LatinNow books!

Over the Christmas period we are celebrating the publication of two books in the LatinNow trilogy. The project has produced or supported the production of several books, including our Manual of Roman everyday writing (vol. 1 and vol. 2), but the three volumes which are being published in the Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents series by Oxford University Press represent, with our Open Access web GIS, the core research output of our project. They are the result of a huge effort of the LatinNow team but also the expertise of a wide network of colleagues across Europe and beyond.

The two appearing in December are the result of workshops held in Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019. Virtually none of the chapters look much like the papers delivered, since we used those thought-provoking workshops as the beginning of a long process of collaboration, which entailed debates, revisions, translations, and reworking. This required patience, especially through the pandemic, and we’re so grateful for the dedication of the contributors. We are delighted that all the books are Open Access, funded by the European Research Council.

The first to appear will be Social Factors in the Latinization of the Roman West. To our knowledge it is the first English-language edited volume devoted to Latinization, which, oddly enough, is a relatively overlooked topic. Historians have noted it has been ‘taken for granted’ and viewed as an unremarkable by-product of ‘Romanization’, despite its central importance for understanding the Roman provincial world, its life, and languages. This volume aims to fill the gap in our scholarship. We took a multi-disciplinary and thematic approach to the vast subject, tackling administration, army, economy, law, mobility, religion (local and imperial religions and Christianity), social status, and urbanism. The contributors situate the phenomena of Latinization, literacy, and bi- and multilingualism within local and broader social developments and draw together materials and arguments that have not before been coordinated in a single volume.

The result, we hope, is a comprehensive guide to the topic, which offers a mix of some more familiar syntheses and more experimental work. The sociolinguistic, historical, and archaeological contributions reinforce, expand, and sometimes challenge our vision of Latinization and lay the foundations for future explorations. We don’t agree with all of the arguments in the volume, notably that on the lack of influence of the auxiliaries of the Roman army in Latinization, but we present our different perspective in the introduction (and in much more detail in the final book of the trilogy). We hope that the volume will act as both a state-of-the-art of the subject and the starting point for further debate and research.

The next book to appear will be Languages and Communities in the Late-Roman and Post-Imperial Western Provinces. Our scoping of the international academic activity on later Roman and post-imperial sociolinguistic histories and our subsequent workshop demonstrated that the subject is still comparatively understudied and that there was even further potential for progress on sociolinguistics and interdisciplinary collaboration than we had assumed. A deeper understanding is crucial to any reconstruction of the broader story of linguistic continuity and change in Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as to the history of the communities who wrote, read, and spoke Latin and other languages, and it clearly had significance for the LatinNow project in terms of understanding the embeddedness, or not, of Latin socially and regionally. The volume offers a study of the main developments, key features and debates of the later-Roman and post-imperial linguistic environment, focusing on the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, Gaul, the Germanies, Britain and Ireland. The chapters collected in this volume help us to consider (socio)linguistic variegation, bi-/multi-lingualism, and attitudes towards languages, and to confront the complex role of language in the communities, identities, and cultures of the later- and post-imperial Roman western world.

Perhaps even more than the Social Factors volume, we see this volume as a starting point for further research. The introduction sets out some of the key areas on which we think there is scope for further developments and why we think the sociolinguistic and interdisciplinary analyses of the medieval period have not advanced quite as far as for ancient world studies. I couldn’t have brought this volume together without the erudition and support of my colleague at Nottingham, George Woudhuysen.

We will be bringing the third book of the LatinNow trilogy into the world next year. This final volume, co-edited with the wonderful Anna Willi, is more ‘team-written’ than a traditional edited volume and will encapsulate our thoughts on how we can best explore life and language in the Roman west and will present the latest research on Latinization, local languages, and literacies in the provinces in all their regional complexity. It was supposed to be the volume that appeared first, but various parts had to be put off until our data were ‘finalized’ and we have been battling our perfectionist tendencies… It will be last major publication of the LatinNow project, and we hope it will be worth the wait.  

Pisa Conference – Variation and Contact in the Ancient Indo-European Languages

By Francesca Cotugno

Pisa banner

On 19-20th of April the University of Pisa – which is also my alma mater ­– hosted an international conference entitled Variation and Contact in the Ancient Indo-European Languages: Between Linguistics and Philology. It was the first stage of the two-part colloquia followed by the conference held at St. Hilda’s College, in Oxford, on May 17-18 2018.


The aim of both of these events was to discuss the nature of contact, variation and change in ancient Indo-European languages by bringing together scholars at any stage of their career to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue and to provide a special forum to foster new lines of research and collaborative endeavour. The Pisa colloquium featured two dozen speakers. It offered me the opportunity to present our project with a paper: Latinization of the north-western provinces: sociolinguistics, epigraphy and bilingualism. The Germanies.


The conference proved to be an ideal setting for debating the appropriate framework for analysing the nature of the linguistic changes taking place in the Iron Age and Roman period as two, seemingly local Indo-European languages, Germanic and Celtic, both well-attested since the Iron Age, were gradually interacting with and then partially superseded by Latin during a period of change that would see Latin emerge in several respects as the dominant language by the end of the imperial period.  My paper provided an overview of the possible sociolinguistic variables symptomatic of language change in the Germanies and a discussion of their connection to other social phenomena.

My case studies were chosen to study phonological difference from Classical norms as a way of revealing the interaction between Germanic, Celtic and Latin. Among the broad range of inscriptions those featuring personal and deity names are particularly relevant and the diffusion of theonyms can provide insights into the interaction of Roman and local religious traditions.

The first stage of analysis has shown that it is virtually impossible to draw a clear cut linguistic division between Celtic or Germanic languages. Instead I have been creating gradient maps in order to chart Celtic and Germanic features. Crossing-referencing these elements together with the archaeological evidence, it seems that in the Rhineland area, for example, for the most part personal names show a increased level of Celtic features, whereas theonyms often have Germanic features and are linked to Germanic words (e.g. the matres ‘the mother goddesses’, as we have Matronis ALAGABIUS (CIL XIII 8529, Koln) or [Mat]ri BVS SVebis Jethungabus (CIL XIII 8225, Deutz, Köln) or matres Alaferhviae, Alaterviae und Alat(e)ivia from Aachen).

As the project develops I will explore further how linguistic variation and change may, or may not, correlate with local population groups and their histories, and explore further possible local, provincial and imperial interactions.

What can personal names tell us about cultural contacts in Antiquity? Some reflections on names and identities in Bordeaux

By Noemí Moncunill

“Two people who do not speak the same language come across each other. One writes the name of the other. This fleeting scene seems timeless and banal to us; only the modest written trace that results from it keeps its memory alive. Yet it is thanks to it that we can, even centuries later, relive the exact moment of this linguistic contact.”

Coline Ruiz-Darasse (CNRS Ausonius – Université Bordeaux Montaigne), author of this remark, recently gathered a group of researchers from different countries in order to see how the study of personal names can contribute to our understanding of cross-cultural contact and linguistic change in Antiquity. This stimulating seminar took place in Bordeaux in April 2018 and LatinNow team members had the chance to participate. The title of this workshop was “Comment s’écrit l’autre. Sources épigraphiques et papyrologiques dans le monde méditerrannéen antique”.

Noemi Bordeaux names

The day started with a methodological presentation delivered by the organiser, Coline Ruiz-Darasse. There followed two papers on code switching in personal names, multiculturalism and Latinization in the western provinces, both presented by LatinNow contributors. Marie-Thérèse Raepsaet-Charlier (Université libre de Bruxelles), senior advisor of LatinNow, reflected on the multicultural picture of society arising from the study of personal names in northern Gallia.  Noemí Moncunill (University of Nottingham and CSAD, Oxford), LatinNow researcher on the Iberian Peninsula, analysed the adaptation of Iberian names into Roman duo or tria nomina, in order to assess how this can be related to linguistic change in Hispania.

After a delicious, typically French lunch at the “Boeuf sur la Place” restaurant, the focus of the meeting moved to the East in the afternoon. Dan Dana (CNRS, Anhima) outlined examples to show how “assonance names” can be considered as “cultural mirrors” in Thrace; Alain Delatre (Université libre de Bruxelles) analysed linguistic variation and interference in the impressively wealthy documentation of Christian Egypt and, last but not least, Ignasi-Xavier Adiego (Universitat de Barcelona) teased out the linguistic and phonological perspectives of the adaptation of Lycian names into Greek and, conversely, of Greek names into Lycian.

The seminar was very rich in comments and insights on the part of participants and from the audience and it will lead to a monograph on the subject. We are already looking forward to reading it!