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I'm still something of a beginner and my immediate goal is to be able to read Classical Latin texts fluently and without much recourse to dictionaries. Having gone through Lingua Latina and most of Wheelock I'm trying now to a) grow my vocabulary and b) familiarise myself with grammatical rules via lots of reading.

I'm finding Ad Alpes very enjoyable, and have also been reading Latin translations of modern children's books like Winnie ille Pu and Alicia in Terra Mirabili. I suppose my question is: are these (especially the translations of modern texts) particularly useful if my goal is to read writers such as for example Caesar, Virgil, Ovid? My worry is that I am expending a lot of time learning vocabulary which rarely if ever shows up among Classical authors. Would it perhaps be a better use of my time to focus on simplified and heavily annotated versions of the texts I actually want to read? (I am aware for instance of the A Legamus series).

Would love to have your thoughts, as well as recommendations for similarly easy Latin texts which might serve as good preparation for where I want to end up.

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    You ask what the best use of your time is (implicitly: your Latin study time), and the answers are answering that. But another important question is: What do you enjoy? If you enjoy reading things like Winnie Ille Pu more than “serious” texts, then don’t discount that — finding things that motivate you to spend time on a subject is often more effective than using that time in the most efficient way. Aug 21, 2022 at 17:08

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Honestly, if you've finished the basics of grammar, I'd recommend reading real texts. Abridged versions can be useful, but chiefly to remove some unnecessary parts for enjoyment. They usually don't make it more readable from a language point of view. For what it's worth, Caesar after Ecce Romani Book III (which was essentially Eutropius and a few other classical authors in abridged form) is perfectly readable, as is the Aeneid with a text like Pharr.

Whether or not you want to read modern translations is a decision you'll have to make based on your interests. On the one hand, reading Latin is reading Latin, and practice will help no matter if it has some unusual vocabulary. On the other hand, these types of works aren't written by native speakers (obviously) and aren't as error free as you would get from diving into actual native texts.

My suggestion is to not delay, but jump right in. Perhaps look first for abridged passages from ancient authors, then use Loebs, if you need them. There's little reason to jump off that path once you've obtained a certain mastery over the fundamental aspects of the language. The exception of course is that you want to read those texts. Sure, you can't go too wrong just reading Latin, but you'll find diving headfirst into actual ancient Latin the best route for reading it.

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  • Question from an interested bystander: How error-free are the native texts? I mean, even Shakespeare has mistakes, and Latin grammar is hard, so wouldn't we expect a few errors? I'm wondering if we might even mistakenly codify errors as correct Latin and say "this is an exception to the rule" where actually the author just made a mistake? Aug 21, 2022 at 19:34
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    @AdamChalcraft That's a big can of worms, and I'm afraid it's too big to explain everything by comments. The gist of it though is that due to the unavailability of original texts, we have no idea what was a mistake by an author (unless called out by other authors) and what was introduced by copyists. Then you have literary v. non-standard constructions, which is a whole other can of worms. I wouldn't say that Latin grammar is hard, though. In many senses I find it much easier than English, though that's a low bar to clear!
    – cmw
    Aug 21, 2022 at 20:35
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    @AdamChalcraft This sounds like an interesting new question. Please post it!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Aug 21, 2022 at 22:36
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Nothing beats reading the real thing. If you're looking for an intermediate-level text between Ørberg and the most literate classical authors, consider the Vulgate. The Vulgate was written by St. Jerome in the language of the common people—deliberately and famously not in the refined, elegant style of Cicero. The Vulgate will expand your vocabulary a great deal and get you comfortable with Latin's grammar and flexible word order. It's also one of the most influential texts in human history.

Also, consider reading Caesar's Gallic War Commentaries as your next step into real classical Latin. Caesar's style is quite plain and clear. Some might even call it dull. It's not Tacitus. Many generations were brought into adult-level Latin by Caesar's War Commentaries.

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Some good answers were given in response to this question but I just wanted to add here for those in a similar position that I ended up by beginning the second part of Ørberg's Lingua Latina series - Roma Aeterna. The first chapter was quite easily manageable based on the level I'd acquired from part one + Wheelock, and with each chapter the difficulty has incremented, to the point that I now need to take quite a while to parse each paragraph correctly. The best thing about this book is that - aside from the first - each chapter is derived from a classical text. In the beginning these are edited by Ørberg to suit the difficulty level of the chapter but I gather that as one goes on the amount of editorial interference diminishes until one is reading the original authors unadulterated. For me this is perfect because, as I mention in the question, my goal is to be able to read authors such as those included in this book. I find also that the selections Ørberg makes are more interesting in themselves than much of what is otherwise available to beginner/intermediate readers in Latin.

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Learning vocubulary is the number one priority for any language, so even modern books are helpful in that. Also, if you know the book already, you will absorb the Latin much more readily.

For preparing for Caesar, Fabulae Faciles is ideal because that book is specifically designed to use the vocabulary and sentence constructions found in Caesar. Ritchie in many cases lifted sentences and phrases out of Caesar and adapted them directly into Fabulae Faciles. So, if you are fluent in FF, then you should be pretty close to reading Caesar.

Other easy Latin texts are the Historia Augusta, Legenda Aurea, and the Biblia Vulgata. All of these would probably be better learning material than modern Latin novels, which as you have noted tend to be artificial and lack older types of vocabulary and expressions.

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