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Latin in the News

Helen Keller on the Study of Latin and Greek

June 27, 1880

Helen Keller was born on this date over a century ago.  At the age of nineteen months she would suffer from a terrible illness that left her deaf and mute.  Helen faced an overwhelming challenge at a very young age.  And yet, she would overcome this challenge to achieve glorious successes and inspire millions.  This little girl who many must have doubted would ever be able to read her parent language, would become proficient in both Latin and Greek.  The following are a few of her thoughts on these studies from her autobiography, written at the age of 22.

At first I was rather unwilling to study Latin grammar. It seemed absurd to waste time analyzing, every word I came across–noun, genitive, singular, feminine–when its meaning was quite plain. I thought I might just as well describe my pet in order to know it–order, vertebrate; division, quadruped; class, mammalia; genus, felinus; species, cat; individual, Tabby. But as I got deeper into the subject, I became more interested, and the beauty of the language delighted me. I often amused myself by reading Latin passages, picking up words I understood and trying to make sense. I have never ceased to enjoy this pastime.

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life (Chapter XVI)

It was the Iliad that made Greece my paradise. I was familiar with the story of Troy before I read it in the original, and consequently I had little difficulty in making the Greek words surrender their treasures after I had passed the borderland of grammar. Great poetry, whether written in Greek or in English, needs no other interpreter than a responsive heart. Would that the host of those who make the great works of the poets odious by their analysis, impositions and laborious comments might learn this simple truth! It is not necessary that one should be able to define every word and give it its principal parts and its grammatical position in the sentence in order to understand and appreciate a fine poem. I know my learned professors have found greater riches in the Iliad than I shall ever find; but I am not avaricious. I am content that others should be wiser than I. But with all their wide and comprehensive knowledge, they cannot measure their enjoyment of that splendid epic, nor can I. When I read the finest passages of the Iliad, I am conscious of a soul-sense that lifts me above the narrow, cramping circumstances of my life. My physical limitations are forgotten–my world lies upward, the length and the breadth and the sweep of the heavens are mine!

My admiration for the Aeneid is not so great, but it is none the less real. I read it as much as possible without the help of notes or dictionary, and I always like to translate the episodes that please me especially. The word-painting of Virgil is wonderful sometimes; but his gods and men move through the scenes of passion and strife and pity and love like the graceful figures in an Elizabethan mask, whereas in the Iliad they give three leaps and go on singing. Virgil is serene and lovely like a marble Apollo in the moonlight; Homer is a beautiful, animated youth in the full sunlight with the wind in his hair.

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life (Chapter XXI)

Link: complete text for The Story of My Life

Shining New Light on Ancient Statues

"Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Find out how shining a light on the statues can be all that's required to see them as they were thousands of years ago." Read on to see how modern science may be able to shine new light on ancient statues. Read the rest of this entry »

Publisher Discount for Latin Alive!

In celebration of their 10 year anniversary, Classical Academic Press has been offering a 15% discount each month on featured item. For the month of May the spotlight is on the Read the rest of this entry »

North Dakota gets a Latin motto?!

Twenty five of these United States of America have a Latin motto to represent their state.  Soon North Dakota may be added to that list.  The Associated Press reports that the state of North Dakota has voted to pass a new official motto:  Serit ut alteri saeclo prosit [One sows so that it benefits another age].  The motto was proposed by a group of Latin students from Fargo, North Dakota.  This is in not the first time in recent history that a state has added a Latin motto.  In 2002 the state of Kentucky adopted Deo Gratiam Habeamus [Let us be thankful to God].

In many cases the Latin mottoes chosen to represent a state are taken from an ancient source.  The most popular sources seem to be the Vulgate Bible and the writings of Cicero or Vergil.  Cicero seems to be the source for North Dakota’s proposed motto.  In Cicero’s piece titled de Senectute, he quotes Caecilius Statius as saying, “Serit arbores, quae alteri saeclo prosint.” [He sows trees, which may benefit another age.]  Statius (c. 220 – c. 166 B.C.) was himself was a successful comedic poet.

You can read this quote in context of De Senectute at The Latin Library a wonderful online resource for original Latin work.

Read more about this story:

The Republic, Columbus, Indiana

InForum, Fargo-Moorehead

Latin for Children declared #1

Thank you to the readers of Practical Homeschooling Magazine! The Latin for Children* series has been declared the first place winner in the Latin category by the readers of Practical Homeschooling Magazine for 2011. Each year Practical Homeschooling Magazine presents awards for the best educational products in various categories, as voted by their readers. It is the most prestigious award for homeschooling curricula.

The Latin for Children series is a three-year series (primers A, B and C) designed to teach upper elementary students Latin vocabulary, grammar and translation skills incrementally and creatively. The Latin primers are complimented by numerous accessory products including a History Reader and Activity Book for each primer as well instructional DVDs, audio chant CDs and a full-color flash card game. The Latin for Children, Primer A, was first published in 2001. A companion website, www.HeadVentureLand.com, also provides games and videos which support students using the Latin for Children series. The Latin FlashDash game on the site allows students to review and study vocabulary, and the Chart Challenge game helps them practice various verb and noun endings. HeadventureLand.com also features electronic readers in Latin and English as well as a collection of animations that compose an ongoing story which reviews the vocabulary from the Latin for Children series. The Latin for Children materials are available to purchase directly through Classical Academic Press, or through many other homeschooling retailers, and catalog companies.

Classical Academic Press also provides many free resources for the series available on its website at www.ClassicalAcademicPress.com. Free resources include printable tests, exercises, flash cards, activities and charts. The site also features an “Ask the Magister” (teacher) service so that students and teachers can receive online help with Latin questions.

*Latin for Children is a primer series designed for students in the elementary or grammar school.  It may be considered as a precursory program to the Latin Alive! series.

Latin Under Attack in TEXAS!

I never thought it would happen. Never thought I’d see the day that Latin would so openly come under attack in Austin, Texas. We are blessed to have here the University of Texas Classics Dept, the largest and best classics dept. in the nation. The department is internationally renowned and has a phenomenal faculty who love to support Latin in the secondary schools. Latin has for many years been the second most popular foreign language study in Texas, second only to Spanish. When I was in school, every Austin middle and high school had a Latin program. The middle school programs have dwindled largely due to a lack of teachers to sustain them, but the high school programs have remained strong. Until today. This week Austin Independent School District administrators decided to cut the Latin programs at three major high schools: Austin H.S., Bowie H.S., and the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (known as LASA). The programs at these schools were large in student number with only one teacher overseeing each one. These were vibrant programs. The LASA Latin Club has in fact won the Latin Club of the year contest at the state Junior Classical League convention four years running. I understand that the economy is tight and that cut backs are necessary. But do we really cut a successful program whose numbers do not justify such a cut? Our nation’s educational system is struggling. Our students are performing poorly compared to their peers world wide in literacy, in science, and in math. Does it make sense to cut a course that has been proven time and again to increase verbal and problem solving skills? Does it make sense to cut a course in the very language of science? Keep in mind that it is not a requirement that we are taking away, but even the option. Students in public school often have no choice on what school they attend. Many cannot afford to choose a private school or home school option. If Latin is not offered, it is a lost opportunity.

If you live in Texas, I encourage you to write to our AISD superintendent and the principals of these schools (contact info provided below). I would encourage you to write to our Governor Perry who supposedly believes in Latin’s importance as evidenced by his numerous declarations of Latin Day each April 21, and even more by choosing this as a language for his own son’s education.

Time is of the essence. The final board meeting on this issue is scheduled for Feb. 28, 2011.

Please also consider joining the Facebook Campaign being waged by LASA students. Visit the “Save the LASA Program” FB page.

If you live in another state I would encourage you to look around. Many areas are facing this same battle in times of economic crisis. We have in just two generations gone from a nation who treasured our Latin heritage and the enormous benefits classical education provided, to a society who has decided we just don’t need it anymore. I believe it is a change of course that will have lasting consequences. If this course can change so dramatically in the heart of Texas, in UT’s backyard, it can happen anywhere.

If you are reading this and wondering to yourself, “why in the world is she so passionate about this dead language?” Then I encourage you to visit posts on this site on the value and benefits of classical study. I encourage you to seek out and read about the benefits of classical education. I am sold. And I believe you will be too if you take the time to look.
Here are some great places to start:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/18/power-ambition-glory-leadership-steve-forbes_land.html

The Benefits of a Classical Education

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201003/branding-and-marketing-the-classics-major

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201003/classics-majors-find-their-future-in-the-past

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-24/lingua-latina-introitum-in-vniversitatem-harvard-multo-faciliorem-reddit.html

http://www.bolchazy.com/al/latadv.htm

http://www.txclassics.org/?page=flyers

http://www.promotelatin.org/

http://www.camws.org/cpl/educators/crisis.htm

Letters/Phone calls regarding the Latin programs being cut in AISD may be addressed to the following:

SUPERINTENDENT
Meria Carstarphen
1111 W. 6th Street
Austin, TX 78703
phone: (512) 414-2412
fax: (512) 414-1700

AISD Office Address for All Board Members
1111 West 6th Street
Austin, TX 78703
trustees@austinisd.org
OFFICE TELEPHONE: 414-1704
Fax: 414-1486

Below are school addresses and school Administrators’ names:
Dr. Lucio Calzada
Austin High School
1715 W. Cesar Chavez
Austin, TX 78703
phone: (512) 414-2505
fax: (512) 414-7373

Mr. Stephen Kane
Bowie High School
4103 Slaughter Ln.
Austin, TX 78749
phone: (512) 414-5247
fax: (512) 292-0527

Mr. Scott Lipton
Liberal Arts and Science Academy
7309 Lazy Creek Dr.
Austin, TX 78724
Phone: (512) 414-5272
fax: (512) 414-6050

Low Ham Mosaic

The Low Ham Mosaic is an absolute treasure for its attachment to art, architecture, and classical literature.  This is a complete mosaic found while excavating an ancient Roman villa in England.  The mosaic tells the story of the tumultuous love affair between Aeneas and Dido as told in Vergil’s Aeneid. I often introduce pieces of artwork such as this in my advanced reading classes.  Such artwork causes the story to leap from the ancient pages and take on new visual dimensions.  Through the medium of art we are able to cause students to engage with literature through another of the senses – sight.  This also inspires them to use their visual imagination more as they read through the text.  After a few such lessons my class will often pause after a particularly descriptive scence to muse, “if we were artists or movie directors, how would we portray this scene?”  The study of art alongside literature also shows students how these pieces of ancient literature are able to transcend time as they inspire artists from every period.   I will speak on this very topic at the conference for the Association of Classical Christian Schools in June, 2011.  This mosaic is just one of my subjects.  I also look at paintings and sculpture from the Renaissance and the modern era that I use in my Latin literature courses.  Some of these examples you will find throughout this blog site.  (see end of post)

The scenes in this mosaic depict the arrival of Aeneas and his men in Carthage, Aeneas meeting Dido with little Ascanius, the hunt scene in which Ascanius gaudet equo iamque hos cursu, iam praeterit illos [rejoices on his horse and passes by these in the course, and now those], and of course the famous cave scene (here depicted with trees).  The following youtube video tells the remarkable story of this mosaic and offers a little insight into the tragic tale of a love gone horribly wrong.  For the story of Aeneas and Dido, you will have to refer to Vergil’s tale.   But be forewarned, this tragic tale of star-crossed lovers may not be the best read for Valentine’s Day.  Unless, of course, your goal is to warn young people of an ill-made match too hastily undertaken.  That certainly may well have been Vergil’s message to a young emperor, particularly if tempted to take interest in an eastern queen as a lover (as did his uncle).

 

AP Latin Tip:  This mosaic provides a wonderful review for Aeneid Book IV.  I like to ask students to put captions from Vergil to each of these scenes. This requires them to review the text of Book IV to find the most fitting captions.  Results may vary, but the effect of the work upon the student should be the same.

For more suggestions on integrating art study with Latin please view: Art as a Poetic Interpretation.

Congratulations to Heritage School!

Heritage School is celebrating BIG this week!  Their Latin Club attended the Area B Latin Convention in San Antonio, TX last weekend, and brought home the third place trophy!  An excellent showing for their very first Latin Convention!  Below is the article on their recent performance from The Herald, a local paper.

Early Saturday morning, February 5th,  a team of Heritage School Latin Club students trekked off to San Antonio to compete in a Junior Classical League Contest for Area B that was held at Alamo Heights High School. Over 1,000 Latin students from San Antonio and surrounding areas participated in this event.  The National Junior Classical League is an organization of middle school and high school students sponsored by the American Classical League. It is composed of local and state chapters and is the largest Classical organization in the world today. Its purpose is to encourage an interest in and an appreciation of the language, literature, and culture of ancient Greece and Rome and to impart an understanding of the debt of our own culture to that of Classical antiquity.

Heritage School provides a distinctive classical Christ-centered education that prepares students for servant leadership and lives that glorify God. The graduates of Heritage School strive to exemplify Christ, think critically, speak articulately, write effectively, pursue learning and persevere.  All of these critical attributes come into play for the serious Latin student.  Thirty nine students from sixth, seventh, eighth, and eleventh grades prepared for this regional event in Latin oratory, dramatic interpretation, grammar, reading comprehension, advanced prose, art, mythology, and a broad-based classical exam called Pentathlon.  Latin teachers, Sharon Beall and Suzanne McComack were pleased with the dedicated enthusiasm of their students who studied diligently this year to hone their Latin skills.

Competing against much larger schools from San Antonio, including prestigious prep schools such as Texas Military Institute, St. Mary’s Hall, St. Luke’s Episcopal, and Alamo Heights Junior School, the small team of young scholars accomplished the feat of an overall score that won Third Place, Silver Sweepstakes for Area B.  “We brought the smallest group as well as the youngest students to the event and they astounded us with their individual scores;  not bad for their first foray into JCL,” stated Suzanne McComack, Latin teacher for seventh and eighth grades.

When the scores were reported, Karen Moore, author of the Latin Alive text series used by Heritage school replied, “I think this accomplishment shows the success of a classical education.  Our kids tend to dominate oratory and dramatic interpretation, too.  I really do credit classical ed for that.  They learn early on how to memorize, speak well, and present themselves well.”

Even though the Latin educators were delighted with the results of their students’ hard work, they were even more moved by the banner that the students created of their own volition to present to the 1,000 Latin Club students at the spirit rally which opened the contest in the Alamo Heights Auditorium.  The banner read: “Date gloriam Deo!” which translated means: “Give the glory to God!”  Shining trophies and satin ribbons are pleasant to win, but testimony and praise to God will last forever!

Learn more about the Heritage School on their website: http://www.heritage-school.net/

Caligula’s Tomb Discovered?

It looks as though a bumbling burglar may have led police to a long lost statue of the emperor Caligula.  Authorities believe it may have come from the tomb of the emperor himself.  The whereabouts of this tomb have been a mystery up until now, but the would-be thief has lead authorities to the site where he found the statue.  This information may be premature, but it is a story worth following that may provide some important information for students of ancient history.  Excavations are now underway.

You can read a news report on Caligula’s Tomb Found.

Students can read about the emperor Caligula in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius.  The original text is in Latin and offers fabulous material for students.  A few excerpts from Suetonius appear in Latin Alive Book 2.  You can purchase complete translations of Suetonius’ work as well.  BUT, caveat emptor, Suetonius’ work is sometimes called the national enquirer of the ancient world.  He loved to report on good (or really bad) scandal.

For a quick bit of info on Caligula check out Andrew Murdoch’s mini YouTube lecture on Caligula at his Bread and Circuses blogsite.

Dictionary.com Talks Latin!

Dictionary.com talks latin. Jan. 3rd, "the hot word"... Read the rest of this entry »