Language Tools for Ancient History: Latin

Module Code: AH1009

Module co-ordinator: Dr Naoíse Mac Sweeney

  • How do you decode the abbreviations on Latin inscriptions?
  • Who was writing graffiti on the walls of Pompeii and why?
  • Why did Tacitus invent so many new words?

Language and the written word were crucial in shaping classical antiquity. In this module we will explore a wide range of written sources from the Roman world – not just literature and classical texts, but also writing in all of its myriad forms. You will learn basic Latin grammar, vocabulary and syntax, sufficient to translate short sentences and documents such as simple inscriptions, coins and extracts from literary texts. The texts discussed in their historical and archaeological context will be closely linked to the topics covered in the Introduction to Roman History module.

Non-assessed (but compulsory) exercises form an integral part of the course and are set regularly; these will help towards a smooth and steady learning process, which is essential in the study of languages.

Topics covered

  • Latin grammar and syntax
  • Latin inscriptions
  • Writing on Roman coins
  • Informal writing (graffiti etc.)


  • 20 one-hour practical classes
  • 2 plenary lectures


  • Source project, 1,500 words (30%)
  • Homework completion (10%)
  • In-class test, one hour (60%)