Chapter I: Familia      Back to Chapter 1 contents

Latin Pronunciation

The Latin alphabet is almost exactly like the English alphabet -- Or, more accruately, the other way around. Two letters in the English alphabet did not exist in the classical Latin alphabet - J and W. However, in the medieval period, J was added as a substitute for I when it it a consonant. At any rate, for our purposes, we will not see J or W in our text.


Long Sound Short Sound
ā ah a uh
ē ay e eh
ī ee i ih
ō oh o oh
ū oo u uh
    y like German ü (make “oo” with your lips and say “ee”)


v w
bs ps
bt pt
c always hard (k) as in cat
ch like k
g always hard as in gun
i when a consonant, like y
s always soft as in sit
th as in thick
z dz


ae / ai eye
au ow
ei ay
eu ay-oo (say it very fast)
oi / oe oy
ou oo
ui wee

Practice Passages

Aurēlia, cuī urbs placēbat, erat in Aegyptō cum familiā suā ingentī et equō suō. Trēdecim ludōs māgnōs Iōvis in amphitheātrō Alexandriae spectābat. tandem, hic equus īratus domum recurrere coepit. Eheu!

Translation: Aurelia, who liked the city, was in Egypt with her huge family and her horse. She watched thirteen great games of Jupiter in the amphitheater of Alexandria. Finally, this angry horse began to run back home. Alas!

These are the opening lines from the epic Aeneid, long considered the greatest of Latin epic poems. The author, Vergil (Pulbius Vergilius Maro), tells the story of Aeneas, who escaped from the city of Troy at the end of the Trojan War and eventually sailed to Italy, where his decendants founded the city of Rome. Latin poetry is read differently than Latin prose, and both versions are included here.

Arma virumque canō, Trōiae quī prīmus ab ōris
Ītaliam, fātō profugus, Lāviniaque vēnit
lītora multum ille et terrīs iactātus et altō
vī superum saevae memorem Iūnōnis ob īram.

Translation: I sing of arms and a man, who, driven by fate, first came from the shores of Troy to Italy and the shores of Lavinium, that man much tossed both on land and sea by the power of the gods because of the mindful wrath of cruel Juno.

Julius Caesar is probably the most well-known of all ancient Romans. Among many other things, he wrote an account of his war against the Gauls (the inhabitants of what we now call France). This is its famous opening line:

Gallia est omnis dīvīsa in partēs trēs, quārum ūnam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquītānī, tertiam, quī ipsōrum linguā Celtae, nostrā Gallī appellantur.

Translation: All Gaul is divided into three parts, of which the Belgae inhabit the first, the Aquitani the inhabit second, and the third by those who in their own language are called Celts, and in ours, Gauls.

Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was a famous Roman orator and politician. This is the beginning of the first of four speeches he made against Catiline (Lucius Sergius Catilina), who conspired to overthrow the Roman government.

Quō ūsque tandem abūtēre, Catilīna, patientiā nostrā? quam diū furor iste tuus nōs elūdet? quem ad finem sēsē effrēnāta iactābit audacia?

Translation: For how long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience? How long will this frenzy of your mock us? When will you put and end to your unbridled audacity?