Indological Writings in Latin

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.10 2018

A detailed survey by Satkari Mukhopadhyaya for Kriti Rakshana, National Mission for Manuscripts.

Latin (Lingua Latina) belongs to the Italic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. She is the parent of the modern Romance languages, such as Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and a few minor ones. Originally spoken by small groups of people living along the river Tiber, Latin spread with the expansion of Roman political dominance, first throughout Italy and most of Western and Southern Europe and then the Mediterranean regions of Northern Africa.

The modern Romance languages developed from the spoken Latin of various parts of the Roman Empire. Though Latin ceased to be used as a spoken language but it was widely used in the West for academic and literary purposes down the middle ages till the 20th century. Until the latter part of the 20th century it was used in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Till the modern times, Latin formed an important part of the educational curricula and children's education was started with Latin in grammar schools. Latin is a sonorous language with pleasing sound and is wonderfully copious. In these qualities it is second only to Sanskrit. The importance of the academic use of Latin may be understood from a few examples, such as:

1. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) the illustrious scientist astronomer from Poland wrote his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Torinensis de revolutionibus 1543) in Latin.

2. Galileo Galeli (1564–1642) the scientist from Italy wrote a few works in Latin, the most well-known of which is Sidereus Nuncius (1610).

3. The British scientist Isaac Newton (1643–1727) also used Latin in his works, such as De Motu Corporum in Gyrum (1684), Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (1687), Arithmetica universalis (1707), etc.

4. Many Greek texts were translated into Latin, of which mention may be made of the History of Herodotus (one copy may be seen in IGNCA Kalanidhi rare book collection). Arabic translations of many Greak philosophical and scientific works had been translated into Latin in the mediaeval ages, which had been being taught in European universities.

5. All Greek texts published in the 20th century under the series Oxford Classical Texts, issued by the Oxford University Press have introduction in Latin.

It is interesting to know that quite a good number of European orientalists wrote on Indological subjects in Latin. Such writings include research works (dissertations etc.) and Latin translations of Indic texts. We are presenting below a bibliographic survey of Indological writings in Latin.

(Note: The information about the works marked with asterisks have been collected from secondary sources, others have been physically examined by the author of this article)


Rigveda Specimen /Friedrich Rosen. 1830. (Seven hymns with Latin translation).

Rigveda Samhita: liber primus/Friedrich Rosen. London, 1838. (First octave with Latin translation and notes; posthumous publication).

Yajurvedae (=Vajasaneya-Sanhitae) Specimen: cum commentario primus/editit Albrecht Weber. Breslau, 1846. (From the 9th Adhyaya of the Madhyandini Samhitā of the Yajurveda) Another edition 'Particula posterior', Berlin, 1847. (Ch. 9th and 10th, text in Roman with Latin translation).

Aitereya-brahmanae specimen, Dissertatio inauguralis… in Academia Vratislaviensi …/Aemilius Schoenborn. Berlin: A. W. Schade, 1862 (Book 8, ch. 5-20): Text in Roman with Latin translation.

Vedic Auxiliary Works

De usu dattivi in carminibus Rigvedae/ Berthold Delbrück. (On the use of dative in the hymns of the Ŗgveda; Thesis: not known whether published or not).*

Bharadvajasiksa: cum versione latina exerptis ex commentario ad inotionibus criticis et exegeticis/Emil Sieg. 2 vols. Berlin, 1891-92. (Thesis: Text on Vedic phonetics, with Latin translation and excerpts from the commentary of Jaţāvallabhaśāstri Laksman)

Suparnadhyayah: Suparni fabula/editit Elimer Grube. Berlin, 1875. (Thesis containing the text of the Suparnadhyaya, in Roman).

Ŗgvidhanam…/Rudolf Meyer. Berlin, 1877 (Thesis with text)

Ŗgvidhanam/editit cum praefatione Rudolf Meyer. Berlin, 1878.

Upalekha: de Kramapatha libellus, Textum sanscrititum recensuit…versionem latinam adjecit William Pertsch, berlin 1854. (A small text on Kramapatha,step by step chanting of the Ŗgveda; a thesis, later on published in book form.


Oupnek'hat: id est secretum tegendum) ad verbum é Parsico idiomate, Sanskreticis vocabulis intermito in latinum; studio et opera/Anquetil Duperron. 2 vols. Paris 1801- 1802(Latin translation from Dara Siko's Sirre-Akbar in Persian: 50 Upanisads).

Epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata)

Ramayana, id est carmen epicum de Ramae rebus gestis poetae antiquissimi Valmicis opus …interpretationem latinam et annotationes criticas adiecit August Wilhelm von Schlegel. 3 vols. Bonna 1829, 1833, 1838. (First two Kandas of the Rāmāyaņa, edition with Latin translation).

Nalus: carmen sanscriticum e Mahābhārata/ edidit latine vertit Franz Bopp. London, 1819. (Nala episole from the Mahābhārata with Latin translation and notes).


Bhagavad-Gita: id est theopesion melos sive almi Crishnae et Arjunae colloquium de rebus divinis… textum recensuit et interpretationem latinam/adiecit Augustus Wilhelm von Schlegel. Bonn, 1823.

(Bhagvadgītā: Sanskrit text in Devanagari with Latin translation and annotations). _____: editio altera auctior et emandatior eura Chritiani Lasseni. Bonn, 1846 (A revised edition of Schlegel's work).


Brahma-vaivarta-purani specimen: Textum e codice manuscripto Bibliothecae Regiae Beroliensis/Friedrich Stenzler. Berlin, 1829. (Thesis: Two chapters of the Brahmavivarta–Purana with Latin translation).*


Descriptive grammar based on Pāņini/ Heinrich Roth. (Written in Agra, 1660-1662.Pub: Facsimile edition, Leiden, 1988).*

Grammatica Damulica/Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. Halle 1716. (Tamil grammar in Latin)

Institutiones linguae Prakriticae/Christian Lassen. Bonn, 1837. (Prakrit Grammar)

Corporis radicum Sanscritarum prolusio. Bonn, 1826. Radices Sanscrita. Bonn, 1827 (Both by Friedrich Rosen, on Sanskrit verbal roots or dhatus)

De conjugane in mi languae Sanskritae ratione habita/Abalbert Kuhn. (Thesis on conjugation of Sanskrit verbs. Thesis, submitted, Berlin, 1837)*

De Prakrita Dialecto libri duo/Albrecht Hoefer. Berlin, 1836. (Two books on the Prakrit Dialect: Thesis based on the editions of the dramas. His first lecture as a professor was also in Latin: De studio etymologico recte instituendo in 1837).

De accentu compositorum Sanskritorum/ Theodor Aufrecht. Halle, 1847. (Thesis: Accents on Sanskrit samasas)*

Kaccāyanappakaraņae specimen/Ernst Kuhn. Halle, 1869, 1874. (Chapters 2 and 6 of the Pali Grammar of Kaccayana)

De Grammaticis Prakritices/Richard Pischel. Breslau, 1874.

Sanskrit grammar in Latin and French/J.F. Pons. (Written in 1739 in Chandernagar; based on some Sanskrit grammars of Bengal tradition. Sanskrit words, etc. in Bengali scripts. Being edited by P.S. Fillizat)*

Sidharubam: seu grammatical Samscr[i]damica /Ivan Filip Vesdin (alias Paulinus a Sancta Barthdomaes), Rome, 1790. (Sanskrit grammar in Latin; believed to be the first published grammar in a European language)

Poetry, Drama & Ethics

Ritusamhara: id est Ţempestatum cyclus, Carmen Sanskritum ………..edidit latina interpretatione, germanica versione metrica atque annotationibus criticis instruxit/Peter von Bohlen. Lepzig, 1840. (Kālidāsa's Ŗtusamhāra with Latin prose translation, German versified translation and notes)

Prabodha Chandrodaya: Krishna Misri comedia. Sanscrite et latine/edidit Hermann Brockhaus. Leipzig, 1835 (text), 1845 (notes) (Kŗşņamiśraś allegoriceal, Sanskrit drama, text with Latin translation)

Raghuvansa: Kalidasae carmen, Sanskrite et latine/edidit Adolph Friedrich Stenzler. London, 1832.

Kumara Sambhava: Kalidasae carmen Sanskrite et latine/edidit Adolph Friedrich Stenzler.London, 1832.

Mŗcchakatika: id est curriculum figlinum, Sudrakae regis fabula/Sanskrite edidit Adolph Friedrich Stenzler. Bonn, 1847. (Edited Sanskrit text with introduction and notes in Latin gives definitions of different Prakrit dialects)

Kalidasae Meghaduta et Cringaratilaka: ex recensione Johannes Gildemeister. Bonn, 1841. (Text with Latin glossary)

Observationes ad Kalidasae Malavikagnimitram/Carl Capeller. (Thesis: Berlin, 1868. Pub.: In his Kleine Schriften und Sanskrit-Gedichte, Wiesbaden, 1977)

De Kalidasae Cakuntali recensionibus/Richard Pischel. (Thesis: Breslau, 1870; on various recensions of Kālidāsa's Abhijñānaśākuntala)

Hitopadesas: id est Institutia salutoris ……interpretationem latinam et annotationes criticas/adiecerunt Augustus Guilelmus a Schlegel et Christianus Lassen. Bonn, 1829 (text), 1831 (critical commentary)/ Edition, Latin translation and critical commentary of the Hitopadesa, a book of fables).

Hitopadaesi particula: libri introductionem et fabulas duas …/edidit D. Georg Henr. Bernstein. Breslau (?), 1823* (A part of the Hitopadeśa, containing the introductory portion and two stories. It could not be ascertained whether the edition contains the text or not).

Gita Govinda: Jayadevae poetae indici drama lyricum; textum … recognovit …interpretationem latinam/adiecit Christianus Lassen. Bonn, 1836. (Jayadeva's lyrical poem Gitagovinda, text with Latin translation; the editor calls it a lyrical drama).

De trecentis Canakyae poetae indici sententiis/Johannes Klat. 1873. (Text of a collection of Cāņakyanīti in Roman characters with Latin translation).*

Nalodaya: Sanskritum Carmen Calidaso adscriptum adscriptum…/edidit latina interpretatione atque annotationibus criticis/Ferdinand Benary. Berlin, 1830. (A short Sanskrit poem ascribed to Kālidāsa, text with Latin translation).


Gymnosophista: sive indicae philosophiae documenta, vol. 1, fasc. 1. Isvaracrishnae Sankhya-caricem tenensis/Christian Lassen. Bonn, 1832. (Text and Latin translation of Īśvarakŗşņa's Sāńkhyakārikā).

History & Geography

Commentatio geographica atque historica de Pentapotamia Indica/Christian Lassen. (Thesis: Geographical and historical notes on Indian Punjab. Bonn, 1827.*

Dissertatio de insula Taprobane veteribus cognita/Christian Lassen. Bonn 1842. (Notes on the Islaland of Ceylon, found in the works of Greek and Indian authors). De rebus indiae quo modo in Arabum notitiam venerit/Johannes Gildemeister. Bonn. (Thesis: On Indian matters as made known by Arab writers).*

Astronomy & Astrology

Bhaskarae Acharyae Siddhanta Shiromani: sic dicti operis pars tertia, Ganitadhiam, sive astronomiam continens, latine verit/Eduard Roeer. 1844. (Latin translation of the Ganitadhyaya and parts of Goladhyaya of Bhāskarācārya's Siddhantasiromani).

De astrologiae indicae 'Hora' appelate originibus/Hermann Jacobi (Thesis: Bonn, 1872 On the origins of Indian astrological term hora).

Glossary & Lexicography

Sanskrit-Latin glossary/Franz Bopp. 1830. Two more editions of 1847 and 1867 are known.*

De lexicographiae Sanskritae principiis/ Friedrich Stenzler. 1847 (On the origin of Sanskrit Lexicography).*

Amarakosa/translated into Latin by Jean- Francois Pons. (Most probably never published; the manuscript was deposited in the Royal Library in Paris).*


De jure Indorum criminali/Julius Oppert. (A thesis on Indian criminal law. Not much is known about this author and the work, except he was a professor and one of the pioneers in deciphering the cuneiform script).*

Juris criminalis veterum Indorum specimen/ Friedrich Stenzler. Breslau, 1842. (Specimen of Criminal law of the Ancient Indians).


Susruta Ayurvedash. id est medicinae systema a venerabili Dhanvantare demonstratum a Susruta discipulo compositum. Nunc primum ex Sanskrita in Latinum sermonem/ vertit Francis Hessler. 3 vols. 1844-1850.


Dhammapadam: ex tribus codicibus Hauniensibus palice edidit, Latine vertit, excerpts ex commentario palico, notisque illustravit/V. Fousböll. Leipzig and London, 1855. (Pali text and excerpts from the Pali commentary Dhammapadaţţhakhā in roman with Latin translation).


Bibliothecae Sanskritae: sive Recensus librorum Sanskritorum hucusque typis vel lapide ex scriptorum critice specimen/Johannes Gildsmeister. Part 1. 1847. (Bibliography of all Indological publications, brought out till 1847).

Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Regiae/Jean-Francois Pons. Paris, 1739. (Catalogue of 287 Indian manuscripts, out of which 250 are in Sanskrit collected from India by the author and then deposited in the Royal Library, Paris).*


Biographical Sketches of some the Orientalists writing in Latin

Biographical sketches of the renowned Orientalists, who wrote in Latin are prepared below (arranged in chronological order; their works are described above in Bibliographic Survey):

1. Jean Francois Pons (1698-1770)
A French Jesuit Missionary, who lived first in Chandernagar where he studied Sanskrit grammar with the help of Vopadeva's Mughabodha and then in Karnataka, where he studied Panini's grammar. The manuscripts, along with the manuscripts of his own works were deposited in the King's Library in Paris.

2. Ivan Filip Vesdin alias Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaes (1748-1806) 
A Croat Roman Catholic monk, was one among the first who noticed similarity between Sanskrit and Latin.

3. Heinrich Roth (1620-1668) 
A German Jesuit missionary. First lived in Goa where he learnt Kannada, Persian and Urdu. Later he went to Agra where he worked as a doctor in the Mughal court, learnt Sanskrit and studied Pāņini's grammar. He was well versed in Sanskrit literature and Indian philosophy. Roth acquired such proficiency in Sanskrit that he could discuss on philosophy in the language with Indian scholars.

4. Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil- Duperron (1731-1805) 
A French orientalist born in Paris and educated in Paris and Utrecht. Duperron was a versatile polyglot, knowing Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, Avesta, Pahlavi, Sanskrit, etc. He lived in India for seven years (1755-1761) where he studied Avesta and Persian from Parsi Priests. He translated the Zoroastrian sacred text Avesta into French, most probably with the help of its Persian translation published in 1771 which was the first printed Zoroastrian work (Zend Avesta; 3 vols. IGNCA Library possesses a copy of this rare publication).

His Latin translation of fifty Upanishads, from the Persian translation, Sirr-e-Akbar of Prince Dara Siko (described above) was the first introduction of the Upanishads to Europe which earned warm tributes from the German philosopher Schopenhauer.

5. Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) 
A German Protestant missionary who was one of the pioneers of European experts of Dravidian language and culture. He lived in Tranqueber, learnt Tamil methodically and founded a Tamil printing press. He thoroughly studied religion, customs and manners and the pantheon of the people of South India and wrote quite a few books on these subjects.

6. Michael Viggo Fausböll (1821-1908) 
A Danish indologist and pioneer of the Pali studies in Europe. He was a professor of Sanskrit in Copenhagen. Besides his edition and translation of the Dhammapada Fausböll is more known for his edition of the Pali Jatakas with commentary, in romon characters (The Jataka together with its commentary, being Tales of the anterior births of Gotama Buddha. London 1877-1897).

7. August Wilhelm von Schlegel (1767-1845) 
Born in Hannover Schlegel studied classical philology in Goettingen. He was introduced to Sanskrit studies in Paris by Franz Bopp. He was the first incumbent of the first chair of Indology in Germany in the University of Born, where he joined in 1818. In 1820 he started a journal under title Indische Bibliothek. He brought the Devnagari font of types, developed in Paris by The Asiatic Society in 1822, to Germany for the first time.

8. Franz Bopp (1791-1867) 
Born in Mainz, Bopp first studied Arabic and Persian under Silvestre de Sacy in Paris and then learnt Sanskrit through the method of self-teaching by reading books particularly the Ramayana himself. The credit of establishing the affinities among Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Latin and German methodically and convincingly goes. Among many of his research works in this field, mention must be made of Vergeleichende Grammatik des Sanskrit, Zend, Griechischen, Latinischen, Litauischen, Altslawischen, Gothischen, und Deutschen (in 6 parts 1833-1852).

9. Peter von Bohten (1796-1840) 
Peter von Bohlen studied in Hambung, Halle and Bonn. He learn Heb rew, Arabic, Persian and of course under August Wilhelm von Schlegal and Franz Bopp. He became a professor in Koeningsberg. He believed that ancient Egypt was culturally influenced by ancient India.

10. Christian Lassen (1800-1876) 
Born in Bergen in Norway, Lassen studied in Heidelbery and Bonn Universities. He was a student under August Wilhelm von Schleged and while in Paris, became a friend of E. Burnouf, with whom he coauthored a book on the Pali language. He closely worked in many academic projects with von Scheged. His contribution to Indological studies are great in quantity and quality.

11. Friedrich Rosen (1805-1837) 
Born in Hannover, Rosen studied in Goettingen, Leipzig and Berlin. He studied Sanskrit with Franz Bopp. Besides Sanskrit and Latin, he mastered Arabic, Persian, Bengali and Hindustani. He was one of the most brilliant scholars among the European indolgists. At the young age of 23, he became the chairman of the Oriental Languages of the University College of London. He was so well grounded in Arabic that he could translate the Algebra of Mohammed bin Musa, the oldest Arabic book on Mathematics into English and showed that the Arabs borrowed Algebra from the Indians.

The notes appended to his edition with Latin translation of the first octave of the Rgveda, published posthumously, show the depth of his knowledge of the Vedic literature, his acquaintance with Sanskrit manuscripts and mastery over Latin which he handled with great facility. He died in 1837, in the prime of life, only at the age of 32.

12. Eduard Roeer (1805-1866) 
Born in Braunschwig, Johann Heinrich Roer studied Philosophy in Koenigsberg and became a professor in Berlin, shere he studied Sanskrit with Franz Bopp. He came to Calcutta in 1839 and after two years was appointed Librarian of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. From 1847, he was editor of the Biblitheca Indica series of the society. Among his many works mention may be made of the English translation of the Vedantasara and several Upanishads, text, Sankara's commentary and English translation and the Bhtasapariccheda.

13. Hermann Brochaus (1806-1877) 
Born in Ansterdam, Hermann Brockhous studied oriental languages in Leipzig, Goettingen and Bonn. After working as an associate professor in Jena for two years he became a professor, in 1841, in the Leipzig University. One of his noted works was an edition of the Kathasaritsagara with German translation. He also studied Avesta and Persian, his two works in this area of scholarship are: 1) Vendidad Sade and 2) Liederdes Hafiz (songs of Hafiz, Persian text with the commentary of Sadi).

14. Friedrich Stenzler (1807-1877) 
Born in Wolgast, Adolph Friedrich Stenzler studied Arabic and Persian in Greifswald and Sanskrit in Berlin under Franz Bopp. Besides his editions and Latin translations of Sanskrit classical poems and drama, Stenzler was well known for his Sanskrit grammer (Elementanbuch der Sanskritsprache) which ran into seventeen editions over a long period from 1868 to 1980. He edited and translated the Yajnavalkyasmrti with Vijnanesvara's coamentary Mitaksara, and several Grhyasutras.

15. Adalbert Kuhn (1812-1881) 
Born in Koenigsberg, Kuhn started learning Sanskrit when he was a student in a school. He specialized in the study of history, mythology and linguistics of the Indo- European people. He worked as the director of a boys high school throughout his carrier.

16. Johannes Gildmeister (1812-1890) 
Born in Mecklenburg, Gildmeister learnt Hebrew, Latin and Sanskrit. He became a professor in the Bonn University, first as a professor of Sanskrit and then of Semitic studies. He revised Lassen's Antholigia Sanscritica. He was well known for writing a number of polemical parmhlets on various Topics.

17. Albrecht Hoffer (1812-1883) 
Born in Greifswald, Hoffer studied in Greifswald, Goettingen and Berlin. The areas of his specialization had been Sanskrit, Prakrit and Indo- European linguistics. He edited the journal Zeitschrift fuer die Wissenschaft der Sprache. His writings on the Vedic grammer and Prakrit language are important.