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Edible Architecture: Hadrian’s Wall

Among the most creative of our edible construction projects was Hadrian’s Wall. This project was very unique, very different from other projects of its kind. First, instead of recreating a finished structure, we opted to recreate the structure in process. Second, this project did not use any gingerbread. However, like all of our other edible architecture projects we did recreate a structure that was significant to the classical world, and every piece was edible.

Background

As far as recorded history tells us, the Romans first contact with Britain came in 55 B.C. and again in 54 B.C. as an extension of Caesar’s invasion of Gaul. Caesar crossed the English channel, battled the Celts, proved the valor and might of Rome, then left. His interactions with the natives of Britannia is recorded in Book IV of his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentary on the Gallic War). While the Romans did establish some interactions with the ancient Brits in terms of trade and diplomacy and a few smaller invasions, the next full scale invasion did not occur for nearly a century.

In AD 43 the emperor Claudius launched an invasion for the published purpose of reinstating Verica, an exiled king. However, the emperor also ended up making the southern area of Britain into a Roman Province, complete with Roman governor. That first governor would be none other than Claudius’ own general Aulus Plautius. (motives? hmmmm)

Fast forward another half century to Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a later governor of Britain. Agricola began his military career in Britain. He later supported Vespasian in his bid for emperor during the volatile year of AD 69. Vespasian rewarded Agricola with the governorship of Britain in AD 77. During his time as governor, Agricola circumnavigated the British Isle, invaded Scotland, and even ventured into Ireland.  His son-in-law was the historian Tacitus, which proved rather convenient for preserving his legacy. Thanks to Tacitus and his desire to promote his father-in-law (and thus his own family connections) we can read about the geography and ethnography of ancient Britain in De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae.

English-Heritage.org (link provided in resources below)

The Celts, however, did not appreciate Roman rule and their frequent harassment of the settlements necessitated some action. This is where we bring Hadrian into the story. The Emperor Hadrian, known as one of the five good emperors, ruled Rome in AD 117-138. The emperor is well known for consolidating the empire, better defining and defending boundaries, and most of all for building really cool things. Hadrian loved the art and engineering of architecture. He is the mastermind behind the reconstruction of the Pantheon with its impressive dome (See Gingerbread Pantheon). Hadrian visited Britain in AD 122 after a string of rebellions in the previous three years. During his stay he planned the construction of a wall extending from coast to coast that would define Rome’s boundary and keep out the Celtic barbarians. In some places the wall is rather low, in others quite high. A “milecastle” was built at each mile interval with smaller towers and forts in between. The wall still exists today and serves as a window into the past; life on the Roman frontier. One of my dreams is to one day hike the wall, now a National Trail in Britain. Links for other websites on Hadrian’s Wall are provided towards the end of this post.

Edible Architecture Project

“Vallum Aelium” Hadrian’s Wall at Saturnalia by Grace Academy. Click on image for a magnified view.

The Grace Academy Classics Club recreated Hadrian’s Wall in AD 2011. Our creation shows a great engineering project in progress. Gingerbread just wouldn’t do this structure justice. We used sugar cubes instead. Sugar cubes better resembled the cut stone used to build the wall in some places (other sections used uncut stone or even turf). One of our men can be seen pushing a sugar stone block up a rampart. Our structure also shows one of the fortified towers. These were not as large as the milecastles, but were still designed to hold a single auxiliary unit.  Although manned by these auxiliary troops, it was the Roman legionaries, trained in building fortifications, that built the wall and its forts. Our replica shows them in their camp enjoying a nice fire. For our holiday purposes, the soldiers are enjoying Saturnalia and the celebration of the Winter Solstice with forest trees decorated for the occasion. Of course, even on holiday the Roman soldiers can’t let their guard completely down. Thus you see a Roman soldier stationed on the wall.

Hadrian’s wall in some places had a maximum height of about 15 feet (4.6 metres) and was 10 Roman feet (3 metres) wide. This made a space wide enough for a walkway along the top, perfect for keeping an eye on the Celtic peoples on the other side. Of course, the Celtic people (like the little blue guy in our scene) kept their eyes on the Romans too.

The wall, as written above, is made of sugar cubes. The tents are graham crackers covered with pieces of fruit roll-ups. Marzipan and fondant both serve as excellent material for creating figurines such as soldiers, Celts, logs, and horses. Dirt can be made from cocoa powder or coffee grounds or maybe a mocha combo of both – choose your scent. The fire is most ingenious. The flames are made from life savers that have been melted into thin sheets, then fractured. The whole scene creates that nice campfire glow and a hankering for s’mores.

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

Gingerbread Pantheon

Gingerbread Greek Theater

Gingerbread Circus Maximus

Click on image for a magnified view so as to better see details.

 

Resources:

Ancient Vine: Hadrian’s Wall

Following Hadrian: Hiking Hadrian’s Wall

English Heritage: Hadrian’s Wall

 

Columbus Day Reading: Integrating History, Language, and Science

Each October my 9th grade students enjoy reading selections from the Latin Letter of Columbus. Columbus addressed his to the monarchs of Spain, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and thus he originally wrote the letter in Spanish. The monarchs were delighted by the discovery and immediately wanted to share news of this new world with all of Europe. Therefore, in 1493 they  published Columbus’ letter in Latin, and sent it throughout all of Europe. At that time Latin was the lingua franca of the day, and every well-educated man, woman, and child would be able to read these great tidings. This leaves us a wonderful sample of Renaissance Latin about historical places and events on our side of the pond.  While the letter opens with celebratory language on the discovery and thanks to God for His provision and protection in the voyage, it eventually turns to a detailed description of the islands Columbus and his men have found. There are wonderful passages describing in detail the flora and fauna of the new world.

Sunt praeterea in dicta insula Iohanna septem vel octo palmarum genera.  Quæ proceritate et pulchritudine (quaemadmodum ceterae omnes arbores, herbae fructusque) nostras facile exuperant. Sunt et mirabiles pinus, agri et prata vastissima, variae aves, varia mella variaque metalla, ferro excepto. In ea, autem, quam Hispanam supra diximus nuncupari, maximi sunt montes ac pulchri, vasta rura, nemora, campi feracissimi seri pascuisque et condendis edificiis aptissimi.

 

After reading selections such as these I enjoy taking my students on a Latin nature hike around our beautiful campus. Conversations start simple such as naming general types of plants:

Ecce, arbores altae!

 

They can progress to simple discussions on the different kinds of trees, shrubs, and flowers. The Latin names for these are often still imbedded in the current scientific name the students might learn in a botany class.

 

Haec arbor est quercus. Illa arbor est ulmus.

Quale arbor est hac?

Describe flores “asteraceae”.

Asteraceae sunt saepe flavae. Alii formam similem soli et eius radiis habent. Alii similes astriis apparent. 

 

Following the nature hike I then ask the students to compose their own short description of the school campus (or a nearby park, or their backyard, or their favorite camping ground) in Latin as an explorer in the mode of Columbus. This is typically accomplished by sitting outside a couple days for class, taking in the scenery, the fresh air, the sunshine, so as to be inspired while we write. This has produced wonderful original Latin pieces that capture a special moment in time and space in the lives of these Latinists. It also helps them to connect to another place and time when our world looked and sounded a bit different.

 

The text for the Latin Letter of Columbus may be found in its entirety at these two sites:

The Latin Library produced by Ad Fontes Academy

The Latin Letter of Columbus on google books.

Latin Alive Reader: From Cicero to Newton provides reading selections with vocabulary, notes, and exercises for Columbus’ letter.

Latin Authors in Italy: A Study Tour for Teachers

 

This summer I was afforded the great blessing of attending Latin Authors in Italy, a study tour designed specifically for high school Latin teachers. The title and description resonated with me immediately. Here I was promised the opportunity to read Latin authors in situ, to walk through the remains of Ancient Rome with an experienced archaeologist, and to discuss practical pedagogical applications with an experienced high school Latin teacher. The balance of culture, history, art, and literature described seemed almost too good to be true. The experience did not disappoint, on the contrary it exceeded my every expectation.

For the past sixteen years I have been the classics chair at Grace Academy, a classical Christian school deep in the heart of Texas. I have built a classical language program here that runs grades 3-10 with opportunities for Latin and Greek continuing through grade 12. We also have a robust ancient and medieval humanities program which I have also assisted in developing. The capstone for our classical program is a senior trip to Italy each spring. I eagerly look for opportunities to integrate these studies at every turn, such that each one complements the others and the division between “subjects” begins to break down. My goal for their senior trip is that as they walk the streets of Rome, Naples, and Florence visiting places, seeing art, and walking streets as though visiting a familiar friend. This study tour as guided by Steve Tuck and Amy Leonard has equipped me more thoroughly than I had dared hope to make this vision a more present reality.

Steve Tuck lectures on the artwork depicted on the great Ara Pacis, built under Augustus. An authority on Roman art, Steve often reminded us of the intentional design of such pieces, the items depicted, and the magnificent artistry and color of such great pieces.

Our first two days of class were spent in the heart of Rome. We covered an immense amount of ground in those first two days. In the first day we along the Tiber and discussed the divide between the ancient city, the Campus Martius, and the intentional designs in buildings and monuments placed in each. The second day took us to the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, and the Palatine Hill. This was my fourth trip to Rome and I had seen most of these places about as many times as I had visited the eternal city. However, this visit was very different. I was able to see for the first time the design and layout of the city and these monumental buildings as a reflection of the leaders and the political times in which they rose. The design of the Mausoleum of Augustus opposite Agrippa’s reconstruction of the Pantheon was particularly striking. Never before had I stopped to contemplate how each site reflected the other in position, design, and even decoration. These two monuments to the dynasty of the Julians and the dynasty of the Pantheon were enhanced by the grand Ara Pacis positioned between them and flanked by the images of Romulus and Aeneas. Images repeated in the Forum of Augustus and later in the Forum of Pompeii. Often we stopped to enjoy excerpts of literature appropriate to the local such as the Res Gestae adjacent to the Mausoleum of Augustus. In the evenings, after putting my feet up, I began reworking my plans for our senior trip to Rome as I recalled the repeated images of Aeneas throughout the city of his descendants.

Sperlonga (a modern Italian corruption of the Latin for cave “spelunca”) offered luxurious dining inside a most unique setting alongside the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The third day brought a big change in location as we traveled by charter bus along the coast down to Naples. Along the way we stopped at Sperlonga to visit one of the many villas frequented by the Emperor Tiberius. This stop was an unexpected treasure. Not for the villa, for which there was not much left to see, but for the luxurious dining room nestled inside a cave next to the sea. The site itself was captivating, but it was made even more wondrous with a short art study at the on-site museum where the statues sculpted to decorate the dining grotto are housed. As would be the case at most every site we visited on this tour we listened intently as Steve divulged the history behind the design of the grotto and the selections of art. Amy Leonard followed by leading us in reading several passages from the Aeneid that aptly described each sculpture group and would no doubt have been ready on the lips of ancient diners as they reclined in front of such art by the sea.

The remainder of the trip was spent exploring the region of Naples from the Villa Vergiliana (Henry Wilks Study Center). This 19th century villa is situated in the vicinity of ancient Cumae with a breathtaking view of the Tyrrenian Sea and the Isle of Ischia. The villa itself is surrounded by groves of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and the remains of an ancient amphitheatre. The grounds lend themselves well to classroom sessions, times of otium in the salon or surrounding grounds, and evening Latin readings on the terrace beneath the stars. The beauty and convenience of the location is matched by the warm hospitality of the Sgariglia family, making the villa an ideal place for a week of contemplative study.

Villa Vergiliana (Henry Wilks Study Center) is a charming 19th century villa surrounded by groves of fruit trees and vineyards with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean. The villa serves as the homebase for study tours with the Vergilian Society.

Several mornings were spent at the villa engaging in discourse regarding best classroom practices. Topics included vocabulary retention and acquisition, advanced grammar lessons, sight reading, art study, historical and cultural integration, and even some diverting games and activities. The topics were chosen based on a pre-trip survey that Amy distributed to the attendees via email several weeks before the trip. She took our respective interests, curricula, and the grade levels we taught into consideration as she designed these lessons. Her many years of experience were evident in the planning, preparation, and execution of these lessons. Her leadership style was not limited to presentation and lecture, but she encouraged contributions through discussions. The result was 15 teachers learning from one another as 15 students. We are each coming away from the experience better equipped to engage our students in the coming years.

Each afternoon we left the villa via charter bus to explore a site in the vicinity of Naples. I must confess that my knowledge of the area was limited to Pompeii and Herculaneum. I had undervalued the area as not having much more to offer beyond those sites. I have never been more overjoyed to discover I was in complete error. We did visit both of these sites. Once again Steve Tuck gave us a deeper knowledge and richer understanding of these communities, their tragic place in history, and what they can teach us today. Once again his depth of knowledge in Roman art and architecture were the great factor in this paradigm shift. I am forever indebted to him for going the extra mile to spend time with me one evening to re-design my senior trip to these two destinations in order to better make use of the time we spend there.

“quo lati ducunt aditus centum, ostia centum, unde ruunt totidem voces, responsa Sibyllae” Aeneid VI.43-44

Beyond these two well-known ancient cities we explored the ancient sites of Cumae, the villas of Capri, the great bath in Baiae, the amphitheatre at Puteoli, volcanic craters of Campi Flegrei, and even walked to the very gate of the underworld. The site I had most eagerly looked forward to visiting was the Sibyl’s cave at Cumae. Having read the description of her cave numerous times both as a student and as a teacher I was eager to see how well Vergil’s description matched the site itself. Walking the path of centum ostia gave me chills, particularly as the design of the long passage way strongly resembled the shape of the Etruscan tombs we visited just the day before at the museum in Baiae. As we stood in the inner sanctuary Steve pointed out how the inner chamber of this cave was matched (not unintentionally) by the design of Tiberius’ cave at Sperlonga. His ability as our guide to draw connections from one place to the next in geographical placement, in design, in history, is absolutely remarkable. This was evident again the next day as we visited Lake Avernus alongside the Crater of Solfatara in order to gain a better understanding of the original cult of the Sibyl. Once again Amy heightened the experience with descriptive readings of Cumae and Avernus from both Vergil and Lucretius. The sulfurous fumes and boiling mud from Solfatara gave those readings a very present reality.

While Cumae was the most anticipated site for my visit, the most unexpected delight was found in Puteoli. We traveled to this ancient city for the sole purpose of visiting the amphitheatre. I was a bit curious why we might visit this lesser known arena after having recently walked through the grand Colosseum. The answer was a reminder that bigger is not always better. In truth the arena at Puteoli is only a slight bit smaller than the Colosseum, but the building is almost entirely intact. Visitors can walk the arena floor and gaze down through the numerous trap doors that line the perimeter. Even more wondrous is the view from down below. We were able to walk through the substructure of the arena whose arches and pathways and stairwell are intact. While the Colosseum demands that visitors use their imagination to piece together the ruins, Puteoli gifts its visitors with a full picture, nearly complete. Once again I found myself inspired by how I might bring a piece of Puteoli back to my students in Texas, or how I might bring the seniors to Puteoli.

The last site visit of our trip was to pay homage to the alleged tomb of Aeneas near the thirteen altars positioned adjacent to the coast of Latium, and possibly the very site where Aeneas and his fleet first from the shores of Troy set foot on Latin soil. This visit brought our study tour full circle; from the images of Aeneas erected by Augustus in claim of his ancestry to the very tomb of this legend. The careful manner in which Steve and Amy carefully planned this trip was not lost on us. The design of each day, the succession of site visits, the careful selection of texts, all had been carefully planned and orchestrated with the utmost thoughtfulness.

Amy Leonard (right) hosted Latin readings each evening on the terrace. Here we read from the book that she co-authored with Steve Tuck, designed specifically for this study program.

At the outset of this program our directors, Steve Tuck and Amy Leonard, presented each student with a book designed specifically for this course and which shared the course title, Latin Authors in Italy. This would serve as a textbook of sorts for the entire program, providing the numerous texts we would read with Amy (and many more we could read on our own), numerous maps, floor plans of buildings, pictures, and articles on the sites we would visit. This book has become an invaluable resource for me and will most certainly contribute to the shape of future trips to Rome whether through readings and lessons in my Texas classroom or actual site visits to the eternal city. Our group would read selections from Latin Authors at most site visits. The selections were carefully chosen to complement the sites visited. We read from Pliny while in Pompeii, from Vergil while standing before his tomb, the Res Gestae while at the Mausoleum of Augustus. Often we were standing before the very place that the author was describing in his work. Such readings brought new perspective to the scenes before us, the ancient site infused the words on these pages with new life. As with the design of the entire program, this book clearly reflects a copious amount of work in diligent and thoughtful planning as to what texts and materials could best enhance the experience for attendees not only as visitors to the ancient world, but as teachers who desire to introduce that world to our students.

All too often our professional development as teachers is limited to a particular curriculum we teach or a syllabus to which we must adhere. In this instance the professional development allowed us to sit again in the seat of pupils and challenge ourselves to go beyond any preconceived syllabus. We were there to learn, to enrich our understanding of the ancient world, to read literature that we might not otherwise have seen. I would consider this time spent with the Vergilian Society and this particular study tour to be the best professional development I have ever received for classical studies. This course is changing the way I teach Greco-Roman history and expanding my approach to Latin literature. I have long disliked the manner in which history courses seem to run solely on a timeline with a list of dates, people, and events to be memorized. Tedious. I have always enjoyed incorporating art into history and literature (whether taught in English or Latin or Greek). I am now better equipped to integrate classical art into my classroom in order to tell the stories that appear in history and literature classes. I have also been inspired to include architecture into my lessons for this very same purpose. After all, architecture is art on a much grander scale and sometimes gives a louder political statement. I look forward with great anticipation to the approaching school year and the opportunity to enjoy the ancients with my students, given the lessons I learned during this trip. I look forward to the opportunity to one day bring them to walk the streets of Rome and experience these lessons for themselves.

For more information on the Vergilian Society including their summer study tours please their website http://www.vergiliansociety.org/

Also recommended: A History of Roman Art by Steve Tuck, the excellent director for this study tour.

Vocabulary Building with Picta Dicta

Picta Dicta is an innovative and highly engaging tool for students to build their Latin vocabulary. This program could easily serve as an introduction for young students into the delightful world of Latin. The lessons would also prove a wonderful supplement to any Latin curricula, or even as a summer strengthening program for Latin students. The approach engages students in learning vocabulary through pictures and images rather than the usual vocab word list found in most textbooks. Read the rest of this entry »

Art-Literature Analysis: Student Assignment

As an end of year project for my AP Latin students, I assign an art analysis paper based upon a scene from either Vergil's Aeneid or Caesar's de Bello Gallico. The students are to choose a masterpiece that accurately depicts one such scene. This assignment is a student favorite as it causes the students to look back and call upon what they have learned of the story and the language from the vantage point of one who has completed a rigorous journey and now stands upon the mountain top, surveying the view of the road from whence they came. The remainder of this post is written by one of my Latin students. This is her piece of art-literature analysis based on a scene from Aeneid VI. Read the rest of this entry »

Rainbow Resource: Review of Latin Alive Book 1

The following review of the Latin Alive series is posted on Rainbow Resource Center.

Maybe you just recently decided to incorporate Latin into your homeschool, and you’re looking over your shoulder at the fun and simple elementary programs that are now too basic and ahead at the thick and intimidating upper-level courses available. You wonder, “Can my child really handle that?” If you’re wanting to begin now, never fear! This well-designed and manageable course by Classical Academic Press is designed for middle school and high-school students who are just starting out in Latin. The series, which will eventually consist of three books which make up a 3-year program, provides students the opportunity to learn the Latin language and grammar, using an incremental approach. Drawing upon the successful teaching methodology used in Wheelock’s Latin, the authors of this program have in essence taken the best approaches and features of Wheelock’s, and designed a thorough course that is more appropriate (and exciting) for middle school and high school beginners. Also, because the novelty of studying Latin only goes so far, the program also does a fantastic job of demonstrating how relevant Latin is to us, even today. If you are not just starting out in Latin, or perhaps even wanting to continue your journey from Latin for Children, you will find much review in Book One, but thorough coverage of grammar and the reading passages from Latin writers will be well worth continuing your journey.

For the full review, which includes a thorough description of the book click here.

Composition Assignment: Classic Narratives

Our 3rd grade grammar school students love that first special moment that they are able to read a story in Latin for themselves. This is a huge milestone. Their eyes just light up with the realization that they are truly comprehending a story in another language. From that moment on, Latin stories become a favorite class activity. Another great milestone comes at the end of 5th grade when they are then able to compose a story in Latin for others to read. Up until this moment they have received the joyful gift of reading, now they are able to give that gift in return. This post outlines our grammar school composition project. Read the rest of this entry »

The Classic Texan – April 21, 753 B.C. and A.D. 1836

All classicists know that today, April 21, is the anniversary of the founding of Rome. All Texans know that today, April 21, is the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. Do you know the story of the Classic Texan, the legendary figure of Sam Houston and the imprint of the Classics in his own life? His tale is truly that of a modern Odysseus or Aeneas beset with a torment that forces him from his home and sends him wandering through the wild west. Eventually, Providence would guide him to Texas where his destiny and that of the land he came to love became forever inextricably linked. Read the rest of this entry »

Excavating the Circus Maximus!

Archaeologists are discovering what some call the greatest shopping complex of the ancient world. I suppose this really shouldn't surprise us at all. Modern man is not really that different from ancient man. Visit any NASCAR or Formula One race track and you are likely to find a plethora of concession stands, clothing venues, souvenir shops, and large bathroom facilities. You might also find stories posted of the greatest drivers and the cars that set records. All this has been discovered at the Circus Maximus. Several shops have been found including ancient laundromats that would clean your garments with the preferred agent of the time: urine. Large latrines have been uncovered that used the nearby aqueducts to continually "flush" water and waste through to the sewers. Archaeologists have even found images of a winning race horse by the name of Numitor, who seems to have gained some measure of fame in the great city. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »