Richard Thomas Defends Latin Program

Nice when the big guns step in … from the Harvard Crimson:

Classics Professor Richard F. Thomas joined students, parents, and other Massachusetts professors yesterday evening at a public hearing at F.A. Day Middle School, urging the Newton Public School Committee to reconsider the implementation of a proposed budget that would eliminate Latin courses at the middle school level.

Besides Latin, the school committee is also considering cuts in the arts, foreign languages, and special education programs.

“What is important here is that it is the middle school Latin experience that sets up the value of Latin and however much or little the student will pursue in the following years,” Thomas said.

Addressing the superintendent, committee members, and concerned parents, Thomas said that, as the father of two children, he and his family moved to Newton because of the exceptional public school system in 1987.

“It should be a source of pride that some 300 of our seventh and eighth grade students are allowed to take Latin,” he said. “We should see this as one of the real jewels of our educational system and preserving this experience should be, in my opinion, a priority.”

The School Committee voted initially last Thursday in a straw poll to support the proposed $171.6 million budget, which requires more than 30 positions to be cut. The public hearing was aimed to gauge the reaction of residents prior to a formal vote, which will take place within the next month.

School Committee Chairperson Claire Sokoloff told the audience that these cuts were difficult, but were the best options to address anticipated budget increases in the next fiscal year.

“There was a $4.4 million gap that the superintendent did manage to close, but not without program cuts and other losses,” she said. “We have been able to preserve a lot in our schools given the magnitude of the cuts that we have had to make.”

Audience members volunteered in advance to address the committee members and superintendent, advocating against the elimination of middle school Latin courses. A Newton North High School student stood and read a letter from her friend in college, who could not attend the meeting in person.

“The greatest benefit that I received from taking Latin was that it gave me something to be passionate about,” she read. “It made me feel like I was special. There aren’t many ways that you can stand out in middle school, but here I was a crusader and a protector of a higher level of learning.”

Sherley Blood Thom, a Latin teacher at Newton North High School, told the committee and superintendent that although many people were surprised that Latin was still taught in schools, the benefits from the courses were indisputable.

“Middle school enrollments are critical to the survival of Latin departments in high schools,” she said. “Do you want to be the ones who break the link between these children and an ancient legacy that has done so much good?”


Also Seen: Sport, War and Democracy in Classical Athens

An online paper by David Pritchard … here’s the abstract:

This article concerns the paradox of athletics in classical Athens. Democracy may have opened up politics to every class of Athenian but it had little impact on sporting participation. The city’s athletes continued to drawn predominantly from the upper class. It comes as a surprise then that lower-class Athenians actually esteemed athletes above every other group in the public eye, honoured them very generously when they won, and directed a great deal of public and private money to sporting competitions and facilities. In addition athletics escaped the otherwise persistent criticism of upper-class activities in the popular culture of the democracy. The research of social scientists on sport and aggression suggests this paradox may have been due to the cultural overlap between athletics and war under the Athenian democracy. The article concludes that the practical and ideological democratization of war by classical Athens legitimized and supported upper-class sport.

CONF: The Past-Colonial: Classics and the Colonization of the Past

Seen on the Classicists list:

Announcement of a conference organized by the Network on Ancient and Modern Imperialisms.

The Past-Colonial: Classics and the Colonization of the Past
Friday April 1st – Sunday April 3rd 2011

Yale University Department of Classics in association with the International Network on Ancient and Modern Imperialisms and Yale’s Ancient Societies Research Network


Location: Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 211

Friday 1st April

4.00-4.30 Welcome and Introduction (Emily Greenwood and Milette Gaifman)

Panel 1: Greek and Roman Alter-natives

4.30-5.30 Daniel Selden: Callimachus the Egyptian
5.30-6.30 Tessa Rajak: The Disappearing Septuagint: between past- and post-colonial

6.30 pm RECEPTION at the Beinecke Library, Mezzanine level

Saturday 2nd April

Breakfast Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

Panel 2: Reception as Colonization

9.00-10.00 Katherine Harloe: The past-colonial in eighteenth-century historical and prehistorical narratives of Greece

10.00-11.00 Simon Goldhill: How Christianity really began in Gloucester: the Victorian Christian Imperial Imagination

COFFEE 11-11.30 Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

11.30-12.30 Miriam Leonard: Matthew Arnold’s ‘Hellenism and Hebraism’

12.30-1.30 Constanze Guthenke: The Black and the White Atlantic: The Transnational and Nineteenth-Century American Classical Scholarship

LUNCH 1.30-2.30, all welcome Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

Panel 3: The Distance of Empires

2.30-3.30 Margaret Williamson: "Nero, the mustard!" Classically-named slaves in the British Caribbean

3.30-4.30 Rachel Friedman: Landscapes without Seasons: Situating the primitive in Greek and Caribbean topographies

COFFEE 4.30 – 5 Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

5.00-6.00 Nicholas Allen: "Past, or passing, or to come": The Poetics of Late Imperial Space

Sunday 3rd April

Breakfast Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

9.00-10.00 Lorna Hardwick: Agency, empires and ambivalence in translations of Greek Drama and Historiography

10.00-11.00 Daniel Tompkins: Moses Finley and Imperialism, Ancient and Modern

11-11.30 COFFEE Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

Panel 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

11.30-12.30 Richard Neer "Daphnis in Oxford, or, A Brief History of Archaeological Style"

12.30-1.30 Phiroze Vasunia Classicism, Race, and Architecture in Colonial India

1.30-2.30 LUNCH, all welcome Linsly-Chittenden Hall Room 213

2.30-3.30 ROUNDTABLE PANEL (to include 30 minutes’ wrap-up discussion (2:30-3), and a 30 minute planning discussion for the Network on Ancient and Modern Imperialisms).

Network on Ancient and Modern Imperialisms

Also Seen: Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations Translated into Housewife

I’m used to wading through journalistic attempts to make a quotation from Marcus Aurelius relevant to whatever they’re writing about. Today I was pointed to a very interesting blog, the title of which is pretty much self explanatory:

CONF: Triennial Conference – A Celebration of Classics

Registration open for Triennial Conference, University of Cambridge, 25-28 July 2011

Hosted by the Faculty of Classics, the Celebration of Classics will see a remarkable line up of international scholars brought together in a novel format for such an event. There will, of course, be some very distinguished plenary lecturers, and there will also be two outreach evenings with well-known figures from the media and literary world. But the centre of the event is a set of seminars where leading classicists will be presenting their cutting edge work in a seminar format with extensive opportunities for discussion (each paper will have at least 45 minutes for comment and questions). Each day has only two such seminar slots, leaving plenty of time for debate as well as meeting old and new friends. We are hoping that you will want to come to Cambridge and participate in this event.

For more information about the conference please go to

Professor Stephen Oakley
Chair, Organising Committee

Hermes (Mercury) on Facebook

Over the weekend, the Makeuseof folks mentioned this site to make ‘fake’ Facebook profiles, which is something I have been planning to do with my history classes at some point. One of their ‘favourites’, it turns out, is one made for Hermes:

I expect my announcing this will launch a few helen’s worth of similar ships … if you’re proud of it, make sure to tell us so we can share!



Romans and Railroad Tracks Redux Alas

I’m only semi-surprised that the Daily Mail has fallen for this semi-regular silliness, inter alia:

The first trains, in the 19th century, were made to the same width as horse-drawn wagons, which were, in turn, built to fit in the ruts left in the roads by the chariots of the Roman invaders two millennia ago. The British standard rail gauge of 4ft 8½ inches is based on the specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Why the precise width? Well, the Romans calculated it as the average size of the backside of a horse. The problem is that that the bum-size of modern travellers is creeping ever closer to that of our equine friends, posing a growing nightmare for air travellers, too.

As might be expected, this is one which rogueclassicism has dealt with before:


This Day in Ancient History: ante diem v kalendas apriles

ante diem v kalendas apriles

  • 37 A.D. — arrival of Gaius (Caligula) in Rome
  • 193 A.D. — murder of the emperor Pertinax; recognition of Didius Julianus as Augustus
  • 364 A.D. — elevation of Valens to the rank of Augustus
  • … in the early Church, this was one of the days claimed as the day of Jesus’ birth