Radio 3 to broadcast in Latin 'pro bono publico'

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The Independent Online

Maximum est elephans proximumque humanis sensibus. * What Pliny the Elder thought about the relative intelligence of elephants and humans, listeners to Radio 3 can find out tomorrow night.

Maximum est elephans proximumque humanis sensibus. * What Pliny the Elder thought about the relative intelligence of elephants and humans, listeners to Radio 3 can find out tomorrow night.

If they speak Latin, that is. The station will make what is thought to be radio history when it broadcasts an entire programme in the language of ancient Rome. Listeners tuning in at 10.40pm will catch Sean Barret and Mia Soteriou reading from the Pliny's 37-volume Naturalis Historia, his observations of the animal kingdom.

The programme, Between The Ears - Pliny's Naturalis Historia, was prompted by Mel Gibson's successful film, The Passion of The Christ, last year, which told the story of Jesus in Aramaic and Latin.

The programme features Pliny's descriptions of the animal kingdom set against a "soundscape" by the composers Adrian Lee, Simon Rogers and Sylvia Hallett. "It's a bit strange and only a bit mad," the show's producer, Kate McAll, said. "But there's something glorious about hearing these words even if you can't quite make out every single one."

Abigail Appleton, the station's head of speech programming, said she believed there may have been interviews in French but did not think there had been a show in Latin before. For those not versed in the classics, a transcript of the text is available on the BBC Radio 3 website.

* Translation: the largest land animal is the elephant and it is the nearest to man in intelligence.

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