Somewhere in his autobiography, Casanova mentions a meeting with a Hungarian officer who didn’t speak French. In the eighteenth century, this was most unusual, at least among the well-to-do travelers that were Casanova’s usual company. Fortunately, the Hungarian officer and Casanova both knew some Latin, so conversation was easy.
No one, back then, would have denied that Latin was useful. It was also important: it was the language of international science and scholarship. Moreover, it was the language one had to learn to read law, because Roman legal traditions were still important. Writers and poets carefully read ancient texts so that they might emulate these examples. In Catholic countries, Latin was used in the church. If you wanted to read theology, you had to understand Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Because of the importance of the old languages, every European city had a Latin school.
[Read more on the blog of Ancient History Magazine.]