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.