Latin Via Ovid: A First Course by Norman Goldman, Jacob E. Nyenhuis

Book Review by Ursus

Those Romanophiles lacking proper schooling in Latin must take the pains to teach themselves the language. There are dozens of Latin textbooks in circulation. How is one to decide among them for the most useful in self-study tool?

The most standard text in North America used by universities and high schools is Frederick Wheelock's Latin. Unfortunately Wheelock's Latin does not commend itself to self-study.

It is extremely grammar intensive from the beginning and may overwhelm those without the aid of an instructor. The readings are also mind numbingly dull, concentrating mostly on Cicero's insipid Stoic philosophy.

A little known alternative to Wheelock is Latin Via Ovid. This textbook introduces Latin's complicated grammar in less intensive, more manageable installments. As one might expect from the title, the reading passages are based on Ovid's poetry, specifically on his Metamorpheses. Here one can enjoy the colorful tales of Roman mythology instead of Cicero's dry lecturing. The text begins with a simplified version of Jupiter's rape of Europe, then progresses to more complex passages regarding the Trojan War.

The combination of delightful reading passages and manageable grammar exercises earns this book high marks for independent study. The text contains the usual exercises, charts, dictionaries, and cultural readings one expects from a language book. An optional workbook is available (for a cheap price), as are audio tapes (for a considerably greater price).

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. I've tried at least three or four textbooks in my Latin studies and discarded them all. They were all too complicated and boring to sustain my interest in independent study. With Latin Via Ovid I have progressed through the first few chapters with remarkable speed. Those who for some reason detest Roman mythology may find another text more suitable. Otherwise, I highly recommend this product.

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