Wilton Warrior Words: Long live dead languages

Justin Rosenthal, one of the students at Wilton High School, who write this column titled: Warrior Words, for publishing in the Wilton Bulletin, and on the Bulletin's website, writes about two languages that have inspired him.

Justin Rosenthal, one of the students at Wilton High School, who write this column titled: Warrior Words, for publishing in the Wilton Bulletin, and on the Bulletin’s website, writes about two languages that have inspired him.

Hearst Connecticut Media

As soon as I stepped into his classroom on my first day of high school, my Latin--and eventually Ancient Greek--teacher’s love for the classics swept over me like a tidal wave. I cannot overstate how grateful I am to have the opportunity to learn these languages in Wilton. It is common knowledge that Latin and Ancient Greek are dead languages, but, unfortunately, they are dying school subjects, too. In addition to fewer and fewer schools around the country offering courses in these languages, fewer and fewer students in Wilton are actually taking advantage of this unique opportunity. If, during my freshman year, I were asked why I decided to take Latin, I would have admittedly said that I was just tired of learning French and wanted to start anew with a different language. If I were now asked why I continued taking Latin and even decided to also learn Ancient Greek, however, I would have a much different answer.

Over the past few years, I have been asked countless times why I bother learning languages that are no longer in use. Though these languages may be dead, there most definitely is a reason as to why the works of distinguished authors such as Virgil, Ovid, and Homer are still celebrated today, and the idea that humans universally are still moved by their stories is truly exciting. As callous as Latin and Ancient Greek may sometimes be with their seemingly endless amounts of participles and declensions, translating these languages only seems to increase my thirst for knowledge. There’s so much I have yet to learn about the classics, and as an individual who personally enjoys writing and storytelling, I absolutely love picking apart legendary epics and myths in an attempt to better understand what makes these stories so compelling.

Take the tale of Daedalus and Icarus, for example, a personal favorite of mine. There is so much to unpack from it, its themes ranging from pride to mortality to even parenthood. Even if the idea of humans flying through the skies using feathers held together by just wax may seem completely absurd nowadays, we can still take away lessons such as “don’t disobey your elders” and “know your limits.” I previously was never particularly fond of history, but studying the classics has demonstrated just how fascinating the subject can be as soon as one tears down the barrier between the past and the present and draws connections between the two. Latin and Ancient Greek contain some of the most analytical, influential stories I can think of, and I find it incredibly interesting how closely intertwined these stories are with the culture of their corresponding language.

I hope that the Latin and Ancient Greek programs at Wilton High School will stay for many years to come. By offering these atypical but absolutely captivating courses, Wilton has gifted me with a passion that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I encourage Wilton students to take advantage of the rare classes like these that Wilton High School has to offer; you never know when there will be another opportunity to take a class like this or how much you may end up enjoying it. After all, over three years later, I’m still soaked and dripping with the same passion for the classics as my Latin and Ancient Greek teacher, and I have no intention of drying off anytime soon.