University Post
University of Copenhagen
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For the love of law and Latin

Students at U of C take a stab at the age old lines in a voluntary Latin course offered to law students, although anyone with a bit of nerd in them is welcome

Students are given a chance to take a dip in the holy waters of law history with a voluntary Latin course. The course examines various original landmark Roman texts as an eye-opener to the classic principles of law drafted by a civilization thousands of years old. At the same time it will give an insight into the mother tongue of many languages.

Eleven students have gathered this frozen November day in the Metro Annex. Outside, the clacking of stylish heels can be heard on the frozen tiles of Fiolstræde. Inside, a warm classroom journey 2000 years into the past is about to take place.

It is finally time to look at the day’s Roman text.

The rule of Culpa. Only seven lines long and yet it is the foundation of our society’s way of determining guilt. And contrary to all expectation it isn’t loaded with long clauses or heavy language.

A bit nerdy

The students examine the case and in plain and simple terms explain who bears the blame. For some inexplicable reason it seems—cool. Is that nerdy? Perhaps, but it’s a kind of hobby that gets exam stressed students to undertake voluntary Latin studies, but they maintain that a jurist’s writing is greatly improved by knowing Latin and at the same time they get a better understanding of Danish grammar.

»I’m surprised at how relevant it has been. I thought ‘oh I’ll just sign up for this,’ but I have really gotten something useful out of it,« explains Kristine Elmo Andersen, a student a U of C.

This is not the hard core, but more like a hobby, explain some of the students. Latin for lawyers: Cui bono? Who benefits?

“Law is more that what is in practice right here and now. Jurists are part of a long tradition and it is a pleasure to give people the opportunity to learn something about that part of law’s history. The more knowledge, the better the jurist,” says Ditlev Tamm, professor of this semester’s Latin class, and adds:

“It goes against the grain, and yes, it’s a bit nerdy.”