ǒs, ossis, n., “a bone”, in keeping with the titles of the other volumes of this series.
ōs, ōris, n., “a mouth”, as this book presents the Mouth, that is the immediate speach of Cicero as recorded in his letters.


Os Praesens Ciceronis Epistularis

the immediate mouth of Cicero in his letters

Reginaldus Thomas Foster and
Daniel Patricius McCarthy

Audio Editor
Patricius M. Owens

These audio recordings are made from selected letters of Cicero to friends are intended to accompany the volume OSSIVM CARNES MVLTAE : The Bones’ Meats Abundant. This audio volume will have a printed component of around 800 pages that serves as an accompaniment to the audio recordings and presents additional material of a conversational character.


authors’ introduction

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (35-95 c.e.), appointed by Vespasian as Rome’s first public school teacher, entitled his principle work Institutionis oratoriae libri XII quoted below, which was among the first books to be published with the new art of the printing press in Rome between 1467-1472 by Arnold Pannartz and Conrad Schweinheim, and triumphed in 12 glorious editions between 1471 and 1584 in the area of Venice alone. We his followers and fans, cannot help but quote him first in the dedication of this book with our own words and nows fully here in the beginning of our third volume about the importance of not only reading but especially of hearing Latin. To his students he made clear the importance of examples for imitation taken from their readings, but then he adds a very strong tamen, “although, nevertheless” there is nothing like the teacher’s living voice. 

ipse aliquid, immo multa cotidie dicat, quae secum auditores referant. licet enim satis exemplorum ad imitandum ex lectione suppeditet, tamen viva illa, ut dicitur, vox alit plenius praecipueque praeceptoris, quem discipuli, si modo recte sunt instituti, et amant et verentur.[1]

He himself (the teacher) should say something, indeed many things every day, which the students should review with themselves privately. For although enough of examples for imitating is available from reading, nevertheless that living voice, as the expression goes, nourishes more fully and especially that of the teacher, whom the students, if only they have been correctly trained, both love and respect. 

Indeed a sufficient number of texts are provided as examples for imitation in the first two volumes of this Latinitatis corpus, “Latin’s Body”, while this our third volume is dedicated to hearing Latin’s living voice, because, as Quintilian says, “that living voice … nourishes more fully”.

The beauty of the architecture of Latin is well expressed by L.P. Wilkinson in the first words of introduction to his book, Golden Latin Artistry, which were already quoted in the beginning of our first book, Ossa, and deserve quoting again here: 

Ever since I have been able to read Latin, it has been the sound and movement and architectonics of the language that have fascinated me, at least as much as the substance of anything most Romans had to say . . . and of course form and content are really indissoluble. But there are literatures in which the formal element plays a far greater part than in others, and when we are not absorbed in reading them, we can sit back and obtain an intellectual pleasure, perhaps even increase our appreciation at the next reading, by examining how the writer, consciously or unconsciously, has obtained his effects. And one of the pioneers of this practice was, in fact, Cicero (p. xi).[2]

L.P. Wilkinson, Golden Latin Artistry

Indeed, experience has also shown to us that the beauty of Latin will come out of the music and rhythm of its sentences, and therefore we have to hear them out loud. We might add our own image of Latin’s body as a piece of sculpture like the human body, as you hear Cicero sculpting the image with his words bringing it along and turning it around, clothing it with folds in the garment. 

When someone recites a Latin text aloud, the astute listener can hear how the reader understands the text. When the reader sees the connections between words, the reader can recite together the words that belong together, otherwise this may not happen. The tone of voice and pauses indicate whether the phrases are appropriately subordinated one to another. A bit of pause allows the ablatives absolute to stand properly on their own. For many of us reading with such understanding is not done upon first try, but after reflection on the meaning of the text and after coming to understand the sequence in which the author presents the thoughts on the page, returning to read the text with understanding provides a well merited reward. Such an appreciation of a text is communicated when recited aloud, and the listener more easily follows the train of thought. Strangly, a Latin text has to be understood well to be read well, but it has to be read to be understood. 

Our first volume, Ossa Latinitatis Sola: The Mere Bones of Latin, provides teaching concerning the way in which Latin works, how the language expresses meaning. The volume includes hundreds of pages of example Latin literature for imitation drawn from every era and very many authors.

More examples are given for imitation from the very model of classical Latinity himself, Marcus Tullius Cicero, in the second and third volumes of this series. These two volumes go together in that they both treat the same 51 letters written by Cicero to family and close associates, which we chose almost at random from a corpus of some 900 letters. From this larger corpus of letters we have also drawn 500 sentences consisting of only three to six words which are presented in the second volume, Ossium, and we work with these short sentences in the dialogues of this the third volume. 

In this way the letters of Cicero put meat on the bones and thus fill out the skeletal structure of the Latin language presented in the first volume, Ossa: The Bones, as the name of our second volume suggests, Ossium Carnes Multae e Marci Tullii ciceronis epistulis: The Bones’ Meats Abundant from the epistles of Marcus Tullius Cicero. The 51 letters are patiently and carefully analysed in every detail of their latin expression. Extensive cross-referencing provides links to the teachings presented in the first volume.

Throughout those first two volumes we have insisted that the teacher lead the students in reciting the Latin texts outloud so they can hear that living voice, its music and cadences. This third volume is dedicated to such recitation, and so is called Os praesens Ciceronis epistularis: The Immediate Mouth of Cicero in his Letters. The first of three divisions in this volume presents once again the same 51 letters of Cicero in their integrity in Latin, and on the facing pages we have brought together the piece-meal presentation of our English renderings of these letters given in the second volume, finally presented here as integral letters in English. The second division of this volume consists of recitations of the same 51 letters in an audio component which is accessed at this Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or web address: http://www. … . The third division of this volume addresses how to use the letters of Cicero or any other solid Latin literature in classroom learning. We begin with some guidelines or friendly helps from our experience of teaching the Latin lanaguage in the classroom. This suscinct introductory guide is then followed by 160 colloquia or conversations intended to help any teacher introduce the full and unsimplified Latin texts of Cicero into the classroom from the very first day of Latin instruction until the repeated, and ongoing experience of reading Latin literature. 

When teaching students in Rome, and now in Milwaukee and London, we begin with reciting the text out loud all together, so that the students may hear the teacher take the lead and the instructor may correct the pronounciation of the students. In our classrooms we must first hear the full Latin sentence before blindly pouncing on any first word. In reading and reciting the text, students begin to understand. Then we ask one student to take the lead in considering the text, while the instructor supplies the parts that have not yet been presented in classroom instruction, without grammatical explanations or jargon. After we have considered together a portion of the text, once again all together we recite it out-loud this time with greater understanding so that we may put it all back together as a complete thought and hear its music chime. After we understand a text, we can then start to work with it, following the colloquia as suggestions in the third division of this volume. When we complete a text or prepare to end our work for the day, we go back once again and recite the entire text so that we may follow the train of thought of the full argument. Finally, one student may agree to memorise the text and recite it in front of us all, with help as needed, during our next encounter – rewards may be supplied by the teacher. 

While these volumes arose from the classroom experience and find their completion therein, the printed and audio text also provide a few other ways to encounter the living voice. One may listen to the recitation of an entire letter while reading its text in Latin presented in this volume in typescript format, or while reading the manuscript version of the letter presented in volume two, Ossium: The Bones’. One may even try to follow the thought in the English rendering of the letter presented herein while listening to the Latin text recited aloud. Some will want to listen for sheer joy while taking a walk, or driving a car as is still done. 

An appreciation of the beauty of Latin may take hold right away and inspire students as they absorb and digest, assimilate and learn to speak, “with that living voice”, viva illa voce. This is humanly possible and totally rewarding.

Reginaldus Thomas Foster and Daniel Patricius McCarthy

[1] Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, Institutionis oratoriae libri XII, 2 vol., ed. Ludwig Radermacher (Bibliotheca scriptorum graecorum et romanorum Teubneriana), B.G. Teubner, Leipzig 1959. Citation from II, 2, 8.  found in volume 1, p. 74.

[2] Wilkinson, Golden Latin Artistry


exordium foreword
Patrick Owens

prologium | prologue 
Gina Soter

praefatio | preface
Tobias Joho

auctorum proemium | authors’ introduction 

vocabulorum compendia | abbreviations of words


first division
his letters and our renditions

The mud we work with, the modelling clay we shape, the fun we have with Play-doh in this Latinitatis Corpus, “Latin’s Body”, is all based on coming to appreciate and understand solid Latin texts. Our fun begins with reciting the texts to appreciate the sound and structure of human thought expressed in Latin. We work with these texts in the classroom or on one’s own. We imitate the examples of good Latin authors from every era until you can fly by adding two or twenty words of your own. 

Here the first division of this volume, then, presents the 51 letters of Cicero we chose almost at random as the mud, modelling clay, Play-doh, the foundation for the rest of our consideration. In the second division of this volume we shall appreciate the sound and structure of Cicero’s thought and in the third division we shall play with the mud presented here. 


second division
their recitations from the internet

Students came from every quarter of the world to study in Rome over the course of a career. Most were native speakers of English, but others were fluent in English as the language of their education. They brought with them the natural pronunciation of words and vowels learned in the home and at school during their primary years. While studying in Rome they imitated and so learned to speak Italian following the examples available in their oft international colleges. Learning Italian from mostly non-native speakers poses its own difficulties, but from this they effortlessly made the transition to the Italian or ecclesiastical pronunciation of Latin in the classroom. There we always began with reading a sentence out-loud in Latin. As we did so, one could hear every different way of pronuncing the vowels proper to each person’s native practice. Rather than correct their pronunciation of every vowel, we corrected the accentuation of each word.

In a sense the multi-cultural pronunciation of Latin in the Roman classroom was true to the early experience of this cosmopolitan and imperial center. When Cicero himself walked these streets, he certainly heard Latin spoken by people from the far reaches of the known world. Even among native Romans there has always been a variety of ways of pronouncing, speaking and using the language. 

The pronunciation of Latin changed in a significant way around the fifth century. Previously the length of each vowel was measured long or short and was important to the correct pronunciation of each word. Thereafter the length of the vowel was no longer heard and instead the accentuation of the word came to prominence. For example, the practice of using cursus, the sequence of long and short vowels at the end of a sentence, was a classical element of oratory. After the fifth century, the cursus continued, but was transferred to the sequence of accentuated and unaccented syllables at the end of a sentence.

The difficulty of trying to recover the pronounciation of long and short vowels from before the fifth century is that there is no commonly-used, practical agreement upon the length of a vowel. Were long and short vowels pronounced differently as we do in contemporary languages such as the different pronunciations of the letter ‘a’ in “fat cat, lazy father”, or did they sound the same but extended for longer and shorter lengths of time? Some serious studies have attempted to address this question, but at most they might say that a certain selection of society for a few brief decades may have pronounced the language in a particular way. Unfortunately we have no tape recording from Cicero’s day to give a definitive answer. And even if we did, we would have a limited example from the cultural variety certainly in evidence at the time. 

Much effort has been given in our time to recovering the classical pronunciation of Latin, as if there were only one. Seminars on spoken Latin, often give much effort to the correct the pronounciation of a word, one word at a time. This recalls something said in the introduction to the Ossa book, that some systems of learning Latin are too slow, others too quick. Spending so much time on the proper pronounciation, beyond the stressed and unstressed syllables, diminishes the time students could be devoting to understanding the meaning of any Latin sentence. 

No matter how much a person may wish to sound Italian in one’s pronounciaiton of their language or ecclesiastical Latin, regardless of the recitation according to the restored, classical pronunciation used in these audio recordings, a person who grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and will sound different even than someone from not so far away, say from Kansas. 

Due to the the struggle to reproduce the long and short vowels of Latin words and the varying opinions concerning how they were pronounced two-thousand years ago, we have avoided spending too much time, energy and nervous attention on something which is not uniform even among modern languages, for example British, North American, Australian, Indian English. But we do insist on the proper accentuation of Latin words. 

The length of the vowel is essential for poetry and also determines which syllable is stressed. For example, the length of the first letter “i” in the following two words – however the length was pronounced – determines where the stress falls. 

àccidit, “to happen” comes from cado, cècidi, casum, 3 where the first “i” is short and not stressed.

accìdit, “to chop” comes from caedo, cecìdi, 3 where the “i” is long and stressed.

Beyond this, time is much more profitably spent learning and appreciating the beauty of the Latin language. For us, we should sometime or another just hear Latin spoken, say as we begin to understand a Latin text and again with understanding. We shall content ourselves with our frail recitation of Cicero’s letters, if such recitation helps us access the meaning of his words. 


third division
imagined conversations


Presenting Cicero’s own expressions to students is not without challenges both for the students and for the instructor. As a help drawn from our own experience, this third division begins with guidelines for teaching in the classroom. Its list of practices to advoid are contrasted with their opposite, afirmative practices to be encouraged in stead. Lest we be accused of negative criticism, we offer positive substitutions for each criticized practice.  

Beyond these guidelines, the beginning student needs a guided introduction to an authentic Latin text, which may in turn prove daunting even to the experienced teacher. Too many workbooks, however, shy away from this challenge. They start with artificial baby-talk, alter Latin sentences and adapt them to the level of the reader in such a way that the true nature of the Latin language is never encountered until much later, if ever. Some programs adapt Latin sentences to be easier for say the English speaker to understand, and students may easily follow the instruction, until one day they confront a natural Latin sentence which does not follow English thought patterns; then they may realise they have been able to follow the word order rather than the terminations of the words to determine the function of the word in the sentence and have not been learning how to think in a Latin way. However, it is not only possible but even necessary on the very first day of Latin instruction to immerse students or oneself immediately into genuine Latin literature from different authors of every age. 

According to our method, which is different from most traditional methods, from the very first encounter students meet authentic Latin authors, Cicero among them, without adaptation of their texts. In addition to the initial description of our method of teaching and learning the Latin language presented in the Ossa book, we now wish to show how our method may be used to introduce students to any genre of Latin literature from the very first encounter, using Cicero’s letters as our guide. 

In the third division of this volume, we provide a guide to the teacher of Latin at every level and to the self-learner. This guide shows how the authentic expression of Cicero may be presented during the first four encounters with the language for each of the five Latin Experiences, as can be done for any other body of Latin literature. Thus, we begin with the first four encounters of the First Experience and show how the letters of Cicero and the five-hundred sentences may be incorporated into the learning experience from the very beginning. Immediately we would like to give eight specific examples lettered from A to H for each of these encounters for a total of 160 dialogues so that we may head off certain initial difficulties experienced by teachers and beginners. Examples of how his writings may be used in the first four encounters of the second, third, fourth and fifth experiences then follow. 

These conversations are given in the form of brief exchanges between an instructor and learners. They are based on the actual experience of teaching from authentic texts from every Latin author over the course of a career and from the experience of learning Latin by such a dialogical method. In each dialogue we begin with a genuine Latin sentence and begin to work with it and gradually develop the capacity to create our own sentences based on authentic Latin examples. People may consider sentences from these letters and from the 500 sentences and then begin to work with them by reversing the singular and plural, flipping the active and passive, changing the verb times and persons, constructing new phrases and sentences based on the material offered by the literature. 

The astute observer will notice that these conversations are devoid of grammatical jargon. The goal is to move freely and directly from one language to the other. For example, when a student renders a Latin word such as dixit into English as “they say”, the teacher may give the Latin form for “they say”, dicunt, and then help the student to see the difference between dixit and dicunt. Such play together helps to keep the teacher engaged and at times challenged, something which students appreciate as fellow learners and even enjoy. Throughout these conversations the teacher will return time and again to the bones’ glue, the Ossium gluten presented on the first day of Latin. The teacher will remind the student not to pounce on the first word, but to read and consider the entire sentence. The class will turn to the dictionary and vocabulary whose endings will tell the word’s function in the sentence. The teacher will guide the students to see and overcome the traps present in every Latin sentence as they grow in appreciation of the architecture of the Latin language. These dialogues will enormously advance the teaching and learning going on in the encounters or ‘on the beach!’. All we need is thinking, logic, calm analysis, personal maturity. Here is what you also can do with the language from the first day. 

Second Experience

A particular explanation is required here, as in the Ossa book, for the Second Experience, which helps people learn to speak the Latin language even as it reinforces the learning of all the students who benefit from practice thinking in Latin and working with the language actively to produce their own statements based on solid models. Thus, the Second Experience runs concurrently with the other experiences and provides an opportunity for students from different levels to gather together for conversational Latin. Each conversation must be tailored to the students present so that, for example, someone from the First Experience may produce a sentence which a student in the Fourth Experience may then express in indirect discourse. Students at every level learn to work with the Latin sentences in any way they want, freely, naturally, according to the instruction they have already received. 

The reading sheets that follow the Second Experience of the Ossa book were selected with conversation more in mind. These include food for dialogue in Georg Schwieder, Andreas Fritsch, Desiderius Erasmus, Mauro Pisini and others. Many sources beyond our volumes include the dialogues in De civitate Dei where Augustine argues his position, the colloquial phrases from Horace, Virgil’s Bucolics, namely the pastoral poems, it is all a dialogue. Many have turned to Plautus over the centuries, always to be inspired anew by his way of thinking and expressing himself. The letters that Cicero jotted extemporaneously to people close to him reveal his quite conversational way of thinking in Latin. 

Even Quintilian from Spain quotes Asinius Pollio the historian who says that Livi from Padova wrote Latin with a certain Paduan way of speaking. Quintilian continues to say that his students in Rome should speak Latin in a way that betrays their Roman citizenship from birth, rather than one acquired later in life. 

in Tito Livio, mirae facundiae viro, putat inesse Pollio Asinius quandam Patavinitatem. quare, si fieri potest, et vreba omnia et vox huius alumnum urbis oleant, ut oratio Romana plane videatur, non civitate donata.

in Titus Livius, a man of marvelous eloquence, Asinius Pollio [the historian] thinks there is found inside a certain Patavinitas. For which reason, if it can be done, both all words and the voice should smell after a child of this city [Rome], so that the discourse may appear to be totally Roman and not having been endowed with citizenship.

(Quintilian, Inst. Or. VIII, 1, 3)

FOSTERIANA DOCENDI VIA | Fosterian way of teaching

These shall be the precepts themselves and the principles of teaching Latin for the readers, having been proven by a most abundant practice of classes and a very sharp judgment of the students which I myself have been using for eight years now (1980) and especially these last four years as a “docens” at the “Superior School of Latin Letters of the Pontifical Gregorian University” in Rome, where at the present time about 160 women and men students from all the peoples and nations of the world are experiencing the same system.

SERMOCINATIONES SIMULATAE | imagined conversations

4 games of the first experience

From the first day of learning the Latin language, eight sentences of Cicero are presented, as well as for the next three encounters of the first Experience for a total of thirty-two sentences of Cicero. Then imagined dialogues are conducted between the instructor and students in the classroom. These are intended to illustrate how Reginaldus Foster taught in the classroom directly from authentic texts of Latin, without resorting to charts and confusing grammatical terminology.

4 games of the second experience

Another thirty-two dialogues are presented for the first four encounters of the second, the conversational experience.

4 games of the third experience

Another thirty-two dialogues are presented for the first four encounters of the third experience.

4 games of the four experience

Another thirty-two dialogues are presented for the first four encounters of the fourth experience.

4 games of the fifth experience

Another thirty-two dialogues are presented for the first four encounters of the fifth experience.

Latin greetings of ones gathering

These dialogues are taken directly from very many Latin authors and illustrate different ways to greet another person in Latin and to take one’s leave.


Note: The letters are taken from the chronological corpus of all of Cicero’s extant letters presented in:

The Correspondence of M. Tullius Cicero, 7 vols., ed. R.Y. Tyrrell and L.C. Purser, Hodges Figgis & Company – Longman’s Green & Co, Dublin – London 1904-1914, photo reprinting of the third edition of 1904-1914 by Georg Olms, Hildesheim, Germany 1969.

Share Button