Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Into the Field!

I took some of my students on a real fieldtrip to the National Gallery of Art. We took a day over Winter Break, boarded the Virginia Railway Express (local commuter rail), and made our journey into Washington, DC to take a look at their exhibition titled "Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples". This exhibit was quite good and featured several quality items we had seen only in books or other sources. Favorites included the busts of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Caligula, and Nero, and there was also an awesome, ornate gladiator's helmet. My students and I heartily recommend it if you find yourself in DC between now and March. Afterwards, the exhibition will travel to Los Angeles for you guys on the West Coast. A must-see for all Latin students!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comparative Studies, or is that Comparative Studying?

While grading Latin I tests yesterday, I came across some interesting notes a student had scribbled in the margin of her paper. In the section for conjugating verbs, she had written out her personal endings -o, -s, -t, etc., and then she had written out the equivalent in German! While she's just a beginning Latin student, I believe she is also taking German II or III. By the way, she did quite well on the test, earning a 97%. Needless to say, her conjugations were impeccable!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Temple of Aphaia

Time for another posting a picture for the heck of it. This is the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aphaia in the Saronic Gulf. I took this photograph in July 2004.

Tombstones as Toilets

In Latin II class today we were reading the werewolf story in Chapter 33 of Ecce Romani II. The students thought it odd that the slave and the soldier were walking down the road and then suddenly the slave would have to wait while the soldier went off into the tombstones. I told them to think about it for a moment but not say anything. Lightbulbs went off over a couple of students' heads and the others looked perplexed. I then explained that tombstones would provide some privacy for those needing to relieve themselves. A couple students, not open-minded enough that urinating or defecating anywhere but in a toilet was even in the realm of possibility, didn't believe me. Unfortunately, I was unable to provide evidence. Doing a quick search after class didn't support me either. Certainly I remember requests or curses on tombstones in the ballpark of "Don't pee on me." I'm not making this up, am I?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amore, More, Ore, Re

While looking online recently for a good Latin quote on love, I found

amore, more, ore, re

I stopped. I reread the quote. I thought this was the most ingenious thing I had ever found! The quote was attributed to Vergil (actually it said "Virgilius") and I assumed that this was something very few people knew. Boy, was I wrong! When I googled the phrase, I discovered that lots of people already knew this phrase, called it their favorite Latin quote, used it on their blogs, and even had it tatooed on their wrists! Thirty years ago this fall I stepped into a Latin classroom for the very first time. Since that time I have been learning, studying, translating, reading, and teaching the language and literature and never came across this clever item. I felt like I had missed out on something!

Next I started to search for the source. Several people attributed this ditty to Vergil but it didn't seem very Vergilian. It doesn't sound like something Vergil would say and the meter doesn't work. Nevertheless, I began a search on the internet and had very little success. At one point I was directed toward the story of Nisus and Euryalus in the Aeneid and thought that I was making progress, but skimming the lines in the text produced nothing. I remembered that I had A Vergil Concordance and pulled that out, but soon found nothing there as well. I was beginning to have my doubts that this quote was classical at all.

I did find that the entire quote was

Verus amicus amore, more, ore, re cognoscitur

but again there was no citation... so I posted the request on LatinTeach and received a wealth of information. I should have started there!

*Robert Maier found

Amore, more, ore, re, Iunguntur amicitiae!

and suggested that it was medieval. He was among the first to mention that it didn't fit a meter.

*Dennis McHenry II found

Ob id ergo maximas agimus gratias vestrae amori et labore verus enim amicus cognoscitur labore, amore, more, ore, re.

and cited the closing of a letter by the Dutch cartographer Nicolaas Witsen (1641-1717).

*Laura Gibbs revealed: "About the widely used and re-used amore more ore re, you are not likely to find a specific literary source (i.e. in the sense of who said it "first"), and that kind of word play is not the sort of thing you would expect from Vergil or a classical Roman writer. It is much more typical of later Latin - and it shows up in the work of the Jesuit author and scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) in an even more elaborate form, with clamore added in as a first term in the series: Tibi vero gratias agam quo clamore? Amore more ore re.

For the friend version - verus amicus noscitur ex amore more ore re (and also: amore, more, ore re iunguntur amicitiae), see #1436 in this marvelous collection: Philosophia patrum versibus praesertim leoninis, rhythmis Germanicis adiectis, iuventuti studiosae hilariter tradita by Julius Wegeler (1869).

It's online at Google Books - and it is a treasure trove of fun stuff (hilariter tradita indeed!). You can download the PDF of the book, or read it online - just click the "read this book" tab. http://books.google.com/books?id=iGcCAAAAQAAJ.

There are all kinds of delightful word play represented here. I especially like all the rhyming verses. Here are just a few:
- Dum canis os rodit, socium - quem diligit - odit.
- Res satis est nota, foetent plus stercora mota.
- Non de ponte cadit, quocum sapientia vadit.
- Vultus fortunae mutatur imagine lunae: Crescit, decrescit, in eodem sistere nescit.
It's a shame the ancient Romans did not go in for rhyme!"

I thoroughly enjoyed my little foray into finding "who dunnit". The bottom line? The quote isn't classical but much later. It's still ingenious, and my students love it! I noticed a couple have already written it on the cover of their notebooks or textbooks where they record and preserve those lyrics from a special song or meaningful comments or notes from friends. The phrase lives on!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Figures of Speech: Why Save Them for Upper Level?

I have gotten into the habit of introducing figures of speech to my Latin I and II students when we come across them. In Ecce Romani I, "Getting Up Early" in Chapter 8 includes Aurelia clamating:

"Agite, molesti servi!" inquit. "Cur nihil facitis? Cur vos ibi sedetis? Cur non strenue laboratis" (ll. 3-4).

This is as good a time as any to introduce anaphora, tricolon, and even tricolon crescens.

Early in Ecce Romani II, the servi in Chapter 32
"in Forum missi sunt et ibi comparaverunt holera, panem, pullos." (l. 3)
Asyndeton, anyone?

I don't dwell on these items nor do I test them in the lower levels, but it certainly makes the job a bit easier a couple years down the line when the whole list of devices appears for memorization and application.

Monday, July 14, 2008

An Eye in the Sky

The first thing we visited on my very first trip to Rome as a student in 1982 was the Pantheon. This magnificent building remains my favorite site in the City. My daughter took this photograph on her first trip there in 2007. Notice the yellow balloon caught in the coffer behind the beam of light.

It's A Pizza

The harpy Celaeno, offended by the Trojans for the slaughter of her cattle, prophesies to Aeneas,

"ibitis Italiam portusque intrare licebit.
sed non ante datam cingetis moenibus urbem
quam vos dira fames nostraeque iniuria caedis
ambesas subigat malis absumere mensas.
(Vergil, Aeneid III.254-257)

Which I translate to mean,

"you will go to Italy and you may enter the harbors, but you will not surround
with walls your given city before harsh hunger and the wrong of our
slaughter forces you to eat your tables consumed by your jaws."

Interestingly, mAla means "cheek-bone, jaw-bone; jaw, cheek." That's not one of those Latin words you come across too often.

Anyhow, what the soon-to-be residents of Latium are doing is eating pizza! The "table" is, of course, the place where the food rests. I remember from my Medieval Romance class in college the professor discussing how sailors and others would bake thin round loaves of bread which would become very hard and, thus, preservable (hardtack? crackers?). When mealtime came, the hard bread could serve as a plate and all the other food (vegetables, meats, cheeses) was piled upon it with the expectation that juices from these toppings would soak into bread, flavoring and softening it for consumption at the end. If one was particularly hungry, why couldn't he eat the "table" and all at the same time?

Of course, the Latins did not have tomatoes or tomato sauce...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How Old Is Your Mother?

I have read several articles over the past few days concerning the claim that the bronze statue of the Capitoline Wolf, that iconic image from ancient Rome, is not as old as previously thought. The Lupa Capitolina has long been revered as the image of the she-wolf who found and nutured the babies Romulus and Remus after they had been cast into the Tiber River. Romulus would, of course, go on to found the City of Rome.

Anna Maria Carruba, a member of the team that restored the statue a decade ago, claims that carbon-dating methods show that the statue was cast in the 8th century A.D., not around 500 B.C. as commonly believed. I have also read that the statue could be as late as the 13th century! History of the piece reveals that Pope Sixtus IV donated the statue to the Capitoline Museums in 1471 and that the twin babies were added during the 1500s. More information is needed to find out when and how the statue was "discovered" and where it was kept before the Pope gave it away.

Another argument which casts doubt on the ancient date of the statue is that the restorers discovered that it was cast as one piece, not separate units joined together after casting. Most, if not all, of the bronze statues created by the Etruscans in the time period in which the she-wolf was thought to be created, were made and assembled piecemeal. To have the statue cast as one unit would represent technology unavailable until the medieval period.

These articles also bring to mind another claimed revision to art history in that the magnificent statue of the death of Laocoon and his sons, a piece housed in the Vatican Museum, is not ancient but a fabrication, complete with burial and a staged discovery in the ruins of the Domus Aurea of Nero, of the Renaissance master Michelangelo.

I am intrigued by the claims concerning both statues, but I remain unconvinced. I'm not being close-minded, I just need more information.

Regardless of whether the Capitoline Wolf is ancient or medieval, it still remains as a symbol of Rome and is no less dear to me, nor should it be for others, for its supposed new-found youth.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ACL 2008

The 61st Annual Institute of the American Classical League has come and gone and I sit to write about it from the other side of a short family vacation to Long Island. The University of New Hampshire in Durham played an outstanding host and Sherwin Little, Tom Sienkewicz, Geri Dutra, and all others involved in the planning and execution of this outstanding gathering are to be commended.

I took the slow and liesurely route and drove to the Institute from Virginia. I set out on Tuesday morning and reached my goal of getting past most of the New York metropolitan area about mid-afternoon. In all, not a difficult drive but getting across the George Washington Bridge and navigating through the Bronx amid a sea of tractor-trailers was a bit of a pain. The next morning I easily completed the trip to New Hampshire and spent the night in Dover, about five miles outside of Durham. I stayed in Dover because, alas, there was no room in the inn at Durham when I made arrangements for lodging. The next day I move my belongings to the Holiday Inn Select at Durham and settled in for the Institute. On my return trip, getting past the traffic and bother of New York City was again my goal and I spent the night at East Windsor, New Jersey (near Princeton) via the Massachusetts Turnpike and a scenic trip through the Berkshires.

Anyhow, back to the Institute. Here are some highlights: My first interest involved Advanced Placement Latin and the College Board... Too much time was spent at the first session involving the grading of this year's exams with the presenters talking about how they had nothing to do with the decision about cancelling the AP Latin Lit exam and how we all must be calm and reasonable. No problem there. The later plenary session, titled "Latin Advanced Placement Tests: Responses and New Directions?", promised to be more interesting but I left disappointed and feeling no better (and no more informed) about the entire situation. No one was present who had actually had some say in the decision, just those who had something to say. Primarily, and I find this impressive after the initial reaction on LatinTeach and elsewhere, there were no fireworks, yelling, screaming, or crying. Everyone remained civil. We were assured that the Vergil exam would not change (probably) for the next three years or so and that we all, teachers, professors, professional organizations, would have input into future changes. I don't know how this was promised when there were no "officials" present. Most of the comments and suggestions were interesting and reasonable but there was nothing new or even reassuring that we had regained control of what and how we teach on the upper levels (if, indeed, we ever had control). I was annoyed at the presenter from a very prestigious prep school who suggested that we really don't need the AP exam. His school had dropped the entire AP program several years earlier and, guess what, their students continued to have no problem getting into Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Um, when your prestigious prep school carries instant name recognition, it is true that AP results make no difference in the admissions offices, BUT your average high school in your average town across the country has to buy into the AP program in order to level the playing field just a bit for their students. Like I said, I did not leave the plenary feeling better about things.

I was very interested by Matthew Hartnett's presentation on "Inscriptions and Graffiti in the Latin Classroom" and I intend to bring this genre of authentic Latin into my classes as soon as possible. Just because it isn't great literature doesn't mean it isn't interesting and has value in the classroom.

Ken Kitchell's "Teaching Latin Comp the Fun Way - The Long and the Short of It" was thoroughly enjoyable. It was refreshing (and a little reassuring) to learn that colleges and universities assign creative projects for their students and they end up having a great time while learning.

I was the presider for "Latin Via Storytelling: Backwards Design to Fit Any Textbook" and this session may well prove the most useful for me. Bob Patrick, Stephanie Sylvester, and Rachel Ash did an outstanding job of presenting the techniques and benefits of TPRS in the Latin classroom. The almost painless method of teaching and learning new vocabulary is alone worth consideration of this method. I need to apply some more thought here.

More than anything else, the benefit and purpose of attending an ACL Institute are the opportunities to meet new teachers and reconnect with old fiends and acquaintances. Putting a face with a name only seen on LatinTeach is great. It is very important that a professional establish contacts and networks in order for ideas, help, and suggestions to flow freely. No one can teach on an island and expect to grow.

Finally, there was the clambake. Not being a fan of seafood, I must admit that I opted for the barbequed chicken. I know that I wimped out but I have never found seafood to be palatable (and to think that I live so close to the Chesapeake Bay!). I did enjoy the company of my colleagues who were enjoying their lobsters and clams, though, and that's the best thing!

Next year in LA? We'll see!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Returning to the Task at Hand

I have been ignoring this blog for way too long. It is time to get back to writing and putting down into words my thoughts and ideas about Latin, the ancient world, and teaching.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Riding Those Ponies

In this day of quick and easy answers from the internet, it is too easy for our students to give in to the expedient and avoid the honorable. I have seen students take a question and make a bee-line for Wikipedia and not really read the article but scan it and hit the print button. They will read the copy later. On top of that, they also make multiple copies and distribute them to their classmates. They too will read the copies later. I have seen Latin students (gasp!) Google a poem of Catullus, make copies, and pass them around. No problem, though, their homework is done and they can move on to more important things.

O tempora! O mores! What would Cato say? What would Cicero think? What would Quintilian do?

The answer lies in what we expect from our students. They have ready access to all the answers and this resource is not going away. We as teachers need to refocus our efforts and teach our charges how to handle and understand all these answers. What is a good answer and what is bad? Why? How can one tell the difference?

Unfortunately the machines are now the vessels of knowledge. The belief among the students are that there is no longer a need to learn and memorize, regardless of the need to spout forth these seemingly random facts on the so-called high stakes test du jour.

I tell my students that they need to learn how to think, how to analyze, and how to understand what is being said by the author we are reading. If they take the easy path and print out someone else's translation, they are, in fact, defeating the purpose for being in the class. Anyone can read off from someone else's efforts and feel satisfied... but to what end?

More thoughts later -- I think I'm just rambling here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

O Fortunate Rock

In my Latin III classes we are translating O Fortuna from the Carmina Burana. The Latin is not difficult and the students enjoy honing their skills on something short and sweet. What made the class sweeter was playing the music to this poem and seeing my students' eyes light up as they immediately recognized the tune. I asked them where they had heard this music before and they offered several movies and commercials... one girl even suggested The Lion King.

I then played the rock version of O Fortuna by a band called Therion and I had them hooked. If you haven't heard this version before, go to iTunes and give it a listen... it is truly impressive and will replay over and over in your head.

There's something to be said when the Latin students leave the room and saunter down the hall whistling or humming the music from O Fortuna!

A Rosetta Stone on the Acropolis

Archaeologists have unearthed a stone on the Acropolis in both Greek and Latin! :)
My daughter took this photograph in June 2007.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ha! So Much for Therapy!

It is Presidents' Day, February 18, and I am making my first post since August. I had said posting to my blog would be therapy for seven classes with five preps, department duties, Latin Club, certamen, and other outside professional responsibilities... Who has time for therapy?

The year has been very busy (as you would expect) and time just slips away. I can barely keep all my classes up to speed and sometimes that doesn't even happen. I often describe myself as a juggler. I have so many balls to juggle, though, that it takes all my talent just to keep them in the air -- don't expect me to do anything fancy with them. And, yes, sometimes I drop one or two and they may lie on the floor for a little while, but I snatch them up and toss them back into the air.

I really do want to get back to my blogging.