Archives for: October 2008


Permalink 12:10:33 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 44 words, 3390 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Literature

Sumusne in Romuli faece?

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.

Permalink 11:21:44 am, by Chris Jones Email , 106 words, 1325 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

"Toga optional"?

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.


Permalink 04:03:07 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 450 words, 6351 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Quae carmina ad insulam desertam feras?

ARTL Blogger poses the “Desert Island” music question with a Latin twist: If you were stuck on a desert island, what eight Latin-language lyrics would you want to have with you?



Permalink 11:22:38 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 119 words, 826 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Roman Culture

Macrobius Inscription

Macrobius Inscription
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…


Permalink 06:14:04 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 128 words, 1389 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Latin words we should use more often

A couple samples of Latin words you could drop into conversation

Crapula, -ae - “drunkeness, ‘high’". The beauty of this word for English is that is sounds like “crap", not bad when you consider some of the more vulgar terms for getting drunk. Plautus has a character in his Mostella who edormivi crapulam - “slept it off", while Cicero describes certain corrupt judges in Sicily as men qui nondum…convivi crapulam exhalassent - “Who haven’t yet killed the buzz of the (last) party.”

Fatifer - “death-dealing". It just sounds cool, doesn’t it; What dangerous dude wouldn’t want to be known as fatifer?. The word shows up in the Aeneid as Ascanius fires an arrow that splits the skull of Remulus: Sonat una fatifer arcus - “At once the death-dealing bow resounds/snaps (sonat)".


Permalink 01:42:43 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 407 words, 5658 views   English (US)
Categories: Q. Cicero's Commentariolum

Commentariolum pt. 4

Let’s take a final look at Quintus’ Commentariolum Petitionis for this election cycle. While the usual “the more things change…” review of election tactics old & new has (spero) been interesting, I don’t want to be accused of promoting too much cynicism in our political process.



Permalink 07:12:45 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 522 words, 2951 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Tu Betchus Translated

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)…



Permalink 02:55:18 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 71 words, 2081 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Education

Petrificus Totalus

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?


Permalink 04:52:59 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 390 words, 2370 views   English (US)
Categories: Q. Cicero's Commentariolum

Commentariolum pt. 3

Nobody, it seems, likes the attack ads that have become so commonplace in modern election campaigns. But there’s a simple reason why such advertising exists: It works, a fact even the Romans knew 2000 years ago.



Permalink 11:22:53 am, by Chris Jones Email , 194 words, 5387 views   English (US)
Categories: Q. Cicero's Commentariolum

Commentariolum pt. 2

In elections both ancient and modern, campaign promises are commmonplace and Quintus reminds his brother of the reason they are so effective:



Permalink 11:56:21 am, by Chris Jones Email , 211 words, 899 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Modern Latin

Reaction to Dowd's column

Maureen Dowd’s semi-Latin piece in the Sunday NY Times has generated a few reactions in the Latin blogosphere. Cambridge Don Mary Beard has a fair question:

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…

Permalink 09:55:45 am, by Chris Jones Email , 289 words, 4447 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Q. Cicero's Commentariolum

Commentariolum pt. I

Thus begins a series of excepts from Q. Cicero’s Commentariolum Petitionis as a reflection on current US electoral events.



Permalink 04:52:57 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 202 words, 2144 views   English (US)
Categories: Q. Cicero's Commentariolum

Q. Cicero's Commentariolum Petitionis

I mentioned Quintus Cicero’s Commentariolum Petitionis in a post earlier this month. With the US election approaching, I thought I’d post a few choice paragraphs over the days leading up to November 4th. First though, a little background.

The Commentariolum Petitionis was ostensibly written by Quintus Cicero as a letter/pamphlet to advise his brother’s successful run for the consulship in 64 BCE. I say “ostensibly” because there are reasons to doubt the full authorship. Some of the passages are echoed in other speeches of Cicero; either Cicero plagiarized his brother or the orator is the actual author of at least some passages in the Commentariolum. Also the pamphlet seems to over-emphasize the danger of Catiline as an election opponent (Catiline ended up losing badly). Assuming the pamphlet was written after the Catilinarian conspiracy would explain this, as memories of the personal threat to Cicero might make Catiline loom larger in the author’s mind. But regardless of who wrote it, most scholars agree the pamphlet comes from the 1st century BCE and accurately reflects the political climate of its time.

Look for a few choice excerpts in the coming days. I’ll also add a blog category to help with filtering on this topic.


Permalink 07:54:53 am, by Chris Jones Email , 183 words, 1715 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Modern Latin

Tu Betchus

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:

Alaskan Govenor Sarah PalinTu 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.


Permalink 02:31:25 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 852 words, 2408 views   English (US)
Categories: Modern Latin, My Own Latin

The Art of Latin

I’ve written a few posts in the past about Latin as an art form in modern times. It’s a topic I really should explore more often, but I always feel such discussions devolve into pointless navel gazing; a paragraph or two in and I start to ask “What is the point of defending this?” If it matters the work will speak for itself; if not then why add more fodder to the opus futile?



Permalink 08:53:42 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 89 words, 1445 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Pari passu

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.

Permalink 03:52:17 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 210 words, 1597 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Modern Latin, Education

If the NY Times notices...

it must be a cultural trend:

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.


Permalink 05:40:16 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 201 words, 3742 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Literature

More Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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.


Permalink 08:34:21 am, by Chris Jones Email , 142 words, 1928 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Fattus Cattus?!?

Some time ago I wrote a post on the Latin Forum of “Wordy Gurdy” puzzles. In English, the puzzle is a clue that suggests a two-word rhyming answer. For example “obese feline” = FAT CAT, or “electronic communication for the ladies” = FEMALE EMAIL.

I saved a few of my favorites, and thought readers might get a kick out of trying a couple–in Latin of course–as a fun start to the weekend. Try the first few below to get started; the answers (and a few more puzzles) can be found by clicking the “More” link.


i. Contribuis in die secundo

ii. Termino caret

iii. Fleas, puella mythologica! (quae stulta scrinium aperuit)



Permalink 10:34:48 am, by Chris Jones Email , 36 words, 1461 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Roman Culture

For the Besieger who Has Everything...

H/t to Gizmodo (via David Meadow’s Rogue Classicism) for finding this full-size replica of a Roman catapult up for bids on the UK version of eBay. It was originally built for a Discovery channel doc…

Permalink 12:12:56 am, by Chris Jones Email , 635 words, 6458 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Literature, Roman Culture

Politics Then and Now

McCain and Obama - 2008 Presidential DebateIf 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.



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