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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Vatican breathes new life into Latin
Actors from a BBC production of Julius Caesar
Don't look now, it's the officium foederatum vestigatorium
An up-to-date Latin dictionary produced by the Vatican goes on sale this week, modernising a language considered by many best left consigned to history.

The work, called Lexicon Recentis Latinitas, offers Latin translations for everyday words which originated many centuries after the ancient language went the way of the Romans.

In their day, Rome's rulers might have benefited from a "telephonium albo televisifico coniunctum" - or video telephone - to stay in touch with distant parts of the empire.

Credited with building the world's first roads, the Roman creation has become the bane of the modern motorist's life in what the dictionary calls "tempus maximae frequentiae" - or rush hour.

With the popular pastime of pitting humans against humans - or lions - in the Colosseum a central feature of Roman life, contestants might have found a use for "usus agonisticus medicamenti stupecfactivi" - or taking steroids.

However, gladiators suspected of using performance enhancing drugs might have been investigated by the "publicae securitatis custos internationalis" (Interpol) or even the "officium foederatum vestigatorium" (FBI).


Father Reginald Foster, who translates Pope John Paul II's documents from Latin to English, said the dictionary is fun with an important purpose.

"Maybe these things will help increase interest in the language because there are a million things that did not exist then [in Roman times]," he said.

He said there was a Latin equivalent for modern political terms, such as "tabella viarum ad pacem" - the Middle East roadmap for peace in a land first named Palestine by the Romans.

Latin may be defunct as a spoken tongue, but it is still the Catholic Church's official language.

But at a cost of 100 ($116) euros a copy, the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis is unlikely to become a "liber maxime divenditus" - or best-seller.

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