Daniel Pettersson, Amelie Rosengren Pugio Bruti : A Crime Story in Easy Latin

Latinitium 978 9198509403 £12.80

This is an innovative book for Latin learners from Sweden.  It is an easy reader for students of the type that may be familiar to those learning modern languages.  It is 70 pages long and uses a limited vocabulary of 350 words all of which are glossed in English at the back of the book.  It is a crime story which takes place largely in Rome of the very early empire; it has few references to formal history, but it is firmly based in the Roman world taking place in the backstreets and taverns of the teeming city.  It is all about a dagger, an inheritance, theft and lots of stabbings.  Though the vocabulary is confined to the set 350 words the grammar is wide ranging, taking in deponent verbs, ablative absolutes, subjunctives, all the cases of nouns and many other features.  It is not therefore for complete beginners but a resource to be used by students with some experience of the language. However, readers should not be expected to have mastered all the grammar used before starting the book.  The format (short sentences, some descriptive passages, lots of dialogue) and the pace of the plot will draw the reader on and lead them to understanding the text without necessarily painstakingly analysing it all formally.  This is after all how we read most texts.  The complexity of the plot, which is subtle and mysterious, may sometimes cause more problems of understanding for the reader than the language.  This is a not a criticism: it makes you read on to find out what happened because your confusions may be resolved simply by going further into the story.  Some Latin course books have a lengthy and compelling story-line (the Cambridge Latin Course, for example) but the narrative is usually constrained by the introduction of grammatical features step by step and so it is integrated into the language learning curve.  This works as long as the teacher sticks to the prescribed course.  Pugio Bruti, however, can be used with any course in any language at any number of different stages of development.  Provided the reader can manage the English glossary, any country’s system could make use of this splendid resource.  (It would not be difficult to make a glossary of the vocabulary used in any language.)  This new approach is highly recommended and I foresee the need for more short texts in this format for a new generation of Latin students.  For more information please see the Latinitium website: https://www.latinitium.com/books/pugiobruti


John Bulwer