Learning Latin in Hebrew

A while ago, I re-blogged a piece from Princeton Rare Book Collections, Teach Yourself Arabic – in Yiddish!  There were many reasons for people of many backgrounds to learn languages in Palestine/Israel in the first half of the twentieth century.  As well as the obvious (Arabic, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, English, German…), a neglected early publication by the linguist Haiim B. Rosén (né Heinz Erich Rosenrauch: 1922-1999) gives an insight into the teaching of Latin and Greek.

Rosén was a prominent member of the ‘Jerusalem School’ of Linguistics, a colleague of the famous (well, famous to Egyptologists…) linguist of Egyptian, Hans Jakob Polotsky.  Early in his career, before earning his PhD (Hebrew University of Jerusalem: 1948), he taught high school Latin and Hebrew.  His Latin textbook (1947) must be a product of this scholastic experience; and the Latin dialogues from which students are to learn suggest that he taught in a girls’ school.

So how is a 1940s Hebrew grammar of Latin different from all others?  Well, it opens from both covers, which is always fun: Latin from the (European) front, Hebrew from the (Middle Eastern) front.


Just as the story of the Cambridge Latin Course (spoiler alert!) has Quintus move to Britain in Books II and III, Rosen has also worked in some material on the Roman province of Judaea.  Lesson 1 is about Italy, but in Lesson 2, the dialogue moves east:

Magistra: Salvete, puellae, hodie tabulam novam spectamus, hic Iudaeam videtis.  (Teacher: Hello, girls.  Today we are looking at a new map.  Here you see Judaea.)

Puellae respondent: Videmus terram parvam.  (The girls answer: We see a small country.)

Magistra: Quid mostro, Iulia?  (What am I showing, Julia?)

Puella: Iudaeam mostras terram parvam.  (Girl: You’re showing Judaea, a small country.)

By Lesson 13, students can cope with more complex sentences – and political situations:

Etiam patria nostra olim provincia Romana erat; imperatoris Romani servi erant Iudaei.  Imperator dominus erat terrae nostrae.  Iugum Romanorum deicere frustra cupiebamus.  (Our homeland was also once a Roman province. The Judaeans were the slaves of the Roman Emperor.  The Emperor was master of our land.  We strove to cast off the Roman yoke in vain.)

Later (Lesson 30), students learn about the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70, the destruction of the Second Temple, and how the city’s treasures were taken back to Rome to be paraded in triumph – and commemorated on a triumphal arch.



The Roman Senate and people erected a great and beautiful arch in the Roman Forum for the Emperor Titus … decorated with images of captive tribes and spoils.

If 1940s Jerusalem had had the Research Excellence Framework, this would have made an excellent Impact Case Study for Rosén…

Further Reading:

Rosén, Haiim B. (= Rosenrauch, Heinz Erich) (1947) Yesodot ha-lashon ha-romit / Elementa Linguae Latinae in usum scholarum Hebraicarum. Tel Aviv: Omanuth.

Swiggers, P., & Rosén, H. B. (2005). Haiim B. Rosén: Bio-bibliographical sketch. Leuven: Centre international de dialectologie générale.


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