Casina ancilla, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Sometime in the next week or so, I think we’ll have a big announcement about Version Beta of the Tres Columnae Project. Most likely, since our hosting friends at Arvixe offer unlimited disk space, we’ll be showing you a mock-up of what the stories, images, and audio for Lectiō Prīma of Cursus Prīmus would look like with a few different backend software packages. We’ll ask you – and our existing subscribers who don’t read the blog regularly – to look at the options and rank them from best to, um, least good on a fairly simple survey. Then, based on your feedback and on our own experience adding content to the site, we’ll have some good data to make our final choice about the behind-the-scenes software for Version Beta. Don’t worry, though, if you love the Version Alpha Wiki. It will still be there, though we may not add new stories past Lectiō XX to it.

If you subscribe to the Latin-BestPractices mailing list, you may have seen this recent message and my response to her. I’m sure there are lots of heroic volunteers like Tova out there, keeping Latin alive – or bringing it for the first time – to places where there’s not a historically strong tradition of Latin in most schools. How exciting to learn about them – about you, I should say, since I hope many of you heroic volunteers are reading these words! If you are, and if you haven’t taken a look at the Tres Columnae Project, I hope you’ll check us out and see if we meet your needs. If you just want declensions, conjugations, roots, and prefixes, we’re probably not a good match for you … but I hope you’ll take a closer look if you do want

  • engaging stories that work well with younger children as well as preteens, teens, and adults;
  • careful explanations of Latin morphology and syntax, usually using the Roman grammarians’ own terminology as well as more “modern” English terms;
  • a focus on Understanding the big ideas and values of the Romans, and on developing Skill at reading, writing, hearing, and even speaking Latin, along with Knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary; and, of course,
  • a way to build deep Ownership as your learners actually contribute to the learning materials.

In the meantime, though, we’ll continue with the story of poor Casina, ancilla Valeriī, whom we first meet at the very first Lectiō of the project. At that point, we just know that she’s an ancilla, and that she belongs to Valerius, one of our main characters. We soon find out that Lucius, Valeria, and Caeliola, Valerius’ children, are very fond of Casina – and so is Milphio, Valerius’ main servant. Gallicus, the cook, may not be fond of Casina, but he depends on her to keep him organized and unflustered, especially when he’s preparing for a big dinner party, as in this story. Eventually, we discover that Casina suffered a tragic loss at the hands of a vēnālīcius in the city of Pompeii, and then she witnesses a brutal attack on a fellow-servus by his own dominus in this story. Perhaps all these factors – and the upcoming wedding of Valeria to Vipsānius, a young man from far-away Mediolānum – have combined to cause Casina’s morbus novissimus, or perhaps there’s a purely physical explanation.

Either way, we find in this story and this one that Casina is unresponsive and having some sort of vision. Milphio and Gallicus inform Valerius in this story, and in this story Valerius and Caelia attempt to find out what’s wrong with Casina. As we pick up with today’s story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, Valerius is just returning from an unsuccessful attempt to seek divine assistance with the problem:

duās post horās Valerius ad domum regreditur et cubiculum Casinae intrat. “quid agit Casina?” Milphiōnem rogat, quī nunc iam prope lectum stat et ancillam dormientem dīligenter spectat. “ō domine,” respondet Milphiō sollicitus, “sine dubiō Casina graviter aegrōtat. diū enim dormit vel exanimāta iacet; aliquandō tamen surgit et īnfantem absentem adloquitur. tum paulīsper mē et Gallicum agnōscit, tum somniīs sē trādit. perterritus sum, quod nihil intellegō!”

Valerius sollicitus, “ego quoque nihil intellegō,” Milphiōnī respondet. “augur enim hoc dīcit: ‘necesse est tibi ipsī trēs noctēs vigilāre et revenīre.’ haruspicem cōnsulere nōn possum, quod ille Rōmam nunc iam iter facit diēs fēstōs celebrātum. nunc iam prō templō Apollinis sacrificium offertur, sed … quis deōrum nōbīs auxilium ferre potest? quem deōrum cōnsulere dēbeō?”

Valeria sollicia et trīstis cubiculum ingreditur et, “pater, mī pater, nōnne nūntium fers?” rogat. Valerius fīliam amplectitur et, “ō Valeria, duās horās per tōtam urbem ambulō deōs precātum et auxilium quaesītum, sed nēmō Casinam adiuvāre potest. fortasse mors iam imminet.”

Valeria tamen, “mī pater, nōlī tālia dīcere!” respondet et “heus!” subitō exclāmat. “nōnne etiam nunc Rōmae stat templum Aesculāpiī?” rogat. “nōnne et templum Bonae Deae? et nōnne diēs fēsti Bonae Deae nunc iam adsunt?” Valerius, “ēhem!” respondet. “nōn hodiē, sed paucīs post diēbus – cūr hoc mē rogās?” et Valeria, “mī pater, sine dubiō nōs oportet cum Casinā Rōmam prōcēdere. nōnne aegrōtī, quī in templō Aesculāpiī dormiunt, remedia morbōrum per somnia accipere solent? et nōnne Bona Dea ipsa herbās aegrōtīs praebet?”

Valerius cōnsentit, et Valeria, “et pater, mī pater, nōnne tē decet mihi dōnum dare quod nūbere parō? quid, sī Casinam mihi das? tum facile est tibi aliam ancillam emere.”

Valerius rīdet et “libenter cōnsentiō, Valeria mea,” respondet. “nōnne tamen Vipsānius –?”

et Valeria, “ō pater, mī pater, paucīs enim mēnsibus uxor Vipsāniō erō. paucīs mēnsibus mātrōna Rōmāna erō. nōnne māter mea rēs mātrōnārum nunc iam mē docet?”

Valerius attonitus tacet, et Valeria, “pater, mī pater, tibi exeundum est! mē oportet, ut dominam Casinae, cum ancillā meā colloquī!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I keep asking myself whether a “typical” Roman dominus would be so solicitous of a sick slave … but of course Valerius seems to be rather tender-hearted. We’ve seen him pay for the education of his client’s son in this story and weep almost inconsolably at the thought of his daughter’s upcoming marriage. Still, I wonder whether even the most tender-hearted dominus would treat a sick slave so kindly. What do you think? And do you have any supporting evidence, either from Roman law or from hisory or literature?
  • If you’ve read the whole sequence, you may have noticed that Valerius’ response is at least partially motivated by superstitious fear as well as kindness. Given what you know about the Romans, does that seem appropriate to you?
  • What about Valeria’s response to her father, and her plan for Casina? Do you suppose she’s motivated by genuine concern for a beloved servant? Or is she more concerned with bringing a little piece of home with her when she moves to Milan? Keep in mind that Valeria is, like most Roman brides, a young teenager in our terms, so the picture may be more complicated – or more simple!

Tune in next time, when Valerius explains the plan to Casina and the trip to Rome begins. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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