Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Teaching Caesar

It has been said that Julius Caesar is the most famous Roman of them all. Everyone has heard about Caesar and something of his exploits (right or wrong) in Rome. Many cite their exposure to be the tragedy by Shakespeare... who, I must remind them, wrote literature, not history.

I, like a good number of other teachers, was quite surprised (and even a bit disappointed) when the College Board announced that Caesar would be paired with Vergil on their upcoming capstone AP Latin exam. My first thoughts were, "Ooh, how boring!" and "What does Caesar have to do with Vergil? How disjointed can that be?" I am waiting for the CB's announcement of what work(s) and sections from Caesar will be required before I make any final decision on how I feel about this unlikely combination.

In an effort to cozy up to the idea, I pulled out Caesar's De Bello Civile the other evening, opened the text at random, and started reading. Hoping that things would be diffent than his De Bello Gallico, I was sorely mistaken. Most of what I read was about troop movements, crossing rivers, obtaining supplies (and depriving Pompey of them), and worrying about where his transport ships were. Um, not exactly stuff to interest the typical teenager in the typical public high school!

Here's hoping that the College Board will announce an interesting syllabus combining Caesar and Vergil in some sort of meaningful and natural way... and NOT taking the direction of the art of war in the second half of the Aeneid and in Caesar's illustrious career!

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