Also Seen: Latin Grammars at the Glasgow Incunabula Project

Tip o’ the pileus to Robert MacLean on Twitter for mentioning this update … here’s the intro paragraph as a bit of a tease:

This latest batch of incunabula includes a bound volume containing six independent Latin grammatical texts. These texts are primarily associated with Johannes de Garlandia, a 12th century grammarian whose most famous work, the Dictionarius has been described by one 20th century scholar as ‘in one sense, the first of all dictionaries.’ The works in this volume seem intended for schoolboys with a rudimentary understanding of Latin who were in need of honing more complex grammatical ideas. De Garlandia commands them in his essay Synonyma ‘to come and listen to him for he will teach them.’

Links to some more potentially interesting incunabula follows the main post too!

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Papal Tweetery ~ March 3, 2012


Latin on the Rise in the UK

Latin always seems to be on the rise, and yet there are still contrary opinions about its utility … from Skynews:

A growing number of children as young as seven are learning Latin in a move to improve their literacy and understanding of ancient civilisations.

Existing teachers are being trained to take the lessons with funding from the charity Classics for All , and a group of 20 schools in Norfolk is showing what can be achieved.

Project co-ordinator Jane Maguire said: “It gives them the ability to understand sometimes quite hard words in English and to interpret them through their knowledge of Latin.

“It gives them an understanding of the grammatical structure of a language which helps them when they come to learn a modern language and it opens up the whole legacy of the Roman empire which is all around us.”

Her view is shared by the Department for Education. All seven-year-olds will learn a language from September with Latin and ancient Greek included as options.

Antingham and Southrepps Primary is a tiny, rural primary school in Norfolk where Year 4 pupils have had the chance to dress up as Romans and act out the tale of an ancient birthday party in Latin.

Emma, aged nine, said: “I think it’s helping us because it’s nice to learn that lots of our words come from Latin.”

And eight-year-old Emily says she can imagine continuing with the subject at secondary school. “It’s fun!” she said.

Down the road at North Walsham High, pupils of all ages are learning the subject.

Rachel, aged 13, thinks it could help with her career. “I want to be veterinary nurse when I’m older and some of the medicines are in Latin so I wanted to try it out.”

And Michael, 12, said to start with he was not keen “but I’m doing good in it now and I like it”.

But teacher and author Francis Gilbert believes it is a waste of time.

Mr Gilbert said: “It is not a living language, it’s a dead language. You can’t go to ancient Rome and to speak it as you can with Spanish or German.

“The vast majority of children find it completely removed from their lives … not relevant to who they are. It’s very, very difficult to present it in an energetic and enthusiastic way.”

The Mayor of London disagrees. Boris Johnson recently pledged a quarter of a million pounds so that children in the most deprived parts of the capital could learn Latin.

In the past two years, the number of pupils taking Latin GCSE has risen by 9%.

But up to 70 classics teachers retire each year while only 25 emerge from university ready to replace them.

Classics for All is trying to bridge that gap and more grants are available to give teachers the skills they need to teach it.

The biggest challenge for many schools may be fitting another subject into their already busy timetables.

Just a note in passing to Mr Gilbert: the “vast majority” of schoolchildren find EVERYTHING we teach “completely removed” and “not relevant” to their lives. That’s a feature of education in general, although I question the sweeping “vast majority”. That said, suggesting that something “[is] very, very difficult to present it in an energetic and enthusiastic way” perhaps says something about Mr Gilbert’s teaching abilities than the teachability of Latin, (it *is* rather easier to get hormone charged kiddies interested in Romeo and Juliet than perhaps Caesar … but howzabout Ovid?). Gilbert, by the way, writes frequently on matters educational in the Guardian … he seems to be generally against ‘the system’ and much that actually challenges students. He also uses the word “I” an awful lot.

Online Latin Prose Composition Over the Holidays

John Alvares posted this to the Latinteach list:

Montclair State University is offering an online seminar in Latin
Composition during the winter break (December 20-January 17). Montclair
State University welcomes visiting students. Below is a basic course

Latin Composition: In this seminar students will practice composing
sentences (and hopefully short paragraphs) in Latin. In doing so, we
will review advanced Latin constructions (subjunctive clauses,
conditions, ablative absolutes, future passive periphrastics, etc) and
learn about the prose style of such famous Latin authors as Caesar,
Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus. This course is recommended for students who
have had between 3-5 semesters of college Latin. Current and prospective
Latin teachers are encouraged to enroll. Upon special arrangement with
the instructor, this course can be taken for graduate credit.

For further information about this course, please contact Dr. Mary C.
English at englishm AT MSU welcomes students visiting
from other institutions and has special programs for high school
students who wish to take college classes as well senior citizens who
wish to return to school (either at the undergraduate or graduate
level). Registration information for visiting students can be found at


Hodie Papa Francesco Titiavit

I’ve long wanted to do a post analyzing the Pope’s Latin style, but I think I need to start collecting exempla first, so this is the first in what will probably be a regular series … I’m trying to display them in a ‘compact’ manner:


Ut sinant Deum clementia et mansuetudine in se uti omnes hortatur Ecclesia.

glossed by @Pontifex:

The Church invites everyone to be embraced by the Father’s tenderness and forgiveness.

… after we get a few in the ‘corpus’, we’ll begin commenting … feel free to begin commenting yourselves …

Putting the Hip Hop in Hexameters

This is probably the sort of thing I’d be doing — if I were teaching this sort of thing (and had any skills in metre, which I don’t). Very interesting item from the New Haven Independent.

They started with an age-old dum-diddy-dum. They added snares and high-hats. Then Andrew Sweet and his students brought an ancient Roman poet into a modern Garage Band.

The millennia-crossing performance took place in Sweet’s 9th-grade Latin classroom at Foote School, a private K-9 school serving 490 kids in East Rock.

Sweet’s class was trying out the “hip-hop hexameter,” a method he devised to help kids grasp the tricky metrics of Latin poetry and commit the lines to memory. The invention won Sweet a $2,000 award from the ING Unsung Heroes Award for Innovative Teaching Program. Sweet was one of 100 winners across the country this year; he used the money to buy recording equipment for his students.

The hip-hop hexameter went on display last Thursday with live performances by a dozen kids in Sweet’s honors Latin class before their younger peers.

Sweet began class by rolling in a cart of Mac laptops. Each student grabbed her or his own.

They pulled open a program called GarageBand to finish mixing tracks.

Juliet Friedman, of Madison, explained the assignment this way: To start off the class, Sweet had sent out a baseline beat.

“Dum-diddy-dum-diddy-dum-diddy,” it began.

That’s the underlying meter of epic Roman poetry, she explained. Its official name is “dactylic hexameter,” or “heroic hexameter.”

Each dum-diddy is a “dactyl,” from the Greek dactylos, or finger. Just like an index finger, each dactyl has one long part followed by two short parts. Roman poetry uses six dactyls, hence the “hexameter.”

Sweet sent out the hexametric beat. Then students imported it into GarageBand and mixed their own tracks on top of it. Some sped it up. Others slowed it down. Some added snares and high-hats. Some went for a smooth and simple sound, others tended to the frenetic.

When they were ready, students got out a poem they had memorized in Latin class the previous year, the opening to Virgil’s Aeneid. The opening, an invocation to a muse, introduces the hero, Aeneas.

Latin poetry can be hard to read aloud, Sweet said. The meter is quantitative—it’s based on how long a syllable should last. In English, we have long and short vowels, but that refers to the shape of the sound, not to the length of time we say it. Sweet said even after spending years scanning Latin poetry for his PhD at Cornell University, he still found recitation difficult.

He said he got the idea for the hip-hop hexameter while he was reading Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. The dual rhythm of hip-hop—one rhythm set by the beat, another by the rapper’s words—seemed to him a lot like the dual rhythm of Latin poetry recitation, he said. In Latin, the dual rhythm comes from the meter, which sets the beat, and the performer, who reads words that riff on the meter, but don’t always match it exactly.

Hip hop seemed to be an “accessible, approachable and more true to ancient recitation.”

Sweet announced the class would be voting on two ballot questions:

1. “Whose beat you think is the phattest.”

2. Whose beat would be most helpful to 8th graders.

Sweet plans to have his students record themselves reciting poetry over the sound of the tracks they designed. The 8th-graders will use those tracks as study aides this year when they have to memorize the same lines, he said.

Students began their recitations shyly.

Kyle Gelzinis approached the task with more bravado.

“Gangster Kyle comin’ up again,” he announced. “Throw it down.”

Then he “threw down” the Latin words: “Arma virumque cano.”

(Translation: “I sing of arms and the man.”)

“Phat beat!” called out some kids after their peers rapped.

After every freshman had performed, freshmen took out pens and paper to vote on the “phattest beat” and the most helpful.

“Phat is spelled with a ‘ph,’ right?” asked Nate.

“When it’s about a beat, yes,” Sweet replied matter-of-factly.

Nate jotted down the spelling for the mid-‘90s word for “cool.” (“That’s the first time I’ve heard it,” he said.)

Nate (pictured) had given perhaps the most exuberant performance of the bunch. He said he enjoyed the session. There are “not a lot of classes you get to do a rap in.”

He said he listens to Tribe Called Quest and Kanye West, but they had no influence over his track. He just started with the heroic hexameter and laid a melody on top.

After class, Sweet pronounced the experiment successful.

He said by connecting Virgil to hip hop, he hopes students would begin to “feel the artistry of the poetry,” to “feel it as a living piece of art, instead of a static piece of art.”

He said he hopes the method makes it easier for kids to memorize Latin poetry. Kids will test out that theory next spring, when they participate in the COLT Poetry Recitation Contest.

They won’t be allowed to play their music as they perform. But if the beats stick, they can carry them in their heads.

The original item includes a video of the performances …

The National Latin Survey Needs Your Help!

Elliott Goodman writes in:

Latin teachers and students:
I am writing to request your participation in the National Latin Survey conducted by Teachers College, Columbia University. The purpose of this 15-minute survey is to hear from middle and high school students and teachers all across the United States and find out the many different reasons why people study and teach Latin. Your opinion is important because what you say may help authors write new Latin textbooks and provide Latin teachers with valuable information. To access the survey, please click one of the links below:
The last national survey of Latin students and teachers was conducted in the 1920s by the American Classical League. The long-term goals of the project are to produce at least two reports describing the findings; one report will be a full needs analysis study including all the statistical formulae for the applied linguistics community and the other report will be written for an audience of Latin teachers with no knowledge of statistics.  These reports will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and be made available to the public for free on the project website.  Your participation in the survey is voluntary and your responses will be confidential. Students 12 and younger need parental consent to participate. If you are a teacher and would like your students to participate, please e-mail NationalLatinSurvey2013 AT to request student surveys.
If you encounter any problems while taking the survey, please contact the principal investigator, Elliott Goodman at NationalLatinSurvey2013 AT

NASA’s Latin Twitter Feed is Active!

A while back we mentioned this project (NASA Wants You to Help With a Latin Twitter Feed!) and now it’s up and running. The BBC reports:

Pictures of the surface of Mars, taken from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), are to be captioned in Latin on social media outlets as part of an outreach project.

The Latin captions will be published from 28 August on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.

The photography project is known as HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) and has run since 2006.

The Latin translations are being done by 18 volunteers coordinated in the UK.

“We were inspired by the Pope’s Latin feed,” HiRise spokesman Ari Espinoza from the University of Arizona told the BBC.

The then Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet in the ancient language at the beginning of the year and also used Latin in his resignation speech.

“Some of the science greats – [Johannes] Kepler, [Isaac] Newton wrote in Latin – this is a tie to the past but we’re looking at the future,” Mr Espinoza added.Start Quote

Captions are already provided in 10 languages as well as English, including Hebrew, Icelandic and Russian.

While some modern scientific terms had challenged the Latin translators, more mundane phrases had also faced scrutiny, said Dr Lorna Robinson, director of the Iris Project, a UK-based Latin language outreach initiative, which is coordinating the team.

“There has been debate over whether to keep the Latin more simple or make it as close to classical Latin as possible,” she said.

“We reached a compromise – wanted to keep it clear and accessible to outsiders without being wrong.”

The word “possible” had divided opinion among the language experts because it had not been used in the same way as it was today, Dr Robinson said.

Mass wasting in Valles Marineris (Lapsus massarum in Valle Marineris)

“We went for ‘possibilis’ – which means ‘possible’ but in terms of classical Latin it wasn’t really used in the way we use it,” she said.

The phrase under scrutiny was a structure described as “with possible ice” which would not have been a format familiar to traditional speakers, Dr Robinson added.

“One of the fascinating things for me has been discovering how many parts of Mars have been named in Latin,” she said.

“It will be interesting for people to see these connections. Terra [is Latin for] terrain, for example – most people will be able to work that out.”

The HiRise camera was designed for continuous use until the fuel on the MRO runs out in 2023, and sends back over 12 images each day, said Mr Espinoza.

“So far we have 30,000 images. Beautiful dunes, defrosting carbon dioxide ice, gulleys and impact craters – it’s Mars,” he said.

“The [translation] group we have created has done a lot of talking. You just don’t learn about impact craters or carbon dioxide ice in Latin at school.”

Follow the feed on twitter: @HiRISELatin

Mindy Kaling on Latin

Tip o’ the pileus to Sarah Bond for pointing us to an interview with Mindy Kaling over at Warby Parker … inter alia:

Favorite school subject

Latin. I loved ancient Rome. It was so violent and sexy and interesting: things like Mount Vesuvius erupting and the remains of Pompeii. When you’re in seventh grade, that’s as close as you get to sex.

via: Dispatches from Warby Parker HQ

… which is one reason I fear proposed legislation in the UK … how many Classics sites/blogs (including this one) will be blocked?

That Ovid Test

You’ve probably already heard about the ‘scandal’ that teenagers were asked to comment on a racy passage from the Amores, but in case you haven’t … here’s a sort of roundup of it all. The original coverage was at the Times, which is behind a paywall, but the Daily Mail — that bastion of moral rectitude — seems to have put on its blinders so as not to have to glance at the stories in its Femail section and started/augmented  the ‘outrage’ reaction (if there was, in fact, such a reaction):

Even the most diligent of AS-level students may not have been fully prepared for one of the questions in their recent Latin exam.

Young classicists – usually aged between 16 and 17 – were asked to read and offer a ‘personal response’ to an ancient but explicit account of sexual intercourse.

The passage from The Amores – one of Ovid’s collection of erotic poetry – describes in the racy embrace of two lovers.

A version of the poem translates on passage as ‘… slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours.

‘And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices.

‘Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure.’

The addition of the passage, which was part of a longer section of verse from Ovid’s poems published in the 1st century BC, in the exam for children provoked consternation from one leading academic.

Professor John Ellis, a reader in physics at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and fellow at Gonville and Caius College, said the exam board was not in their ‘right minds’ to include the passage for children as young as 16.

He told the Times: ‘How would a school react to such material distributed on their premises?

‘Many teachers would have glossed over this extract, assuming no one in their right minds would set it in an exam.’

The text featured in an AS-level Latin paper on Tuesday set by the University of Cambridge OCR board.
Controversial: The inclusion of passages from explicit erotic poetry in AS-level exams – typically sat by pupils aged 16 and 17 – has been criticised by a leading academic. (file picture)

Controversial: The inclusion of passages from explicit erotic poetry in AS-level exams – typically sat by pupils aged 16 and 17 – has been criticised by a leading academic. (file picture)

Students were awarded up to 10 marks out of a total of 100 on the paper for their answers. Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, defended the inclusion of the text, telling the Times: ‘Please, let’s not go back to the days when kids were not supposed to read some poems of, say, Catullus, because some old codger had thought they might get corrupted.’

An OCR spokesman said not including the passages would be tantamount to ‘censorship’ and would deny students the opportunity to study some of the finest elegiac poems ever written.

The elegiac style is a poetic technique where each couplet usually makes sense on its own, while forming part of a larger work.

The spokesman said: ‘Ovid’s Amores poems are considered by professionals to be some of the finest examples of elegiac poetry that there are.

‘To censor such material would only leave young adults with a false perception of their area of study. If such censorship were to be applied to English literature it would preclude coverage of the works of DH Lawrence, Chaucer and even Shakespeare.’

Tip o’ the pileus, by the way, to Nick Lowe for sending me assorted links. His daughter actually sat the exam and just in case you were wondering, the passage was Amores iii.14.21-6 … here’s the text from the Latin Library:

illic nec tunicam tibi sit posuisse pudori
nec femori inpositum sustinuisse femur;
illic purpureis condatur lingua labellis,
inque modos Venerem mille figuret amor;
illic nec voces nec verba iuvantia cessent,
spondaque lasciva mobilitate tremat!

I think I got those right … whatever the case, it really does have to be admitted that there is probably more lasciviousness in a random ten minute television show after 8:00 p.m. than there is here. The incipit of the Guardian’s coverage is rather more fitting with this particular century:

Despite the well-known adage that all literature is about sex and death, the Times and the Daily Mail got rather agitated today about the inclusion of that Playboy-esque filthfest, Ovid’s Amores, in the most recent Latin AS-level exam. “Slip off your chemise without a blush”, reads a translation of the extract. “Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure.” All sorts of naughty things? Dear God, spare the innocence of our nation’s teenagers!

Forgive me if I don’t join the moral outrage brigade in this instance, but I’m pretty sure the average UK teenager isn’t going to balk at much in Ovid. Take the UK singles chart – a compilation predominantly controlled by the consumer habits of teens – where the present number one, Blurred Lines, includes the lyrics “Lemme be the one you back your ass up to /… Had a bitch, but she ain’t as bad as you / So, hit me up when you pass through / I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” Even at its most risqué, Ovid at least preserved a semblance of mutual pleasure. In a world where “tearing you up”, “smashing you”, and “hitting it” is commonplace, exposure to sensual – rather than violent – language surrounding sex might even do the little scamps some good.

Meanwhile, it would be prudent to bear in mind that this is hardly the first time 16-year-olds have encountered amorous literature in the classroom. Studying sex is almost as old as the act itself – as the list below shows. [...]

The list in the Guardian, by the way, includes such items as Solomon’s Song of Songs and the Miller’s Tale. That said, today we read in Cambridge News the reaction to the reaction from some of the head teachers involved:

The headteacher of a Cambridge sixth form has defended an exam question which gave teenagers a raunchy description of sexual intercourse.

Cambridge exam board OCR asked AS-level Latin candidates about Ovid’s Amores, in which the poet tells his mistress she can sleep with other men.

In part of the 16BC elegy reproduced in the exam he tells her to “slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours” and to “let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure”.

The exam board has come under fire from some quarters saying the racy material is inappropriate for AS-level students, who are typically aged 16-17.

Latin sixth formers from Stephen Perse Foundation were among those who have been studying the passage.

Simon Armitage, director of sixth form at the Cambridge private school, said the section they studied was “very tame” compared with other parts.

He said: “It’s not a lad’s mag list of obscentities or provocative statements. It’s not designed to trivialise or titilate. It’s poetry, beautifully constructed.

“The story is all about Ovid explaining how his girlfriend is cheating on him. He is appealing to her not to tell him what she’s up to.

“The students really engage in the way the emotion is being conveyed through the poetry in a way they can’t if they are studying farming practices or bee-keeping.”

He added: “It says a lot about this text that we’re still talking about it thousands of years later.”

Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard is glad the censoring of some of the greatest Latin poetry has been confined to the past.

She told The Times: “The Amores is a hugely popular text and, inevitably, like many aspects of ancient culture, it prompts all kinds of discussion about gender, mysogyny, eroticism and how these were differently negotiated by the Greeks and Romans.

“Please, let’s not go back to the days when kids were not supposed to read some poems of say, Catullus, because some old codger had thought they might get corrupted.”

An OCR spokeswoman said: “Ovid’s Amores poems are considered by professionals to be some of the finest examples of elegiac poetry that there are.

“To censor such material would only leave young adults with a false perception of their area of study. If such censorship were to be applied to English literature it would preclude coverage of the works of DH Lawrence, Chaucer and even Shakespeare.”

The News reported on Monday how Cambridge law students were confronted with a graphic depiction of oral sex, male rape and naked torture, which the university said was needed to test students’ understanding of criminal law.

A passage from Ovid’s Amores:

“…slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours. And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices.

“Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure. But as soon as you have got your things on again, look the nice demure little lady you ought to be, and let your modesty belie your wantonness. Bamboozle society, bamboozle me; but don’t let me know it, that’s all; and let me go on living in my fool’s paradise.”

We might cynically hope that all the publicity from this attracts a few more teens with raging hormones to consider Latin/Classics as study fodder …

From the Mailbag: Telling Tales in Latin

Lorna Robinson sent this along:

The Iris Project delighted to announce the publication of a new Latin course and storybook, Telling Tales in Latin!

Telling Tales in Latin infuses learning Latin with the magic of storytelling. Narrated by the chatty and imaginative Roman poet Ovid, this brand new kind of Latin course takes the reader on a journey through some of the most wonderful tales from the Metamorphoses. Along the way, readers pick up Latin words and grammar and are encouraged to explore the connections between Latin and English, and the ways in which Ovid’s stories still speak to us today. Beautifully illustrated throughout, this Latin course reads like a story book, and as such, will appeal to a wide range of learners. It also contains the necessary vocabulary and grammar needed for the OCR Entry Level Latin qualification, so readers and schools can use this as the only Latin course geared towards this qualification.

Every chapter introduces the reader to a much-loved story from Ovid’s poem, encouraging him/her to start reading Latin which is adapted from the original text straightaway. It leads readers through the story, encouraging connections to be made between English and Latin words, and exploring new aspects of grammar in a playful but clear way. Each chapter ends with suggestions for activities, as well as ways in which the story can be explored from literary and creative perspectives. Emphasis is placed upon thinking about the resonance and universal appeal of mythical stories, and identifying why these stories developed. The book also encourages readers to think about the many ways in which the stories connect to modern ideas and features ranging from scientific advances to climate change and caring for the planet! Alongside all these cross-curricular connections, there is a continual focus on literacy and language.

A free teacher’s guide will be available to download in the summer from the Iris website.

Telling Tales in Latin is written by Iris director Dr Lorna Robinson, with illustrations by Iris illustrator Soham De. Advice on the Latin text is provided by co-ordinator of the Iris Literacy through Latin scheme in Swansea, Dr Evelien Bracke.

ISBN 9780285641792        £10,  illustrated in colour throughout
Also available as an ebook

To order Telling Tales in Latin please send name and address to:
Trade Department, Souvenir Press, 43 Great Russell Street,  London WC1B 3PD.
Please make cheques payable to Souvenir Press Ltd.

For credit or debit card sales call 01235 827702 and use the reference ‘Tales’
For further information call 020 7580 9307 or email: AT

You can now order the new Iris Latin course at

Latin Gets Things Done!

Interesting item from the Art Newspaper … some clipping along the way:

In 1937, the Warburg Institute, recently arrived in London from Hamburg, found itself homeless. Permission was given for it to move into the Imperial Institute, but there was no shelving, which made the library unusable. Month after month, the director Fritz Saxl sent letters to the senior civil servant at the Office of Works, Frederic Raby, asking him for shelves to be provided.

Now Raby was also a considerable scholar of Latin poetry of the Middle Ages; finally, Saxl asked Ernst Gombrich to write Raby a request in Latin poetry in case that might move him to action. Here is that poem, in the style of the “Wandering Scholars”.

The effect was instantaneous: Raby sent back a poem in the same rhyme-scheme saying that they could have their shelves. As Sir Ernst said in sending these opuscula to The Art Newspaper, “The whole stands as a nostalgic tribute to a vanished tradition of the Civil Service”.

The Gombrich Plea

Stella desperantium, miserorum lumen
Rerum primum mobile, nobis quasi numen
Audias propitie supplicantem sonum
De profundis clamitat studii patronum
Otium molestum est, et periculosum
Menses sine linea vexant studiosum.
Statum hunc chaoticum noli prolongare
Animam et domum nos fac aedificare
Libros nostros libera turri de seclusa
Quibus mus nunc fruitur gaudeat et Musa.
O, duc nos ad gratiae sempiternum fontem
Unde tibi lauri frons coronabit frontem.
Qui in Bibliotheca Warburgiana
studiis se dedere ardent
—Frederico Jacobo Edwardo Rabio


Raby’s reply (addressed to Fritz Saxl)

Doctor disertissime, rector venerande,
Omnibus amabilis semper et amande,
Congemiscens audio verba deprecantum
Imo corde vocibus tactus eiulantum.
Set nunc tibi nuncio gaudium suave,
Te et tuos liberans studiosos a ve.
EANT LIBRI LIBERE. Deus sit tutamen
Libris et legentibus in eternum. Amen.

… the original article includes translations … Both verses almost sound ‘Carmina Buranaish’ …

Gamifying Latin Redux

A couple weeks ago we had an item from the Old Gold and Black on Ted Gellar-Goad’s efforts to gamify Latin prose comp (Gamifying Latin Prose Comp). Science Daily has an item in the same vein, but with a bit more detail for folks wondering about the method:

Choose your character, write spells, map the dungeon and move up levels. It sounds like Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s not. It’s Latin class.

Each student plays a hero from Graeco-Roman myth with a backstory, personality and actions determined largely by the student. Over the semester-long journey the players face obstacles, challenges and opportunities both independently and as a group.

And they learn to write Latin.

Game theory for teaching languages

“The best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it,” says Ted Gellar-Goad, a post doc teacher-scholar in Wake Forest’s classical languages department who teaches the class. “And it’s even more fun in a world not quite our own, in time, place or nature.”

The first day of Latin prose composition class, the most challenging required course for Latin majors and often the dullest, the 12 students chose a character to guide through the 20 levels of the course.

Sophomore Amy Templin chose Ariadne as her play character (PC) — the princess of Crete who clandestinely helps Theseus slay the mythological Minotaur. “My PC tends to help solve riddles and puzzles,” says Templin. “She matches my actual personality nicely.”

Templin says generally other women in the class were more hesitant to embrace role-playing than the men, something Gellar-Goad expected might happen. “But the class is not a video game, it’s a paper-based role-playing game, and its extrinsic value is to create increased engagement in the class. Something I think we’ve definitely accomplished,” he says.

“I look forward to the class, and I’m not constantly checking the clock,” says Templin. “Though I was initially intimidated by the set up, especially starting the class at level zero, I’ve noticed so much growth in my abilities. I’m looking at the dictionary less and less. That we craft our sentences according to our character and the motivations of game players is a big challenge, but so much more fun than translating the vanilla sentences someone else wrote from a 1940s textbook.”

Experience points: Level zero to level 20

Students earn experience points, not grades. They gain levels. They learn Latin in a “super-structure of fun,” says Gellar-Goad.

This includes:

• Scribing spells (complete translation projects),

• Mapping the dungeon (construct visual representations of Latin grammatical constructions);

• Crafting magic items (produce creative projects); and

• Completing side quests (establish standards of a Latin author’s style, for example).

The idea for the course setup came from a Teaching and Learning Center book group on José Antonio Bowen’s “Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.” Gellar-Goad was most interested in Bowen’s exploration of using games as a useful pedagogical tool. “The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game,” was another useful resource for course design.

Learning through avatars

As game master, Gellar-Goad moderates the class, provides the setting and helps guide both the storytelling and the adventures. Students work as a class to figure our how their player characters will respond to given situations. Gellar-Goad sets up the simulation: We are in a city in ancient Greece and the Mycenean people are rebelling against their queen. The rebels have caught you, and you have two options: Confess you are gathering information on how to defeat the Sphinx or hide your true motives. The group discusses the options and possible outcomes, and then composes sentences in Latin to move the game forward.

“One of the biggest takeaways for me from the class is that Dr. Gellar-Goad’s unique approach is inspiring students in our class who have different ways of learning,” says senior Matt Sherry, an aspiring high school Latin teacher. He encourages creativity and that creativity gives students different ways to approach learning.”

YLE’s Nuntii Latini in the News!

This one was mentioned on the Classics list last week … YLE’s Nuntii Latini was the subject of a feature in the New York Times. Here’s the first bit:

Leah Whittington, an English professor at Harvard, catches the news bulletins on her iPod while strolling to classes. Daniel Blanchard, a professional countertenor in Paris, used to listen on shortwave radio, but now he uses an iPod, too. The BBC? NPR? No, it’s a weekly summary of world events and news broadcast by Finnish state radio — not in Finnish, but in classical Latin.

Nobody knows exactly how many listeners the Latin program reaches. “Tens of thousands is my wild guess,” said Sami Koivisto, a reporter in the station’s news department. But it seems clear that the Internet is injecting new life into a language often described as dead.

No, there are no traffic reports from the Appian Way, nor does the station assign a political reporter to the Forum. But, on Friday evenings before the main news broadcast, the Finnish Broadcasting Company presents five or six short news stories in Latin. In recent weeks, the subjects have included the financial crisis in Cyprus, an unusually brilliant aurora borealis and the election of Pope Francis.

“There are no scoops,” Mr. Blanchard, 37, said recently, over coffee. “But it is a great way to hear the news.” A request to the French national broadcaster to do something similar, he said, failed to produce a response.

Not even Vatican Radio, which broadcasts some prayers each day in Latin, reports the news in the ancient tongue.

Tuomo Pekkanen, a retired professor of Latin who helped start “Nuntii Latini,” or “Latin News,” as the program is known, said the language is very much alive for him and for many educated Finns of his generation deeply influenced by Edwin Linkomies, his Latin professor at Helsinki University and prime minister during the difficult years of World War II. For them, Latin was a part of Finnish identity as well as of a sound education.

“In order to be educated,” said Mr. Pekkanen, 78, who is proficient in not only Latin but also ancient Greek and Sanskrit, “it was once said that a real humanist must write poetry in Latin and Greek.”

Mr. Pekkanen helped start the news program almost on a lark, then saw it steadily gain popularity. “Picking the subjects, that is the most difficult part of it,” said Mr. Pekkanen, who in his spare time has translated all 22,795 verses of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, into rhymed Latin verse. “One principle is that we don’t want to count the bodies of how many were killed in this or that country,” he said. “That is dull.”

It may be no coincidence that the broadcast began in 1989, the year Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Finns turned toward Western Europe. For educated Finns, Latin had long been the country’s link to Western culture, and they were required to study the language in school.

“It’s a brilliant idea,” said Jukka Ammondt, a university lecturer in English and German who dabbles in Latin and regularly tunes in to the broadcasts, even though he confesses that he cannot understand everything.

Mr. Ammondt, 68, has certainly done his part to promote Latin — and Finland. After a difficult divorce two decades ago, he turned increasingly to the songs of Elvis Presley, an idol of his youth, for consolation. For the fun of it, he began singing them in Latin. [...]

… scroll down a bit for the latest edition; from this point on, all the ‘Nuntiis’ will appear as part of the regular Monday offerings at rogueclassicism (in the hopes that Latin teachers might incorporate them into their lessons)

Gamifying Latin Prose Comp

From the Old Gold & Black:

In a classroom where students battle away at mythological creatures and Latin grammar, Dr. Gellar-Goad has reinvigorated an out-dated course and brought new teaching methods with a twist of adventure.

In his first year as a Teacher-Scholar Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Classical Languages, Gellar-Goad has developed a unique and innovative method for teaching Latin Prose Composition, a class which is a major requirement for Latin majors. It is typically a course designed to be an intense review of Latin grammar and rigorous practice translating English sentences into Latin.

The original textbook used for the class contains material that is largely antiquated; the original publication of the book was in 1839. As Gellar-Goad pointed out, while not only is the subject matter very hard, the support in the text is not necessarily sufficient.

“This can lead to disengagement because the examples [in the textbook] don’t match the modern American experience of studying Latin,” said Gellar-Goad.

Last summer, he came upon a book called The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon, which has inspired him to reimagine the way Latin Prose Composition is taught.

In the style of a classic tabletop roleplaying game (RPG), each student selects a character from Greek or Roman mythology at the beginning of the semester. Students then assume the roles of these player-characters and use them in class and for homework the rest of the year. The assignments include scribe spell-scrolls, side quests, dungeon maps, and more — all of which require the use of the appropriate Latin grammar.

“A typical class will consist of about half the class going over nitty-gritty grammar details — more of a traditional class format. The second half will then be an exercise on that day’s lesson or review tied to some in-game element.”

Grading in the class is also non-traditional. Instead of beginning with an A and only having the opportunity to lower their grade, students improve their grade by gaining experience points through assignments, homework, and projects.

“There is the extrinsic value of getting to the next level — which is tied to their grade — and the intrinsic value of learning Latin,” said Gellar-Goad.

Though it is only his first semester teaching the course, so far Gellar-Goad has seen encouraging student response. He finds that given room for creativity, students are able to find things which make them happy within the class material, a feature some might say is unusual of the typical course.

“The students do work extremely hard, but I feel like they don’t see it as drudgery; the improvement I have seen is amazing,” he said.

“I think we were all a little shocked the first day when we told that our class would be modeled off of Word of Warcraft and that we would all have to choose characters to role-play for the rest of the semester,” sophomore Sarah Stewart said.

“Professor Geller-Goad’s class is an experiment in 21st century pedagogy; a synthesis between technology and ancient works that makes students capable of grasping the most poignant and powerful messages of what would be highly exclusive materials,” sophomore Lee Quinn, a classics major, said.

“He teaches the students to develop a personal connection to the information,” Quinn said.

Gellar-Goad also said he is fairly certain this is the first time the course has ever been taught this way.

“It’s teaching Latin Prose Composition as a semester long mythological adventure for fun and profit,” he said.

… folks might remember Ted Gellar-Goad as one of the minds behind a lolcattish ‘Take Latin’ campaign last summer (e.g. Promoting Latin Internets Style:The Series I)

Teaching Classical Languages ~ Fall 2012

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this interesting online journal from the CAMWS folks before, but the latest issue includes three very interesting articles (all pdfs):

… in case you want to peruse the back issues

Latin Not Tough Enough … and Should Be Taught in Every School

Oh oh … Facebook appears to have finally figured me out. This is the first time it has actually sent me a “Trending Article” that actually seems applicable to me … from the Independent:

Latin and Greek GCSEs have lost much of their “intellectual force” and should be replaced by tougher new O-level-style exams, say campaigners.

Students who take the subjects at Oxford receive lessons in basic grammar and syntax because their school education has been so lacking, according to the Parliament Street report. Too often, the report argues, the school syllabus is closer to studying classical civilisation than the language.

“There is (deliberately) no systematic learning of grammar and syntax and emphasis is laid on fast reading of a dramatic continuous story in made-up Latin which gives scope for looking at aspects of ancient life,” it adds. “GCSEs should be replaced by a modern version of the O-level that stretches pupils and does not hamstring them as at present.”

The pamphlet also argues that Latin should be a core part of the curriculum – rather than the preserve of independent and selective state grammar schools, “There is a substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary,” pamphlet author, John N Davie, said. Only 13 per cent of state secondary schools in the UK offer Latin.

… afraid I have to agree on the grammar and syntax part of things …

Translating Pliny’s Letters

I finally got a chance to check out Pedar Foss’ latest blog-related project … here’s an intro from his very self:

This begins a series of posts that will translate and comment upon Pliny the Younger’s two letters (6.16 and 6.20) about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79–the disaster that buried Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other sites. These posts are part of a book project that intends to understand the scholarly and popular reception of those letters. I am also teaching these letters in LAT 223 at DePauw this Fall term, so this is a good time to do it.

I will provide the Latin (using Mynors’ 1963 Oxford Classical Text [OCT]), and then work through it with a translation, dissection of grammatical constructions, and discussion of what the letters tell us. I will doubtless make mistakes as I proceed, and will be grateful for comments and corrections; the essence of scholarship is rectification through better evidence, arguments, or questions.

… the posts are being gathered under the Pliny category at [quem dixere chaos] … definitely worth a look

Latin Today

Tip o’ the pileus to Joseph Yarbrough for alerting us to this item in the Gyrene Gazette:

“Salvus sīs!” says your classmate, walking into the room.

You smile as you respond, “Salvē! Ut valēs?”

“Bene. Et tū?”

“Nōn male.” Soon, the room is sparkling with foreign chatter—before the professors have even arrived. Sermo Latinus Hodiernus has begun.

Latin Conversation Today, as the class is known to English speakers, is a living challenge to the assumption that the language of Caesar and Augustine is dead and gone. Every Friday, members meet under the instruction of Dr. Ritter and Dr. Yarborough for an hour of linguistic gymnastics that includes everything from telling time to describing objects—all conducted in Latin.

In the past, AMU students have gathered informally for the same purpose, but this is the first year the school is offering the course for credit.

Latin Today is not what Dr. Ritter would call a “typical” language class. By getting an inside look at the mechanisms of the language, students are able to step outside the normal pattern of learning and see Latin as more than a two-dimensional puzzle.

The course is geared toward taking the passivity out of studying Latin and turning it into an active experience through immersion and a diversity of exercises—in the words of Dr. Ritter, “doing Latin without really realizing you’re doing Latin.”

“It’s very hard to say, ‘What does it mean?’ at the end of the day,” Dr. Ritter says about straightforward memorization and translation. His goal is to “take a Latin class and do something a little bit more.”

Still, the class is more than a cryogenic experiment. Up until the nineteenth century, Latin pervaded everyday communication; indeed, for medieval Europe, it was a way of life. A working knowledge of the language, then, provides an inlet to philosophical, theological, and even historical goldmines. In order to cultivate an appreciation for classical writers, Dr. Ritter hopes to eventually have his students working with ancient texts, such as Genesis, the Gospel of John, and St. Augustine. He agrees with Pope John XXIII, who saw Latin as that link between past and future which allows us to read into other cultures and prevents ideas from growing stale. Dr. Ritter himself objects to the view of Latin as a “dead language” when it continues to enrich so many lives. “It would be naïve to sell it short in that way,” he says.

But let’s not forget the element of fun involved: namely, what Dr. Ritter calls “the joy of naming”—the rush of life that accompanies learning, for the first time, how to express oneself in a new language.

“It’s that delight of ‘I’ve found something,’” he says, experienced only when you learn how to say “window” as Aquinas might have, or the connection you make when you realize that Romans furrowed their brows when we ourselves frown.

Dr. Ritter recalls how “shocked” he was the first time he heard anyone speaking Latin for any length of time. But he acknowledges the sense of accomplishment that comes with “passing on with great ease what you learned with great difficulty.” It Dr. Ritter’s hope to imbue his pupils with this skill.

While the Latin language certainly wasn’t born yesterday, one thing remains certain: at Ave Maria, students and faculty continue to show that Latin today is very much alive.

For more inforamation about Latinus Hodiernus and the Classics and Early Christian Literature department of Ave Maria University, please visit their web page:

via: Dead or Alive? They Say Alive (Gyrene Gazette)

What Latin Do You Know?

I’m still trying to track down the official Papal Bull which established the Latin Academy which the pope recently decreed, but until then, this Rome Reports video is actually really good:

… I wonder what would happen if they asked the same question on the streets of some North American city (both knowledge-wise and ‘accent-wise’)