca: Moral Letters to Lucilius

The Death of Seneca, by Manuel Domínguez Sánchez. Via Wikisource.

The Moral Letters to Lucilius (Latin: Ad Lucilium epistulae morales) were composed by the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca ('The Younger'), during his retirement from the Imperial court in 62-65 AD, a period which ended with his suicide on the orders of the emperor Nero.

The 120 letters, collected in 20 books , were addressed to Seneca's friend Lucilius Junior, then the procurator of Sicily. They amount to informal moral essays, covering subjects such as the nature of the good, happiness and the right attitude to death. It is among the most popular of Seneca's works and as such an important source on Roman stoicism. It's adoption by early Christians contributed to its influence in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

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Free online texts

Internet Archive: Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales. Vol. I | Vol. IIVol. III. Public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English. PDF and other formats.

Latin Library: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium -  HTML format. 

Loebulus. L075 - Seneca -- Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales I: Letters 1-65. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Loebulus. L076 - Seneca -- Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales II: Letters 66-92. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Perseus: Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales. HTML and XML formats.

Wikisource: Latin - Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium. English - Moral Letters to Lucilius. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

BBC In Our Time: Seneca the Younger - Radio discussion with Melvyn Bragg, Mary Beard, Catherine Edwards and Alessandro Schiesaro.

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Anger Management - Seneca, podcast by Peter Adamson.

How to be a Stoic: Seneca to Lucilius - Philosophy as a Guide to Life.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Librivox: Moral Letters - public domain audiobook.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Seneca.

Stoics.com: Why Seneca's Moral Essays and Moral Epistles?

Wikipedia: Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Cicero: On Duties.

Marcus Aurelius: The Meditations.

Montaigne: Essays.

Francis Bacon: Essays.

Latin Resources: Online materials for learning Latin.