Preferred Style:

Mobile: No images
Low Quality (Default): Small Images
High Quality: Large images, shadows, colors. Do not attempt on dial-up.

If you have a recommendation for a new color scheme, please tell us about it via the Contact Us page.

Henle Latin Series

by Robert J. Henle, S. J.

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Henle Latin, by Robert J. Henle, S.J. Series of five 5" x 8" paperback books. Published by Loyola Press. Please support by buying this program from our Amazon affiliate link.

Henle Latin was first published in 1945 and has been in print ever since. Revised in 1958 by the author, the program combines charm with rigor to create an interesting and thorough study of Latin. Christian stories and values, American patriotism, and the stories of the Ancients are extremely appealing to those seeking positive, uplifting material for their own or their children's studies.

Henle Latin consists of a series of four books and a required reference, Henle Latin Grammar, to be used for Latin mastery during the high school years. No previous Latin knowledge is required. With "general intellectual values" as its goal, this program could easily be used by the homeschooling parent who wishes to teach herself Latin. Photocopies of the answer keys are available for $1 each. Each of the books is detailed below.

Henle Latin Grammar ($9.50, 261 pages) contains an exhaustive, 1,017 points of Latin grammar, an appendix with an additional eight points, and an index. The grammar points are grouped into two main sections of forms and syntax with many well-organized subsections. Each grammar point is referenced in the lessons of the First Year and Second Year books. The appendix includes the specifics of Roman (classical) versus Italian (ecclesiastical) pronunciation.

First Year

Henle Latin First Year ($16.95, 514 pages) offers plenty of material with 467 exercises and 44 readings. In the preface, the author acknowledges that in a traditional school environment, many classes may not be able to get through the entire book, but that he has included enough material to challenge advanced students. The first seven units (26 lessons) must be completed in order to be able to move on to second year.

A relatively limited vocabulary that will be needed for the second year's work with Caesar's writings is introduced. A Latin/English and English/Latin glossary is included.

In his introduction, Father Henle gives advice and encouragement to the student about studying Latin. He urges the students to work hard and avoid distractions, saying, "Great lawyers, doctors, engineers, and all successful men need and have the power to concentrate."

Henle Latin First Year is set up in a traditional format and grammar is fully covered. Grammar concepts are presented in clear and simple language and move along at a rapid pace. The student is expected to memorize paradigms and grammar rules referred to in the Latin Grammar. Several exercises may be available for each lesson but ones marked "Essential" must be completed and mastered by the student for success. Derivatives are discussed with vocabulary, and diagramming of sentences is introduced quickly. Each unit ends in a review of vocabulary and concepts.

The content of Henle Latin First Year is frequently inspiring. As this series was written in 1945, a number of the translations, such as exercise 142, Pearl Harbor, bring to life the patriotism and warmth of the "greatest generation." Other exercises highlight the sacrifices of the battle for Bataan (reading #20), the bravery of American soldiers (exercise 384), and the courage and honor of Nathan Hale (reading #41).

Christianity in Roman times is brought into context with some of the translation exercises. Roman virtue is compared with Christian virtue in exercise #155 about Cicero and #181 in which the merits of a faithful Christian are compared with those of a Roman king in a discussion among angels. A hearing of several Christians with the Roman proconsul results in the unwavering Christians being sentenced to death after steadfastly refusing to deny their faith.

Roman history is a frequent topic of the translations. Selections about the Punic Wars, Caesar, war with the Etruscans, and many non-specific battles are included.

Father Henle has some fun in the translations with a letter from a soldier, a secret message that was partially torn, and a newspaper story. Mottoes and sayings appear throughout the book in small boxes. Christian themes are seen throughout the book and are presented from a Catholic point of view. Exercise 111, for example, discusses the importance of prayer. Seven "Moments at Mass" explain the Latin traditionally spoken by the priest. Henle Latin First Year culminates with a lengthy reading of the "Condemnation of Christ."

Second Year

Henle Latin Second Year ($15.95, 640 pages) uses Caesar's accounts of the Gallic wars as a vehicle for Latin study. Father Henle introduces the book as being about three great leaders: Julius Caesar, Vercingetorix (a Gallic hero), and Jesus Christ, a different sort of leader. This book is divided into four parts.

The first section, written completely in English, provides the needed background for the course. Caesar's life, Roman imperialism, and the setting for the Gallic wars are explained as the author asks the students to draw parallels between the ways of men two thousand years ago and now. Father Henle suggests that the imperialism of Rome is not unlike imperialism of more modern times and that we may learn a great deal about ourselves from the study of these men of the past.

The second section is entitled "Roman Imperialism in Gaul." The Latin text is based upon Julius Caesar's account of the wars in Gaul, but the selections are "frequently simplified" to meet the abilities of a second year class. Important vocabulary is shown in "Words to Remember" sections on almost every page. Footnotes explain idioms and unfamiliar words. Maps, drawings, and pictures illustrate the action of the story. This section of approximately 250 pages ends with a Latin reading on the death of Caesar.

The third section gives students pause to study the greatest of all leaders, Jesus Christ. This brief 33-page unit begins with a discussion of Napoleon's thoughts on the mortality of human leaders and the everlasting leadership of Christ. The rest of the section is devoted to inspiring translations from Latin of Christ's encounter with Pilate, prayers from the Mass, the story of the prodigal son, the Beatitudes, the story of the three kings, and others.

The fourth part of Henle Latin Second Year is called "Exercises Based on Caesar" and provides grammar lessons and activities to support reading Caesar's accounts. Father Henle suggests in the preface that the teacher should determine how to use this section. The author suggests that classes that did not finish the entire First Year book may need to work through the first sixteen lessons before beginning on Caesar. He offers that many teachers may wish to begin the readings and work through the grammar review at the same time. The lessons are similar in style to those in the First Year book though they are almost all on the topic of Caesar.

The remainder of the book has directed review exercises (by topic), vocabulary lists, classified word lists, and a glossary.

Third Year

Henle Latin Third Year ($15.95, 468 pages) focuses on the study of Roman politics and law using Cicero's speeches to highlight the conflicts in society during his time. The information shared in this book will give the student a better understanding of the Roman Republic's influence on more recent history such as the English Constitution, the French Revolution, and the formation of the government of the United States.

Father Henle begins the book with a discussion of the history and importance of oratory in Rome. He gives a concise and easily understood overview of styles and types of orations as well as a clear explanation of the elements of an oration (exordium, narratio, partitio, etc.) The speeches covered are then outlined with key points of each element. Stylistic devices such as alliteration, hyperbole, metaphors, and pleonasm are explained with examples to give the student the background needed to gain an appreciation of Cicero's mastery.

Part I is entitled "Roman Constitutional Government Versus Anarchy." Father Henle introduces this section in an exciting manner as if it is a drama. The characters, setting, and conflict are presented in English along with fictitious news bulletins to set up the chronology of events. Then, Cicero's brilliant orations against Catiline, examples of the genus deliberativum type of oration, begin in Latin. As in the previous books in the series, there are illustrations, copious footnotes, and "Words to Remember" on almost every page.

Part II, "Roman Law Versus Political Corruption," uses Cicero's arguments for the prosecution of Gaius Verres on the charge of extortion as an example of the genus judiciale type of oration. This section is laid out in the same manner as the previous one. The content will give students the opportunity to consider if the corruption in government today is really unique.

Part III, "Rome Versus Christianity, Christ Conquers the Empire," begins with a brief prologue in which Father Henle points out that the freedoms enjoyed in Rome were only afforded to Roman citizens while the masses of slaves were little more than chattle. Christianity brought with it dignity and hope to all levels of society. The Latin selections begin with Pilate's condemnation of Christ and continue with stories of the martyrs including Paul, Peter, and others. Other readings highlight the rise of Rome as the leading city in Christendom, Constantine, and the popes. Father Henle ends this section by saying that the struggle between Christianity and its enemies has never ended but that we will continue to be inspired to fight the battle.

Part IV features grammar exercises and review based upon Cicero's speeches. A listing of idioms from the speeches, a brief biography of Cicero, review word list, classified word list, and a glossary are included. A section entitled "Cicero Today" offers suggested topics for discussion that encourage application of the concepts and themes of the speeches to today's time.

Fourth Year

Henle Latin Fourth Year ($15.95, 616 pages) builds upon the knowledge and faith taught in the previous three years. Father Henle introduces the concept of the ideal Roman, a man of "honor, temperate wisdom, humanity, courtesy, magnanimity." He compares this Roman humanist, who "considers the intellect and will of man as the core and center of his being" and who finds great value in the free actions of humans, with the Christian humanist, who "considers the spirit of man no longer merely as the crown and climax of creation, but as the living temple of the all-holy God." The Christian humanist "studies man's will not as cabined and confined within the straitened limits of time and space, but as working against a background of eternity, torn between the titanic forces of two worlds, choosing -- with eternal life or death at stake."

Part I is a speech by Cicero, the "Defense of Archias," in which Cicero defends his friend and teacher in a Roman court. Many footnotes help the student to gain an understanding of Cicero's humanistic beliefs, and these are tempered with the contrast of Christian doctrine.

Part II consists of the first six books of the epic poem, The Aeneid, by Virgil. The goal is to see the high values and moral character within the book, and many footnotes help the student to interpret this material. Struggles and challenges occur throughout Aeneas' life, and Father Henle alludes to the attitude of humility with which Aeneas continues through the remaining six books.

Part III is entitled "Documents of the Christian Spirit." With the inspiring words of Christ and the Apostles, Father Henle offers words to live and die by. This section clearly shows the missing element in the concept of Roman humanism.

Part IV contains 65 exercises based on Cicero's writing, vocabulary specific to Virgil, and a glossary. The appendix includes a brief biography of Cicero, the outline of "Pro Archia," and a fictional recreation of what the prosecutor in the Archias case may have said. The appendix also has a biography of Virgil, a discussion of his works, and an overview of the stylistic devices used in The Aeneid.

Recommendation: Henle Latin offers a traditional method of studying Latin with a focus on grammar and understanding. Gradually building to more complex concepts, this program epitomizes the Christian Trivium approach to learning with study of history viewed through the light of the faith. Important ideas that helped to define our government are revealed, and humanist beliefs are contrasted with the realities of the New Testament. Third Year offers an outstanding overview of rhetoric. Latin truly lives in Father Henle's books, and it is no surprise that this classic is still in print after more than 50 years.

The author recommended that study of this series should begin in ninth grade. The pace at which the program moves and the issues raised in later books in the series make that recommendation valid for today. Henle Latin will be much easier for the student who has already studied an elementary or middle school level Latin program. As mentioned earlier, this program would be excellent for adults to teach themselves Latin from a Christian perspective. Both Laura Berquist and Cheryl Lowe offer study guides to assist in daily assignments and testing.

Ideally suited for Catholic families, this program is equally valuable for most Protestant families. The Christian themes throughout the books are inspiring, and Father Henle's mastery at contrasting beliefs of "old pagans" with Christian beliefs will provide food-for-thought for families. Any specifically Catholic beliefs may be discussed when a Protestant student of the appropriate age is using this series. After reading the detailed summaries above, the parents should be able to determine if Henle Latin will benefit their family. resources related to this review:

Latin Curricula Comparison Chart to help select an introductory or intensive program.
Syllabus for Henle Latin by Laura Berquist
Henle Latin I Guides by Cheryl Lowe

Find more helpful reviews on's Review Page Index!

Reviews represent the opinions of the authors rather than the views of