Cute item from the Indiana Statesman … I suspect the date is a bit off:
Where only toga-wearing colleagues used to walk into her office, Marilyn Bisch, a professor of Latin, was shocked when three figures floated into her office.
These men happen to be none other than Caesar, Cicero, and Catullus: three of the most famous figures from republican Rome.
“I’ve been staying up late a lot this semester reading about ‘the Big Three’ for my ‘Fall of the Roman Republic’ honors class, and at first I thought I must be dreaming,” Bisch said. “But then I realized that in my dreams my office is always much bigger… A look at my cluttered desk and the fact that the ghosts all began looking for copies of their own works on my bookshelves by [literally] going through them convinced me that I was, in fact, awake and in the presence of the ghosts of some of the greatest men who ever lived.”
Each ghost was famous for different reasons: Caesar for single-handedly planting the foundation of the Roman Empire before his assassination; Cicero for his mastery of rhetoric and philosophy; and Catullus for his love, erotic and hate-filled poetry.
Bisch said meeting these three ghosts has given her a chance to improve her speaking skills with Latin, a language classified as dead by many linguists.
According to Wikipedia, a dead language is one that is not spoken by native speakers as a first, primary language.
“I was especially interested to know if ancient Romans really pronounced their ‘v’ like we do ‘w’ and ‘c’ like ‘k,'” Bisch said. “Caesar advised me to check with my colleagues in Linguistics about ‘v,’ then added that it was Cicero who invented the whole ‘c’ should be pronounced as ‘k’ thing. According to Caesar, Cicero thought people calling him ‘Sisero’ made him ‘sound like a weeny.’ (Caesar’s words, not mine). This caused a bit of a row, ended only by Catullus’ stepping in. If they had been corporeal my office would be a bigger mess than it already is.”
“I think I’ll stick to saying ‘Kikero’ just in case his ghost decides to come back,” she added.
Bisch also said she used the ghosts as an opportunity for her conversational Latin class since no native speakers of Latin exist.
She said the students were most surprised asking the ghosts’ names. The response was, in Latin, “‘Mihi nomen est Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Tullius Cicero, or Catullus.'”
“Catullus told me he prefers to be called by one name like our modern rock stars. He’s a big Usher fan,” Bisch said. “Once students realized they were talking to dead Romans they had a great time, and we parsed some serious Latin. It was awesome.”
Ayrielle Davis, a senior Latin teaching major, said she was amazed at being able to interact with the ghosts, saying that, in particular, “Caesar was an interesting man.”
She said they had conversations about what he would do if he could run for president.
However, Davis told Caesar he probably wouldn’t make it because he would get assassinated again.
Bisch said, despite the fear that the ghosts might attempt to possess her, they did not. But the ghosts left an impression on her.
“I now have an incredible urge to conquer the world, save the republic and write poetry about great passions and lost loves,” she said. “I think this will be helpful to my students, but they should know I am now a bit of an ancient Roman zombie, and they are well advised to keep a close watch on their brains.” 😉
In case you’re wondering, there is a Marilyn Bisch who does Latin at Indiana State … maybe the date isn’t so far off after all …