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The Declaration of Arbroath: A Medieval Gem for Intermediate Latin Students


The Declaration of Arbroath: A Medieval Gem for Intermediate Latin Students

The 'Tyninghame' copy of the Declaration from 1320 AD


By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB and John Priest, B.A Cert. Min


Too many Latin students (and even scholars) ignore Latin works written after the Classical Period, having been told that anything after Vergil or Cicero just isn’t worth reading. This narrowmindedness has caused generations of students to miss out on the treasures of Medieval Latin.

In an attempt to remedy this in a small way, I’d like to introduce readers to a fascinating medieval work, the Declaration of Arbroath, and talk about what it represents for the Scottish people. I feel that this text is a great choice for students, both for its potential as a translation exercise and its historical content.

What is the Declaration of Arbroath?

The Declaration of Arbroath was written on 6 April 1320 as a letter submitted to Pope John XXII. The letter asked the Pope to confirm Scotland’s status as an independent state, free from English rule and allowed to use military force against the English or any other nation if unjusty attacked. Scholars used to think that it was written by Bernard of Kilwinning, then Chancellor of Scotland and Abbot of Arbroath, but modern scholarship has backed away from this and now calls it an anonymous work.

“As Long As but a Hundred of Us Remain Alive…”

The following passage is the most important part of the declaration and I think an excellent homework assignment. Still, teachers should prepare their students for some possibly confusing elements of grammar. The teacher should make certain that students are fully familiar with the variety of subjunctive uses. It’s also worth pointing out the author’s use of ”u” for “v” in certain words like “divicias”, “vivi”, etc., and variant medieval spellings like “divicias” for “divitias” and “set” instead of “sed”.

“Quia quamdiu Centum ex nobis viui remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit.”

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”


I hope more Latin teachers and students will take the time to explore the treasure trove of Medieval Latin literature. While works of the Classical Period certainly merit study, we should remember that Latin goes way beyond that. Latin has existed for more than two thousand years and for most of that time was the primary language of scholarship and international communication. My hope is that teachers will introduce their students to the whole range of Latin texts and everything that this great language can do!


Latin Language Teacher Resources

Click on the links below to browse our Latin teaching downloads. These include Latin Visual Vocab Sheets, Latin Preposition Diagrams, Ablative and Dative Use Lists, and Declension and Conjugation Charts.

Grey Fox Archives
Carmenta Latin Teacher Downloads


André Bastos Gurgel
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.

Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.

John Priest
Prof. John Priest graduated from University College London with a B.A. Hons. in Classical Greek and Latin, with Comparative Philology. He also earned a Cert. Min. (HMCO) from Harris Manchester College at Oxford. In his spare time, he studies the history and literature of the Celtic languages and their dialects. Prof. Priest currently tutors Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Italian, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Welsh for Carmenta Online PhD Tutors.

Click here to see Magister Priest’s full profile on the Carmenta Faculty Page.

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