A bit off-topic, but I think students of any language (not just Latin) would find food for thought in Guy Deutscher’s cover story from the most recent NY Times Magazine. Of course, anyone who studies a foreign language quickly recognizes a fundamental relation between language and thought (one of the first questions brighter Latin students ask is “How did the Romans know if terra meant “land, “a land", or “the land"). But I guess I never gave the exact nature of the link much thought.
Video from this year’s Conventiculum Lexintoniense
This year the Conventuculum featured longer-form orationes, and there is one speaker (Professor
“David Mani” David Money) who spoke De arte versus componendi. If anyone has any information on this lecture (in particular the correct spelling of his name), please put some info in the comments–I’d like to transcribe his elegiac (starting ~5:40) over the next few days…
…[added 9/2/2010] A kind commenter (the author?) transcribed the verses–check them out below.
I was lucky enough to visit Pompeii eight years ago–absolutely fantastic, and I only saw a few strays roaming the streets (the cats on the Palatine were worse, but I suppose much less dangerous). It’s nice to know someone is doing something positive to change that.
OK, so [C]Ave canem is a good cause with a bad Latin name. Please explain:
Giacomo Bottinelli, the coordinator of the project, acknowledged that the Latin was not correct. “It should be Ave Canis” — for Hail Dog — “but we didn’t want to get into anything too complicated,” said Mr. Bottinelli, who studied classical philology in college.
I’ve been keeping this quote from Juvenal in my back pocket. But now that professional idiot Glenn Beck has published a novel (yes, really–please don’t take that link as an endorsement):
Stulta est clementia, cum tot ubique
vatibus occurras, periturae parcere chartae. (I.17-18)
Periturae is the key word…Beck’s scribbles will no doubt be pulp within a year, and his name an answer to an obscure trivia question in decades to come (anybody remember Wally George?)
I spent last week driving with the family thru the American south, and at our stop in Monticello I learned a bit about Latin horticultural terms.
Whenever I hear the vuvuzelas buzzing at the current World Cup, I can’t help but think of this passage from Vergil:
At tuba terribilem sonitum procul aere canoro
increpuit, sequitur clamor caelumque remugit. (Aeneid IX.503-4)
But just as today’s war-trumpets imitate the battle sound of a half-remembered past, Virgil also seems to have borrowed an earlier tune. Check out this ontomatopoeia from Ennius, a line preserved in a passage from Priscian:
At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit
Taratantara–I guess that’s the ancient equivalent of GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!
I think we already know why we’re all better off with Latin, but it’s nice to hear it again avery once in a while.
And lest you think I’m being a little too grandiose, here’s a few groaners only a Latin fan could love…Recto, dude!
From the UK Independent.
A center-right think tank in England is suggesting a return of Latin to primary and secondary schools, and that report has found its way into the hands British media figures:
A group of writers and broadcasters including Ian Hislop and Sir Tom Stoppard is calling for the return of Latin to the curriculum.
They are urging ministers to end Labour’s ‘discrimination’ against the language of the Romans and give it the same status as French, German and Spanish.
No doubt some of this is riding the recent anti-Labour trend, but the report does highlight the usual positives associated with studying Latin. I for one am a little tired of the “no native speakers” argument used against the subject, as if the only benefit of a foreign language is asking directions or booking a hotel abroad. And if English primary/secondary students are anything like their US counterparts, how many actually achieve conversational competence with native speakers anyway–much less true fluency.
That pretty much sums up my reaction to this excellent NY Times article on recent requests from Greece to “repatriate” the Elgin Marbles.
My father–who is British–would say “we stole ‘em fair and square". True enough, and that theft is a fact of history–the presence of the marbles in Britain inspired the 18th/19th century Neo-Classical revival in the West. Prior to that, the Parthenon was a Turkish munitions dump, a makeshift mosque, a church–why, again, should all this be stripped away in favor of an archaeological reconstruction of Periclean Athens?
This blog proves I’m a big fan of the ancient world, but I also think it’s foolish to ignore later events in arriving at some pristine reconstructed notion of ancient civilization. All history is a process; take the example of the Euphronius Krater recently returned to Italy my the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Stolen property is stolen property. But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony. By that definition, Elgin’s loot is arguably British patrimony.
A good op-ed in this Sunday’s NY Times on Google Translate, the latest version of machine-based language translation. Although past approaches (based on breaking every language into lexicon and grammar) have been laughable–anybody who’s used Babelfish knows that–I’d agree there’s some promise in the statistical approach outlined in the piece.
Spend time on any Latin Language message board and you’ll see more than a few threads dedicated to translating some short English phrase (usually for a tattoo). I usually treat these as interesting discussion ideas; the better ones inevitably become far more interesting than whatever “correct” translation they yield. Still, if you were wondering, Google Translate doesn’t support Latin yet, so there’s still plenty to discuss…
…well, this was a complete waste of time. I gave up when that one guy cut off the other guy’s face and wore it into the arena. Who you ask? Ah, who cares…
…even after 2000 years! NPR’s All Things Considered reports on how a London criminal case is turning on a line from Catullus. The transcript includes an audio feed, in case you’re curious about Cambridge Don Mary Beard’s voice.
NPR bleeped both Catullus and the English translation of his line. I think it’s a little prudish to censor the Latin, but perhaps they’re pre-empting youngsters who would no doubt turn it into a trendy new vulgarity:-). Fearlessly taking that chance, I’ll guess from context that the line has to be Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo - “I’ll f*** you in the a** and in the mouth” (XVI.1), the delightful opening of a hendecasyllabic wishing the best for two of the poet’s critics. Pronounce it “PEH-DEE-CAHB..eh-go WOHS et EEER-ruh-MAH-boh,” and accent the capitalized syllables a bit to get the rhythm of the poetic meter. Some kid is going to have loads of fun with this…
Many of you may know that Fr. Reginald Foster–the Vatican’s Latinist–has been recuperating in his hometown of Milwaukee after suffering a fall last summer. He has recently posted a message on YouTube–Latin with a few English translations–giving news of his condition.
I’ve read more than one criticism of Fr. Foster’s gravelled, Italian-by-way-of-Chicago pronunciation, but IMO that misses the point entirely. His “Latin Lover” podcast/program on Vatican radio displays an enthusiasm other Latinists should encourage rather than nitpick.
A Bulgarian SW developer has just released 1400 LATIN EXPRESSIONS 1.0 for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Just $1 for the wisdom of the ages…
One of the items described in the recently-discovered Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon objects is a gold band–probably from a shield strap–that includes a Latin inscription. Photos are above, and from the obvious “inimici tui” and “qui oderunt te” this inscription is referencing Numbers 10:35 (Vulgate):
Cumque elevaretur arca dicebat Moses “Surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua.”
Note the presence of non-capital letters throughout the inscription; the letter “a” in the words a facie tua looks exactly like a greek alpha (not to mention the tau for “t").
Dissipentur - “scatter” is an interesting word; the root sipo = su(p)po pretty much used as an equivalent to jacio, but there is also the connection with supinus - “bent back, lying on the back, supine".
For those with a better eye for inscriptions, much more detailed photos of the above can be found here and here. And if you’re looking to spend a few hours in rapt observation, you could do worse than this complete set of images from the hoard.
I know the basic media impulse for eyeballs encourages them to cast any story in a lurid light. Nevertheless, this so-called Roman murder mystery raises shameless pandering to a whole new level…
I read this Peter Green review of Anthony Grafton’s Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West, a book which “challenges readers to consider the pursuit of scholarship in the twenty-first century by reflecting on its practices and practitioners.”
The criticism focuses on the now-ubiquitous digitization of scholarship materials like rare books and manuscripts. Obviously modern technology has made these materials easily available to a wider audience, but Grafton sees some issues with relying too heavily on, say, Google as a tool of research:
Google’s universalist aims lack overall planning and the project “accordingly operates less as a vast, coherent ordering machine than as a gigantic fire hose dousing the world’s readers with texts untouched by human hands or minds” (Grafton’s metaphors, when collected, shed an intriguing light on his personality).
Speaking as an amateur Latinist with a semi-regular blog–contributing a few drops of ambiguous quality to that firehose–I couldn’t agree more.
Green also singles out Grafton’s “vigorous defence” of Humanist Latin, the deliberate Renaissance effort to revive classical Latin as opposed to the liturgical/legal Latin of the Middle Ages. IMO the story of this revival represents one of the true triumphs of pure scholarship, and it cannot be reviewed in too much detail. Modern Latinists of course see the fruits of their predecessors’ effort in indispensible tools like the OLD, L&S, and grammars based on the painstaking work of 19th century scholars, but:
Most important of all, in a rigidly hierarchical world founded on theological dogma enforced, in the last resort, by torture and execution, they upheld - often at great risk to themselves - the sovereign virtues of rational discourse, employed in the pursuit of rational answers to the most pressing questions of their age. The one thing they worshipped was truth: a truth “revealed” only in the sense of having been arrived at by a process of impartial inquiry…The giants of Renaissance humanism retrieved, in the teeth of medieval opposition, that Greco-Roman, essentially secular, world view, along with much of its literature, that was in danger of perishing altogether, or at the very least of surviving only as stunted religious allegory and misunderstood moral aphorisms.
Well said…I think I’ll pick up a copy…
A misunderstanding over the meaning of that Latin legal phrase may have led to a sedition trial in Malaysia.
To be fair, the question is more complicated than that, but the example shows how Latin legalese can sometimes be misinterpreted even by native speakers of English–much more for non-native speakers. Although it was an over-reaction, recent attempts by English local councils to ban the use of Latin phrases no doubt had such misunderstandings in mind…
Whichever side of the current US health care debate you’re on, a little dip into what Pliny’s Natural History says about the healing arts (as practiced in ancient Rome) can make for an interesting diversion. C’mon, this won’t hurt a but…
Article on Yahoo!…my Google-fu hasn’t found much else other than the picture at the top from an Italian news source.
Sounds like the usual overblown claim–there seems to be no evidence Vespasian ever lived in the villa–but then again any intact, large-scale dwelling from the 1st century is an impressive find.
Ventotene was known as Pandataria in ancient times, a place of exile for at least two women from the imperial family. Tacitus notes the case of Augustus’ daughter Julia in 14 ACE:
Eodem anno Iulia supremum diem obiit, ob impudicitiam olim a patre Augusto Pandateria insula, mox oppido Reginorum, qui Siculum fretum accolunt, clausa. (Ann. I.53)
And Suetonius tells us that Tiberius–after trumping up charges against his daughter-in-law Aggripina (Maior), (Eam) Pandatariam relegauit conuiciantique oculum per centurionem uerberibus excussit. (Tib. 53). Yikes!
I certainly wouldn’t say I’ve cut myself off from pop culture–my wife and I are avid movie fans, read two or more newspapers a day, and when you have small children you spend a lot of nights in front of the TV–but I can say I had never heard of the now-ubiquitous Jon and Kate Gosselin before about three months ago, when rumors of an extramarital affair led to their recent separation. I’m pretty much left cold by that corner of “Reality TV” where the only talent on display is shameless self-promotion. As these so-called celebrities expose the detailed minutiae of their lives for a few moments of network fame, I’m reminded of a passage from Seneca’s Epistulae Morales:
The classics department at Western Washington University–under the auspices of the sodales of the Academia Latinitati Fovendae at the college–has set up the first of a biennial Census of Worldwide Latin speakers. I encourage everyone to enter their data–Quod V minuta ad summum requiret.
Picked this up from Evan Milner’s indispensible Schola…
Thx to Schola for pointing me to an interesting Modern/Spoken Latin site from L. Amadeus Ranierius. Scorpio Martianus includes two-minute news reports delivered in excellent Latin (approx 1 a week since early May); well worth a look if the idea of Conversational Latin still seems intimidating…
According to MSNBC, a rich trove of ancient artifacts has been found outside of Naples, including what is reported to be a bust of the emperor Titus. Looking for more pictures…
(Update) Blogging Pompeii has more; apparently this find is hitting the US press a week later…
Here’s a link to photos from earlier excavations at Rione Terra…
A small bit of Latin in this Yahoo! article on the official addition of element 112 to the Periodic Table of Elements:
The zinc and lead nuclei were fused to form the nucleus of the new element, also known as Ununbium, Latin for 112.
The naming follows a similar pattern for all recently-discovered elements:
110 Ununnilium (renamed Darmstadtium in 2003)
111 Unununium (renamed Roentgenium in 2004)
112 Ununbium (Uub)
113 Ununtrium (Uut)
114 Ununquadium (Uuq)
115 Ununpentium (Uup)
116 Ununhexium (Uuh)
117 Ununseptium (Uus)
118 Ununoctium (Uuo)
Latinists will recognize the contracted numeral roots in all of these. Most of them are Latin, but a few (e.g. Ununpentium) are Greek, no doubt to provide the element with a unique atomic symbol (Ununquiquium would have the same symbol as Ununquadium).
If custom holds, Ununbium will receive a new designation soon. Might I suggest Centumduodecimium?
Around 1960, US college diplomas started changing from Latin to English (my mother earned her BA and MA in English from the same midwestern college around this time; the BA was in Latin, the MA from two years later was in English). The Ivy League has (naturally) always been a holdout, but this op-ed by classics professor Christopher Francese argues it’s time to retire this pretentious and obsolete practice.
It’s a point I’m sympathetic to. The only reason to write a diploma in Latin today is to overawe with faux-erudition–face it, if you can’t read your own diploma, what’s the point of having it? There’s something ironic about insisting on a token of education that demonstrates your own ignorance. Worse, defending the practice simply encourages students to see Latin as an “ivory tower” subject, which means fewer students taking up the subject in school.
And before you ask, yes I wish my diplomas were in Latin, but then again I can easily read a Latin diploma–at least the ones that don’t have some unusual Neologism (hmm…what’s the Latin for “Marketing” or “Los Angeles"?).
An unusual experience this morning after my alarm clock-radio went off and CBS World News began their report.
About a minute in, I was jolted awake by a snippet of Latin: PAX ET BONUM. I soon realized this was a portion of remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI, who was traveling in Jerusalem earlier today. A quick search of the web for news turned up only this text of a speech the pontiff gave a few days ago from the basilica at Mount Nabo, so I’m not sure what was going on today. I just found it odd to hear real Latin spoken on national radio this morning.
The phrase, of course, is the famous motto of the Franciscans, and a good example of hendiadys, a favorite trick of Latin rhetoric.
Recent news about the spread of the H1N1 flu virus–at first mistakening labeled a new “swine flu"–reminds us that rational beings are not always immune to fear and panic, with examples that range from amusing (an on-line Swine Flu game) to banal (the CDC decision to divert a commercial airliner because one of the passengers displayed “flu-like symptoms") to tragic (Egypt authorities have begun to slaughter all of the nation’s pigs in a mistaken belief that the virus was transmitted from swine to humans). The Roman poet Lucretius understood this frailty; his devotion to the Epicurean philosophy led him to write the didactic De Rerum Natura, a work that unapologetically champions reasoned analysis over panicked superstition.
Author Matt Richtel has an interesting column in the Sunday NY Times about how modern technology has made some venerable literary devices obsolete. In an age of cellphones, GPS and instant messaging, could Shakespeare get away with the fake death in Romeo and Juliet or Homer the 20-year wandering of Odysseus?
Pilleo annuam to the LATINTEACH blog for highlighting the discovery of a Medieval Latin reference to Robin Hood. The image above–taken from the Daily Mails’s story about the find–shows what I presume is the text.
I’m no paleographer, but I think I can apply a few principles from scripts I’m more familiar with to decipher what is written there. If you want to give it a try, here are a few tips:
In my opinion staging myths from the Metamorphoses has always seemed like something an ambitious Latin teacher could develop with a little coaxing of the high-school drama club. The Fresno State drama department has taken that idea to the next level by augmenting their dramatic production of Ted Hughes’ “Tales from Ovid” with dancers, a natural given the author’s passionate lyric (which Hughes’ excellent 1997 translation preserves). There are time–rare to be sure–when I envy Californians.
No other ancient writer had the cinemagraphic eye for detail that Ovid did; parts of his long his mythological poem read IMO like a modern screenplay. Take these lines from the myth of Echo and Narcissus, the scene featured in the Fresno Bee article. Here Narcissus has admitted his, well, narcissism in a lengthy solilogy, and Ovid punctuates the scene with a familiar visual image:
Dixit et ad faciem rediit male sanus eandem
et lacrimis turbavit aquas, obscuraque moto
reddita forma lacu est; quam cum vidisset abire,
‘Quo refugis? Remane nec me, crudelis, amantem
“He spoke, and unnerved returned to that same face
and stirred the waters with tears, and the reflected image
was obscured by the disturbed pond; when he saw it disappear
‘Where are you going? Stay, cruel one, and do not desert me
The shot of a pensive or melancholy actor disturbing their own reflection in water (or that of a ghost) now seems a rather common film cliche–here’s an example from the 2004 Oscar winner Return of the King, another from the 1978 musical Grease (speed to the end if you can’t hack Olivia Newton John). I’m not suggesting any deliberate reference to Ovid in these scenes, just that Ovid’s narrative poetry often includes visual details that–2000 years later–match some of the basic grammar of film imagery; IMO he would have made a great director.
At least one political website has linked the current worldwide credit crunch with one that struck Rome during the last years of Tiberius’ reign. The details of this ancient financial crisis can be found in Tacitus’s Annales(VI.16-7).
The excellent new film Watchmen has an obvious classical reference in the title quote from Juvenal, but sharp eyes may spot another parallel in this postmodern superhero tale.
An old story by now, but if you weren’t aware the University of Georgia is the largest source of new Latin teachers in the US, you may want to look this one over.
The article also mentions Ginny Lindzey, who runs the excellentLatin Zone blog…though I’m not sure she’d agree with the focus on “back to basics” (her list is great if you want an alternative to the drone of “terra, terrae, terrae…").
Now comes a lecture from professor Peggy Heller of the University of King’s College in Halifax (Nova Scotia) who sees parallels to the Aeneid in the TV series Battlestar Galactica. Guardian culture editor Charlotte Higgins agrees and amplifies the connection, while David Meadows at Rogue Classicism thinks the parallel was “obvious” even in the original version of the TV series.
I’ll agree that Battlestar Galactica and the Aeneid share a superficially similar plot structure. The complications arise when this thin connection becomes a rigid template forcing every detail to conform to the interpretation. From Ms. Higgins’ blog:
A leader leaves the destroyed wreck of his former civilisation (Troy/Caprica), which has been blasted into smithereens by an invading force (Greeks/Cylons). You might even see Gaius Baltar as a sort of Trojan horse. That leader is accompanied by his son: it’s Adama as Aeneas, and Apollo as Ascanius, if you follow me.
Tentatively, I’d suggest Starbuck’s return to Caprica to collect the arrow of Apollo as akin to the visit to the Underworld in Aeneid book six. The arrow of Apollo as the golden bough?
The unsuccessful stay in New Caprica, of course, recalls the settlement the wandering Trojans found on Crete in book three, in the mistaken assumption that this is the fated new land.
One might argue that Helena Cain is a kind of reversed Dido (Aeneid book four); the eventually destroyed Pegasus might be seen as her funeral pyre.
This, to be charitable, is nonsense; it ignores the details surrounding all these characters/events that are present in the drama itself in favor of a “top-down” interpretation that treats the series as a direct allegory of the older work.
My understanding of modern pop culture is that when allegory is in play, it isn’t that difficult to spot. The inconsistent use of Greek names/gods in the original Battlestar may have been a hint of the story’s Greco-Roman origins, or it may have been a quick & dirty way to follow the tradition of earlier space operas: Give characters odd or lofty names ("Flash” Gordon, “Buck” Rodgers, Luke “Skywalker") that immediately suggest heroic status (I find it interesting that the more recent BSG doesn’t fully commit to this convention. “Apollo” and “Starbuck", for instance, are explained as Lee Adama’s and Kara Thrace’s pilot callsigns, not their actual birthnames. Perhaps the writers see the first BSG’s widespread use of this earlier convention as too “corny” for modern viewers?). The series’ premise may involve a hero leading a group of unknown people because it’s mimicing the Aeneid, or it may be because such a story device is useful in an open-ended episodic series, since it allows the “rag-tag fugitive fleet” to encounter new planets each week (and hence new situations/protagonists), not to mention guest stars/extras who can be placed in real danger as the story demands (unlike the under-contract series regulars; wasn’t this the whole point of the “red shirts” on the original Star Trek?). I’d obviously argue for the latter in both cases.
It’s likely that modern TV writers are “re-discovering” ancient storytelling ideas in modern contexts; my post on Lost, for example, was essentially about how the sci-fi conceit of time-travel is a modern stand in for the ancient dramatic theme of “Destiny” with a capital D. But if you hear me start comparing characters on that show to characters in the Aeneid (Hurley = Achates?), be very, very suspicious. Literary/cinematic allegory IMO is fairly obvious when its there, and doesn’t need an inscrutable theory to explain it.
A sad follow-up to last weeks post about Gail Trimble and her Oxford team’s victory in the University Challenge: Her Corpus Christi college team was stripped of the title over the weekend. One of the team’s students (not Ms. Trimble) had left Oxford at some point during the competition and was therefore technically ineligible. For use of an ineligible player, the BBC had no choice but to disqualify Corpus Christi.
Manchester was elevated to University Challenge champions by default; no word if they have any Latin scholars on their team.
Her Corpus Christi College team won the event this past Monday, so illi doctae maximis honoribus gratulemur, and let me highlight one quote from her university homepage:
I chose to study Classics at university mostly because of the variety. Already at school in Latin and Greek I could combine language work with studying different kinds of literature, and I liked the idea of being able to study philosophy, history, art and even philology (though at the time I wasn’t too sure what that was) all within one degree.
Well said Ms. Trimble; such is the value of a classical education…
…adding, I wish I’d thought to check Mary Beard’s site before posting. Great piece, and she’s write in admiring a classicist who composes verse “over a gin and tonic". That’s been my MO ever since grad school:-)
The Oscars are this weekend, and by all accounts the excellent Indian film Slumdog Millionaire is going to do very well.
Many reviewers have pointed out how “old-fashioned” the film is, while a few others notice the rather obvious parallels with Dickens’ Oliver Twist. But for me, the film’s structure and themes harkened back to some classical ideas about good storytelling. Like Aeneas, the carefully-structured quest of Jamal requires him to make a personal transformation and eventually surrender to divine will. But the quest also serves to hold a mirror up to Indian society itself, much like the way Lucan or Petronius’ silver-age novel Satyricon used a “simple” story to reveal some of the ugly side of Rome. And, of course, Destiny is provided with a large role, something I wrote about in previous post. The difference in Slumdog is that destiny as divine providence is taken far more seriously than in most modern art (i.e. it doesn’t rely on a scientific explanation, as when Lost uses time travel to introduce it as a storytelling element), and this form of Destiny is much more like the Fatum and Numina of ancient literature.
So I agree the film is old fashioned, with structural elements perhaps even older than most reviewers suspect. And the film proves such a style doesn’t necessarily have to be boring. Certainly placing the story in a novel location (at least for an American audience) helps, but the essential challenges Jamal faces matter far beyond the slums of Mumbai, and the “old-fashioned” structure does a pretty good job exploring these.
My blog naturally focuses on literature from the ancient world, but please don’t take this post as a rally for the “good old days” of filmmaking (my wife and I also thought The Wrestler deserved a Best Picture nomination, which would hardly be described as “Capraesque"). Read enough Latin and Greek and you too can bring a classical perspective to a lot of modern film/TV/literature, one that gives you opportunity to observe firsthand how the best of art resonates across the generations.
…is coming to Nantes the last weekend in March; all the details you will ever need can be found here.
I visited Nantes briefly some years ago while driving north for a tour of Brittany. Besides the festival, there is plenty for fans of the ancient world to see. Gallic and Roman ruins are still preserved at the impressive Château des Ducs de Bretagne, and of course a day trip to the prehistoric alignments at Carnac is highly recommended.
A short op-ed from the Gazette of Beaufort, SC strings together a number of Latin aphorisms to lecture us about modern economic problems.
What’s interesting to me is the source: “A Collection of Latin Maxims and Phrases Literally Translated and Explained by John M. Cottrell, Intended for the use of Students for all Legal Examinations. Washington, D.C., John Byrne and Company, Law Book Publishers, 1897.” Has anyone else run across this tome?
The quote above–a neat little rhyme–is often attributed to Cicero, but is actually by the 17th century English jurist Sir Edward Coke (makes sense in a book of legal maxims). It is loosely translated “prevention is better than cure”
I recently joined the multitude and swapped my old celphone for the new 3G iPhone. This slick device allows you to download a wide variety of applications from the iTunes-based Application Store, so on a lark I thought I’d do a seach on “Latin".
Surprisingly (to me at least) quite a few applications popped up–even after sifting out the ones related to Latin music. For example, there are plenty of Latin dictionaries, and someone has even ported William Whitaker’s Words, although the ported version doesn’t include English-to-Latin search. More interesting was the free app I found entitled “Latin Reader", a small program that parses two short poems of Catullus. It’s fairly crude–if you need “help” on a line you get some pretty skimy grammar tips along with a English translation–but it also seems a step in the right direction if you’re interested in getting folks who studied a bit of Latin to read more. And since I’m one of those people, maybe I’ll spend a little time looking at Apple’s Developer Program…
Bob Edwards had an interesting interview this morning with Boston Globe columnist Alan Beam. His latest book “A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books” provides a whirlwind history of the “Great Books of the Western World” curriculum–no doubt you’ve seen a colorful set either tucked onto a dusty home shelf or priced cheaply at a local yard sale. I’ve had more than one adult Latin student talk to me about the “Great Books"; they are top-heavy with ancient classics, and the philosophy behind the curriculum is decidedly anti-modern ("modern” being anything written in the past 300 years). I was also lucky enough to meet Mortimer Adler at a small post-lecture reception hosted by my college’s classics department (he chuckled at our undergraduate complaints about a difficult ode of Horace we had been translating in class earlier in the day).
Nevertheless I can’t say I’m a fan of “Great Books", and IMO it represents an attitude Latinists should avoid. I like classical writing, enjoy reading much of it in Latin (with enough Greek to be dangerous), and of course I encourage others to discover it. But I certainly don’t think it’s necessary to read, say, Epictetus or Livy to be considered educated. The educational pendulum that dismissed the “irrelevance” and “cultural arrogance” of Greek and Latin did swing too far (though nowadays, as this blog has chronicled, Latin has been on the rise for at least the past decade). However we do these subjects no favors by demanding they be canonized. Paradoxically–at least since the curricular upheavals of the ’60s and ’70s–such attempts lead to fewer readers of these books.
Enjoy Latin, read as much as you can, but please, please don’t think it makes you a better-educated person. Discerning and cultivated perhaps …
And it’s about time considering the resurgence in the subject over the past decade. ARTL, as expected, has a much lengthier discussion; if you’re interested, that’s really the place for more info.
Discovery has a fascinating reconstruction of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius from the perspective of twelve people found buried in a collapsed home. Well worth a few minutes of time.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum (the second, though smaller, is much better preserved–don’t skip it). While the ruins are of course impressive, for me the most haunting artifacts are the plaster casts of the victims, which were poured into the hollow spaces left behind in the volcanic debris after their bodies long decayed. I still remember the agonizing detail in the face of one suffocated man far better than de rigeur brothel wall painting every tourist snickers over.
The US Recession is hitting colleges and universities particularly hard, and classics programs around the nation are feeling the pinch. So it’s not too surprising to see the University of Illinois-Chicago has plans to drop their Latin major and all classes for Ancient Greek.
Although other Chicago-area universities (Northwestern and Loyola) offer good classics programs, UIC is publicly-funded. Eliminating classics there means eliminating an opportunity for families that don’t have the wealth for elite schools. The program is also seeing some of its highest enrollments over the past few years, not to mention a faculty that has already made sacrifices to keep the program running:
According to Professor Nanno Marinatos, Ancient Greek costs “very little to the university,” as over half the classes have been taught since 1981 as “free overload” by professors on their own unpaid time.
I know times are tough, but IMO it seems a shame to cut a department with a growing enrollment and devoted faculty, no matter how small.
A small Indiana newspaper weighs in on the recent attempts by English city councils to ban Latin phrases. It’s a little overblown, but their heart is in the right place…
Just a quick point, but when did the acronym POTUS (for “President of the United States") suddenly gain pop-culture traction? And do the folks using it know what the word means in Latin?
I try to keep this blog non-political, so when I do discuss modern political issues I always tie it to Roman culture and the Latin language. But given the historic nature of the presidential election, I think it’s only fair to join the country and the world and nunc plaudite President Elect Barack Obama.
See, I did manage to wedge a little Latin in there…
That’s the first word that popped in my head when I read about some local council efforts in England to ban Latin terms. I mean really, vice versa is elitist? By that standard councils may want to consider banning polysyllabic English words.
Here’s a sample dispatch from the pending idiocracy:
(T)he move has been welcomed by the Plain English Campaign which says some officials only use Latin to make themselves feel important.
Imputing another’s motives based merely on personal feelings is solipsism–look it up if you don’t know what it means. And then there’s this brilliant insight:
A Campaign spokesman said the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word “egg".
Really? While many readers might not know the letters stand for exempli gratia, I’ve heard more than a few who think it means “example given"–a workable definition–and not a single one who ever though it meant “egg".
Adding…the Daily Mail article includes a list with suggested alternatives; Vice versa = “the other way round". I also realize that immigrant communities where English is a second language can be bullied by overly-stylized language. But I don’t think that’s the real issue here; some folks consider Latin in general to be elitist, and there are few things folks enjoy more than deflating a perceived snobbery, no matter the consequences.
If you disagree, that’s what comments are for, and I’d love to hear an explanation of the elitism behind terms/abbreviations like etc., ad lib., and vice versa. Aren’t these pretty much a part of standard English, and are circumlocutions like “the other way round” really a better choice?
H/T to Adyates and his De Gryphis blog for pointing out a classical reference made by Fed Chairman Ben Bernake as he was discussing the recent financial bailout. Adyates includes a relevant text from one of Cicero’s letters; well worth a quick look.
The Latin club at Massachusetts’ Chatham High-School is planning a club trip to Rome this February. To raise funds, they are holding a 5K toga run on Nov. 8th.
Using overseas trips to reinforce modern language classes is somewhat common for high-school seniors (at least in the wealthier school districts), but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a similar program for Latin students. Yet another sign that Latin study is growing in the US.
On the off chance there are any Latin-scholar running enthusiasts in the Cape Cod area, the run costs $10. I also think the club would accept donations. Check the article for further details.
Speculation about the recently discovered tomb of Macronius has been bouncing around the ancient world blogosphere over the past week.
Classicist Adrian Murdoch points readers and budding epigraphers to the photo above (hi-res version here), and more than one site has taken a stab at transliteration. Well worth a look even for amateurs like myself who will likely never get the opportunity to visit a dig in person.
BTW Mr. Murdoch’s recently-revived blog is excellent, and I’ve just subscribed to the atom feed of Dorothy King’s PhDiva. One thing I like about blogging is discovering all these other people with similar scholarly interests, many of whom are more than happy to respond to an email from an enthusiastic amateur…
A commentor has asked for a translation of Maureen Dowd’s dog-Latin Tu Betchus column. I haven’t looked too hard, but since I don’t see one on line, here’s my attempt (note that some of Dowd’s Latin is not strictly grammatical, so don’t ask me to defend this)…
Scottish education secretary Fiona Hyslop recently announced her support for reviving Latin in the classrooms of Scotland, a move that mirrors an increase in Latin instruction “south of the border"–i.e. English schools.
Naturally the fact that J. K. Rowling is from Edinburgh had no bearing on this decision…anyone want to guess how “fun” Latin will be once Scottish children learn they can’t use it to petrify their teacher?
Does it encourage the study of Latin – or at least put it more in the public eye? Maybe it does – just as when Boris Johnson spouts (quite good) Latin at the opening of the Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum…
Or does it take our eye off the real intellectual interest of the study of the ancient world and turn Latin into a jolly jape, always good for a laugh on an otherwise dreary Sunday. A bit like running an article in cod-Cornish.
I don’t know. Debeo reflectare, as Dowd might have put it.
My opinion is closer to the first, and I don’t think the “jolly jape” is necessarily a bad alternative. A number of people study Latin although few do so as professional classicists. In that regard, Latin is little different from any hobby; is everyone who plays basketball aiming only for a professional career?
This is why I find things like Vicipaedia so inspiring, as interested people–certainly not professional classicists–develop their own outlets for creative expression. If you ask me, Latin can use a few more amateurs, not less…
Thus begins a series of excepts from Q. Cicero’s Commentariolum Petitionis as a reflection on current US electoral events.
Maureen Dowd has a hilarious column in this morning’s NY Times that sees echoes of the Roman Empire in the current economic meltdown and presidential campaign.
I usually find such comparisons passe, but Ms. Dowd has taken the trouble to cast the second half of her column as a Latin language melodrama “The Battle of Gall” (get it?).
Yes, for the second time in less than a year, the NY Times has an editorial in Latin on its op-ed page. Not that it’s great Latin–it’s peppered thoughout with English-equivalents (I guess Ms. Dowd didn’t want to guess at the Latin phrase lectus apricandi - “tanning bed")–but its funny and not bad in spots. A few notes for those not watching the election as closely:
Tu Betchus - Republican VP nominee Sara Palina has been lampooned for her folksy speech pattern, which includes phrases like “You Betcha!".
sneero, sneerare, sneeravi, sneeratus - to sneer (duh)
terroris - “terrorist”
Georgius Bushus Secundus colossalis goofballus - Not that tough to decipher, but I like the fact that Ms. Dowd calls him “V.” because there is no W in Latin.
The UK Times has noticed that London mayor Boris Johnson–an avid classicist–has toned down his Latin/classical references. The phrase pari passu - “with equal step” is hardly a classical reference at all, but a legal term to indicate a lack of discrimination between separate parties, so it’s often a substitute for “fairly” in legal and financial settings.
The writer clearly has his tongue in his cheek, but this blog for one will dearly miss the old Boris if he no longer fovebit Romanos rerum dominos gentemque togatam.
The number of students in the United States taking the National Latin Exam has risen steadily to more than 134,000 students in each of the past two years, from 124,000 in 2003 and 101,000 in 1998, with large increases in remote parts of the country like New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont. The number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Latin, meanwhile, has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, to 8,654 in 2007.
And if this isn’t a jaw-dropper for US education, I don’t know what is:
Marty Abbott, education director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, said it was possible that Latin would edge out German as the third most popular language taught in schools, behind Spanish and French, when the preliminary results of an enrollment survey are released next year. In the last survey, covering enrollment in 2000, Latin placed fourth.
Newer approaches to language instruction–ones that offer alternatives to the overly-analytical approach that dominated previous generations–is probably an important part of this revival. And based on the increase in NLE applicants from “remote parts of the country", I’d also credit a jump in the number of homeschoolers, a group that–for religious or other reasons–seems to be very interested in Latin.
I wrote a few months back about the modern popularity of this Juvenal quote, one that does quick duty on topics from judicial appointments to the recent banking scandal.
Now you can add film critic Roger Ebert to the list; from his recent pan of the new movie “Blindness":
In an unspecified city (Toronto, mostly), an unspecified cause spreads blindness through the population. First a driver goes blind at a traffic light. Then his eye doctor goes blind. And so on, until just about the entire population is blind, except for the doctor’s wife. Three wards in a prison are filled with people who are quarantined; armed guards watch them. Then I guess the guards go blind. I am reminded of my Latin teacher Mrs. Link, making us memorize a phrase every day: Pone seram, prohibe. Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Though Mr. Ebert is no doubt comparing the monotony of the film with the repetitive drone of old-style Latin instruction ("terra, terrae, terrae…"), there is still a heartwarming explanation tacked on at the end of his column:
Mrs. Link told me that someday, and that day may never come, I’d call upon that phrase to do a service for me.
If you’re like me, the recent US Presidential Debate and ensuing media analysis seemed overly-focused not on what the candidates said but trivialities like the debaters’ body language. But a quick review of Roman sources reminds us that political attention to unspoken communication is at least as old as Cicero; let’s take a quick look.
…well I tried to stay up, but I never heard any Latin on the internet feed–just pleasant-enough Germn banter and a lot of American rap songs (I gave up after about an hour). But I did run across this video from the KISS-FM website; it’s not much but it’s something.
I presume the video shows the station’s air talent toga-ed up for the day’s event. I’ve transcribed the Latin, but I suggest you take a listen first and see how much you can get out of it. The young lady’s pronunciation is a bit difficult to follow, especially at the beginning where she appears to start in German and makes a few errors as she tries to correct herself; it was a bit difficult to follow. The rest however is quite clear, and the young man has quite a excellent, oratorical delivery.
You can read my transcript by hitting more below; bona fortuna!
This article from the UK version of Business Week talks about how the use of similar-sounding Greek and Latin-based terms (e.g. hyper-/hypo-, inter/intra) may contribute to potential medical errors (I’m surprised no one mentioned the easy-to-mishear ab-/ad-, but perhaps these prefixes don’t come up as often in medical parlance).
Seven years after the attacks of September 11th, the American people are still clearly affected by the loss. By a tragic coincidence, early September finds the anniversary of another slaughter that cast a lengthy pall over its culture: The destruction of three Roman legions commanded by Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD).
But if you buy this shirt, let’s hope you have a better fate than the Trojan who uttered the original.
Advanced latinists should have a look at this announcement from the Perseus project. Our friends at Tufts request some on-line help to parse their classical texts.
I found this picture while reading an article at the New Haven Advocate about binge drinking among US college students. I believe it’s a portion of some Latin doggerel sparked by English rugby fans: Imbibo, adepto madidus, cado super - “I drink, I get drunk, I fall over.” The problem, of course, is with adepto. We might generously claim this is an oddball future imperative, but a more sober guess is this should be adipiscor–which isn’t really great Latin itself (my vote is for fio or the more accurate fiam). At haud mihi explicare madidis!
Laus, decus, gloriaque maxima natatori Michaeli Phelps, propter victorias singulares mirabilissimasque ad XXIX ludos Olympicos.
The Pope’s visit to Sydney last month prompted the Australian government to pass a law permitting the arrest of anyone “annoying” papal well-wishers.
The law predictably backfired, and judging by the photo seems to have inspired a lucrative T-shirt business protesting both the visit and the (somewhat arbitrary IMO) law. The hawker in this photo wears a shirt sporting some tit-for-tat Latin: Pontifex me vexat - “The pope annoys me.” Two shots for the price of one.
A short piece in the Staten Island News discusses the resurgence of Latin in NY city schools (ignore the historical innaccuracy in the first paragraph).
The Brooklyn Latin School looks like fun:
Besides the usual classroom instruction, the school employs a Latin nomenclature. The discupli (students) must address all teachers as magister or magistra. Students ask for atrium passes (hall passes) and to use the latrina (the bathroom).
Kudos to Robin Sutherland, the writer of the timely palindrome in the title (via Leah Garchik’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
You knew it had to happen sooner or later…if anyone finds the text of Mayor Johnson’s speech, please drop a comment.
Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow died of colon cancer last Sunday. His funeral was today, which prompted this encomium from a former producer at Fox News. It included this tidbit:
(W)hen (Joe) Lockhart became President Clinton’s press secretary(,) Tony offered him some words of advice and concluded with this Latin phrase, “Noli nothis permittere te terere,” don’t let the bastards get you down – goodness. When he took the post that Lockhart once held, I sent him a congratulatory note, and quoted his words back to him.
The quote is from Henry Beard’s excellent Latin for Even More Occasions, published in 1991 (Lockhart became press secretary in late 1998) I suppose Mr. Beard was tired of the familiar mock-Latin phrase Illegitimi Non Carborundum.
Mr. Snow was Catholic and his college degree was in philosophy, so it’s perhaps not surprising he had at least a little interest in Latin.
Quick, what does that word mean? Tory MP Eric Pickles knows; witness this exchange from a blurb in the Times OnLine. First, Ross Anderson:
What’s the Latin for Schadenfreude, then? You know: the feeling you get when some pompous politician tries to show off and falls flat on his vocabulary? Salve, Eric Pickles, the Tory MP who complained that 24-hour licensing had turned Britain’s streets into “a vomitorium”. Sorry, Eric, it doesn’t mean what you clearly think it means: it’s a passageway in a theatre, not a receptacle for regurgitated diced carrot.
Mr. Pickles used the comment box to air his defense online:
I hesitate as the mere author of the remarks to suggest an alternative theory. It might be that I was making a pun (admittedly a bad one) on vomitorium with youths ’spewing out’ to pubs and clubs engaging in brawling and bad behaviour. Like Pliny we witness drunks ‘through the midst of obscenities.’
The quote is from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. In this passage Pliny discusses gold, a precious metal which has prompted curious vices:
Didicit homo naturam provocare. Auxere et artem vitiorum inritamenta; in poculis libidines caelare iuvit ac per obscenitates bibere. (XXXIII.4)
The quote is more literal than Pickles’ interpretation: Pliny is referring to drinks taken from gold-plated wine cups engraved with obscene pictures.
A bit off-topic, but h/t to David Meadows at Rogue Classicism for a brief analysis on the recent announcement of a date for events in Homer’s Odyssey from astronomical clues.
I heard this story early this morning on the CBS radio news. I’m pretty skeptical–it reminds me of Archbishop James Ussher’s attempts to date the creation from clues in the Old Testament–but at the very least it’s interesting…
During a meeting of Democratic govenors last Friday, US presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke behind a podium adorned with what appeared to be an altered version of the Presidential Seal:
Note the Latin phrase Vero Possumus, a fair enough translation of the campaign’s catchphrase “Yes We Can".
The seal “raised a few eyebrows” when it was unveiled and was quickly ridiculed by the Republican National Committee. As a result, the Obama campaign has announced they will no longer be using it at campaign events.
I mentioned this previously, but it case you missed it the University of Buffalo Conventiculum is this weekend. If you are a Latin student that can swing a weekend trip to NW New York, it’s probably worth a visit. $75 (includes meals) sounds like a pretty good deal.
Some Latin Mass commentary from Newsweek’s George Weigel. The article is heavy on church politics and the “reform” vs. “reform of the reform” controversy that has ebbed and flowed in the Catholic church since 1970. While this detail doesn’t interest me much, I agree with the following speculation:
In international settings, the use of this rite in Latin may help revive that ancient tongue as a common Catholic language for common worship–no small matter in an increasingly diverse and pluralistic church.
I have heard several older Catholics mention this notion of a “common language” in pre-Vatican II times. It often meant merely that one could go anywhere in the world and hear the same Mass, but I don’t doubt a more prominent role for the language in religion will promote its use generally in the secular world.
The recent jump in US gas prices had me taking a look at another politically-sensitive commodity from ancient Rome: Annona, the supply and market price of grain in the city (this is often called the “corn supply” in literature per the British usage “corn” = “grain"; we ignorant Americans often use the term “corn” = “maize"). In some ways, the current wrangling over oil prices is a repeat of politics that our toga-wearing ancestors were quite familiar with.
The first in 40-odd years.
A bit off-topic, but I was fascinated by this article on the Quechan language and its champion Demetrio Túpac Yupanqui He has championed this native Peruvian language mostof his life, and hopes to foster a more than academic interest with his Quechan translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a move roughly equivalent (given the prominence of Spanish in Peru) to Peter Needham’s Latin translations of Harry Potter.
His life story–years spent extolling the “richness and subtlety of Quechan–strikes a chord with the Latinist in me:
Túpac Yupanqui’s eyes still light up when he discusses Quechua grammar and what can be done to make it more resilient, like radio projects and teaching it in schools.
“If Latin is said to be the language of the angels, then Quechua is the language for expressing the subtleties of existence on Earth,” he said. “That is why it is still alive.”
Many Latinists–and the devoted scholars of most languages in fact–would heartily agree, professor…
H/T to David Meadows’ Rogue Classicism for pointing me to this Guardian article: A statue of Hadrian in the British Museum recently revealed to be an erroneous Victorian reconstuction. Not really an intentional fake, but a good example of letting circumstance (the parts were found near each other) and historical opinion (Hadrian had a substantial interest in Greek culture) over-ride obvious physical problems (the two pieces were out of proportion and didn’t fit properly, so the Victorians literally plastered over the imperfection and understood the unusual proportions to justify their view of Hadrian as “a weaker, less impressive figure than Trajan").
Like Mr. Meadows, I’m also willing to bet there are other ‘famous’ statues which have been similarly reconstructed…
I like Latin, but London Mayor Boris Johnson’s offhanded suggestion that Latin and Greek could help curb teeneage violence seems to be an example of “When all you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail". Not to mention a bit callous, but perhaps the newspaper is making more of it than it was.
A bit off-topic, but a reminder even Latin teachers are not immune to the issue of violence in US schools.
I’ve avoided linking to stories of students taking the Nation latin Exam–they’ve all started to sound the same, in many cases treating the students as curios devoted to this “weird” yesteryear subject. But credit is due to David Moskowitz and Kevin Kramer, two students at West Geauga High School (Cleveland, OH area) who obtained perfect scores on the 31st edition of the test.
It’s rare enough for one student to score this well, but two from the same class is almost unheard of. It’s a feather in the cap of Latin teacher Bill Prueter that justifies his recent award from the American Classics League.
Laus decusque duobus discipulis magistroque linguae peritissimis!
I have mixed feelings about the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee (anyone know if/when “Howard’ was dropped from the title?). On the one hand, it’s nice to see Latin taken seriously in pop culture for a change. The uncommon words used in the competition require some detailed knowledge about the languages they come from, and we all know that Latin has deep roots in the English language.
…this time in the Australian Parliament. In an attack on conservative opponents, Education Minister Julia Gillard suggested two Latin school mottos were apt for members of the previous administration: Disce pati and Quidquid excusatio prandium pro. The first is easy–"Learn to endure"–but the second is dog Latin; the translation given in the article is “Any excuse for lunch", which I think should be Quaeque excusatio pro prandio.
The lunch motto was suggested for Alexander Downer, the former Foreign Minister. He (or his staff) seems to know a little something about Latin since Catullus’ lampoon of Egnatius (XXXIX.16) is quoted in the riposte: Risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.
The news article translates risus as “laugh"; readers familiar with the amusing original will know that it is actually Egnatius’ smile (and a rather unusual toothwash) that is the object of the poet’s ridicule.
Another sarcastic UK Times criticism of London Mayor Boris Johnson. For a twist, this one is written in Latin–and although a little schoolboyish it’s really not that bad. First, though, a little background.
Apparently during a round of question time earlier this week an exasperated Mayor Johnson quoted from the Aeneid:
Non tali auxilio nec defensoribus
This is from book II, line 521; as Hecuba tries to fend off the invading Greeks, she rebukes the Trojan king Priam with these words.
This inspired at least one wag to shout “Speak English", and I think prompted the Times’ response. When it comes to blog material, Mayor Johnson is someone I’m keeping my eye on…
I completely support Dr. Robinsons efforts to take Latin study out of the usual classroom setting with her Latin in the Park program.
My uncle and father both took Latin in Midlands England–it was a requirement of all schoolage boys in the ’30s-40’s. They both absolutely hated their Latin teacher, who fit the example of the “pipe-gnawing housemaster of advancing years” described in the article. My uncle, in fact, was punished for not reciting his verb conjugations fast enough by having teh teacher grab him by the collar and depositiing him in the trash can at the front of the room. Yes, it really used to be like that. Anything that takes the subject I love out of the hands of sadists like that has my full support.
The BBC comments on the lessons newly-elected London mayor Boris Johnson should have learned from his study of the classics.
One commentor has a great quote from Tacitus (Hist. I.49) that may or may not be appropriate when Boris ultimately leaves office: capax imperii nisi imperasset.
The Holy See’s site has had scattered documents in Latin (notably the material from Latinitas), but now it holds a spot equal with other languages on the mainpage. Given the current pontiff’s favor toward Latin it’s not a surprising move, but it has been a long time in coming…
H/T to Dr. Mary Beard for this strange story about a lawsuit from the Island of Lesbos.
I really don’t know much about local English politics, but Boris Johnson, the newly-elected Mayor of London, is apparently something of a classics student:
(Johnson’s) father predicted he would be a huge success - for an odd reason. “He knows his Greek, he knows his Latin and if you can do Greek and Latin . . . you can do virtually anything, certainly running a city like London,” Stanley Johnson told the BBC.
He’s already had newspaper editors rummaging thru classical references for this quote, commenting on the British media’s penchant for highlighting his frequent verbal gaffes:
“I feel that there’s a kind of pent-up rage in the media. You’re like some raven ‘Hercanean’ tiger that’s been deprived of its mortal prey, which is a Johnson blooper,” (Found this in the Qatar Newspaper A the Gulf Times; didn’t see it directly quoted in a British source)
This is an allusion to the fourth book of Virgil’s Aeneid. In the relevant passage, Dido has just been rejected by Aeneas; the first few lines of her reply to the hero hint that she is not going to take it well:
Nec tibi diva parens generis nec Dardanus auctor,
perfide, sed duris genuit te cautibus horrens
Caucasus Hyrcanaeque admorunt ubera tigres. (IV.365-7)
You had neither a goddess for a parent, nor was Dardanus the author of your race, faithless one, but the horrible Caucasus produced you from hard crags, and Hyrcanian tigers breast-fed you.
Hyrcania was a shadowy country somewhere southeast of the Caspian Sea; it was occasionally used by Roman writers as a stand-in for any far-off, uncivilized land.
Just received word via the Latinteach mailing list that the noted Italian Latinist Guido Angelino passed away last night at the age of 87.
Besides numerous texts and articles written on various Latin topics–not to mention his contributions to the Vatican’s Lexicon recentis Latinitatis–M. Angeino was a champion of teaching Latin as a living language at a time when the grammatical approach dominated; in this his approach has been vindicated by modern Latin educators.
A few days ago I wrote a post that said–among other things–that the mis-appropriation of classical history/literature by Afro-centric supporters in 1980’s-90’s academia to support their modern political agenda was not a unique sin. And just this weekend Patricia de Lille, leader of the Independent Democrats in the South African government, used a familiar political quote attributed to Cicero in accusing the party of the African National Congress of becoming a haven for corruption:
“A nation can survive its fools, and even their ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.”
It amazes me how often this quote is used by the politically active, even by those on opposite sides of an issue. The complete quote–of which Ms. de Lille’s sentence is but the opening–can be found on numerous websites, a patina of ancient wisdom to burnish a wobbly and sometimes vile argument. I’m not linking to any of those here; if you are really interested, just Google “A nation can survive its fools” and page thru the nearly 50,000 hits.
The problem is, Cicero never said this or anything like it. I have scanned most of his political corpus and have yet to come across any lengthy statement about treason, let alone one so carefully tailored to false accusation. But Cicero himself used terms like proditor/proditio and perduellio to insult his political opponents, so perhaps these websites are preserving an ancient tradition after all.
Finally, to underscore the echo-chamber that is the internet, many sites report the date for this supposed utterance as “42 BC"–quite a trick since Antony’s men executed the orator in December of 43. There’s a good lesson here…
In my bouncing arount the internets, I somehow missed this news story about a Roman altar found on a dig near Manchester UK (h/t to ARTL). To make up, I thought the inscription in the photo was so good that it was worth briefly analyzing the Latin here.
This article on recent excavations at Stonehenge in Current Archaeology –the first excavation in forty years–is interesting as it documents a “work in progress” among the giant stones.
Archaeology is a science, and like most sciences new data is often mysterious until it leads to an overarching theory. Once the theory is accepted, the once-provisional nature of the evidence that led to it is forgotten. The article above does a good job of presenting the facts as they are known now and leaving the conclusions for later. It would obviously be a radical rewrite of history to discover substantial Roman activity at the famous Salisbury site, so here’s a chance to guess along with the excavators at what could be a substantial find or just a stray coin/potsherd.
If I decided to make a rather ironical ranking of things about which I am the most indifferent, the recently closed J. K. Rowling lawsuit to block publication of “The Harry Potter Lexicon” by Michigan-based publisher RDR books would be somewhere near the top. Nevertheless, I go where the Latin is, and believe it or not one small point of the lawsuit revolved around the Latin-language roots to names/terms Rowling invented for her imaginative book series.
April 15th is tax day in the U.S., and a couple of news items out today show how rendering unto Caesar can conceal legacies of the Latin Language and Roman Culture.
The Finnish Nuntii Latini has now partnered Foreca, a Finnish weather service, to provide Latin-based forecasts via mobile phone.
The service is probably limited (I think you need a 3G phone to operate it, and it seems to have only been tested with, naturally, Nokia), but point your phone browser to forica.mobi and select “Lingua Latina” under “Settings” for details.
…was last Friday, a date where the University of Vermont hosts delegations from area schools in “three hours of spirited skits, songs and even a sit-down exam administered by certified classicists". Over 1000 students attended this year’s event, the 32nd in Vermont’s history.
These things no longer surprise me, but it you need evidence Latin is catching on in America, it’s an encouraging read. Here’s a point I wish more teachers would illustrate: One student took it initially because he/his parents thought it would help on the SAT’s, but soon found out it could be really fun (he’s in his second year now). More please…
I posted something a few months ago about Czech senator Martin Mejstrik’s penchant for using Latin in legislative session. Now Italian opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi is touting his fluency in Latin in a campaign interview ahead of the upcoming Italian elections.
Cicero would be proud, though he probably would have suggested Berlusconi invite a more appropriate dinner guest (perhaps a senator, highly fluent in Latin and a former ruler at Rome like himself, hint-hint).
Please indulge a slight political digression regarding the Olympics. Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of it, but after reading about today’s laughable hide-and-seek torch run in San Francisco, one that followed similar protests in London and Paris, I’ve come around to Mary Beard’s position that the torch relay should be eliminated for future Olympics.
It bears repeating that the torch was in no way a symbol of the Olympics in the ancient world. Moreover, Dr. Beard gives a fair list of controversies that dogged the games in the ancient world. IOC president Jacques Rogge is rightly concerned about the image of the upcoming Beijing games, but pretending that people will set aside their protests at the bland invocation of the “Olympic Spirit” is, IMO, rather naive.
IMO the antiquity of the games has led some to turn the Olympic experience into a religious fetish. Athletes and hosts recite a corny oath as they hold a corner of the Olympic flag and the IOC tries to short-circuit every controversy by promoting a simplified myth of an Olympic truce scrupulously observed by the noble Greeks. The torch relay itself is hardly ancient–isn’t even 80 years old. It was started for the 1936 games in Berlin, and has all the hallmarks of fascist art: A relentless yet false grandeur intended to overwhelm the viewer into a state of sacred (read: docile) awe.
The time has come to admit what is obvious: Whatever the reason for reviving the games in 1896–and I’ll agree that classicism played a hefty part in that–they have become just another sports-commercial enterprise, one that should admit the realities of the modern world.
A short piece on gardening in the Olympia Register includes some Latin tips for those interested in the botanical names of plants. One paragraph tells the tale of a gardener whose knowledge of Latin helped her doctor discover a treatment for her rash (though if my doctor had to use Google to find a cure, I might just look for a new doctor).
Nicholas Poussin–the 17th century French painter best know for classical scenes like The Rape of the Sabine Women and Et in Arcadia Ego–is currently the subject of an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the catalog for the exhibit is discussed in the latest New York Review of Books. Andrew Butterfield is the author, and his article includes a perfect classical reference:
The extraordinary amplitude of the world and sky in Poussin’s paintings was commented upon by his contemporaries…In a letter in 1665 Poussin compared the elements of painting to the golden bough carried by Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid. He does not elaborate on his comment, and perhaps it is only a suggestive coincidence, but in Book VI of the epic the golden bough serves as a magical aid that helps Aeneas reach the Elysian Fields. Virgil writes of the skies of that heavenly place: “What largesse of bright air, clothing the vales in dazzling/ Light, is here!” No description better fits the effect of the light and space in Poussin’s late landscapes.
The line above is VI.640; I’ll quote it along the follow-up line 641:
Largior hic campos aether et lumine vestit
purpureo, solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.
For a painter like Poussin, the complete thought is quite apropos; the landscape (campos) he creates on a canvas must be vested with its own dazzling light from the pigments (lumine purpureo; that last word doesn’t necessarily refer to the color violet, but majesty and grandeur, since purple dye was precious in the ancient world). The painting must also have its “own sun” and “own stars", which I personally reinterpret here as sources of illumination inside the painting itself. Since the images in the painting can’t depend on light from the actual sun (unlike, say, an outdoor statue), it’s up to the artist himself to skillfully create that illusion within the frame.
Virgil is rightly hailed for painting a picture with his words; it is nice to see Butterfield recognize that quality in comparison with another artistic master.
Dr. Mary Beard has a problem with Vicipaedia, and in her latest column provocatively asks do we really need a Latin version of Wikipedia?
Her answer is no, and I can understand some points of her argument. I’ve written about some of the site’s problems in a previous post, and think it’s best to approach it as a “sandbox” for budding Latin scholars to test their understanding of the language:
Just because there’s an NBA doesn’t mean everyone else should stop playing basketball, or that it isn’t interesting to watch any well-played game, no matter the skill level. Vicipaedia gives the web enough tabulae rasae that there’s no shortage of personal-favorite topics for a budding Latinist to write about
So I have to say–with all due respect–Dr. Beard is uncharacteristically wrong on this one. Her point about the time wasted there on trivial arguments like “how to translate such termini technici as ‘link’ into Latin. Ligamen, nexus or vinculum?” is a good one, but I’ll submit that’s more a result of the prescriptive/analytical approach of most Latin instruction; if Latin is taught like a puzzle to solve with grammar references and morphology lists, it’s no wonder Latin students approach a new composition problem in the same way. Such an approach IMO blinds Latin students to the rather obvious solution: Don’t mandate any one term, but rather note that all three are in use and see if with steady usage that condition changes (it almost certainly will). When usage coalesces around one or more terms, that’s when it gets canonized.
Yes, I’m a descriptivist at heart, and I think it would be interesting to see if such an approach would work with a dead language. Vicipaedia offers an exciting opportunity to do just that.
James Kilpatrick, as always, has a funny yet insightful answer.
I have been lucky enough to visit the site just outside of Naples (my only advice: Take the Circumvesuvio train and spend some time at the Herculaneum stop; it’s smaller, not as crowded, and far better preserved in places). SO I was taken aback by news that the regional government is floating a trial baloon to limit the number of visitors to allow more space for commercial interests.
If your first reaction was the same as mine, you probably found the news scandalous. But on reflection, I also recall how poor this part of Italy is; Naples, to be kind, has always been a haven for organized crime and something of a dump, even before the latest garbage crisis. So I can appreciate the need to pump cash into the local economy. Preservation of the site and easy access to the world is of course not open to compromise, but so concessions to business I think wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
As I was on vacation, I didn’t get a chance to mention the PUBLIC opening of the House of Augustus in the Forum at Rome this past weekend. Mary Beard, as usual, has an excellent article putting the site in perspective. I agree 11 Euros is a bargain; if you’re in Rome this summer, get on one of the five-person tours.
More from the BBC, including some different photos. Why isn’t this type of thing more widely reported in the US?
Another successful Latin program, this time at a Montessori school in Wooster OH. I’ve seen more than one Latin program introduced at elementary schools, but usually these are either gifted schools or (as here) Montessori, and the teacher usually has a personal interest (i.e. the school didn’t decide to start a program and find a teacher, but a teacher already employed by the school decided to start one on his/her own).
One interesting point from school head Pamela Matsos:
“The way it’s being presented, they see it almost like a game…There is always someone sitting in a corner doing their Latin.”
“They don’t get tested on it,” she said, pointing out the freedom to study it without fear of being evaluated may enhance the class’s appeal.
Take that, NCLB test-lovers!
All Latinists collect books, some quite rare and old (they just don’t write those grand texts anymore). And I have occasionally wondered what will happen to these precious volumes on that day far, far in the future when I’m called to the great library in the sky.
But unlike Dr. Beard, I’d be quite happy to see them pass into the hands of people who wanted them, regardless of how “ghastly” the process seemed. As long as they are read and not sold as rarities. When I was a kid I read comic books, and comic book conventions were a great thrill. With a pocketful of quarters to blow on old 10-cent comics, I’d buy enough to keep me reading for weeks. But as I grew older, I began to realize the vast majority of people at these conventions never bothered to read the books they bought; they had become “collectibles", mere acquisions, and whatever thrilling spark that drew these folks to comics in the first place had died long before. I thought it was a little sad, and never went back to comics, partly because I was afraid something like that might happen to me.
I have acquired Latin books that have extensive margin notes from previous readers–some nearly 100 years old–that make the struggle of reading something of a shared experience. I have literally gasped to find a pristine text in the corners of a rundown bookstore marked only with a scandalously cheap handwritten price on the inside cover–that’s how I got the $3 Bradley’s Arnold I keep in my nightstand. And who wouldn’t enjoy the most delicious scraps of opinion buried in the notes of some of these texts, words that comment as much about the editor’s own times as they do the Latin (that Bradley’s Arnold–with stark 19th-century opinions about how to write Latin prose–is a good example)?
I read and often reread them all; I would never see them sealed in protective plastic. I have an edition of Virgil from 1823 that I often check for text and commentary. Some of the pages are falling out (I keep a rubber band around it), and I have marked variant readings in at some places. But this is what books are for; what good does it do if it remains unopened? That’s like buying a fine dinner in an expensive restaurant just to impress your friends with the receipt, letting the food itself lie on the plate and rot.
My hope is that someday far from now someone might smile at one of my own jottings next to an underlined word. I suppose I’ll have to see to that myself someday…
The mortgage crisis striking homeowners and the financial sector in the US is hardly a trivial matter, and I certainly don’t want to seem callous by appropriating the theme for a language study. Still, a few words from the ancient world show that problems with money and lending are universal, and in the hope there is some small value in comparing modern times with ancient, let’s take a look at a few interesting sources related to property transactions.
Press release from London book publisher Tiger of the Stripe.
Kennedy’s primer was first published in 1875, and had been more-or-less the standard Latin textbook used in British schools until the CLC came along. It’s not as well-known in the US, but is notable because:
Finally, in researching I came across an old article by Mary Beard about whether these little rhymes of Kennedy’s are more than meets the eye. Well worth an amusing read.
Usually people avoid Latin as a spoken language, but the world-famous Eisteddfod Welsh arts and cultural festival–which normally requires all staged performances to be done in Welsh–allows performers to speak Latin if a setting of the Mass is performed onstage.
This year the cultural festival will include a concert featuring Verdi’s Requiem Mass, which will allow more international singing stars–who may be completely unfamiliar with Welsh but can fake Latin thanks to a familiarity with the Romance languages–to perform at the Eisteddfod this year. Ticket sales are apparently brisk, but there is some backlash.
I just think it’s amusing that the tables are turned, with Latin now apparently the more “relevant” language (in terms of festival attention). I don’t intend that as a slam against Welsh; I’m just a Latinist basking in an unusual turn of events.
Actually it’s a great idea; anything that gets Latin out of a stuffy classroom is OK by me.
I blogged about the Latin details in the Pontiff’s revised Good Friday prayer, and anticipated that neither side in the dispute would be satisfied. Jewish leaders have already reacted negatively to the change, and now the news service for the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) has issued their own condemantion. A key quote:
“Following foreign pressures on the Catholic Church, the Pope felt obligated to change the very venerable Prayer for the Jews which is an integral part of the Good Friday liturgy,”
“Foreign pressures” I think is the real issue here. When SSPX talks about the “venerability” of the Latin rite, it often whitewashes the ugly side of religious tradition. It’s not so much that they like the history, sound or majesty of the Latin language, it’s that they have a very specific attitude toward non-Catholics that is, quite frankly, incompatible with modern multicultural thinking.
I have no doubt they see this as a positive thing. I just wish they wouldn’t use the promotion of Latin as a fig leaf for bigotry.
Forsitan et quaeras cur sit locus ille Lupercal,
quaeve diem tali nomine causa notet.
Ovid, Fasti II.381-2
This isn’t the first time (check note at bottom of this page) a nympharium has been identified with the Lupercal. And the claims about the newer cavern were made by Count Andrea Carandini, an archaeologist who is at odds with contemporary scholarship over the historicity of Romulus and Remus.
I also don’t find it very surprising that the follow-up gets nowhere near the press of the original claim. Whether true or not–and at this distance I certainly can’t judge–the story is a good example of the painstaking work and analysis that needs to be applied to any new claim about antiquity. Finding a cave on the Palatine is certainly remarkable, but it’s no excuse for jumping to conclusions.
The classical studies distance learning graduate program was established at the University of Florida in 2001 to address the needs of Latin teachers nationwide. It is the only program of its kind in the nation and is the only online doctor of philosophy offered at the university.
McClister enrolled in the program in 2003. As a father of four children and a full-time professor of biblical studies at Florida College, McClister said the program allowed him to pursue the highest degree attainable in his field without putting his life on hold.
“I was already in a tenure-track position at Florida College and knew that progress toward a doctoral degree would be an important part of my tenure application,” McClister said. “However, taking a leave of absence for a couple of years and moving away was simply not going to be feasible either for the department or for my family. I needed an arrangement where I could work toward an advanced degree and at the same time continue teaching and not disrupt our family life too much.”
Congratulation to the future Dr. McClister.
In flipping thru Vicipaedia this morning, I thought I’d check on how fast the updates move in. The entry on Fidelis Castro now contains the following text (I didn’t add it):
Die 19 Februarii 2008 Castro nuntiavit se a omnibus muneribus removere.
Considering this was just announced this morning, that’s pretty quick for a “dead” language…
My original post on the prayer changes went thru the Latin and pointed out the call for conversion in Pope Benedict XVI’s new edition. Reaction among Jewish groups has been quite strong; from the Jewish Advocate:
“Alterations of language without change to the 1962 prayer’s conversionary intent amount to cosmetic revisions, while retaining the most troubling aspect for Jews, namely the desire to end the distinctive Jewish way of life,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a prepared statement.
I have been unable to find any reaction from the conservative Catholic side–presumably the pope made the changes to appease more conservative groups like the Society of St. Pius X. If anyone knows of any press release from such a group regarding the prayer, please post it in comments, thx:-)
The Great Seal of the United States turned 225 this week. The current custodian of the Seal, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, kicked off a touring exhibition on Tuesday to trace the history and evolution of the Seal’s symbolism.
This story from Earthtimes chronicles one Czech senator’s penchant for putting his Latin prowess on display during the recent Presidential elections…
In the UK at least, there is a growing need for Latin and Greek teachers to support the growing interest in classical languages ("a three-fold rise over the past seven years in Latin classes of one form or another"). I wonder if the situation is similar in the US…
I caught an interview on the BBC’s The World this week with Trevor Paglin, author of the book I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me.
A lack of foreign language requirements for state-funded high-schools in Pennsylvania highlights what I consider to be a troubling trend in education. Sixteen states nationally require some level of foreign-language study for students to earn a diploma.
Foreign language instruction is difficult; finding teachers for languages other than Spanish can be a challenge, and there is constant pressure under No Child Left Behind to narrow the curriculum to core subjects like math and reading, the biggest “bang for the buck” when it comes to testing assessments. Not to mention there’s a higher perceived usefulness surrounding Math and English in contrast to other subjects.
However, if you look objectively at a core subject like high-school math–algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and for advanced students calculus–one could raise relevancy arguments that match those commonly leveled against languages like Latin: When was the last time, for example, you factored a quadratic equation, bisected an angle with a compass, or used sines and cosines to compute a distance/altitude? And while math is closely associated with science, economics, and technology–the principal engines of the modern US economy–the dirty secret is that the vast majority of jobs associated with these industries don’t really require a lot of math.
Now, please don’t take that last paragraph as a reason not to study math. I personally think math is a worthwhile subject, one that inculcates–per the teacher quoted in that last anti-math article I cited–a habit of mind. “Your mind doesn’t think abstractly unless it’s asked to - and it needs to be asked to from a relatively young age. The rigor and logic that goes into math is a good way for your brain to be trained.” This is absolutely true. But a similar bit of reasoning can be used for foreign language instruction–not just Latin, but any language.
The reason I think math is promoted more than these is, as I stated above, the association with high-paying career industries, and (more importantly) its emphasis on the NCLB assessments. And it’s emphasized on the NCLB because math is a subject that produces problems with clear, unambigious answers, perfectly designed for written tests. Foreign languages, on the other hand, are often messy with nuance, and beyond a few simple questions what foreign-language teacher gives multiple-choice tests?
If I were king, I’d require everyone to learn a foreign language. Beyond a means of communication, it is a gateway to culture, it forces the mind to approach concepts from an entirely new perspective, and forces one to think about the assumptions buried in his or her own native language (and, therefore, his or her own thoughts). That’s true no matter the language (OK, maybe not Esperanto or Klingon), and I think students are on balance enriched for the experience. If we had a metric that precisely measured that level of enrichment, it would no doubt be part of the NCLB, but is the lack of such a numerical assessment a reason to disregard it’s value?
The Catholic World News reports on Latin revisions to the 1962 “Good Friday Prayer” issued yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI. Since Benedict’s comments last summer about reviving the traditional Latin Mass, there has been much discussion of this prayer from the original Mass, which many Jews (rightly IMO) contend was insulting. Many observers suspect Benedict made the overture as a rapproachment to traditionalist groups like the Society of Pope Pius X, who have all but abandoned post-Vatican II Catholicism.
I like this post on In Rebus about finding one’s own Ovidian allusion in the latest e-book gadget from Amazon.
First, let me air this disclaimer: LewRockwell.com is a Libertarian political website that seems very interested in electing Ron Paul president of the US. Nevertheless, Tim Case’s column describing how climate changes may have affected the decline of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century seems (at first glance) to be fairly well researched.
Start about midway-down, after the chart, starting with the paragraph “If we look at history we find some very interesting events surrounding temperature change and agriculture during the last years of the Roman Empire.”
If you ignore the obvious attempts to match ancient history up with Libertarian social theory, there’s some food for thought here.
Today the American Nationalis Liga Pedifollis holds it’s final contest of the season, Super Bowl XLII, pitting the undefeated New England patrios against the underdog New York Giants.
Mary Beard–the Cambridge classics professor and part-time classics blogger for the UK Times online–has a sharp article on the proposed elimination of Britannia from UK coins. Archaeology has unearthed some Britannia images that remind us how fragile a symbol can be…
In Medioccidente Americae, procella nivalis advenit, quae pedem nivis in Chicago demisit. Mane, cumulis ad genua mea constructis, ab tramitibus, angiportu, areaque autocinetum cingente, nives rutro solvi.
Quid Horatius dixit? “Solvitur acris hiems…” Utinam sit verum; uteturne rutro meo?
Evan Millner has created Schola, a group on the Ning social networking site devoted to Latin conversation. I like his rules:
1. NOS ARTEM SCRIBENDI EDISCIMUS.
2. ERRANDUM EST NOBIS.
3. SCRIBENDUM EST NOBIS LATINE.
4. NEMO LITTERAS EMENDAT. (Don’t correct anyone!) NEFAS EST.
Omnia epistolia non Latina delebuntur.
I commend the idea of just letting poeple try their hand at latin–errors be damned. Too often I see topics where you can’t write a Latin sentence without someone chiming in about an obscure point of grammar or whether or not censeo, puto, cogito or reor is the “right” verb (hey, I’ve written a few myself, so I’m not pointing any fingers). Better to dive in and make mistakes than never try at all.
Added to the blogroll…
h/t to the ARTL blog for finding this delightful article from the Sunday Times OnLine travel section. A self-confessed “Helicopter Parent” takes her pre-teen sons to Pompeii as an incentive to learn Latin.
First there’s this bittersweet story of one researcher’s attempts to save Nepal’s Dura language from extinction. Then I hear that the last native speaker of Eyak, a language originally spoken by Alaska natives, just died. And Wednesday on Radio West, I heard a discussion with producers of the new documentary playing at Sundance. “The Linguists” chronicles the efforts of academics to preserve disappearing languages.
Latinists have chosen to study what many would call a “dead” language. Perhaps that makes me sensitive to the plight of languages now on life support, but nevertheless I sense a theme here…
This interesting article talks about excavations confirming Roman trade in southern India, from the western coast at Cochin into the interior and across the peninsula to Ponticherry (the Arikamedu dig is located near this SE INdian port city).
Roman presence in the area is confirmed by the artifacts, but for many Christians it’s an article of faith: By tradition, St. THomas the Apostle is said to have gone there as a missionary in the mid-1st century ACE.
Stuff I’ve run across that doesn’t really deserve to be posted…
* The Lost television show has spun-off a video game with a Latin title: Via Domus (obligatory reminder here that domus is a 4th declension noun).
* Laura Gibbs is posting Roman Sudoku puzzles from her book. The puzzles use Roman numerals, and there’s a little Latin here as well.
* Italian art museums are beginning to get results on their efforts toward the return of stolen antiquities currently on display in American museums. This particular article is about the Euphronios Krater–the subject of a three-decade long legal battle–but some details on other cases are also included.
This summer (7/24 - 10/26) the British Museum features an exhibition centering on Hadrian. For Latinists one of the more interesting items on display will be samples of the Vindolanda Tablets, a collection of ~1000 fragmentary notes, letters, and dispatches written by Roman soldiers and relatives stationed along Hadrian’s wall. Written in makeshift ink on thin shards of wood, they were first unearthed in the 1970’s; samples continue to be found today.
The tablets are a brief but invaluable glimpse into the Roman world. For Latin students they give us a chance to see more of the vulgar language, not to mention the cramped and sometimes barely legible handwriting on the Roman frontier. There is an online collection of the tablets; maybe when I get some time I’ll walk thru a few on this blog…
A search on the web turned up this site detailing the find of a lost papyrus packet found in 2006 as part of the Gallo-Roman Museum’s collection (Tongren, Belgium).
The papyrus is badly damaged but intact. It’s dated to the 11th century, and most likely contains a Latin text. The problems of handling ancient papyrus is amply demonstrated by the saga of the Herculaneum papyri.
Bill Poser at the Language Log has a scathing review of Steve Berry’s The Alexandria Link. For a book that purportedly describes classical antiquities, the examples cites demostrate a shocking confusion regarding Latin and the history of the language.
I also see that Poser has updated his rather harsh comments on St. Augustine’s Confessions. I personally think this is an important work for any serious student of Latin literature, religious content aside. Of course I’m partial to most anything in Latin, but Augustine’s biographical style is IMO somewhat underrated, and perhaps easily overlooked given the overtly Christian content of the work.
Confronted with the stunning monuments that survive to this day (aqueducts, roads, etc.) and the Roman reputation for conquest, one might draw the conclusion that the Romans saw nature merely as something to exploit. As the article points out, this is mistaken; the author cites a good passage from Cato’s De Agri Cultura to support the point; I’ll add a well-known passage from Pliny the Younger’s letters (V.6.7) where he describes his estate:
Regionis forma pulcherrima. Imaginare amphitheatrum aliquod immensum, et quale sola rerum natura possit effingere. Lata et diffusa planities montibus cingitur, montes summa sui parte procera nemora et antiqua habent…
(Imaginare is passive imperative (it’s a deponent verb); planities - “plain", a greek loan-word; summa sui parte - “on the highest part of themself” => “on the summits")
Anyone who reads the entire description will no doubt agreee the ancients valued the natural beauty of he land, but let me point out one particular sentence (V.11):
Prata florida et gemmea trifolium aliasque herbas teneras semper et molles et quasi novas alunt. Cuncta enim perennibus rivis nutriuntur; sed ubi aquae plurimum, palus nulla, quia devexa terra, quidquid liquoris accepit nec absorbuit, effundit in Tiberim.
(Trifolium I think is “clover"; take plurimum as an adverb for the implied verb fluunt; palus, -udis (f.) - “swamp", devexa - “sloped".)
Pliny is describing water runoff, and understands the process by which it nourishes and renews his fields. He may not be a modern environmentalist, but he at least understands the natural balance of land management.
The article is a bit old (Comitarium primarium in Michigan heri habebantur; Mitt Romney in parte Republicana vix super Johannem McCain vicit), but fairly easy Latin. I wish there was a better adjective for Barrack Obama than nigricoloris, which is vaguely offensive to English speakers. I also might quibble with the “gerund+object” construction candidatum vincendi, and hebebuntur is certainly a typo for habebuntur.
Here’s a neat idea: The Italian Nation Museum of Rome has unveiled a virtual-reality exhibit at its branch in the Diocletian Baths. Visitors can roam (via avatars) the entire length of the 4th century Via Flaminia from Rome to Rimini. Sights along the way include Livia’s palace, the Milvian Bridge, an arch constructed by Constantine, and dozens of smaller monuments reconstructed from current remains.
This research paper (warning: ~230KB PDF) focuses mainly on the technical challenges of the project, and the clunky language looks like a translation from (I guess) Italian. However, it does include a few pictures from the VR world, and some of the methodology is interesting. Based on this, the level of detail seems incredible; I’d think this is more than just a toy for museum patrons, but might even be a useful tool for practicing archaeologists.
Things like this have always struck me as a little silly. I doubt Mr. Mount is serious, but if someone insists that you must use a Latin declension to properly form the plural of a word introduced by a Japanese automobile manufacturer, kindly point this peantic fool to the door. The plural of Prius is Priuses until a different term is adopted by common assent. The idea that such a thing can be dictated and Latin used to give it a sheen of authority is just ridiculous.
This Wall-Street Journal article on the importance of the Aeneid in western culture is a little old, but still worth reading:
Like his hero, Virgil was fated to establish a new empire, in this case a literary one. His excellent modern translators, from John Dryden, at the end of the 17th century, to Robert Fagles, two years ago, have all tried to “English” the original Latin, to represent their poet in a way that does justice to both the past and the present, to the original and to contemporary audiences. Every generation retranslates the masterpieces of the ancient world. Such efforts prove that a classic is something that is perennially young.
I have never really understood the opposition to the Latin Mass in some quarters of the Catholic Church. It seems a harmless indulgence to traditional parishioners, and I’m sure the Tridentine rite could be tinkered with to remove problems like the Good Friday prayer. The religious questions are certainly beyond me, and since I’m naturally interested in promoting the Latin language I’d love to see the laity exposed to more Latin. So yes, perhaps I don’t understand what the problem is, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out a Latin mass in your area (warning: 892K PDF), just to see how well you can translate on the fly
While both agree there has been a resurgence student interest in Latin over the past decade, and both agree there is a challenge recruiting new Latin teachers (there’s about a 50% replacement rate of new vs. retiring teachers). But the BBC article is far more pessimistic, and suggests some of the results are a product of statistical bias and changes that affect only 12-14 year olds in the program.
Most state schools in the UK have been reviving their Latin programs using an education program developed by the Cambridge School Classics Project.
Another review of Ostler’s book, this time in the UK’s New Statesman.
This article in the Cincinnati Enquirer details results from a federal study on language education in the US.
British author Harry Mount (author of Carpe Diem…) was on a recent edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered"; you can listen to the ~5 min. interview here.
It’s a short piece, so Mount doesn’t get much further than a few anecdotes (I didn’t know about Angelina Jolie’s tattoo; will have to find that on-line and post). The piece closes with a few bars from the Finnish academic Dr Jukka Ammondt, who translated and sang the King’s 1960 #1 hit Nunc hic aut numquam in 2006.
The rise of the bourgeoisie spelled the end of Latin. A property of the elite, it toppled along with the rest of the world’s princes and kings.
There is more than a little truth in this, and even in the 21st century Latin still commands an air of austerity that is tailor-made for intellectual snobs. Make it your New Year’s resolution to combat this attitude wherever you find it.
Votive tablets and curse charms are found throughout Roman-occupied territories; they were hung inside temple walls to increase their desired effect. One showing a curse on an Emperor is unprecedented, and a real testament to the power of the Portable Antiquities Sceme, a UK government prroam that makes it easy for members of the public to record small archaeological finds. So far the PAS database is at over 310,000 objects in its 10 years of existence.
Been catching up on some reading over at the Classical Journal, where I came across this interesting article (warning: 220KB pdf) by Latin professor Rebecca Harrington. It describes a method to structurally arrange Latin texts as an aid to student comprehension.
In this month’s Scientific American you’ll find a short hommage to Carl Linnaeus’ genu/species Latin taxonomical system, which turns 250 next year.
Oxford University’s Bodleian Library recently displayed four rare copies of the Magna Carta, and US billionaire H. Ross Perot is planning to auction his copy of the document this evening; if you have a registration at Sotheby’s and an extra $20-$30 million lying around, you could probably make a run at owning it.
The lot description (warning: ~500KB PDF) includes the Latin text of Perot’s copy. One of the more important sections (marked 29 in the Sotheby’s description):
Nullus liber homo capiatur vel imprisonatur aut disseisiatur de liberto ten(emento) suo vel libertatibus vel liberis consuetud(inibus) suis aut utlagetur aut exulet aut aliquo modo destruatur nec super eum ibimus nec super eum mittemus nisi per legale iudicium parium suorum vel per legem terre. Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus aut differemus rectum vel iusticiam.
The quoted text abounds in medieval words–imprisonatur (if WORDS is correct, this is an incorrect present indicative), disseisiatur, tenemento utlagetur. Note also the use of super = contra (mittemus here likely means the sending of troops/forces or general regal power). Finally there is the -e for -ae ending on terre and the spelling of iusticiam (indicating the shift in pronounciation of vowels and consonants). But classical or not, the quoted text established a fundamental principle that is still important in modern society: The rule of law applying to all men. And it was in Latin that this and other legal rights first came to the English courts.
Livescience reports on the results of an imaging project in Caistor St. Edmund in Norfolk, England.
Adam Freedman has an op-ed in Sunday’s NY Times which hinges on a point of Latin Grammar.
New medical artifacts from the “House of the Surgeon” in Rimini, Italy (unearthed in 1989) are now on display at the town museum. One paragraph in the article leapt out at me:
One unique tool, unknown to archaeologists until now, was a device apparently designed to extract arrowheads from wounded soldiers.
This famous wall-painting from Pompeii depicts the scene in the Aeneid where Iapys removes an arrow tip from the wounded Aeneas’ thigh (XII.383-440). Iapys is using what has been assumed to be a scalpel rather that the forcipe mentioned in line 404. Does the painting depict something closer to the tool mentioned above? I’ll let you know once I find pictures.
Brendan Boyle, a classics professor at UNC, penned the review. I wanted to highlight one paragraph near the end:
We tend to think of Latin as something that might season our dreary vernacular, per the cutesy suggestion of books such as “Put a Little Latin in Your Life.” But our very best prose and public oratory does not have just a “little Latin.” It’s Latin through and through — in tempo, structure, and diction. This goes for even our most ostensibly demotic fiction. When Philip Roth or Saul Bellow unspools a sentence that you think cannot go on one word longer, but somehow does, before it stops, turns back on itself, and leaves us in awe, surely neither has Cicero in mind. But as we catch our breath, we might spare a thought for the language that gave our own this capacity to ravish.
He is probably overstating the case, but Boyle has a point about “cutesy” modern Latin books (I’d lump Beard’s various “Latin for All Occasions” books and Ehrlich’s “Amo, Amas, Amat and More” in that category). These are fun as far as they go, but they’re candy in the smorgasbord of Latin and related studies.
Pouring over news recently, I see a construction project for the 2012 Olympic games in London have unearthed artifacts from Pre-Roman and Roman settlements in the area.
The letters IUNNOBC are fairly legible in the coin photo (OK, the C is tricky, but still). The letters stand for “Iun(ior) Nob(lissimus) C(aesar)", titles which are commonly seen on other Constantine II coins.
Anyone who’s visited the Forum in Rome has most likely climbed the nearby Palatine only to discover that the excavated palaces are currently closed to the public. But now after 20 years of restoration, portions of the site will be opened for tourists starting March 2nd, 2008.
“The association of Latin, then, with upper-class males is a mere trick of history. Just as Project Iris is doing in Hackney, it’s time to reclaim Latin for the proletariat (a good Latin word, after all). Why? Partly, as Project Iris hints, it’s an excellent way of improving language and general learning skills. And partly because it is difficult - and why shouldn’t children be challenged? Latin is a tricky beast, but if it’s taught well children can have a lot of fun with it.”
During the 1984 US presidential debates, a reporter asked President Ronald Reagan (who was 73 at the time) whether age was a barrier to the office. His amusing reply touches on a bit of the classics:
Latinists should take a look at this New York Times editorial written by Harry Mount, the English journalist who penned the funny-yet-insightful Carpe Diem: How to Become a Latin Lover. Besides being written entirely in Latin, the article raises a few good points in defense of Latin studies, especially among the political class.
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