CJ Review:Smith on McKeown, Classical Latin

Posted with permission

J. C. McKeown, Classical Latin: An Introductory Course. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2010. Pp. xx + 421. Paper, $39.95. 978-0-87220-851-3. Classical Latin: An Introductory Course Workbook. Paper, $19.95. ISBN 978-1-60384-206-8. Two-volume set: Paper, $53.95. ISBN 978-1-60384-207-5.

Reviewed by Alden Smith, Baylor University

Nowadays it is not uncommon to find a fresh iteration of the Wheelock–LaFleur with new gadgetry that some like and others wish never had been added. Like another James Bond film, Wheelock seems to go on and on, with continued box office success but seemingly less satisfied viewers.

Jim McKeown’s Classical Latin is not new in approach but is rich in fresh material, presenting itself as a competitor to the Wheelock. I say this without having taught out if it, as this reviewer’s teaching schedule has not permitted as much. Poring over the book, however, reveals much about McKeown’s approach. He does not subscribe to the Oxbridge methodology of reading inference, a method that developed in the nineteenth century, in part borne out of Maximilian Berlitz’ success in establishing inductive language schools in New England. Berlitz’ approach is, if only indirectly, the forerunner of books such as Robert Ball’s Reading Classical Latin: A Reasonable Approach, Hans H. Ørberg’s Lingua Latina or the Cambridge Latin and Oxford Latin series.

I have appended, below, a slightly abbreviated version of McKeown’s table of contents. McKeown’s order of presentation seems to me judicious, as each chapter builds nicely upon the previous one, more or less weaving back and forth from verbs to nouns until reaching adjectives. This text also comes to the perfect system slightly quicker than does the Wheelock–LaFleur. McKeown wends his way through numerous pronouns, before moving on to participles and infinitives. His schema of 28 chapters is designed to be done at the rate of one per week for a regularly paced class or double speed for an intensive course, as McKeown explains on p. xiii of the prefatory material. This structure is, in my view, superior to any other textbook on the market.

The book seems to me to achieve basically all that it sets out to do. Grammar is emphasized and reinforced by vigorous exercises designed to strengthen vocabulary while mastering both parsing and translating. McKeown accomplishes this goal in what he calls Prolusiones, or introductory “practice drills,” which are in spirit (but not content) modeled on the practice combat of Roman gladiators. The sentences are generally good and challenging, but not unintelligibly so. Exercises allow students to use some of the details that the book includes, such as a wide range of case usage (e.g. genitive of characteristic, explained on p. 178).

There are also readings drawn from ancient texts in each chapter (Lege, Intellege), though these are not for translating per se but rather designed for reading and understanding, which one might regard as a tip of the hat to the inductive approach. Not having taught out of the book puts me at a disadvantage here, for my own inclination would have been to offer shorter passages from the ancient texts and require precise translations with directed parsing. That said, however, I think McKeown’s method could, and probably does, work well, too. Instead of requiring translation, he ask the students questions such as, on p. 241, which has on it Caesar’s BG 2.20, “What were the two factors which most impeded preparations for battle?” et sim.

The centerpiece of each chapter contains detailed explanations of grammar, straight-up vocabulary, and various readings such as those described above as well as sections entitled “Ars Poetica” and “Aurea Dicta.” The first set of these quotations from ancient authors includes translations of each, while the second requires the student to render them. Both approaches seem to me good, as such maxims are interesting enough for the student to try to decode and memorable enough to stay in the student’s mind. A useful appendix expands upon these for the eager student or teacher. Except for one encompassing indeclinable words, the other appendices are predictable, offering a review of forms and vocabulary.

Each chapter also includes a section entitled Lusus, which essentially serves an extension of the vocabulary and includes words for recognition along with etymologiae antiquae. These consist of fascinating explanations of various tidbits of Roman culture, from place names to body parts to family members. To take one example (p. 321), a nepos is explained as a grand child because he or she is born (natus, -a) after (post) one’s children. Each chapter also includes a selection, in English, drawn from an ancient author, touching upon the life of the Romans.

I should add that for those who like workbooks there is one that accompanies the text. While I do not like workbooks, I can see that much of what is in this book could be useful—save perhaps the section entitled Verba Rescribe, which is a word game requiring the student to rearrange letters to form, for example, a pronoun. I could add that both book and workbook are rather bulky in design, but that would be nitpicking. In short, the only thing I do not like about the book really lies outside of the text proper, i.e. the workbook; yet even that could prove useful to those who relish extra-textual aids.

For nearly half a century the Wheelock has been center stage in elementary Latin courses in the United States. Its success is palpable, as many students, even those who go on for the Ph.D. in classics, begin Latin in college. It would be an understatement, therefore, to say that the field of Classics owes the Wheelock a great debt. But as in the case of the James Bond series, one has to ask just how many more times it can be revised. Perhaps the time has come for a new secret agent and a new Latin textbook, as well. Based on methodology, order of presentation, and overall design, Classical Latin may be that book. The name is McKeown, James McKeown.


Chapter 1 The Present Active Indicative, Imperative, and Infinitive of Verbs

Chapter 2 First Declension Nouns, Prepositions

Chapter 3 The Future and Imperfect Active Indicative of Verbs

Chapter 4 Direct Questions, Irregular Verbs, Compound Verbs

Chapter 5 Second Declension Nouns

Chapter 6 First and Second Declension Adjectives and Adverbs

Chapter 7 The Perfect Active Indicative System of Verbs

Chapter 8 Third Declension Nouns

Chapter 9 Third Declension Adjectives and Adverbs

Chapter 10 Volo, Nolo, Malo, Numbers, Nouns of Limited Form and Variable Meaning

Chapter 11 Fourth and Fifth Declension Nouns

Chapter 12 Comparative and Superlative Forms of Adjectives and Adverbs

Chapter 13 Correlative Adjectives and Adverbs, Irregular Adjectives

Chapter 14 The Passive Voice of Verbs

Chapter 15 Deponent and Semi-Deponent Verbs, Expressions of Time and Place

Chapter 16 Particular Uses of Cases

Chapter 17 Pronouns I, Intransitive Verbs with the Dative

Chapter 18 Pronouns II, Intransitive Verbs with the Genitive or Ablative

Chapter 19 Participles

Chapter 20 Gerunds and Gerundives, the Supine

Chapter 21 Indirect Statement

Chapter 22 The Subjunctive Mood of Verbs in Main Clauses

Chapter 23 The Present and Imperfect Subjunctive in Subordinate Clauses I

Chapter 24 The Present and Imperfect Subjunctive in Subordinate Clauses II

Chapter 25 All Subjunctive Tenses in Subordinate Clauses

Chapter 26 Variations in the Mood of the Verb I: Conditional Sentences

Chapter 27 Variations in the Mood of the Verb II: cum, dum, etc.

Chapter 28 Impersonal Verbs

Reviews from Bryn Mawr

  • 2012.02.50:  Chantal Martin Pruvot, Karl Reber, Thierry Theurillat, Ausgegraben!:Schweizer Archäologen erforschen die griechische Stadt Eretria. Eine Ausstellung der Schweizerischen Archäologischen Schule in Griechenland in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig.
  • 2012.02.49:  Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, Carmela Raccuia, Elena Santagati, Tyrannis, Basileia, Imperium: forme, prassi e simboli del potere politico nel mondo greco e romano
  • 2012.02.48:  Giovanni Parmeggiani, Eforo di Cuma: studi di storiografia greca. Studi di storia, 14.
  • 2012.02.47:  Benjamin Kelly, Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt. Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents.
  • 2012.02.46:  Christopher Carey, Trials from Classical Athens. Second edition (first published 1997). Routledge sourcebooks for the ancient world.
  • 2012.02.45:  Pieter De Leemans, Aristoteles and Guilelmus, Aristoteles Latinus XVII 2.II-III, De progressu animalium; De motu animalium. Translatio Guilellmi de Morbeka..
    Pieter De Leemans, Aristoteles Latinus XVII 1.III, De motu animalium. Fragmenta translationis anonymae.
  • 2012.02.44:  Robin Darling Young, Monica Blanchard, To Train His Soul in Books: Syriac Asceticism in Early Christianity.

Bar Kochba Treasure Map? Say What?

If this wasn’t in Arutz Sheva, I might not even bother posting this:

Antiquities Authority officials over the weekend arrested a gang of Arabs who were using an ancient manuscript as a “treasure map,” as they proceeded to dig up a well-know archaeological site in the Modi’in area. The site, Khurbat Kharuvta, has been raided numerous times over the past years, after a scroll found in a previous archaeological dig. According to the scroll, which dates back to the days of the Bar Kochva revolt nearly 2,000 years ago, Jewish soldiers hid gold coins and other valuable objects at the site.

Archaeological Authority officials caught five members of a gang, from a village near Hevron, who broke into the site Friday night. Officials said that the gang caused a great deal of damage to the site, which was a Jewish settlement during the days after the Second Temple period. Among other things, the officials said, the thieves dug up an ancient mikveh during their search for the coins – but proceeded to destroy at, as they excavated further in search of the treasure.

This seems to be a similar report with slightly different details:

Israeli officers arrested five would-be antiquities thieves in a cave at an ancient site between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The men, West Bank Palestinians, were apprehended after a scuffle with antiquities inspectors early Saturday, according to the statement. They had been spotted scouring the site with a metal detector, and are suspected of looting other sites in the same area near the city of Modi’in.

Among those sites was one given a cryptic mention in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a possible location for the burial of the treasures of the Jewish Temple. According to the Antiquities Authority, that mention has made the site a popular target for thieves.

The suspects also managed to uncover a Jewish ritual bath that dates from the time of the Second Temple and was not previously known to archaeologists, according to the statement. However valuable the find, however, the men also destroyed important archaeological layers and “brought about the loss of much knowledge about the historical background of the area,” the statement said.

The men remain under arrest.

I can’t find any reference to this site (with that name) on the web, other than in this article and spinoffs. I’m going to assume — possibly erroneously — that the scroll is one mentioned by Robert Cargill three years ago (new bar-kokhba scroll discovered?) which I don’t believe we mentioned at rogueclassicism for some reason. An article from Ha’aretz at the time (May or June of 2009)

Two Palestinians were arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing a rare antique Hebrew scroll and attempting to sell it for millions of dollars.

Police apprehended the two suspects in Jerusalem after an intelligence tip allowed police forces to trace their tracks and intercept the document’s sale.

The rare historical document, handwritten in Hebrew on papyrus paper and estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, is a bill surrendering property rights. The document was written by a widow named Miryam Ben Yaakov, and hails from a period in which the people of Israel were exiled from the area and very few Jews remained.

The scroll also, unusually, clearly indicates a precise date on the first line: “Year 4 to the destruction of Israel”. The intention is, presumably, either to the year 74 C.E. (the year when the Second Temple was destroyed during the Great Revolt) or to 138 A.D. (the annihilation of the Jewish settlement following the Bar Kokhva revolt).

The Israel Antiquities Authority said on Wednesday that the scroll was an “exceptional archeological document, of the like but a few exist,” adding that similar scrolls had been sold worldwide for sums as high as $5-$10 million.

The IAA estimated that the seized document was indeed authentic, but the final verdict will arrive only after it returns from a series of laboratory tests.

The document was apparently stolen from a cave within Israel’s borders where antiquities raiders were digging.

“We don’t know from which cave it was exactly stolen, “said Amir Nur, director of the anti-antiquities theft division.

“If we had known we would have searched for more scrolls in that area.”

Police investigator Eli Cohen said Wednesday that officers was looking into how the suspects arrived at the scroll, and were they involved in other antiquities robberies.

The current scroll came undone somewhat while it was excavated, something which wouldn’t have happened, according to the AA, if it would have been removed in a professional excavation.

According to the Antiquities Authorities’ law all of the archeological artifacts within Israel’s borders, excavated or otherwise, are state property and fall under the responsibility of the Antiquities Authority.

In fact, any trading in artifacts is considered illegal in Israel, with the exception of a small number of cases authorized by the IAA.

… or am I confusing two different things? From a dig or a cave? Has the 2009 find been published? And then there’s that mention of the Copper Scroll … hmmmm

Kent Production of Aristophanes’ “Thesmophoriazusae”

Seen on the Classicists list:

Classics@Kent is proud to present their first performance of Greek drama, Aristophanes’ "Thesmophoriazusae". It will take place on Wednesday 14th March 2012 (2pm and 7.45 pm) at the
Gulbenkian Theatre on the University of Kent campus (Canterbury). The play will last approximately one and a half hours.

We will portray the twisted tale of a rescue mission packed with slapstick, innuendo and parody. Join us an hour before to enjoy the festival of Dionysus. Be serenaded by bards and poets, cleansed
by water rituals, eat Greek food, drink Greek wine and be very merry.

Tickets can be booked through the Gulbenkian website [http://www.kent.ac.uk/gulbenkian] or by
telephone on 01227 769 075.

To complement the play, there will be a series of workshops for local schools on the morning of the performance to promote the study of Greek drama. They will learn about its place in society as
well as have the opportunity to act out scenes from the play in costume with masks.

The production has been generously supported by the Hellenic Society and the Schools’ Partnership Development Office.

For further details, please email Gina May: G.May AT kent.ac.uk

CFP: Women and War Conference

Seen on the Classicists list:

Sponsored by: Ryerson University, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the University of Athens, Hydrama Theatre & Arts Centre, and the University of Southern California

July 3-5, 2012 Hydra Island GREECE

We are pleased to announce The First Annual Women & War Conference: Building an Interdisciplinary Dialogue. The three-day conference will examine the experience of women in war, past and present, using ancient Greek drama as a means of inciting international discourse on post traumatic stress syndrome and healing..

We invite submissions and registration from mental health researchers, theatre, music, dance, and visual artists, historians, and scholars engaged in examining the roles and representation of women in war and resultant psychological trauma. The conference will be constituted of cutting-edge research papers, photojournalism, film/video, and workshops, and the conference proceedings will be published by Ryerson University.

Conference Web-Page: http://www.ryerson.ca/theatreschool/conference.html

Submission of Papers Workshops/Film/Videos: by April 7, 2012
Reduced fee for Conference registration: by May 1st 2012

Research questions fuelling our enquiries include:

1. Can contemporary theatrical and/or dance productions of Ancient Greek battle-themed plays written to a backdrop of war provide a lens through which to view and debate the female war experience? Can these productions effectively examine moral and ethical conflicts related to participation in and around combat? If so, how is this assessed?

2. Can the recovery process for war-related PTSD be assisted by the transformative power of theatre, dance, film, video, and still photography?

3. How do artists, scholars, and researchers adopt modes of formulating and disseminating research that draws upon traditional intellectually-driven findings, yet which may culminate in the sharing of embodied knowledge, personalized and presented through performance?

4. Where are the effective intersections in social sciences and humanities research in the areas of mental health, war, gender, and the arts?

Proposed topic areas, spanning pre-war, during war, and post-war experiences include:

Acting and Performing Identity
Humanities Informing Healthcare and the Long-Term Impact of Trauma
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Women and Military Socialisation
Women on the Home Front and the Battle Front
Motherhood and War
Women War Artists
The Refugee Experience

The conference is open to military personnel, mental health researchers, educators, scholars and artists from all over the world and is an opportunity to meet potential collaborators from different countries as well as participate in an international discussion about the impact of war on women globally.

The conference working languages are English and Greek. Translation services will be provided.

You are welcome to take part in the conference as a Speaker, Workshop Presenter, and/or Participant. Space, however, is limited. Please apply early.

Papers, presentations, workshops, and world premier theatre performances looking at the entire pre-, during-, and post-war experience for women are encouraged. It is important that scholars, artists, and researchers from all disciplines attend and participate.


Papers: 15 minute papers may be presented, followed by Q & A

Film/Videos: Up to 30 minutes of film/video may be presented, with a discussion immediately following with the director/producer/and/or other key artists.

Practical workshop, master class, work in progress, performance fragment not requiring special technical conditions, reading/lecture, other way of demonstration offered by Speaker/Presenter will be considered.


Proposals should be sent to: peggy.shannon AT ryerson.ca and should include the following documents:

· Detailed CV
· Brief Biography – max 100 words
· Title and format of presentation
· Abstract of presentation – max 300 words

If proposing a film or video presentation please include:

· 5 minute Film/Video extract, DVD format, with a full synopsis (if applicable).

All documents of a presentation proposal should be sent in one email as PDF attachments: text documents should be sent in Word format; photo materials should be sent in JPEG format; Video/Films in DVD format.

Participants of accepted submissions will be notified by April 22nd, 2012.

Registration fee:

Early Bird – 275 CAD (180 GBP) for registration before May 1st
Regular – 400 CAD (254 GBP) for registration after May 1st
Student/Senior – 132.50 CAD (84 GBP)

The fee covers participation in all events of the conference including panels and presentations, a welcome dinner on July 3rd, entrance to The Women & War Photo Exhibition, and three world premier productions. It does not, however, cover meals and accommodation.

The official day of arrival is Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
The day of departure is Friday, July 6th, 2012
Conference Web-Page: http://www.ryerson.ca/theatreschool/conference.html

Related web page : http://www.hydrama.gr

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