Saving Classics?

Singling out a thought-provoking (hopefully)  blogpost over at Wopro: More Reader Mail: How Do We Save Classics?

… you’re invited to join the convo … for the record, I’m a big proponent of the ‘promotion’ side of things (obviously … I’ve been ranting about the lack of same from the ‘big organizations’ on that score for years) and I think much of Dr Krauss’ subsquent points all connect to that …

In Father Foster’s Footsteps …

Several folks have sent this one in and/or mentioned it on Twitter and/or Facebook (tip o’ the pileus to too many to mention) … interesting essay in Slate about the course which is heir to Father Foster’s efforts … here’s the first bit:

At the beginning of the last century, A.E. Housman, that cantankerous giant of classical scholarship, was already complaining about “an age which is out of touch with Latinity.” Around that time, philistines were excising classics from the popular curriculum, and the subsequent 100 years have hardly improved Latin’s apparent relevance in Western society. Classicists may tout the fact that Advanced Placement enrollment in Latin doubled between 1997 and 2007, but this mini-surge brought the number of upper-level high school Latinists to a minuscule 8,654—literally 1 percent of the number of secondary school Latinists in the mid-1930s. Like its nouns, Latin continues to decline.

In the face of these grim prospects, I boarded a plane to Rome this summer to join the small network of scholars dedicated to preserving the language by actually speaking it. I found myself in the company of 16 other twentysomethings, puttering about the center of the ancient world chattering not in English or in Italian but —ecce!—in Latin.

I can assure you that the enterprise was even stranger than it sounds. The Paideia Institute’s “Living Latin” program is an immersive, spoken-Latin summer course based in Rome. The mornings are spent at the St. John’s University campus reading poetry and prose and commenting on the texts in Latin; the afternoons are spent doing the same thing at various sites of literary or archaeological significance. If you vacationed in Italy this June, you might have seen us standing around the Ara Pacis on a scorcher, offering competing Latin orations on the pax Augustana. Other exercises were more modern: using hip-hop beats to memorize Alcaic meter, say.

… for those interested, Fr Coulter continues to have the latest info on Father Foster’s own courses …

Also Seen: Virgil and the Libyan Crisis

This kept popping up on Facebook and Twitter the other day …  here’s a bit of a tease to get you to check the item out at History Today … nice oppotunity to connect the ancient world with modern with a somewhat different spin than we usually get in those US-as-Rome pieces:

As Libya collapsed into chaos, its cities aflame, its leader filled with bloodlust and its people massing along the Mediterranean in quest of shelter, we perhaps told ourselves we had seen all of this before. Not on the BBC or Al Jazeera, but instead in a half-forgotten Latin class. More than two millennia ago, the Roman poet Virgil sang of arms and the man in his epic poem, the Aeneid. Like Virgil’s hero Aeneas, we are seeking answers to a deadly mayhem that, unwittingly, we in the West have helped create in Libya. […]

… I’m still waiting for the media comparisons of certain leaders in Libya with Jugurtha …

Roman Port Near Caerleon

I have a backlog of things from Caerleon to post … we will get to them. For now, though, this seems to be the most important find … from the Guardian:

Archaeologists have discovered only the second known port of Roman Britain, where soldiers would have arrived in numbers from the Mediterranean to aid in the fight against some of the most stubborn and hostile of all the tribes they had to face.

Over the last year, archaeologists have been digging near the Roman fortress of Caerleon, just north of Newport, south Wales, and have made some remarkable discoveries. On Tuesday, the site was declared the only known Roman British port outside London.

“It is extremely exciting,” Peter Guest, leading the excavation team from Cardiff University, said. “What we have found exceeds all expectations. It now seems clear that we’re looking at a new addition to our knowledge of Roman Britain.”

Guest said the archaeologists had discovered far more than a quayside or harbour installation, adding: “It seems to be a deliberately founded and made port structure that goes with the legionary fortress in Caerleon.”

The remains are incredibly well-preserved, partly because the land has been used for grazing for so long and has not been intensively ploughed.

Archaeologists digging on the banks of the River Usk have found the main quay wall as well as landing stages, wharves and dockside tracks.

The port would have been for the fortress, the farthest flung of all Roman outposts and the place where, some believe, Arthur later convened his Camelot court. The fortress was constructed in AD74-75 as the military headquarters of the second Augustan Legion, one of four legions that invaded Britain during the reign of the emperor Claudius.

Having a port on the River Usk would have made it far easier to supply the frontline than “traipse over mile after mile after mile of bumpy Roman road”, Guest said.

Two thousand years ago, the locals in the area were the Silures, a tribe of ancient Britons who managed to keep the Romans at bay for a generation.

The Romans had a tricky time in south Wales, with the senator and historian Tacitus noting how fearsome, warlike and difficult to subdue the Welsh tribes were. He described a struggle of nearly 30 years in which the locals skirmished and avoided full-on battle before they were finally pacified.

The port discovery tops a list of amazing finds made during the excavation of a suburb of large public buildings over the last year, with bath-houses, marketplaces and temples all having been unearthed.

The dig ends on 1 September, and the area is open to the public until then.

… which reminds me of a joke which Jonathan Yardley (one of my professors at the University of Calgary) told on at least two occasions while we were doing Wheelock and/or Virgil (a variation on the one found here):

The Roman decided to invade Wales, the army had just crossed the border and came to the first forest when they heard a voice shout “One Welshman is worth two Romans”.

The army commander couldn’t resist the challenge and promptly sent two men into the forrest. After 10 minutes the voice shouted “One Welshman is worth ten Romans”.

The army commander again couldn’t resist the challenge and promptly sent ten men into the forrest. After 10 minutes the voice again shouted “One Welshman is worth 100 Romans”.

The army commander was now getting angry and sent two hundred men into the forrest. After 10 minutes the voice shouted “One Welshman is worth a Roman cohort”.

The army commander now really angry sent in one of his regiments. After 10 minutes one of the Romans emerged from the forrest bleeding and dying, and with his last breath he told the army commander…

“it’s a trap!.. there’s TWO of them in there!

Circumundique ~ August 22, 2011

Items that helped me fight antihistamine dozery yesterday: