The word Latin conjures up different images for different people. Some may think of gladiators in all their glory, a Roman emperor on his throne or even the USA's motto of e. pluribus unum.
The image for those who have studied the subject is probably quite contrasting, however, as a favorite teacher will often come to mind, Charles Lloyd, professor of classical studies at Marshall, said.
"The teaching of it is what has made it survive," Lloyd said.
When Lloyd was in the ninth grade, he first took Latin, and the way his instructor taught the language helped him make up his mind about his future profession.
"I was fascinated with words. I was fascinated with the relationship between English words and Latin words."
He has now been teaching Latin for 34 years, and Lloyd said he thinks the way Latin is thought of in academia now is very similar to how it was thought of a century ago, when it was the center of the curriculum.
"It's seen as a way to think critically -- that's being valued now," Lloyd said. "It makes your mind flexible; it gives you ways of seeing different sides of an argument."
Even words that are translated into English do not mean the same things, Lloyd said. For instance, today's idea of a book, leather-bound with hundreds of pages, is much different than an ancient Roman's idea of a book, which would be stone tablets.
"The culture has changed so dramatically -- the word, what it refers to, is remote. I think for that reason it is fascinating."
Even in Huntington, the pull of Latin was more visible a century ago. Lloyd said the classics department at Marshall has in its possession almost a decade's worth of records from the early 1900s, when a group of dignitaries, including the city mayor, would meet at Marshall to discuss all things ancient, for example Roman literature, on a regular basis.
Even though members of the general public may not be as educated about ancient times as they once were, Marshall's classical studies department is stepping up their program this year. The department is offering a master's degree in Latin for the first time starting this year. The degree is designed to be completed in two to three years, with a focus on researching Roman literature. Marshall is the only university in the state that offers an undergraduate or master's degree in the subject.
Although about 80 students are currently taking Latin at Marshall, there are only about eight students majoring in the subject.
"So many of the Romantic languages have their roots in Latin," Justin Near, a music and Latin major, said. "Even today we see Latin everywhere -- on schools, churches, buildings, our constitution, and yes, sometimes even in everyday business transactions. For me, the coolest part of Latin is the word order is not only very different from our own, it can change -- so it's like trying to figure out a puzzle every time you translate."
John Skeans plans on teaching the language when he graduates.
"Latin is fun," Skeans said. "It's really rewarding to interpret. It's tricky, but once you get the translation down, it puts a warm feeling in your heart."