Cloaca Maxima in Danger of Collapse?

Kind of surprised this item from the Telegraph didn’t get more attention:

The Cloaca Maxima (The Giant Sewer), which burrows beneath the Roman Forum and the site of an ancient livestock market before emptying into the Tiber River, predates the Roman Empire.

The mile-long tunnel is believed to have been constructed in the fifth century before Christ under the orders of Tarquin the Proud, the last king of Rome before it became a republic.

The impressive structure was subsequently mentioned by Livy.

But decades of inadequate maintenance mean that it is clogged with debris and silt, raising fears of blockages and collapses.

An ambitious operation to clean and maintain the ancient drain got under way on Wednesday and is expected to take two years.

“We will free the drain of detritus and sediment that is impeding the flow of water,” Elisabetta Bianchi, a cultural heritage official, told La Repubblica newspaper.

“We still need to get funding so we will proceed bit by bit, but the hope is to complete the work within two years.” Cracks and fissures in the tunnel were studied and mapped last year, after Rome was hit by severe autumn flooding.

At one point the Tiber was so swollen that the point at which the Cloaca Maxima meets the river was almost concealed by raging flood waters.

The flooding had shown up the “inadequacies” of the centuries-old drain, said Maria Grazia Filetici, an architect with Rome’s cultural heritage authority.

“What was conceived as a great project to make Rome safer (from flooding) by King Tarquin has instead become a danger for modern-day Rome,” she said.

Engineers will have to shift huge quantities of rubbish clogging up the tunnel, including plastic bags, tangled electric cables and other detritus, said officials.

The Cloaca Maxima was originally dug as a canal by the early inhabitants of Rome, but was subsequently covered over to become a subterranean sewer.

It was maintained throughout the Roman Empire and into the medieval era and was ultimately incorporated into the city’s modern sewerage system.

… and tip o’ the pileus to Walter Muzzy for noting that the photo accompanying the piece doesn’t seem to be the Cloaca Maxima (, unless there’s another outlet down the road a bit).

CJ Online Review: Ker, A Seneca Reader

posted with permission:

A Seneca Reader: Selections from Prose and Tragedy. By James Ker. Mundelein, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2011. Pp. lvi + 166. Paper, $19.00. ISBN 978-0-86516-758-2.

Reviewed by Christopher Trinacty, Oberlin College (ctrinact AT

This articulate and helpful book offers four Senecan “scenarios” for students to get a taste of Seneca’s Latin style, philosophical thought, and poetic power. The benefit of offering snippets of the Consolatio ad Helviam, de Clementia, Medea, and Epistulae Morales is that one appreciates the generic gymnastics that Seneca was capable of, and one gets a view of the various personae he assumed as a writer. The selections offer moments in which Seneca (or characters) advise others on how to overcome adversity and, generally, live according to Stoic ideals. Ker is an amiable guide to the intricacies of Seneca’s Latin and the commentary elucidates quite well the questions intermediate Latin students will have about these texts. Most importantly, Ker answers the question of why one should choose to read Seneca at all, especially in a second/third year Latin course (when we most desire the students to stick around for more Latin!): namely, that his innovative works show that his finger was firmly on the pulse of the exciting literary, philosophical, and cultural developments of the 1st c. CE, and this collection offers us the opportunity to “eavesdrop” (p. lii) on this important thinker and creative author.

The work begins with an ample introduction covering not only what one would expect (Seneca’s life and death, a section on his family entitled “Meet the Senecas”), but also effective summaries of the various genres Seneca explored, and concrete examples of some of the peculiarities of Seneca’s style such as anaphoric repetition, “three favorite syntactic constructions,” and “three words to watch.” The introduction also includes an up-to-date bibliography and strong sections on Seneca’s reception, Stoicism, and the pattern of “misfortune, grief, and the power of the mind” that the excerpts explore. In addition, each scenario has a short introduction with additional germane information about Seneca in exile (introducing the Consolatio ad Helviam), Seneca and Nero (de Clementia), his tragic style (Medea), and significant features of his epistolography (Epistulae Morales).

The opening scenario revolves around Seneca’s exile in Corsica, consisting of his Consolatio ad Helviam, as well as two supplementary passages that expand on Seneca’s view of exile. The commentary works hard throughout to explain grammatical and syntactical oddities, with cross-references to Bennett’s New Latin Grammar for particularly sticky moments. Ker has anticipated many of the problems students will have and goes the extra mile to explain features such as figurative language (e.g. the running metaphor in the Consolatio that Seneca’s work is a form of quasi-medical care), prose rhythm and Seneca’s penchant for clausulae, as well as historical details. The second scenario includes sections from the opening book of de Clementia, a humorous moment of the Apocolocyntosis, and everyone’s favorite sketch of anger from de Ira, in which Ker gets to gloss passages such as aperire iugulum (“to have his throat opened”) and membra diffindere (“to have his limbs divided”). The use of supplementary passages to shed further light on the primary text under consideration is one of my favorite aspects of this collection, and will grant students a more comprehensive knowledge of Seneca’s arsenal of works. The only scenario lacking supplementary passages is the Medea, although Ker does discuss a similar “passion-restraint” scene of the Phaedra in his introduction to this section. The Medea requires an appendix on meter as well as a map pointing out sites mentioned in the play; both are handled with aplomb. The final scenario consists of medley of passages from the Epistulae Morales that ruminate on the questions of friendship, travel, and living according to one’s philosophical ideals. A final follow-up to these letters is a fragment from Seneca’s de Amicitia on how to keep an absent friend in mind. The selection as a whole displays the breadth of Seneca’s writings, and the commentary offers sure aid to the student approaching the material for the first time.

The primary objection I can see to using this volume as opposed to other Seneca commentaries aimed at this level of student is that there are very few “complete” works included here (only one letter is unedited). From a pedagogical standpoint, this may be problematic for those teachers/students who want to be able to hang their hat on having translated a whole play or a whole dialogue, whereas this collection provides a more kaleidoscopic view of Seneca’s output. For Senecan tragedy, there are editions of the Medea and Phaedra aimed at students of this level, while Williams’ commentary on de Otio and de Brevitate Vitae, and Usher’s collection of letters and selections from the Dialogi gives more complete examples of Seneca’s prose genius.[[1]] However, if one wants a challenging and rewarding compilation of Seneca’s prose and poetry for intermediate Latin students, this volume should head your list.


[[1]] H. M. Hine, Seneca: Medea (Aris & Phillips, 2000); G. and S. Lawall and G. Kunkel, The Phaedra of Seneca (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2nd ed., 2007); G. D. Williams, Seneca: De Otio, De Brevitate Vitae (Cambridge University Press, 2003); M. D. Usher, A Student’s Seneca: Ten Letters and Selections from the De Providentia and De Vita Beata (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006).

CONF: Living Latin Workshop in NYC.

CONF: Living Latin Workshop in NYC

Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus, McMahon Hall 109
February 16-17, 2013

The NY Classical Club and the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study are pleased to collaborate on a two-day workshop on Spoken Latin for teachers and students of Latin in the New York City area. This conference will include presentations and workshops by expert Latin speakers from around the country designed to introduce participants to the world of oral Latin. Participants will not only immerse themselves in the Latin language by participating in guided spoken Latin activities, they will also hear lectures in English on ways to incorporate spoken Latin into their own classroom and learn about more opportunities to improve as a Latin speaker in the U.S. and abroad.

Cost: $100

Professional Development Credit: The New York Classical Club will offer certification for 16 HOURS of professional development credit for high school teachers who participate in Living Latin in New York City. For more information on professional development credit, please contact Prof. McGowan mamcgowan AT

Registration: To register for Living Latin in New York City, please download the registration form here ( and return to pedicone AT Space is limited. Registrations will be processed on a first come, first served basis.

Payment: Payment must be made in advance by credit card, Paypal or personal check.To pay by credit card or Paypal account, please click on the Paypal button on this link ( Checks should be made out to the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study and sent to:

LLiNYC Registration
The Paideia Institute
16 Stockton St.
Princeton, NJ 08544

CONF: Julius Caesar in History and in the Classroom

Julius Caesar in History and in the Classroom

January 26, 2013, 11am-6pm

The NY Classical Club is pleased to announce a conference on Julius Caesar, including a review of the new Advanced Placement curriculum, to be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 11am-6pm, at New York University, Jurow Hall, Silver Center. The program includes the following speakers:
Cynthia Damon, The University of Pennsylvania
"’Everlasting Ties’: Caesar, Gaul, and Rome"

Luca Grillo, Amherst College
"Caesarian Questions"

James Hunt, Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Syracuse, NY
"Caesar and the new AP Exam in Latin"

Hans Friedrich-Mueller, Union College
"Caesar and the State Religion"

Kurt Raaflaub, Brown University
"Caesar the General and Statesman: A Literary Self-Portrait of a Perfect Roman"

All are welcome, high school teachers and students working with the new AP curriculum are especially encouraged to attend. Registration is required and includes lunch and a reception: $10 students; $25 members; $40 non-members. Please pre-register by Tuesday, January 22, 2013, online here:

Or register by check made payable to NY Classical Club via snail-mail to: Dr. Matthew McGowan, Department of Classics, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458. For more information, contact Prof. McGowan: mamcgowan AT