Another Virtual Seminar

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! After a wealth of new stories in yesterday’s post, we’ll be returning our focus to the idea of the Continuing Virtual Seminar today. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the options that our fictional subscriber, 10-year-old John, might participate in after he’s read the stories in Lectiō Undecima that we featured yesterday. John finds that there are at least three interesting options:

  • Since certain themes do, in fact, continue from one Lectiō to another, he could choose to continue in (or return to, or join for the first time) a Virtual Seminar about Roman education that began in Lectiō Nōna, when our main characters arrived at school;
  • He could choose to focus on moral lessons from fables, obviously starting with the one that Fabius tells his students in this Lectiō; or
  • He might decide to focus on slavery in the Roman world, which is obviously a continuing theme of the Tres Columnae stories. Until now, though, we have mostly seen relatively benign masters and relatively high-status slaves – skilled household workers and paedagōgī, for example. There will be a re-entry point to the slavery seminar in Lectiōnēs XIX and XX, where we’ll witness a much harsher side of Roman slavery.

John was really hoping for a seminar about violent entertainment or something like that – he is, after all, a 10-year-old boy! 🙂 But after some thought, he decides to choose the Virtual Seminar on Roman slavery. John isn’t interested in moral lessons at this point (partly because his big sister, our other fictional subscriber Jane, keeps trying to deliver them to him all the time!), and he doesn’t want to think about schools; he and his sister are home-schooled because of a series of unpleasant conflicts with the local school district, and he’d rather not think about those.

Here are some of the questions to which John might respond:

Opening: Slavery, by its nature, is a horrible system; it dehumanizes both the slave and the slave-owners. But are there degrees of horror? On a scale from 1-10, where 1 is “just a bit horrible” and 10 is “unbelievably horrible,” where would you rank the Roman system of slavery?


  • Pick another slave-holding culture with which you’re familiar. Where would you rank it on that same scale of horror, and why?
  • What are some specific reasons that you ranked Roman slavery where you did in comparison to the other system you chose? That is, why did you decide it was more horrible or less horrible than its counterpart?
  • What are some specific incidents in the stories in Lectiōnēs I-X that show the dehumanizing effect of slavery on the servī?
  • What are some specific incidents that show a dehumanizing effect on the dominī?
  • Why do you suppose there was no movement for the abolition of slavery in the Roman world (at least, not until much later than the time when our stories are set)?
  • Given that slavery was eventually abolished in the Roman world (at least as a matter of law), what could possibly have caused it to reappear in post-Roman European cultures?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What types of responses would you expect young John to make to these questions?
  • For that matter, what responses would you make to questions like these?
  • What do you think of the idea of a seminar with multiple entry points?
  • And how on earth would one go about assessing, evaluating, or “grading” John’s seminar participation – or, for that matter, anyone’s participation in a seminar?

Tune in next time, when we’ll follow John’s progress and consider some of these big questions about assessment. Then, depending on what you all say, we’ll either look at another Virtual Seminar; develop some other stories; or possibly build up a new kind of exercise together. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

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