In translating a correspondence in which one has only half the letters—in
this instance, the ones from the older time—certain difficulties must be
borne. Evidently the choice of Latin as the language of communication between
these two was a matter of mutual convenience, not native language. I say this
for a number of reasons:
It is unlikely that the modern correspondent speaks Latin with any fluency—or
for that matter, any language other than English. As you will see, Isaac
sometimes has difficulty with some of the words provided to him.
From the context, and from some of the vocabulary used, it is most likely
that Isaac’s native language is Greek. Latin, to him, would be a commercial
language. He handles it somewhat roughly.
Some of the letters suggest that Isaac lived in the Roman Empire. If so, it
is likely that he lived in the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at
Constantinople, as opposed to Rome. He is evidently familiar with the Imperial
Court, but his Latin is poor—hence the conclusion.
It should be noted that Isaac also bears the characteristic writing style of
a man who has lost all fear of being impolite in his text. This is common to the
period of Empire, hence the dating of the documents.
Isaac’s Latin did need some correction, and there are a number of points
(some noted in the marginalia) in which a precise translation would be offensive
to the modern Christian. Put bluntly, Isaac can be quite crude at times. But it
is a naïve crudity; that of a man familiar with the farm animal side of life.
As he did not intend (generally) to offend, I have taken the liberty of making
the translation somewhat more fit for modern eyes.
George Spelvin, translator.