There have been many macron questions, but not this as far as I can see. Dickey's Learn Latin from the Romans (2018), pp. 5--6, notes that "Latin texts are usually printed without macrons". A simple question: why? Today's Sanskrit (though not Greek) editions, for example, have no phonemic ambiguity.

I am asking for a specific historical reason (which may be one among many; or there may be none). For example, if a leading publisher of Latin editions (like De Gruyter or OUP) has specifically considered introducing macrons but then rejected the idea, I would like to hear the reason. The answer to this old question lists some arguments for leaving out macrons but does not state which, if any, were the reasons that led to the choice.

To throw in a cheeky speculation: any appeals to tradition can be met with the rebuttal "but they're trying to make Classics more accessible!" ---which is true, at least in the UK. Why preserve this surmountable, yet undeniable, barrier to entry?

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    1. Did you have scholarly editions in mind, like Teubner or Oxford Classical Texts? 2. Did you mean to say "all macrons" or only in those cases where it could affect stress placement?
    – Alex B.
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 3:26
  • Hi @AlexB., yes to both, although I am happy with the present answer and don't see the need for further edits.
    – legatrix
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 7:30
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    Hi @JoonasIlmavirta, great, thanks for your assistance.
    – legatrix
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 7:31

1 Answer 1


It's hard to identify a specific historical reason for why something is not the case. The Romans didn't use macrons (they did use apices for the same purpose, but not regularly), so there would have had to be a coordinated effort on the part of modern publishers, or at some earlier period, to introduce them -- basically an orthographic reform. (This is not the case with Sanskrit, where Devanagari and related scripts have always marked vowel length.) The question "Why has this not happened?" implies that one would expect it to have happened, but such reforms require some central authority which is lacking in the world of Latin publishing, as well as a general sense that they are needed, or at least useful enough to be worth the effort. Marking all vowel lengths would actually not be that helpful to readers, since most such cases don't cause any ambiguity. Probably the only really common case where marking length is helpful is first-declension ablative singulars, and there are indeed editions which print a circumflex in those forms, though for some reason this seems to have become infrequent.

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    Thanks, this was helpful, and even added new information about ablative -â which I was not aware of. It's good to have spelled out the implication in the nonoccurrence question. I suppose I was assigning about 25% probability to some such coordinated effort having occurred, and figured this made it worth asking.
    – legatrix
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 7:34

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