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Planning the Invasion of Gaul

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . .

Thus begins the first chapter of Comentarii de Bello Galllico, written by General Julius Caesar c.58-49 B.C.  This is a line that most veterans of Latin studies know by heart for it has long been the traditional “first book” for young students graduating from grammatical studies into original readings. The work is chosen for its excellent prose, whose arrangment is fairly easy for novice readers to follow.  That is once you become adept at recognizing ablative absolutes and extensive relative clauses and very long stints of indirect discourse.  The work certainly cannot be read without great attention to the author, Julius Caesar, his military endeavors and his political ambitions.  This work can also be enjoyed as a study in ancient geography as Caesar begins the very first chapter by laying out the geographical composition of Greater Gaul in the manner of a chartographer.

This is an approach that lends itself well to students who benefit from visual and tactile learning styles.  The key to success is finding a good map to serve as a guide, preferably with the Latin designations for territories, cities, and geographical features (rivers, mountains, et cetera).  Many such maps can be found online.  A small version is included in chapter 9 of Latin Alive Book 3 alongside the first chapter of de Bello Gallico.  My favorite map is featured in the pictures below.  A good friend found this treasure in a garage sale.  When unfolded the map reveals the terrain of Gaul as described by Caesar the chartographer in Book I.  The keys also show the various hiberna [winter camps] as described in Book V, and the battle movements as narrated by Caesar throughout his work.

Planning the Invasion of Gaul


It is not uncommon for students reading portions of de Bello Gallico to lose the larger narrative of the story as they become lost in detailed descriptions of overwhelming battles found in later chapters. Those descriptions serve a purpose as Caesar conveys the reality of soldiers under yet another onslaught, ambushed by the relentless hoard of Gallic warriors.  For our armchair quarterbacks, however, it helps to zoom out from the individual battles to survey the larger field of play and remember the where and when of the battle as well as the how and why.  By regularly incorporating map readings and even brief map references into the journey, we help the students keep a directional compass as they read.

Here is how such a class might work:

Begin with the very first chapter of Book I of de Bello Gallico.  The writing is easy to follow here, the descriptions of Gaul clearly laid out.  Teachers may choose to have students prepare the reading beforehand, or sight read the passage as you look at the map. Either way, I would encourage teachers to only use the Latin passage, and not have an English translation present.  The Latin text should be read aloud (by teacher or student) one phrase at a time.  Divide sentences into smaller phrases that describe a particular feature.  As the sentence is read point to the region/area being described.

exempli gratia:

  • quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.

As each phrase is read, point first to the area of the map marked as inhabited by the Belgae, Aquitani, et Celtae.

  • Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen,

As this phrase is read ask students to find the Garonne River. Ask them if they see where it divides the Celts from the Aquitani.

  • a Belgis Matrona et Sequana dividit.

Do the same for these two rivers.  Ask students to clarify from which people-group do these rivers separate the Belgians.  The correct answer is the Gauls/Celts.  However, because the object “Gallos” is not repeated, novice readers are sometimes confused as to which two groups are separated by these rivers.  This is a moment where the visual map helps to clarify a potential error in understanding the text.  The map also helps to clarify the situtation described as to how these two rivers separate one region from the next.  They are not two separate rivers as some students imagine when the read this phrase. They are in fact two connected rivers, which can be clearly seen on a good map.  Some maps will not label the name of every river.  However, students can use the clues provided by Caesar to find and label the rivers.

Chapter 1 continues  “horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae . . .” and goes on to describe the various reasons why the Belgians were a particularly fierce group.  All the reasons have to do with geography: their distance from “civilization,” limited trade with merchants, and their proximity to the Germans just across the Rhine.  These physical geographical features shaped the culture and character of this ancient people.  As students look at a map and connect images to Caesar’s descriptions, they more clearly understand (and retain understanding of) Caesar’s written work.  Students also highly benefit from an interdisciplinary study in geography, which is becoming a lost discipline.  In this age of instant GPS at your fingertips, young people are losing the value in map-reading.  The greater implication is losing the big picture of how countries and cultures are laid out both physically and hisorically.  It helps to recognize our place in the world.

Additional Lesson Suggestions:

  • Oral Latin:  Map exercises provide an excellent opportunity to practice spoken Latin in the classroom.  The teacher can facilitate such discussion by asking simple questions such as

Ubi est Matrona?

Qui hic/illic inhabitant?

Cur Belgae sunt fortissimi?

Demonstra Garumna flumen.   (Occasionally use an imperative instead of an interrogative just to change things up a bit.)

  • Composition: Having read the opening chapter of de Bello Gallico, ask students to create their own Latin composition in which they describe their school campus, neighborhood, or interpret the map of a specific area.  Require them to use some of Caesar’s style and arrangement.

AP Latin Tip:

A wonderful set of online maps specific to Caesar’s Gallic Wars may be found at Dickinson’s College Commentaries.  Among the resources provided here are interactive maps that provide visual cues as an audio reading of de Bello Gallico plays, highlighting Caesar’s geographical descriptions.  This site provides all the passages listed on the AP Syllabus along with vocabulary assistance and copious notes for readers.



Beauty and the Beast and Latin

Walt Disney has turned many beloved classical fairy tales into successful movies. Often classical references may be found hidden within them as precious gems.  To find them is to better appreciate the artistry of their cinematic work.  This is particularly true of the older movies, but can be found in more “recent” creations that have drawn from the earlier tradition.  Such is the case with the 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast.

The opening sequence is stunning for its visual and musical elegance that draws the viewer deep into an enchanted forest.  As the castle comes into view the scene focuses attention on a lovely stained glass window that seems to resemble a royal family crest.   Beneath the scene, etched on a scroll in Latin one reads

vincit, qui se vincit

vincit qui se vincit


The motto means he conquers who conquers himself.  It is a perfect motto for the beast who must conquer his pride, his temper, his ego, truly his very own self, in order to win love and thereby conquer the curse.  This quote appears frequently as a motto not only for the fantastical kingly beast, but also for many educational institutions.  The quote is featured as the Chapter 8 motto in Latin Alive Book 3 alongside its place in the seal for Ricker College, Maine.  The motto is a more concise form of a quote from ancient philosopher, Publilius Syrus.

bis vincit qui se vincit in victoria

A literal rendering of Syrus’ bit of wisdom might read he conquers twice who conquers himself in victory.   Publilius Syrus was a man of Syrian birth who was brought to Italy as a slave.  His wit and talent obtained favor with his Roman master who eventually freed Syrus and saw to his complete education.  Syrus became a Latin writer best known for his publication Sententiae, a collection of witty sayings and wise tidbits that rise from the Stoic philosophy of the first century B.C.  The wit and wisdom of Syrus was also greatly appreciated by Medievalists who altered the spelling of his name to Publius Syrus.

The Latin text of Syrus’ Sententiae may be accessed online at The Latin Library.  The work is often published in English under the title The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus.

How My Road Led to Rome – A Latin Teacher’s Testimony

I am often asked why I became a Latin teacher.  The story is not what one might expect.  It is every bit a testimony of God’s direction in my life. The Lord had a plan and a purpose for me.  He made sure to lead me down a path that He clearly purposed for my life, my own Roman road of sorts.

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in His way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.

One day while I was in 6th grade the teacher passed out choice sheets for us to select our courses when we went to junior high the following year. My friends and I were very excited about the opportunity to choose a few of our classes. I was most excited about the opportunity to study a foreign language. I really wanted to learn French. At that time, I was almost certain that I would become a ballerina. I loved dance, particularly classical ballet, I had already performed a minor role in a professional production, and my teachers were encouraging me towards that profession. French would be useful for this career path and it seemed like a beautiful language. We had to also list a 2nd and 3rd alternate option. I chose German next because my grandfather was German and had been able to speak the language. The last two options available were Spanish and Latin. My mother insisted that I study at least a few years of Latin as it would be so good for my English. Both of my parents had studied Latin in high school (at a time when that study was still required of all students) and as a teacher herself she saw numerous benefits to the study. I wasn’t at all convinced. I thought Latin seemed dull and dreary. However, I decided that I would humor my mother. Spanish didn’t interest me at all. And, it was my third choice. It wouldn’t happen anyway. Then, God intervened.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 

The school lost my choice sheet. How was this God working things to my good?! The school made a mistake. Seriously?! My teacher verified that I had turned it in on time to the right place, but my family moved that summer and the school failed to send the sheet to the correct middle school. The system lost my sheet, or perhaps more rightly, Divine Providence sent it elsewhere. Two weeks before school began I filled out my choice sheet again. Two weeks later I found myself sitting in a Latin class. The teacher, a very sweet lady who was always wearing a smile, asked the class on the very first day who was taking Latin because their mother made them. I, miserable and very unhappy, raised my hand with a few others. She then went on to encourage us to give Latin a chance, we just might like it.

To my astonishment, she was right. Over the next two years my fascination with this ancient language and the people who spoke it grew. I had never studied anything of Rome in school before as I did not attend a classical school. All I knew of the Romans came from reading the Bible and attending church. Here was an ancient civilization with incredible art, architecture, and indoor plumbing! I’ve always loved history and it occurred to me that by learning this language I might one day read first hand historical accounts – that could be really interesting and maybe even cool. Besides, I didn’t really need to speak French fluently to understand the ballet terms I needed to know, at least not now. There would be time for that later. In the meantime, Latin wasn’t so bad.

Then, God forever changed the course of my life. Towards the end of my 7th grade year my father was diagnosed with cancer. The disease took its toll. My father was no longer able to work, medical bills were high, and so ballet lessons ended. About that same time I wrote a biographical report on Maria Tallchief, an American Prima Ballerina. I realized that the life of a ballerina was extremely demanding and could prove difficult for a stable family. More than anything I wanted to be a wife and a mother. God shut that door and I needed to let that dream go.

Psalm 37: 4

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Letting go of that dream was painful, but in the light of my family’s struggle that sacrifice seemed very small. I trusted God’s plan for my life. I kept my heart open to His direction. Meanwhile I continued my Latin studies into high school. I was a bit nervous at first because all the older kids told us that the high school teacher was mean and very hard. However, I needed to meet a language proficiency requirement and I didn’t want to start over. Mrs. Fugate was indeed tough, but I found her to be a wonderful teacher and mentor.  She demanded a lot, because she knew we were capable of excellence. She encouraged us to press on through the tough final lessons in grammar – subjunctive clauses (which made us all want to quit Latin class) – so we could enjoy reading the literature. As I began to study Latin literature I found that that this was more than merely a study in language, it was a course in world knowledge. Through Latin I studied history, poetry, philosophy, art, theatre – all in the original language. The poetry in particular was just amazing. Incredibly beautiful. My mind soared. I had often thought of becoming a teacher one day, but could never decide on a subject. I now realized that through Latin I could study and teach them all.  My senior trip to Italy sealed the deal. The opportunity to go to Rome and Florence and see the amazing places I had read about for years was absolutely life-changing. I found joy in something I once thought dull and dreary. I found a study and a career that I would truly enjoy and even continue to find exciting for years to come. The Lord shaped a new desire in my heart.

I went on to study both Latin and Greek at the University of Texas at Austin. Truthfully, I chose that university because I wanted to stay at home. My father had passed away and my mother and sisters needed me. It was not until I was in U.T.’s Classics Department that I realized it was ranked as one of the top ten in the nation. Once again, God had ordered my steps, He had directed my path to the right place for college. He soon directed me to the right place for teaching. During college I also began my first teaching job at Regents School of Austin, which I stumbled into through God’s direction and providence through the jeweler who helped my husband and me with our wedding rings. This was my introduction to classical Christian education – teaching 3rd grade Latin – I loved it!

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in His way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.

While studying at U.T. I had the opportunity to study under Dr. M, a pillar in the world of Classics, a man of international renowned. He took it upon himself to personally train all students who would be Latin teachers. The class was a bit intimidating. One on one, just me and this giant in the world of Classics. We talked methodology, techniques, and he ran me through exercise after exercise. He was a hard man, difficult to please. He could often be arrogant and condescending. Then one day he told me in typical blunt British fashion that he thought I would certainly never be a good Latin teacher. I should choose another profession. I was stunned. I was nearly finished with my schooling at U.T., all that remained was a semester of student teaching. What should I do? I took the summer to pray, seek God, and seek council. My mother, my husband, my mentor, all encouraged me to continue. I steeled myself for a rough semester ahead under a professor who seemed set against me. Nevertheless, I believed this was the path to which God had called me, so I committed my way to him and determined to do my very best to prove Dr. M wrong.

Psalm 37:5-6

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in Him, and He will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

I’ll never forget the day I returned to Dr. M’s office. It was early August and the semester would soon begin. I walked down the stairs to find his office with a white wreath hanging on his door. As I approached curiously I found an obituary posted alongside the wreath. The old professor had died! In his place one of my favorite professors, Dr. Nethercut, was assigned as my new supervisor for student teaching. Dr. Nethercut would also continue as a mentor for many years not only in my teaching, but also in the Latin children’s books I authored.  Dr. Nethercut was the perfect mentor for me, another blessing from God.

Romans 8:31

What then shall we say to these things? 

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Fast Forward:

As readers of this article likely know, I did end up becoming a Latin teacher. At the time of this article’s publication I have authored 7 Latin books (plus the teacher’s editions). I have trained Latin teachers from across the nation. I still speak at national conferences nearly every summer to encourage other teachers in classical schools. Best of all, a career teaching Latin in a classical and Christian school has supported me in my greatest dream – raising a family. It is because of my journey that my children were able to attend a classical Christian school, receiving an education I could only dream of.

I believe I can say with all humility that I became a pretty good Latin teacher despite Dr. M’s concerns. I did not rejoice in his death at all and I wish he were still here for me to share the success I have found.  I think he would have a good laugh.  I do not write this now to exalt myself (or to prove Dr. M wrong), but because I want to encourage others by sharing what great things the Lord has done for me. My successes are NOT because of anything intrinsically spectacular in me (I was an A-B student with my fair share of C’s), but because of God’s calling and God’s equipping and the manner in which God ordered my life. The road has not always been clear or easy. I often have had to wait patiently for God’s direction and trust Him through very difficult and challenging times. I can now look back and see His hand as I became stuck in that Latin class. I can see His guidance in my school change and the teachers I would have. I can also see how He used even the worst of people and circumstances to mold me and teach me. I see His direction as He led me toward classical education.

Morals to the Story

  • Do not begrudge nor take for granted the places where the Lord leads you. Whether you can see it at the time or not God is using all these things to work together for your good.
  • Do not allow the words of man – even those whom the world exalts as superior – dissuade you from what you know God has called you to do, but instead trust in God and lean on the wise council of godly mentors around you.
  • God does grant us the desires of our heart, but allow Him to reshape those desires to what He knows is best for you.
  • Trust that even the obstacles and the challenges and the disappointments that come your way are often brought under the loving hand of God because He is preparing you for your calling.
  • Those whom God calls, He faithfully equips.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


P.S. – God still allowed me to enjoy my love of dance. Over the years I continued to perform and choreograph pieces for local church performances and a couple of school musicals.  I enjoyed years of classical ballet with my daughter.  Now my husband and I have taken up ballroom dancing together.

Latin Alive vs. Henle – A Comparison

To tell the truth, I didn’t think it was possible to have a better Latin education than I was offered. But my mind went wild with the Latin Alive! Reader book that comes after, or perhaps with, level 3 of the series. I would have loved that book!!!

My son and I have jumped right in with Latin Alive! Book 1 this summer. Last school year, he completed the first pass of Henle in Classical Conversation’s Challenge A program. Already, though, just working a little over the summer with Latin Alive, we are much happier with this new program. Furthermore, I can see that my son is understanding and retaining more readily with Latin Alive. This is a much better program than Henle—which I always held in high regard before.

The above quotation is an excerpt from a letter written by a co-op leader from Classical Conversations.  To read her full review of the Latin Alive program and how it compares with Henle (another excellent Latin curriculum) please visit the full article on the Classical Academic Press blog site:  Switching from Henle to Latin Alive – A Letter.

The Griffin Warrior: Amazing Archaeological Discovery on Pylos

On a drizzly May morning in an unremarkable olive grove two archaeologists made the discovery of a century.  They found an ancient tomb rich in bronze, ivory, gold, and incredible stories.  They found the tomb of the Griffin Warrior.  For classicists around the world this may be the discovery of the century. For husband-wife archaeologist team Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, this is the discovery of a lifetime.  The find certainly ranks with the likes of Heinrich Schliemann who found the legendary city of Troy and the remnants of the ancient Mycenaean culture, home of Agamemnon.  It ranks with the likes of Carl Blegen who unearthed the Palace of Nestor on the Greek island of Pylos.

Davis and Stocker were in fact inspired by Blegen’s work at Pylos in the 1940’s to launch their dig in the same region. They had appealed to the authorities in Greece to conduct an archeological dig in an area near Nestor’s palace that they thought would provide more insight into the history of this people of Homeric legend who notably fought in the Trojan war.  Their request was granted only in part, for they were given a very different location.  A location they thought looked most unpromising.  It was a very common old olive grove crossed by Greek farmers and villagers for thousands of years.  Nothing remarkable.  In one spot, however, they noticed three stones whose placement betrayed something of human design.  Perhaps – just maybe – they might be the corner of something.  And so, the dig began. It was not until after four days of continual digging that any further hope of human element could be seen.  Eventually, they realized they were standing upon the burial ground of a highly-esteemed warrior.  His grave, undisturbed since the day he was buried, was filled with treasures that give clues to his status and his people, including a griffin-decorated ivory plaque that was found between his legs.  It was this particular item that inspired the team to give him the title “Griffin Warrior.”

A ring found at the tomb of the Griffin Warrior in Greece. Credit Jennifer Stephens/University of Cincinnati

A ring found at the tomb of the Griffin Warrior in Greece. Credit Jennifer Stephens/University of Cincinnati

For six months the team continued to excavate the tomb and its contents, hardly believing the providence that would keep this find so well concealed and undisturbed for thousands of years.  The grave is full of precious beads – gold, amethyst and carnelian. It contains relics appropriate to a warrior such as a battle knife and a boar tusk helmet. There are also many relics that seem to be connected to ancient ceremony.  These items provide clues to a people wrapped in the myth and legend of Homer’s epic tales.  Not just who they are, but perhaps how their culture in Pylos even began.  The Griffin Warrior and his tomb seem to pre-date the Palace of Nestor that resides nearby.  This suggests that the Griffin Warrior is not one of Nestor’s soldiers, but perhaps the people group that pre-dated Nestor and his reign.  The images on several items resemble those found on artifacts in both the Mycenean Greek culture and the ancient Minoan culture of Crete (the island of the mythical Minotaur).   The Griffin found near the warrior, for example, is a symbol connected with the ancient Mycenean culture.  The warrior also had a staff, ring, and other items decorated with Minoan bulls. This is most amazing indeed as the find suggests these two cultures were intertwined generations before the Trojan War.  Could the people of Mycenae and Crete together be the ancestors of Pylos?

Read the full story of this magnificent find and the revelations it has offered thus far in a wonderful article put together by the Smithsonian Institute (link provided below).  The story is inspirational not only for the exciting new insights this gives to antiquity and a story as timeless as the Trojan War, but also for the epic journey of the people lead to this discovery.  What an amazing lesson in the reward of perseverance and providence.  When events did not seem to head the direction they desired, when the plans they had made were thwarted, they did not give up but persevered to make the best of a disappointing situation.  The hard work and dedication of Davis and Stocker and their entire team was rewarded many times over with an amazing discovery, one for the history books.



Smithsonian Article:

This 3,500-Year-Old Greek Tomb Upended What We Thought We Knew About the Roots of Western Civilization:  The recent discovery of the grave of an ancient soldier is challenging accepted wisdom among archaeologists

New York Times Article:

In Greek Warrior’s Grave, Rings of Power (and a Mirror and Combs)


Scripture Memory

My bible_studyNew Year’s Resolution?  This year it began in August.  I am in the process of joining my daughter and her classmates in memorizing the book of Philippians. This exercise is part of a vision that began in 2010 when my 7th grade ancient humanities class first memorized the book of James.  Since then our school, Grace Academy, has challenged our students to commit an entire book of the Bible (or extensive passage) to memory each year, hiding God’s Word in their hearts.  The Association of Classical Christian schools asked me to write an article for Classis, their quarterly journal, about the vision and implementation of our Scripture Memory program.  I share it here with all of you.  Read on to learn the historical precedent, the present implementation, and the fruit this work is bearing in the lives of our students.



Hiding God’s Word in Their Hearts:  

An Apologetic for Scripture Memory in the Upper School

by Karen T. Moore


Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

The Command

This passage is arguably the most well-known and oft quoted with respect to the education of our children. One day we as parents will stand before the Lord and answer for the responsibility given to us in training our children in the way they should go.1 As educators in Christian schools we have agreed to partner with parents in the educational aspect of such training, and, to an extent, in the formation of their character. There are many verses that exhort us to train children in the knowledge of Scripture. There are few that provide instructions on how to accomplish this task. Within these verses from Deuteronomy we receive a two-fold command that not only gives an exhortation, but also provides instruction for how we should carry out training in Scripture. 1) Embed Scripture within the hearts and minds of our children. Learn them; know them; love them. Make sure that Scripture is bound to our children and even to ourselves such that it will be with them wherever they go, guiding minds and directing actions. 2) Talk about what has been learned. Be watchful for teachable moments throughout the day and allow a scriptural lens to provide a better focus on the view of all that is around us, whether sitting at home or out along the road. In these verses we read two instructions given by God in tandem, intended to be woven together throughout the many years of raising our children.

The second instruction comes to us rather naturally. If we ourselves possess a biblical worldview, we can address situations and questions that arise by not just asking, “What do you think Jesus would do?”, but rather, “What does Scripture say?”. Sometimes we have those verses ready on our tongue. At other times we sit with our children searching our open Bible (or iphone). This second instruction cannot, however, be well accomplished without the first. We must fix God’s word in our hearts and minds. We must know them such that they are with us always. Yes, we are blessed in this modern age with printing presses and search engines that far surpass what Guttenberg and his co-laborers could ever have envisioned. Yet, apart from a ready knowledge of what Scripture says we are in danger of speculating on what God might say. When anxiety arises, when conflict challenges, when the serpent hisses, “what did God actually say?”2 will they be ready with the sword of the Spirit?3 If they are to be ever-ready with God’s word, having the hilt of this sword within easy grasp, then we must hide his words in their hearts, fix them in their minds through the steady discipline of memory.4

Certainly, no one among us would disagree with the value of memorizing Scripture. Most of us would readily agree with the importance and even the necessity of memorizing some Scripture. This exercise seems to be emphasized particularly within the Grammar School as our dear little sponges readily and eagerly soak up any data to be memorized from grammar chants to math facts to short poems, often using delightful ditties to ease the labor. However, the suggestion of asking older students to commit whole books of the Bible to memory might be considered daunting to say the least. Why? Perhaps because of the time commitment that we know this must take in addition to all the other things we must accomplish in school, work, duties to home and family, and social obligations. Perhaps also our culture is more comfortable with goals that can be accomplished rather quickly. The search engine is fast, memory takes time. We prefer the microwave to the Dutch oven, especially when hungry. Truly the biggest obstacle may be that in this post-modern era we have no cultural precedent for such a discipline of memory. This is a discipline so far removed from what we have learned that our frame of reference feels inadequate. How can it be done? Yet a reading of the New Testament must quickly reassure us that it can be accomplished.

The Precedent

Consider the numerous times in which Jesus readily cites the writings of the Law and the Prophets. He has a command of Scripture that goes beyond familiarity into an intimate understanding of these writings. Of course, one might argue, he was and is the Son of God, in existence before all things were made and all things were written. Christ is indeed fully God, but he also walked during his ministry on earth as fully man. He had to undergo the same discipline and training as his fellow Hebrews. Nonetheless, if his lofty example seems beyond our grasp, then let us look also at Paul. Paul too quoted the Old Testament with ready ease. He makes frequent references to the stories of Abraham (21 times) and Isaac (3 times). By name he cites Moses (13), King David (8), and Isaiah (6). Altogether Paul quotes the Old Testament approximately one hundred times, and gives another one hundred allusions5. Paul was a mere mortal, like us. Paul was a sinner, like us. However, he had the same education as Jesus of Nazareth.

Memory was the foundation of Jewish education in the ancient and classical period. Young Jewish boys (and sometimes girls) would begin attending school about age six. They attended a Jewish school built as an annex alongside the local synagogue. They called this school Beth Ha-Sepher (House of the Book) for its primary purpose was to teach children the Torah.6 The Torah formed the center of their education as they used Scripture to learn to read and write Hebrew. Jewish boys in areas such as Tarsus and Galilee would have also read from the Septuagint7 as they learned Greek. The education of the common Jewish boy far exceeds what most moderns would have expected for ancient blue-collar workers such as fishermen, carpenters, and tent-makers. Much of the Mediterranean world, including Judea, valued an education that would prepare the mind and shape the character of every citizen as valued by that civilization. Thus, the Jewish children attending Beth Ha-Sepher would not only read, but also memorize the Torah. This came through constant repetition for approximately four years until the young pupils could recite the Torah with great fluency. While various mnemonic devices were used, the primary method for memorization was repetition. He “who learns the Torah without repetition is like one who sows, but does not reap”8.

The cultivation of memory was not unique to Judea. Memorization and oral tradition were central elements of education throughout the Mediterranean world. In Greece there was an emphasis on memorizing the great epic traditions of Homer. In Book VI of his Commentarii de Bello Gallico Julius Caesar notes that the Celts wrote nothing of great importance down. Their laws and their religious traditions were all committed to memory. Caesar thought one of the reasons the Celts held so tightly to this practice was that they believed once they started relying on the written word, they would lose their diligence in learning important things thoroughly and would weaken the discipline of memory.9 Roman Orators such as Cato, Cicero, and Seneca were well trained in the art of memory. As students they were required to memorize and deliver famous orations from their predecessors. As orators themselves they regularly gave speeches from memory of two hours in length. Lest we think this memorization might have been by topic and not by words, we read this advice from Cicero in his work on rhetoric titled Ad Herennium10.

Now, lest you should perchance regard the memorizing of words either as too difficult or as of too little use, and so rest content with the memorizing of matter, as being easier and more useful, I must advise you why I do not disapprove of memorizing words. I believe that they who wish to do easy things without trouble and toil must previously have been trained in more difficult things.” (Cicero)

To this day memory is considered one of the five canons of Rhetoric, the art of speaking. Before memory are listed invention, arrangement, and style. The final canon, often listed after memory, is delivery. The training of young orators often required the memorization of excellent orations from famous predecessors. Aspiring young Romans often looked to Demosthenes and others of the Greeks. They studied the techniques of art and invention by learning their work thoroughly. Having memorized their speeches, they then practiced the art of delivery. Seneca the Elder recounts in his later years, even as his memory waned, that he could still recite parts of one hundred practice speeches from his early studies of rhetoric.11 Our modern Rhetoric classes tend to focus more on the art of writing than the art of speaking. We still practice invention and arrangement. We still look to the ancient orators as to muses. Yet the exercise of memory seems to have escaped our attention in our own Schools of Rhetoric. Perhaps this is a skill which we should seek to retain. The God-inspired words of Scripture would surely be a most excellent means of doing so.

Modern Day Response

In part to better train our memory as per the education of the ancient Mediterranean world, and in greater part to answer the commands given to us in Deuteronomy, Grace Academy has developed a Scripture Memory Program for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Since our earliest days our Grammar Students have memorized passages of increasing length such as Psalms 101, Hebrews 11, and James 3. These are regularly delivered in choral recitation before fellow students, teachers, and proud parents. Several years ago we recognized the need, based on the reasons provided above, to expand this program into our Schools of Logic and Rhetoric. We wanted to see our student’s knowledge of Scripture expanded in a meaningful way. We desired their skills of memory likewise to be strengthened. Most of all we wanted to see them equipped for every good work the Lord should have for them12.

Students in the Schools of Logic & Rhetoric memorize whole books of the Bible or lengthy passages so as to better learn Scripture in the context in which it was written. The habits and formation of such memorization must necessarily change from the Grammar School days to reflect the stages of learning and maturity of older students. Scripture memory in the Upper School ceases to be limited to grade-level homeroom classes. Instead this becomes a corporate study intended to build unity through study and worship among students of various grade levels, but within the same sub school. The students within the Schools of Logic and Rhetoric are divided into eight devotional groups (four for each school respectively). The Logic School groups are assigned one book. The Rhetoric School is assigned another. These devotional groups meet three mornings each week to read, discuss, and memorize the assigned Scripture for the year. Works for memorization have thus far included James, Philippians, Colossians, 1 John, and Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount).

The groups need not give choral recitations as they were accustomed to do in the Grammar School, but may choose instead to interpret the assigned Scripture through creative dramatic performances so long as the Scripture itself is not altered. 13 When the goal has been accomplished the students recite not only for parents and the school body, but at times they recite for local churches. When they do, they never fail to receive a standing ovation. For it is truly an amazing blessing to see our young people speak the Word of God with passion!

The Fruit

Five years into this program we have graduates who have memorized the Sermon on the Mount plus multiple books of the New Testament along with a collection of Psalms. We do not expect that they will for the remainder of their adult lives be able to recite all of these wonderful verses at a moment’s notice. We do expect that these words will remain hidden within their heart and mind, ready to be called upon when needed. We hope that having gained a confidence from this exercise, they will continue to study God’s Word, reviewing familiar passages and committing new ones to memory, for the rest of their lives. The fruit that has been born thus far is sweet. One graduate shared that memorizing James (his first such endeavor) “gave me a huge sense of accomplishment that helped me believe in myself . . . Reciting all of it individually in one take showed me what the mind was capable of with hard work and consistency.” A fellow graduate marvels at how easily he is still able to call upon all he has memorized. “God has used it to speak to me when I need it, and to speak through me to others.”14 We pray this discipline will continue to equip these young men and our many other graduates for whatever calling God has placed upon their lives in the same manner in which Paul so praised Timothy.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:14-17)



1 Proverbs 22:6

2 Genesis 3:1

3 Ephesians 6:17

4 Psalm 119:11

5 Roy Zuck, Teaching as Paul Taught (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), p.50-52.

6 The first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

7 The Septuagint is the Old Testament translated into Greek from Hebrew by a group of approximately 70 Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt c. 200 B.C. Some Jews grew up only speaking Greek and this translation was created in order to allow them to read the Old Testament. In areas such as Galilee, children grew up speaking both Hebrew and Greek. It was not uncommon for them to read their religious documents in both before the spread of Christianity. Septuaginta means 70 in Latin and was the name given to their work.

8 Essays on Jewish Life and Thought, The Letters of Benammi, Second Series, 54, cited in Zuck, Teaching as Paul Taught, ibid.

9 Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico VI.14 – Caesar specifically identifies the Druid priest class as those responsible for committing to memory “a great number of verses” regarding laws, traditions, and the religious beliefs of the Celtic tribes.

10 Cicero, Ad Herennium III.16 – is the oldest surviving Latin treatise on the Art of Rhetoric. Authorship, though uncertain, is largely attributed to Cicero and believed to have been written c.80 B.C. This text is used widely in rhetoric courses today whether in secondary schools or at the collegiate level.

11 Seneca, Controversiae 1. Pref.2, 19.

See also Chris Keener, “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels,” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, ed. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012) p. 105-106.

12 2 Timothy 3:17

13 Parts of this section are taken from the outline of the Grace Academy Scripture Memory Program, also written by Karen Moore.

14 Quotations are from 2016 Grace Academy Graduates Ben Hobbs and Michael Moore respectively.

Gingerbread Pantheon

Augustus was said to have found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.  Our Classics Club at Grace Academy is rebuilding Rome as a city of gingerbread!  Each year our students take on the task of rebuilding a significant piece of ancient architecture from gingerbread and other edible materials.  This year our group took on the Roman Pantheon.  We entered the finished piece in the Georgetown Library’s annual Edible Extravaganza contest where it won first place in its division. This post will share some of the secrets behind the triumph.


The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient monument still in existence in the world today.  Its unique architecture with the rotunda and great dome were spared by the sack of the Visigoths  in the 400’s and the dominion of the Catholic Church. While many temples were destroyed, this one was spared.  It provides for us an excellent study of history, culture, and architecture.  The best way to learn from it, is to try and imitate it.

The shape of the rotunda is created by baking several circular rings from gingerbread. Stack them on top of each other using royal icing to “cement” each layer on top of the other.  Once hardened, cover the exterior with a thick coat of royal icing.  We used about 10 such rings.


doric columns of candycanes and gumdrops

The portico of the Pantheon features 16 pillars imported from Ancient Egypt.  We used candy canes and gumdrops.  The gum drops were an ingenious addition this year to our pillars. They offer an excellent support for the candy cane while also providing a good wide base for the royal icing cement.  We also felt they gave the peppermint pillars a little more of the style one would see in the doric columns of the ancient world.  We couldn’t quite fit all 16 pillars under the portico, so our version features 12 pillars on the portico and an additional 4 along the sides.

The famous inscription on the front is a tribute from Hadrian to Agrippa.  M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS TERTIUM FECIT 

Agrippa built the original temple in 26 B.C.  This temple was destroyed in the great fire of A.D. 80. Hadrian rebuilt the Pantheon (as it stands today) in A.D. 120.  We have added the inscription using alphabet pasta colored green with foodcoloring and lemon extract.


undecorated dome and its cake form

The greatest attribute of the Roman Pantheon must be the great dome.  It was a great feat of engineering in its own time as the first known unsupported dome ever built.  To this day it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.  The dome for the U.S. Capitol building is 96′ in diameter. The Pantheon’s dome is 142′ in diameter.  Our dome is much smaller than either, but how can it be created?  Our culinary architect, Lacy Murphy, came up with the brilliant idea of using 1/2 of the cake form for ball cakes.  Roll out the dough to the desired thickness and carefully drape it over the form.  Use the opening to a classic soda bottle to cut out the hole for the oculus.

Nota Bene: We recommend leaving the extra dough around the bottom while baking the dome to prevent the dough from slowly sliding down the form as it bakes.  You can trim the excess cookie after removing from the oven while it is still soft.

The dome is covered with antique gold food coloring and adored with floral frosting.

The Christian holiday of Christmas comes at the same time of year as the Roman festival of Saturnalia and the celebrations of the Winter Solstice.  Christians derived many of their festive Christmas traditions from these Roman celebrations.  Most notable is the Christmas tree and decorative garlands.  The Romans would often decorate their trees and garlands with suns, stars, and moons in celebration of the solstice.  So we too have added Christmas trees.  The Christmas trees are made from ice cream cones covered in green icing using a decorative star tip.  This year they have golden ball decors representing the orb of the sun. In years past we have also used little star sprinkles.  In the week prior to our project the AP Latin class was reading the story of the fall of Troy as we came across the verse that reads

nos delubra deum miseri, quibus ultimus esset
ille dies, festa velamus fronde per urbem

Aeneid II.248-249

The Trojans, erroneously thinking they had defeated the Greeks, were decorating their temples with festive garlands. So this temple is also decorated with festive garlands.  Ours have flowers that resemble the traditional Christmas Poinsettias.

trees created from ice cream cones covered in frosting and edible decors

trees created from ice cream cones covered in frosting and edible decors

This Roman temple to “all gods” was converted into a Catholic Church dedicated to St. Mary of the Martyrs in A.D. 209.  This spared the achrictectural wonder from the fate of the Colosseum and other great buildings of Rome.  The temple/church also managed to survive the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in A.D. 410.  Perhaps they too thought this structure too wonderous for destruction.  The Pantheon is still in use today and remains a great tourist attraction for those seeking out a piece of history encased in beautiful and marvelous engineering.

As I hope is evident in this blog post, our gingerbread lessons are much more than “holiday fun,” they are an opportunity to engage with the history, engineering, and beauty of the past in a unique and creative way.  As we build, we learn what once was great, and how it can be made again a little sweeter.



For other delectable lessons in gingerbread architecture, visit the posts:

Gingerbread Greek Theater

Gingerbread Circus Maximus

Imitation in Writing through Latin

l believe the purpose of learning the Latin language is in order to study Latin literature.  By studying Latin literature, I mean studying the Great Books. These are great pieces of literature of outstanding merit that have stood the test of time. Such works reflect the worldview of the culture and time in which they were written. Such works have often influenced not only the people of their own time, but the people of times that would follow.  Such works should demonstrate some combination of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.  By studying such works we better understand the flow of human thought over the course of history. We better understand our civilization when we know from whence it came.  We better understand what is truly great literature.oldbooks_thumb


By studying Latin literature, I mean studying great literature that was originally written in Latin.  All too often great meaning is lost in translation.  When we can read the original words chosen by the author in the arrangement the author chose to write those words, we are better able to interpret the design and meaning of the author.  We are also better able to study the artistry of the author’s intended style and syntax.

By studying Latin literature I mean digging into the craftsmanship of great literature.  As an artist might study the color palette, lighting, and brush strokes of a master painter, so we can study the vocabulary, style, and syntax of the work.  This enables us to better understand not only what great literature looks like, but how we can become excellent craftsmen ourselves.

Many an English literature course will do the same.  Many a teacher will advocate for taking such study a step further from reading to composing.  Many a curriculum will provide such an assignment.  I sometimes do the same in my Latin literature courses.  After reading a particular piece I will ask my students to compose their own work on a similar topic with a similar style. I always assign parameters that include length, topic, content, grammar requirements, and some requirements on literary/rhetorical devices.  My high school Latin classes focus entirely on the study of Latin literature through the ages, from the time period of Cicero down to the work of Newton.  We read a variety of literary genres from people of different time periods and very different worldviews.  This also allows us the opportunity for a very wide variety of compositions.  Whenever possible, I enjoy integrating these assignments with something else the students are studying in English Literature, History, Theology, or Science.  Following are a few of the composition assignments I have given. Those assignments whose lesson plans are shared on this blog site will include a link for that particular lesson.  I update this list as such assignments are shared.

Exploration – Read excerpts from the *Latin Letter of Columbus. Then compose a descriptive paragraph on the flora and fauna where you live or go to school.

Thanksgiving Theses – Read selections from *Luther’s 95 Theses. Then compose a set of theses on the topic of giving thanks.  This assignment works particularly well in November between Reformation day and Thanksgiving.

Latin Haiku – As students begin to read short poems from *Horace or *Catullus allow them to compose their own.  A Latin Haiku introduces them to the idea of a metrical line in a very simplistic fashion.

Latin Eclogues – As students progress in their poetry skills, allow them to imitate Vergil with some pastoral eclogues using dactylic hexameter.

Laws of Motion – Read the three laws of motion as defined in Newton’s *Principia along with the scholia (or examples) that follow each one.  Then assign the students to compose their own scholia for one of the three laws.

Challenging the Status Quo – Read selections from the *Magna Charta. Many of these use the jussive subjunctive (present tense) and are great practice when first learning the subjunctive.  Then ask students to create their own set of laws to submit to your local magistrate/principal/head of school.  This is a great lesson in the language of diplomacy.

Fabulous Fables – Read Aesop’s fables as translated or added to by *Phaedrus. Then ask students to compose their own fable in a similar style.  For an added challenge, submit the fables to the annual Phaedrus Latin Contest.

*These works are included in the Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton, published by Classical Academic Press.

Latin Composition: Thanksgiving Theses

The philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying “docendo discimus” [by teaching we learn].  The idea behind this statement is that one must learn something really well in order to turn around and produce that learning for someone else. We teachers could also say “linguam scribendo discimus” [by writing we learn language].  I love for students to practice the grammar and vocabulary they have learned by reading authentic Latin literature.  We can take these lessons a step further by challenging students to practice these same tools by producing a composition that imitates the literary works they read.  These are two very different disciplines that engage the students in language from two different angles.  Such assignments allow them to cement their language lessons, study important pieces of writing in history and literature, and explore the writing styles of some excellent authors.  Such a composition assignment can feel overwhelming at first.  The lesson plan for the Thanksgiving Theses is a great assignment for it allows students to focus on composing concise statements of gratitude rather than a longer composition.


Around October 31 of each year we read selections from the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther on the doors of Wittenberg Castle on October 31, 1517.  Luther’s purpose in writing these theses and nailing them to the castle door was to grab the attention of his fellow priests and to provoke a conversation.  He wanted to write with powerful emphasis in order to focus attention on issues he believed were important.  So how did he do that? Our class reading focuses on a collection of theses that have to do with giving to the poor and the needy and a set that discuss salvation.   Several of the theses we read begin with the phrase Docendi sunt Christiani [Christians must be taught]. The repetition of this phrase is an excellent example of the grammar construction known as the passive periphrastic.  This repetition is also an excellent example of the use and power of the literary device known as anaphora (the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a clause or sentence, usually for dramatic emphasis). This is a great device for driving home a point, grabbing attention, creating emphasis. As we enter November I assign the students the task of writing their own set of theses on the topic of Thanksgiving. The assignment is as follows:

  • Compose 5 Theses on the topic of gratitude.
  • Each thesis must use a gerund or a gerundive.
  • Each thesis must be an average of 12 words in length.
  • The collection of theses must use a total of 3 or more different literary devices.  Anaphora may count as one of these three.

As we approach Thanksgiving of 2016 I am pleased to share with you some of my freshmen favorites. See if you can discern some of the literary devices they incorporated in their theses.

Christiani sunt exhortandi agere gratias pro omnibus rebus quas Deus dedit.  [Christians must be encouraged to give thanks for all things that God has given.]

Christiani sunt exhortandi agere gratias pro amicis, qui sunt dona, commoda, solacia ab Deo.  [Christians must be encouraged to give thanks for friends who are pleasant, comforting gifts from God.]

Docendi sunt Christiani ut sit bona res dare gratias quod sic Christus nos iubet.  [Christians must be taught that it is a good thing to give thanks because thus Christ commands us.]

Christiani sunt memoranda dare gratias per omnes, non modo ubi vita est facilis, sed etiam per tribulationes.  [Christians must be reminded to give thanks through all things, not only when life is easy, but also through trials.]

Gaudium est demonstrandum Christianis de nostris amicis, familiis, animalibus, domo.  Hoc Deum honorat. [Joy must be shown by Christians for our friends, families, animals, home. This honors God.]

Docendi sunt Christiani quod qui gratias agat beatus ipse sit.  [Christians must be taught the one who gives thanks is himself a blessing.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis et pluvia et sole, impleti cum magna gratia cotidie.   [Thanks must be given by Christians both in rain and in sunshine, daily filled with great thanks.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis quod Deus regnet caelum et terram, victus leonem vagantem.  [Thanks must be given by Christians that God rules the sky and the earth, having conquered the prowling lion.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis pro avibus, arboribus, caelo, terra, stellis, omne creatione Dei.  [Thanks must be given by Christians for birds, trees, sky, earth, stars, all God’s creation.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis pro familia et aqua et cibo et domu et multa bona.  [Thanks must be given by Christians for family and water and food and home and many things.]

Tandem, docendi sunt Christiani quod necesse est bonis est malis esse laetus, velut Christus erat in terra.  [Finally, Christians must be taught that it is necessary to be happy in both good and bad, just as Christ was on earth.]


For more information on the Latin text of Luther’s 95 Theses visit the previous post titled Reformation Day Latin.

It’s All Greek or Latin to Me!

Each year the Grace Academy Classics Club designs a club t-shirt sporting a witty phrase that shows off the joy of the classics. This year we could not choose just one!  Instead all students contributed their favorite Greek or Latin sayings to a classical word cloud in green.  Each saying gives a nod to something special: literature, logic, theatre, theology, and some are just plain ol’ fun.  At the center of them all is our school motto, “Soli Deo Gloria” [Glory to God Alone].  On the reverse the astute will find our clever theme for the year, “It’s all either Greek or Latin to me” written in alternating Greek and Latin script (see caption for picture below).

We wear these shirts on school spirit days, to our club events, Junior Classical League competitions, and just whenever the mood for a cool witty shirt strikes our fashion fancy.  The 2016 shirt has quickly become a favorite.  The shirt design won first place in the club t-shirt competition at the Texas State Junior Classical League with the judges commenting “I want one!”  See below for a list of the featured quotes.


It is all either Greek or Latin to me!

Μοι omne η Ηελλην aut Latinum εστιν!

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