Cambridge Latin Course

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Cambridge Latin Course[1]
Cover of Cambridge Latin Course Unit 1, 5th Edition.jpg
North American Cambridge Latin Course Unit 1 (Fifth Edition)
CountryUnited Kingdom[2]
PublisherCambridge University Press[4]

The Cambridge Latin Course (CLC) is a series of textbooks published by Cambridge University Press, used to teach Latin to secondary school pupils. It provides a grounding in vocabulary, grammar and sense which allows progression through Common Entrance exams into a Secondary, or, Public School. First published in 1970, the series is in its fifth edition as of April 2019. It has reached high status in the United Kingdom, being the most successful Latin course in the country for secondary school pupils,[5] and being used by 85% of Latin-teaching schools.


The course consists of a series of chapters, each of which includes stories and dialogues in Latin as well as vocabulary and grammar explained in English. There is a short history section at the end of each chapter to provide context on Ancient Rome.

The first story "Cerberus" begins:

Caecilius est in hortō. Caecilius in hortō sedet. servus est in atriō. servus in atriō laborat.

which means, in English:

Caecilius is in the garden. Caecilius is sitting in the garden. The slave is in the atrium. The slave is working in the atrium.

Publication history[edit]

As of 2022, five editions of the course have been published. The latest edition, released in July 2022, made significant modifications and additions to the lessons in order to expand the perspectives shown of Roman life, with more representation of women and people of colour as well as a re-examination of slavery in the Roman world, and incorporate updated scholarship.[6]


Book I (published 1970)[edit]

The book tells the adventures of Caecilius, a banker, and Metella, his wife, in Pompeii from the reign of Tiberius to that of Vespasian. Sometimes the book deviates to talk about Caecilius' two slaves, their cook Grumio, and Clemens, and their frequent humorous mishaps. The book also discusses Metella (Caecilius' wife) and her slave, Melissa. The book ends when Mount Vesuvius erupts, and Caecilius, Cerberus, Melissa, and Metella are killed in Pompeii. However, the book leaves the reader wondering whether Caecilius' son, Quintus, survives, as he indeed does, along with the slave, Clemens. Cerberus is Caecilius' guard dog; he sits by his master as the volcano erupts. Grumio's fate is left ambiguous. The beginning of the book is very simple, but each stage develops more complicated grammar and vocabulary. This book introduces the nominative, dative, and accusative cases and different verb tenses including the present, perfect and imperfect.[7]

Book II (published 1971)[edit]

The second book is set in Roman Britain near Fishbourne Roman Palace under Agricola, where Quintus meets Salvius and King Cogidubnus, who are historical figures. The book starts by introducing a new family, a Roman aristocrat, Salvius, who is a successful lawyer and senator in Rome. His family includes his wife, Rufilla, and many slaves, some of whom are Britons, others foreign. In the second half of the book, Quintus tells King Cogidubnus about his journey to Alexandria, where he met Barbillus, a friend of his father. Barbillus later dies of a wound during a hunting trip, and tells Quintus to find his son Rufus, who lives in Britain, thus explaining the reason for Quintus' visit.

Book III (published 1972)[edit]

The third book picks up in the Roman province of Britain, in the city of Aquae Sulis (Bath) in particular. Cogidubnus falls ill and goes to the baths at Aquae Sulis, and Salvius, seeing his chance, hatches a plot with the baths' owner, Lucius Marcius Memor, to kill him. Quintus foils the plan, much to Salvius' dismay. He also finds Barbillus' son Rufus and gives him a message. When Cogidubnus eventually dies in captivity, Salvius writes a false will for him. A continuous narrative throughout the book also includes Modestus and Strythio, two bumbling Romans in the military.

Book IV (published 1973)[edit]

In the fourth textbook, the setting moves to Rome, a few years after the events in Britain. Quintus is absent, and the main characters are Salvius, his ally Haterius, and several other Roman aristocrats, as well as some ordinary citizens. Salvius coordinates the death of Paris, a famous pantomime actor, and exiles Domitia, the emperor's wife, whose affair with Paris was exposed.

Book V[edit]

The book is set in Rome, after Agricola has successfully conquered Scotland. Various acquaintances of the emperor, including Glabrio, an advisor to the emperor, are introduced, as well as the emperor himself. Glabrio accuses Salvius of the forgery of Cogidubnus' will, while Domitia accuses him of plotting her exile. Quintus is present at Salvius' trial. Salvius is convicted and sentenced to five years of exile. In the remaining chapters, the writings of several poets and historical figures replace the narrative.

American editions[edit]

To suit the American format, books III and IV were combined.

Recurring characters[edit]

Bust of L. Caecilius Iucundus

Main characters[edit]

Caecilius is the protagonist of the first book. He is a banker who lives in Pompeii. When the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupts near Pompeii, Caecilius returns to save his family. A wall falls on him in his house and he tragically dies.

The son of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and Metella, Quintus is the main character of Cambridge Latin. He escapes Pompeii and in the second book goes to Alexandria, Egypt, where he is assigned to find the dying Barbillus' son Rufus. In the third book, he finds Rufus, but also becomes entangled in a plot against King Cogidubnus. Quintus appears once more in the final book, where he is present for the trial of Salvius.

Gaius Salvius Liberalis, a distant relative of Quintus, first appears in the second book. He is a cruel man who is not capable of loving anything besides making others suffer. In the third book, it is revealed that he is conspiring against King Cogidubnus. In the fourth book, he becomes part of yet another conspiracy, which is no surprise, to exile the philandering Domitia and murder her lover Paris. In the final book, he is put on trial for his crimes and is deservedly sentenced to five years of exile.

Cogidubnus is a client king of Britain. First appearing in the second book, he becomes a close friend of Quintus. Cogidubnus becomes ill, and it is revealed that his advisor, Salvius, is trying to murder him. Although the conspiracy fails, Cogidubnus dies in captivity of his illness. Salvius attributed his terrible actions to the fact that he could no longer feel any feelings.

  • Belimicus and Dumnorix

Belimicus is the chieftain of the Cantiaci tribe who first appears in the second book. Throughout the books he is insanely jealous of Dumnorix, the chieftain of the Regnenses. (Dumnorix is later killed when he attempts to seek help from the governor of Britain, Agricola.) He helps Salvius in his plot to kill Cogidubnus, but begins to rebel against Salvius's authority, as he feels he deserves the kingship. Belimicus is murdered by Salvius with poison.

  • Quintus Haterius Latronius

Haterius is a rich client and friend of Salvius who appears first in the fourth book. He constructs the arch of Titus for Domitian. He appears again, briefly, in the fifth book, in which he follows Salvius into exile.

Emperor Domitian first appears in the fourth book, briefly, although he had been mentioned several times before. Domitian is the one whom Salvius takes orders from. Although Domitian instigated the crimes, Salvius does not implicate the emperor in order to save his son.

Other characters[edit]

  • Metella, Caecilius' wife, Quintus' mother. She is killed in Pompeii with Caecilius.
  • Grumio, their adventurous slave: a cook, who is often drunk. He was knocked out by Clemens and was unable to escape Pompeii, in the stage 17 test translation he is found in Naples by Quintus. He is somewhat of a fan-favorite character in Latin classrooms.
  • Poppaea, Grumio's lover, also a slave, appeared to have a short fling with Clemens at one time.
  • Lucrio, Poppaea's elderly master
  • Hermogenes, who stole money from Caecilius and was later convicted in court
  • Clemens, a loyal, clever slave whom Caecilius frees later. He then sets up a glassware shop in Alexandria
  • Cerberus, the Caecili family dog that dies in Pompeii.
  • Melissa, a very beautiful slave girl bought by Caecilius. It is sporadically suggested that she has some relationship with Clemens.
  • Lucia, sister of Quintus
  • Alexander, a friend of Quintus, Lucia denies and later admits that she is attracted to him
  • Syphax, a slave trader from Syria.
  • Felix, a former slave of Caecilius, saved infant Quintus from a robber
  • Marcus, Roman citizen, brother of Quartus
  • Quartus, Roman Citizen, brother of Marcus
  • Sulla, scribe who finds himself in the middle of a feud between Marcus and Quartus. In later editions, Marcus and Quartus were removed, their feud was replaced by an argument between Quintus and Lucia
  • Julius, friend of Caecilius
  • Marcus Holconius Rufus, Politician & Patron of Pompeii whom Caecilius befriends
  • Milo, A very famous athlete who got both his and his statue's noses broken by discuses
  • Rufilla, Gaius Salvius Liberalis' wife, a relative of Quintus
  • Bregans, a lazy British slave who gets in trouble for not working
  • Loquax, slave known for singing
  • Anti-Loquax, twin of Loquax, known for dancing
  • Volubilis, Egyptian cook, slave of Salvius
  • Varica, Salvius' slave manager
  • Philus, learned slave of Salvius
  • Domitillia, deceptive slavegirl of Rufilla
  • Barbillus, a wealthy Alexandrian
  • Eutychus, a mob boss in Alexandria, whom Clemens runs out of the city.
  • Rufus, Barbillus' son and heir, searched for by Quintus
  • Eupor, Rufus's Greek friend
  • Lucius Marcius Memor, a lazy, greedy, obese haruspex (soothsayer)
  • Cephalus, Memor's assistant
  • Modestus, a simple, clumsy, Roman soldier stationed in Britain
  • Strythio, a friend and fellow soldier of Modestus
  • Vilbia, native Briton, admirer of Modestus
  • Bulbus, admirer of Vilbia
  • Vitellia, wife of Haterius and sister of Rufilla
  • Glitus, supervisor of the craftsmen working under Haterius
  • Euphrosyne, a Greek philosopher
  • Paris, a pantomime actor
  • Myropnous, a dwarf pipe player, friend of Paris
  • Domitia, his wife, in an affair with Paris
  • Epaphroditus, a freedman of the emperor
  • Manius Acilius Glabrio, aristocrat
  • Gaius Helvidius Lupus, his friend
  • Martial, a famous poet
  • Sparsus, senator
  • Clemens, a relative of the emperor
  • Flavia, his wife
  • Polla, their daughter, in love with Helvidius but betrothed to Sparsus
  • Titus, their son, made heir to the emperor
  • Publius, their other son, also made heir to the emperor
  • Decens, a would-be guest of Caecilius who apparently was killed by the ghost of Pugnax (a gladiator) on his way to the party.
  • Abraxas, a slave and cook in Milan who curses pests. He dies in Tolmezzo from being killed by the war.
  • Amadeus Augustus Guntherus, a master of slaves in Milan and father of Cerberus and Marina
  • Sofia, mother of Cerberus and Marina
  • Cerberus Augustus Guntherus, the son of Augustus and Sofia who was named after the Iucundus family dog.
  • Marina, sister of Cerberus
  • Federicus, a German slave who lives in Milan and drowns in the Baths of Hercules
  • Hubertus, a Milanese slave who dies in the Germanic Wars
  • Iustus, a slave who is killed by a German emperor, Iohannes
  • Iohannes, a German emperor who kills Iustus and is later arrested by the guards and executed

In popular culture[edit]

The popularity of the Cambridge Latin Course is such that the series has been indirectly referenced in television. The ancillary characters Caecilius, Metella and Quintus in the Doctor Who episode "The Fires of Pompeii" are loosely based on those from the Cambridge Latin Course.[8] In the opening episode of series four of Being Human the "Vampire Recorder" blurts out words from Book One of the Cambridge Latin Course ("Caecilius est in horto!"), as part of the general nonsense he is chanting whilst pretending to perform a sacrificial ceremony.

Grumio is the name of the slave in the TV series Plebs, and characters named Metella and Flavia also appear.

See also[edit]

  • Minimus — Latin text for younger students from the same publisher


  1. ^ "Cambridge School Classics Project".
  2. ^ "Cambridge School Classics Project".
  3. ^ "Cambridge School Classics Project".
  4. ^ "Cambridge School Classics Project".
  5. ^ Cambridge Latin Course - Fourth Edition Archived 2007-11-27 at the Wayback Machine, Cambridge University Press, UK.
  6. ^ "UK school Latin course overhauled to reflect diversity of Roman world". the Guardian. 10 July 2022. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  7. ^ An electronic copy of this book can be found at Archived 2017-03-23 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "The Fires of Pompeii - Fact File". BBC. 12 April 2008. Retrieved 12 April 2008.

External links[edit]