In Reading Medieval Latin with the Legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, Donka D. Markus offers comprehensive commentary on the 13th-century Dominican theologian Jacobus de Voragine’s retelling of the ancient story of the life of the Buddha that will resonate with contemporary students of Latin.
Jacobus’s version of the legend serves as a compelling, original Latin text. Vividly conveyed through parables, fables, and anecdotes, it naturally lends itself to a critical consideration of ethical principles and philosophical truths commonly shared across many cultures. With its rich stylistic devices and authentic classical Latin word order, it provides superb training for reading rhetorical prose before advancing to the works of more complex classical prose authors. At the same time, the text offers a unique opportunity for systematically learning the special features of Late and Medieval Latin. Included in this volume are two presentations of Jacobus’s text: one maintaining the original orthography reflecting Latin as it appears in medieval manuscripts, and one in which the orthography follows Classical Latin norms.
This textbook is designed for intermediate-level learners of Classical or Medieval Latin, whether in college, high school, or by self-directed study. The 5,000-word narrative text lends itself to a semester-long experience of reading one continuous work of prose. Each of the legend’s embedded stories can also be read as an independent selection with the help of the ample commentary, vocabulary, and grammar guidance. The extensive introduction provides the necessary background to contextualize the legend in its Latin iteration and sufficient historical information to make the reading meaningful for those without prior knowledge of Buddhism or medieval history. Additionally, this work makes Latin attractive to students of diverse backgrounds, as it highlights the language’s important role in disseminating the universally shared cultural legacy of humanity.