David wrote, in this thread in November:
> > It strikes me sometimes that the Irish literati related to their own
> > earlier language and literature as "classical", much as they related
> > to the great learned edifice of Latin.
> This is quite evident - and has been recognised before - in Táin Bó
> Cúailnge, which looks like the attempt to create (not quite
> successfully) a national epos that can stand side by side to Vergil's
I wonder if comparing the Táin to the Aeneid is really to the point,
though. Virgil very consciously modeled the Aeneid on Homer's Odyssey
and Iliad, including in it both sea adventures and a war. It was
clearly intended as the ultimate Latin challenge to the supremacy of
Greek literature. The Táin was, as you've pointed out, probably
intended to bolster national/linguistic prestige in a similar way. But
the Táin went its own way in narrative content and structure, resulting
in a work that is distinctly Irish rather than Greco-Roman. It ought
to be appreciated on its own terms, not as some sort of botched
immitation of a foreign epic.
As for the term "classic" or "classical", it's interesting that it came
fairly late to Latin, and no equivalent ever took root in Greek. M.
Cornelius Fronto brought the word "classicus" into the literary sphere
in the middle of the 2nd century CE when he appealed to the linguistic
authority of the upper class; in other words, whether or not certain
forms were used by "establishment" orators or poets:
"id est classicus adsiduusque aliquis scriptor, non proletarius"
= that is, a high-ranking [classicus] and landed [adsiduus] writer, not
the common sort [proletarius].
By that standard, both "Classical" Old Irish and the carefully defined
and regulated idiom that was "Classical Modern Irish", aka
Nua-Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach, were absolutely classical languages.