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Latin - Texts

Introduction

Insular Latin is the broad term used to describe Latin written in Britain and Ireland. Latin first reached Britain under the Romans, and left its mark in very many ways, long after the Roman armies and administrators withdrew in AD 410 as the empire began to disintegrate. Schools attached to the churches established in Britain at this early period very likely maintained an educational system of some kind, and we have surviving examples of British Latin that are evidence of this continuity. Though Ireland was never part of that empire, trading contacts and the spread of the Christian church, ensured Latin’s influence was felt there too. Then through a combination of trade and diplomatic contacts, Irish missionaries and missionaries sent from Rome in the late sixth century, the Anglo-Saxons encountered both Christianity and Latin. An understanding of Latin was important for access to the Christian scriptures and the church’s liturgy, as well as to the great body of Christian Latin literature which had grown up by the sixth century: commentaries on the Bible and other aids to its study, works of theology, histories, stories of the saints, letters, and poetry. In all these genres the Anglo-Saxons began to write their own works in Latin, often with colourful enthusiasm, and in some cases, such as the Venerable Bede, very extensively and influentially.