Also Seen: Classical Legal Opinion?

The incipit of a legal opinion my siders dragged back from the Leagle:

“Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . . .”1 As the tribes of the three parts of ancient Gaul presented unique problems for Julius Caesar, an owner and a tenant, among the three parcels comprising the subject real property of this case, present us with a matter of first impression in Maryland law.

Homerathon @ UT Arlington

From the Shorthorn:

The University Classics Club is hosting Homerathon, an all-day recital of Homer’s The Odyssey.

The recitation will begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday on the University Center mall and end at 10:30 p.m. Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, was written in 59 segments, and each individual speaker will be allotted 15 minutes to recite their portion of the story.

The Odyssey is the tale of Greek war-hero Odysseus’ journey home from the Trojan War. It is one of two of Homer’s works and is one of the oldest stories ever to have been recorded.

Among its initial conception, philosophy associate professor Charles Chiasson said the story often was recited by ancient Greek poets in public-forum competitions.

The tradition of oral recitation of poems dates back to the oral epoch, a time in classical history before stories and poems were recorded.

Chiasson said the reason The Odyssey was chosen to be recited instead of The Iliad, Homer’s other epic, is because of its popularity and level of interest amongst readers.

The public is invited, and there are still spots available to those who wish to participate in the recital.

On the Value of Latin

From a Penn State press release sort of thing:

Yale University’s famous motto is Lux et Veritas, Latin for “light and truth” while Princeton’s crest reads Dei Sub Numine Viget (“Under God’s power she flourishes”). The University of Pennsylvania based its cautionary motto — Sine Moribus Vanae or “Letters without morals are useless” — on a line in one of the Roman poet Horace’s odes. But in 1898, when someone pointed out that the line could also be translated as “Loose women without morals”, the University rushed to revise the wording.

Although Latin — an Indo-European language at its height during the Roman Empire — is nobody’s native tongue these days, it certainly remains a topic of conversation. The usual point of debate? Whether learning Latin is valuable for modern-day students.

“I don’t think people know what they mean when they dismiss Latin as a dead language,” said Paul Harvey, associate professor of classics at Penn State. “Of course it is not spoken in many places, save for the Vatican and a few classics departments. But whether a language is currently spoken is irrelevant to the continuing value of learning it and to the value of literature written in that language.”

Even if you never read Virgil or Cicero in the original, explains Harvey, “Latin is the root language from which variations developed into today’s modern Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and a few less-spoken European tongues. On a practical level, it is far easier for those with a firm foundation in Latin to learn a modern Romance language.”

Whether you’ve studied Latin or not, most people already use it constantly, Harvey adds. The ancient Latin/Roman alphabet is the most widely used writing system in the world, and is the alphabet of English and almost all other European languages. Up to 60 percent of modern English words derive from Latin, directly or indirectly.

Latin is our foundational language, explains Harvey, and that awareness may be a factor in the current revival of interest in Latin in our schools. One indicator is the number of students taking the AP Latin exam has doubled in the last decade. “From what I’ve seen and read,” Harvey said, “the revival in schools—including inner city schools—has less to do with a renewed interest in the classical past than a realization that the more Latin students learn, the higher their SAT verbal and analytical scores.” In fact, students of Latin had notably higher mean SAT Verbal scores than students of Spanish, French or German.

“Furthermore,” Harvey notes, “there is a continuing appreciation that studying Greek and Latin — the classical languages of Western civilization — demonstrably enhances the ability to write cogently in English.” The reason for this is “rather straightforward,” believes Harvey: “The successful study of a highly inflected language forces students to understand better the grammar and syntax of their own native language and that, in turn, encourages clarity of expression and analytical thought.”

In today’s era of online chat acronyms and text-messaging abbreviations, the ability to write well in English may be an increasingly rare and valuable career asset. Future attorneys, doctors and scientists would be well advised to study Latin to get a jump on the professional jargon, says Harvey. “And students wishing to study practically any aspect of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance literature, art, music, and history are at a serious disadvantage if they do not know Latin well.”

With such clear advantages to students, why don’t more schools encourage the study of Latin? The language may have suffered from an image problem in years past, concedes Harvey. The association of Latin with the wealthy and privileged “is a modern hangover from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries when only the educated elite studied Greek and Latin,” he notes. “The classical language curriculum pretty much dissolved after World War II.”

Contrary to its image, Harvey adds, not all works in the classical canon are somber tomes. “Most folks don’t realize that Greek and Latin literature includes an extraordinary range of works in different genres, including risqué and very funny love poetry.”

Of course, risqué and funny may not be everyone’s taste either. But as the Romans said, “De gustibus non est disputandum.” One must not argue over matters of taste.

Looting at Elefsina

Brief/vague item from eKathimerini:

Ancient artifacts have been stolen from the Elefsina archaeological site west of Athens, the Culture Ministry said on Friday.

The theft took place on the night of April 15, according to the ministry. No further details were given on the orders of the police.

The site is one of Greece’s most significant archaeological areas, housing the remains of the Temple of Demeter, where the Elefsinian Mysteries were held, and museum that displays objects from as far back as the 5th century.

via Artifacts stolen from ancient Elefsina site | Kathimerini.