Luther College's Philip Freeman: A New Translation and a Celtic Adventure

May 9, 2016

"Appius Claudius was old and blind, yet he led a household of four vigorous sons, five daughters and many dependents.  He did not lazily succumb to old age but kept his mind taut as a bow."  So writes the great Roman orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero in 44 BC in a short treatise called "De Senectute." Cicero's prose is newly translated by Luther College's Philip Freeman.

This hour, we talk to Freeman, who gives us Cicero's thoughts in a lively new translation Freeman calls "How to Grow Old; Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life."  Freeman told host Charity Nebbe that he first read the work when he was taking college Latin at age 18 and he says "it didn't mean much to me at the time.  But once I turned 50 a few years ago, I returned to it and rediscovered the wonderful, timeless book it is about growing old."

He says Cicero's beliefs incorporate the"wisdom of the Greeks with the practical sensibility of the Romans." Freeman tells us how the famous Roman orator strongly believed in maintaining his intellectual creativity as he grew older and in part that involved listening to young people, who have much to teach older people.  Exercise the mind, Cicero says, because much like a muscle it can become flabby and useless.  Freeman says we have much to learn from this 2060-year-old book, including not to fear death, because "life is like a drama and one day it will be time to step-off the stage."  Freeman told us that Cicero believed in "seizing the day and the the season that is appropriate to your life."

And if you took Latin in high school or college, Freeman's book lets you read Cicero in his original text side-by-side with his English translation. 

Later the hour, we hear about another Freeman book, this one a novel called "Sacrifice: A Celtic Adventure," about a sixth-century nun who solves a murder mystery.  Freeman told Charity that he's a big Agatha Christie fan and writing the book gave him a chance to learn more about the Celtic world and the life of St. Brigid of Ireland.  The reader can learn a lot from the novel too, including insights into the difficult transition from the pagan world of the Druids to Catholicism.  Freeman says he loves to learn about the "very much unappreciated" world of Celtic mythology.