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The Fasces in America

The Fasces.  An ancient symbol of Roman power and authority, today a symbol for power restrained by justice in America.  You can see this ancient symbol in many places across our nation, often in places of authority such as the U.S. Senate House or the Supreme Court building.  Just last week I saw the fasces beautifully wrought in an iron fence surrounding a monument to George Washington in the city of Baltimore (pictured below).  Such images are imprints of Rome’s influence upon our nation.  The following is an excerpt I wrote on the fasces and its relevance to modern America.  You can find this and other such pieces in the Latin Alive series.  Watch for the fasces and other traces of ancient Rome as you travel across the U.S. this summer.

 

    The latter Kings of Rome were actually from the neighboring Etruscan tribe.  The Romans adopted many Etruscan traditions including the fasces, a symbol of the power and authority of the king.  After the Romans expelled their last king, other leaders and magistrates continued to use the traditional symbol.  Lictors, special attendants, would often carry it before them in processions.

The axe symbolizes the power of the king or state.  It is bound to a bundle of rods, which symbolize strength through the unity of many (e pluribus unum).  The binding of the rods is also meant to symbolize the restraint that must be exercised with the power of authority.  The king, or later magistrate, might have his lictor unbind the rods to warn offenders that restraint was nearing an end.

You can see the fasces today in many places across the United States of America.  Colorado has placed this symbol in the middle of its seal.  The fasces appear on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., as well as President Lincoln’s memorial at Gettysburg.  The fasces are present in the chambers of both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.  A Roman Centurion holding the fasces adorns the front edifice of the Supreme Court.  Why do you think these are appropriate places for this classical symbol?

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

The Eagle: a movie review

My 7th grade students absolutely loved this book. As a class we attended opening night, then adjourned to review the movie and the book over pizza. The following is a review of the movie compared to the book through the eyes of 8 members of my 7th grade class. Read the rest of this entry »

Classical Cushions

Do you ever feel challenged looking for the perfect gift for your Latin teacher? Something classical for the classroom maybe? Well here is the perfect item. Read the rest of this entry »

Dictionary.com Talks Latin!

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

Gifts for the Latin Enthusiast

Have you been searching for that perfectly wonderful creative gift that any Latin enthusiast would love?  Something that would bring a smile and a classical twinkle to the eye?  Well, I have just the website for you.  Check out Anima Altera by Ginny Lindzey, Latin t-shirts and more for the discerning classicist.  Here you will find t-shirts with a myriad of catchy classical quotes (my favorite is carpe chocolatum). Also available are items such as coffee mugs, buttons, postcards, notepads, calendars, the list goes on ad infinitum.  Ginny has even thought of man’s best friend with a toga for cani.

Latin Alive and the National Latin Exam

It is that time of year when teachers will begin receiving advertisements and registration forms for the National Latin Exam (NLE). I am frequently asked advice regarding what level students using Latin Alive or Latin for Children should sign up for. My suggestions are provided in this post. Read the rest of this entry »

“Why Latin?” (a brief response)

Recently I was asked by a local magazine to write an article on the merits of Latin study in 550 words or less.  “Why Latin?” is probably the question I am asked most often.  I am sure many of you hear this question as well.  If you need a brief response to have at the ready, this article may prove helpful.  It outlines 5 great benefits that come with including Latin in your curriculum.  Just don’t look at my word count too closely.

Austin Faith and Family Magazine

Turn to page 19 for the article.

For a more complete response on the benefits of Latin study see my post (without a word count limit): Why do WE study Latin?

What is the National Latin Exam?

In 2010 more than 150,000 students applied to take the thirty-third National Latin Exam. Participation in the Exam has increased each year since its inception in 1977, when approximately 6,000 students enrolled. Students from all fifty states participated this year, as did students from 13 foreign countries, including Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. This year for the first time, students from Singapore also took the NLE. In addition, students in one U.S. territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands, participated this year.
During the second week in March, over 138,000 students in 2,743 schools took the National Latin Exam in their own schools, and the exam was administered in 21 colleges and 11 elementary schools. Also participating were 1,694 students from 335 home schools.

The above quote was taken from the 2010 NLE Report.  Sound impressive?  Some of you not familiar with this contest may be wondering. . .

“So what exactly is this National Latin Exam?”

The NLE in short is a 40 question multiple choice exam that tests a student’s knowledge in Latin vocabulary and grammar, reading comprehension, Roman history and civilization.  The contest is divided up into 7 tests based on the level of study.  Students in their first year of middle/high school study would take level 1, second year would take level 2, et cetera. (Levels 3 – 6 have been subdivided.  You can read how and why on the NLE website provided)  You can learn more about the exam and view old exams at the official website: www.nle.org.

“Does this apply to my student(s) and my program?”

The NLE can be used by virtually any Latin student in any Latin program.  Provisions are made for home school models as well.  Most students need to be in at least 6th grade to have the kind of program that will adequately prepare them for this contest.  Younger students might be interested in the Exploratory Latin Exam, provided by Excellence Through Classics.

“How does this benefit my student(s) and my program?”

It is a fun and engaging way to encourage students in their Latin studies.  I have personally seen this motivate several of my own students to not only work more diligently in class, but also pursue additional study outside of class by reading books about the Romans.  The NLE also shows them that there are thousands of students around the world who study the classics as they do.  Those who score in the top percentiles will be recognized with medals or certificates of merit.

“Is it easy to sign up?  Are resources available?”

Yes and Yes!  Please visit the official NLE website for details on registration, test format, and old tests (free download).

“How do I prepare?”

I have provided suggestions on how best to prepare for the exam in another post titled, Preparing for the National Latin Exam.

These are the questions I am most frequently asked.  Do you have others?  Please post them here!

All A Twitter Over Latin

The Twitter Craze has reached the shores of Latium!  Several sources now offer daily twitter message in Latin.  Check out this blog post for some very classic twitter options.

Do you have some other fun Latin twitter sources?  Please leave a comment and share with us!

If you like Twitter Latin you should also check out our post on Facebook in Latin.