Family Stories

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll begin with a few more thoughts about the 2010 American Classical League Institute, then share another story from Lectiō XXIV in which some of our non-human characters also talk about weddings – and issues related to weddings. I want to pick up on the notion of the ACL Institute as a “family reunion” – a common theme, as I mentioned yesterday, in closing speeches I’ve heard over the years – and build on it just a bit. Like any family, those of us who belong to the League and attend its Institutes each year are far from perfect, and like any family, we have our share of squabbles, conflicts, and disagreements. Some of those were certainly on display during plenary sessions – particularly the Monday session about the new Advanced Placement Latin exam and its syllabus, when some comments and questions were pointed, to say the least. And like any large family, those who attend the Institute seek out like-minded “relatives” and vent to them, at least for a short time; I’m certainly guilty of this myself, and I overheard bits of conversations, especially during breaks on Monday afternoon when everyone was tired, that led me to believe I wasn’t alone in that regard.

You might think that, in a perfect world or a perfectly functioning organization, there would be no need for such small groups. But researchers in the field of organizational change would disagree. For example, in their recent book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath describe a study of two different hospitals that attempted to limit the hours worked by their inter and resident physicians. One succeeded, and one did not. Ironically, more top administrators in the unsuccessful hospital supported the plan than in the successful hospital. The difference was that in the successful hospital, those who supported the change had a private place to meet, and they formed themselves into a support group with a common language – and a common commitment to work together to change the system. In the unsuccessful hospital, by contrast, everyone met together all the time, and the supporters never formed a cohesive group. What, on the surface, looked like a better way to build consensus actually turned out to be a less effective way.

So, if you’ve ever felt bad about forming a small group, conspiracy, or even cabal of like-minded people early in a change effort, I suppose the lesson is that those can be effective tools for change – of course, they also have certain obvious dangers. But then, as I think about tools in general, they often can be dangerous … especially if you don’t use them for their intended purpose, or if you don’t take proper precautions. You can cut yourself pretty badly with a knife or a saw; you can break things with a hammer; and let’s not even think about what an electric drill can do in untrained hands! But that doesn’t mean we avoid such tools completely; it means we need to remember to be careful. Good advice for those who are building anything, whether it’s a new approach, a new organization, or a new bookcase!

Anyway, in today’s story, we’ll hear the story of the arrangements for the marriage of Rapidus mūs, son of Rīdiculus and Impigra. I wonder if you’ll see any thematic connections between the two halves of this post! You can now find the story here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, and you can find yesterday’s stories here (for Lucius’ initial conversation with Fabius) and here (for Fabius’ fable).

dum familia Valeria rēs nūptiālēs parat, Ferōx et Medūsa canēs in peristyliō dormiunt. Fortis et Celer, fīliī Ferōcis et Medūsae, iuxtā parentēs dormiunt. prope culīnam, in cavō parvō, Rapidus mūs cum familiā per rīmam prōspicit. Rapidus tamen, “heus!” inquit, “nihil intellegitis! hoc enim, ut pater meus cotīdiē explicāre solēbat, haudquāquam cavus, sed cēnāculum est!”

fIliī fīliaeque Rapidum amplexī, “nōnne,” inquiunt, “pater noster, fābulam nōbīs nārrāre vīs?” Pinguissima, uxor Rapidī, advenit et “mī Rapide,” inquit, “quid, sī līberīs dē nūptiīs nostrīs nārrābis?” Rapidus subrīdēns, “certē, Pinguissima mea,” respondet, et rem tōtam nārrat.

ōlim, inquit, pater meus, avus vester, ille Rīdiculus mūs, ex hōc cēnāculō ēgressus, mihi uxōrem dignam quaerēbat. “mē oportet,” sibi inquit, “fīliō meō uxōrem optimam invenīre.” in mediā culīnā avus vester illī Ferōcī canī forte occurrit et salūtāvit. tum Rīdiculus Ferōcem, “mī amīce,” rogāvit, “dīc mihi: quis est fortissimus omnium? nam uxōrem Rapidō, marītum Rapidae meae nunc quaerō. nōnne melius est Rapidō fīliam fortissimī dūcere, Rapidae fīliō fortissimī nūbere? quis igitur est fortissimus omnium?”

Ferōx subrīdēns, “fortasse leō est fortissimus omnium animālium, mī amīce,” Rīdiculō respondit. Rīdiculus tamen, “hercle!” exclāmāvit, “mūrēs nōn decet leōnēs dūcere! praetereā, leōnēs in cavīs, nōn cēnāculīs, habitāre solent. haud decet līberōs meōs in cavīs habitāre! et leōnēs, quamquam fortēs, haud sunt fortissimī omnium! nōnne enim gladiātōrēs in arēnā leōnēs interficere solent?”

Rīdiculus igitur, avus vester, ad cēnāculum nostrum revēnit, ubi somnium mīrābile habēbat. in somniīs sē vīdit rēgiam Aeolī, rēgis ventōrum, appropinquantem. iānuam pulsāvit et, ingressus, rēgem Aeolum salūtāvit. “mī rēx,” inquit, “nōnne Rapida, fīlia mea, ūnī ē ventīs tuīs nūbere potest?” rēx Aeolus valdē rīdēns, “cūr ventum generum tuum esse vīs?” rogāvit, et Rīdiculus, “quod fīlia mihi magnō cordī est! nōnne eam decet fortissimō omnium nūbere? et quid fortius est quam ventus?”

cui Aeolus, “heus!” respondit, “ventī meī, quamquam fortēs, haud fortissimī omnium sunt! ecce turris, quī in istā īnsulā stat! centum enim annōs ventī meī istam turrim pulsant, sed frustrā! nōnne turris multō fortior est quam ventī?”

et Rīdiculus, “tibi grātiās agō, mī rēx,” respondit, “quod mihi fortissimum omnium ita dēmōnstrās.” in somniīs ad turrim celeriter advenit, quam salutāvit. “cūr mē adloqueris, mūs?” respondit turris perterrita, et Rīdiculus, “tē salūtō,” respondit, “quod fortior es quam omnēs ventī! nōnne fīlium habēs, quī fīliam meam uxōrem dūcere potest? nōnne fīlia, quam fīlius meus dūcere potest?” turris attonitus, “heus!” respondit, “turris sum, nōn bēstia! līberī mihi sunt nūllī! praetereā, tē timeō!” et Rīdiculus attonitus, “mē timēs?” respondit. “tū autem turris maxima, ego mūs parvus sum. cūr mē timēs?” tum turris vehementer tremēns, “tē timeō,” respondit, “quod cotīdiē mūrēs mē dentibus suīs perforant! vae! heu! viās per mē faciunt! nisi dēstiterint istī, ego mox cum maximō frāgōre ad terram dēcidam! abī, mūs, tē valdē timeō!”

tum Rīdiculus, avus vester, ē somniīs surrēxit et “heus!” exclāmāvit. “mihi necesse est mūrēs quaerere, quod nōs mūrēs fortissimī sumus omnium! praetereā, ventī in cavō, turrēs in campō apertō habitāre solent. līberōs tamen meōs decet coniugēs habēre, quī in cēnāculō habitāre possunt!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time for your comments, our responses, and the beginning of a new series of posts in honor of the new month. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Live from ACL, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As you read this post, I’m on my way home from the 2010 American Classical League Institute. I’ll have a longer report about the Monday sessions another time; at the moment, I’m eager to get home. So let me just say that the typical comment at closing banquets – that the Institute feels like a family reunion every year – has always been true for me. What a great way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, all the while knowing that those friends share your passionate commitment to teaching, and to the languages, cultures, and enduring legacy of the Greco-Roman world. It’s easy to lose sight of that, at times, when one is arguing over methodology!

For those lectōrēs cārissimī who are also traveling today, I wish you safe travels and a happy return home, and I hope to see all of you (and many more) at next year’s Institute in Minneapolis.

Speaking of families, we’ll continue our wedding-themed stories today with this one, in which young Lūcius is sad about Lollia’s wedding.  It, and its sequel below, will soon be available at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, but at the moment I’m eager to get home, so I beg your forbearance for a few hours.  I’ll get those links updated and include them in tomorrow’s post!  Meanwhile, here we go:

Lūcius Valerius tamen, postquam Marcus Vipsānius Lolliam uxōrem dūxit, trīstis per viās urbis Herculāneī errāre solēbat, quod Lollia sibi magnō cordī erat. nōnnūllōs post diēs Fabiō magistrō in viā ambulantī forte occurrit et, “salvē, mī magister veterrime,” inquit. Fabius, quī rēs maximī mōmentī in animō volvēbat, “heus!” exclāmāvit, “quis mē appellat?” mox tamen Lūcium agnōvit et “mī discipule, mī Lūcī, quid agis?” laetus rogāvit.

postquam Lūcius cūrās suās Fabiō explicāvit, ille subrīdēns, “heus!” respondit, “iuvenēs saepe sē propter amōrem ita vexant! tē tamen haud decēbat illam Lolliam dūcere. nōnne enim cliēns patris tuī est Lollius, et vir pauperrimus? tē tamen haud decēbat illam concūbīnam habēre, quod cīvis est, et quod atāvus erat poēta et comoedus nōtissimus. fortasse ancillam illī puellae similem emere poteris? nōnne cum ancillā sīcut puellā lūdere et cūrās tuās sīc levāre poteris, ut āit ille poēta Catullus?”

Lūcius tamen, “num tū discipulōs versūs Catullī legere nunc iam sinis?” attonitus rogāvit. Fabius rīdēns, “haudquāquam sinō!” respondit, “tū tamen, quod iuvenis iam es, sine dubiō Catullum legis!” Lūcius cōnsēnsit sed “num pater meus pecūniam in hoc dabit?” rogāvit. “fortasse, sī ancilla tōtam domum ūnā hōrā purgāre poterit!” inquit Fabius rīdēns, “nōnne rēctē dīcis?” respondit Lūcius. “pater enim meus cum assēs tum līberōs dīligenter custōdit!” tum Lūcius et Fabius cachinnīs sē trādunt. tandem Fabius, “praetereā, mī Lūcī, cum iuvenēs dolent, fābulae multō meliōrēs sunt quam ancillae. nōnne ōlim, cum discipulus meus erās, fābulam leōnis, quī mūrem dūcere volēbat, tibi nārrāvī?”

And then, of course, here’s the story that Fabius tells to cheer his young friend up (grātiās maximās to our friend and collaborator Laura G, who suggested the underlying fable):

“ōlim,” inquit Fabius, “leō, per silvās ambulās, forte laqueō captus, auxilium magnā vōce quaerēbat. cui appropinquāvit mūs minimus et ‘mī leō,’ attonitus rogāvit, ‘cūr tē ita vexās? cūr vehementer fremis?’ leō trīstis et īrātus laqueum dēmōnstrāvit et, ‘mī mūs,’ supplex rogāvit, ‘nōnne mē adiuvāre potes? tū enim, quī minimus es, dentibus laqueum abrōdere potes. sī mē in hōc tantō discrīmine adiuveris, beneficiōrum tuōrum semper meminerō! semper tibi beneficia libēns reddam, mē sī līberāveris!’ mūs libenter cōnsēnsit et mox rem cōnfēcit. tum ‘mī leō,’ inquit, ‘nōnne mē adiuvāre nunc iam potes? mihi enim est puella pulcherrima sed innūpta, quam nūllī mūrēs dūcere volunt, quod nihil dōtis praebēre possum. nōnne tū fīliam meam dūcere potes?’ leō attonitus, postquam rem cōgitāvit, ‘certē, mī amīce,’ respondit. ‘caelebs enim sum, et leaenam dignam haud invenīre possum. praetereā, haud opus dōtis mihi est, quod leō sum! quid mihi dōtis? libenter igitur fīliam tuam dūcam.’

“diēs tamen nūptiārum cum advēnit, rēs dīra accidit. leō enim, ad lectum nūptiālem prōgressus, uxōrem suam vidēre nōn poterat, quod tam parva erat. eam pede suō forte pressit et contrīvit! lūgēbant omnēs, sed frūstrā, quod nūpta erat mortua!”

haec verba locūtus Fabius tacēbat. Lūcius tamen, “hercle!” respondit, “rēctē dīcis, mī Fabī! etiamsī Lolliam dīligō – et proptereā quod Lolliam dīligō – mē haud decet nūptiās Lolliae cupere! tibi grātiās maximās agō, quod semper mihi optimē suādēs!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the interactions of Lucius and Fabius?
  • What do you think of the fable itself?
  • And, perhaps more important, if you are involved in the wider profession of Classics and/or language teaching, what lessons might we draw from the fable? Are there ways it might guide us to avoid some of our more petty disagreements, while reaching a creative synthesis on the really important ones?

Tune in next time for more thoughts about the Institute, and a story in which members of the mouse-family talk about weddings in their world. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Comparing Stories

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As we begin to wrap up our sequence of stories about Ferōx, Medūsa, Rīdiculus, Impigra, Sabīna, and the mouse-obstētrīx, you may have noticed some parallels between yesterday’s story and one from earlier this year. At the end of his adventures with the wolves, faithful Trux, canis Caeliī, also receives a vision about (general) approval and pietās. You’ll find the story at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested.

The story of Trux and Diana was the first that featured a dream or vision, though a number of readers (including our faithful reader Laura G) had suggested that these would be a natural way to expand the Tres Columnae storyline beyond its geographic and temporal limitations of Roman Italy in the late first century C.E. I struggled with visions, as you may recall from this blog post and from yesterday’s post, because I felt a need to respect several possibly conflicting things:

  • the Romans’ own worldview;
  • the worldview of today’s worshipers of the Greco-Roman divinities (I don’t want to offend them by using their sacred figures in “inappropriate” or “irreverent” ways);
  • potential readers and subscribers from various religious traditions who might be offended by the presence of “false” or “pagan” divinities as characters; and
  • my own feelings about the matter.

In the end, as you know, I did decide to write the two stories, for several reasons. First, I want to be faithful, as far as possible, to the time and place in which our stories are set – a time and place where Romans didn’t necessarily expect regular visitations from their divinities, but certainly considered such visitations and visions possible. Second, I wanted to be faithful to the epic tradition (you’ll see some epic journeys of our characters in Cursus Secundus), in which such apparitions are fairly common. Third, I wanted to give our participants a chance to grapple with these issues for themselves – and to use our stories as a jumping-off point to explore myths and other forms of literature in which Greco-Roman divinities play important roles. And fourth, I wanted to grapple with some of the more complicated issues regarding that central Roman concept of pietās.

(Or at least I think pietās is a central Roman concept; as our loyal reader Laura G pointed out to me in an email the other day, there’s very little about pietās in the proverb and fable tradition. She wondered if that means that pietās was more a concern of wealthy Romans … of course our sources are so incomplete and fragmentary that it’s probably impossible to know for sure. In any case, pietās is important in the Vergilian world and in other Golden Age literature, and many Tres Columnae subscribers will go on to read those authors, either formally or informally.)

So today I want to consider a few differences between these two stories, and I also want us to think about a bigger question about the idea of right relationships. The similarities between the stories are obvious.

  • Both feature animal characters who have, in some way, overstepped their proper bounds (Trux by running off with Lupa, Sabīna by trespassing in domō Valeriī).
  • In both, the vision occurs after the wayward animal has returned home.
  • In both, the vision is a dream … and could well be explained psychologically – at least if anthropomorphic animal characters’ subconscious minds work the same way, and are subject to the same types of analysis, as human minds.
  • In both, the divine figure is oddly comforting and does praise the pietās of the no-longer-wayward animal.
  • And in both, the divine figure offers some advice about how to be – I started to write “a better person,” but I realize neither Sabīna nor Trux is a person! Let’s say that in both, the divine figure offers advice about how to be more pius, or how to do better in the future, or something.

But I think the differences are significant, too. In the story of Trux and Diana, Trux has been restored to community – and pietās seems to have a lot to do with community. In the story of Sabīna and Juno, though, Sabīna doesn’t seem to have a community. It’s natural for Trux to have a vision of Diana, since she is a patron goddess of animals and has a special fondness for dogs … but it’s rather unusual for spinster Sabīna to have a vision of Juno Lūcīna, goddess of childbirth. Diana doesn’t have very much specific advice for Trux, but Juno does have specific advice for Sabīna: stop being so angry (or bloodthirsty, or something like that) and realize that other animals, not just you, have officia to perform and display pietās by doing these things. Of course, we really have no idea whether a Roman would feel that a dog or weasel could display pietās or have officia – but I want our readers to have opportunities to grapple with the concepts, and these seemingly simple stories (like lots of good “stories for children”) can provide such opportunities.

I also think that both stories raise an important, and probably unanswerable, question: If pietās is defined as right relationship or treating others in the proper way, what is the right or proper way for a Roman to behave toward an enemy? I have a ready answer from my own faith tradition, and from the 2000 years of Judeo-Christian influence on Western culture: follow the Golden Rule and treat them as you would like to be treated. But I’m not at all sure that a Roman would give that response! I actually ask my students that question early each semester, when we have a seminar about pietās in my face-to-face Latin II, III, IV, and AP classes … and I keep asking the question each semester because I’m not satisfied with my own answer to it. As I think about the pattern of Roman treatment of conquered people (from Caesar’s genocidal conduct in Gaul to the “gentle” Romanization of conquered territory in the early Empire to Vespasian and Titus’ destruction of Jerusalem, and on and on), it seems to me that if pietās means right or proper treatment, then pietās toward a resisting or rebellious enemy must involve destroying or killing them. So, in our examples, Caesar killed the Gauls who resisted or rebelled; later generations of Roman governors (Agricola in Britain, for example, or Pontius Pilate before him in Judea) were “merciful” to those who did not resist, but took drastic action against those who did. And one could argue that Vespasian and Titus destroyed Jerusalem because the “stubborn, rebellious” natives refused a “simple” request to put up a statue in their temple – a statue that, of course, would be an exemplum pietātis (as well as a patriotic symbol) from a Roman perspective.

Whenever I think about pietās, the phrase pius Aeneas comes naturally to mind. So I wanted to take a fresh look at the end of Aeneid XII, when Aeneas has defeated Turnus and is trying to decide whether to spare or to kill him. I found an interesting article at http://www.classics.ucsb.edu/projects/helicon/pdfs/articles/1003.pdf in which the author, in comparing pietās and other virtūtēs in Vergil and Livy, argues that pietās and clementia / misericordia are almost synonymous. In her argument, when Aeneas sees Pallas’ balteus, tells Turnus that it’s Pallas who’s now taking revenge him, and kills Turnus, Aeneas’ rage is the very opposite of pietās. It’s certainly a reasonable argument, especially from a twenty-first-century perspective, but I’m not what the Roman perspective would be.

What, I wonder, are the obligations of pietās on a Roman in Aeneas’ situation? What obligations does he have not only to Turnus, his defeated foe, but to Pallas, to Evander, and to his own people? A few years ago, one of my Latin IV students said that, in essence, pietās is the opposite of the Golden Rule: you treat others not as you would want them to treat you, but as they have deserved to be treated (or maybe as they have treated you or are planning to treat you). So, in dealing with an enemy who killed the son of your hospes – the son whom you swore to protect as much as possible – what would pietās dictate? I really don’t think a Roman would say it would dictate clementia or misericordia! I thought about this issue a lot as my AP® students were reading the end of the Aeneid earlier this spring, but I still don’t feel a “perfect” resolution … and I hope I never have such a “perfect” resolution that I stop being open to new learning!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, what do you think of our two stories, and of the comparisons I’ve made between them?
  • Second, what do you think about pietās? Is it as important to the Romans as I’ve claimed, and do you agree with our tentative definition?
  • Even if you disagree with the importance or the definition, do you think it’s reasonable for pietās to be a recurring theme for the Tres Columnae Project?
  • What other virtūtēs would you want us to address formally – or do you think we should wait and see what virtūtēs, if any, our participants want to talk about?
  • And what do you think of my interpretation of the end of Aeneid XII?

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider a related question about pietās and the Roman divinities. Then, on Friday, we’ll celebrate the end of my face-to-face school year (apologies to those of you who are still “in the trenches!”) by beginning a new series of posts. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Another New Story, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll begin to wrap up our sequence of posts about the stories from Lectiō XVI of the Tres Columnae project by focusing on our characters’ application of the virtūtēs Rōmānae, and specifically of

  1. pietās,
  2. dignitās,
  3. gravitās,
  4. auctōritās,
  5. clementia,
  6. industria,
  7. iustitia,
  8. sevēritās, and
  9. vēritās

The Wikipedia article on Roman virtues also lists comitās, constantia, firmitās, frugalitās, honestās, hūmānitās, prūdentia, and salūbritās as primary virtūtēs, and the list from NovaRoma.org is (as you might expect) even longer.  But I don’t want our list to be overwhelming, and I do want to focus on virtūtēs that a domestic animal (at least, a fable-tradition talking and somewhat anthropomorphic animal) might reasonably possess. So hūmānitās was fairly easy to eliminate :-), and the others, while important to Romans in general, seemed less significant for these particular stories … except, perhaps, for prūdentia. Had Sabīna displayed a bit more of that (for example, by considering how Ferox and Medusa might respond to her presence, uninvited, in their house), there wouldn’t be a story, would there?

I struggled a bit with the organization of this post; I wasn’t sure whether to go “virtue by virtue” or “character by character” in my own thoughts. Finally I decided on “character by character,” with the first few today and the rest tomorrow and possibly Thursday. That way, either on the last day of school in my face-to-face teaching world (Thursday, June 10, if you’re reading these posts “live”) or on the first day after that, we’ll be able to celebrate the arrival of summer by starting something new on the blog, just as my face-to-face seniors, who graduate on June 9, will be doing on their “first day of freedom.”

I want to save the really important characters like Sabīna and Ferōx for later, so we’ll be looking primarily at Rīdiculus mūs today. In the process, we’ll also look at Impigra, their older children, the obstētrīx, and the human characters from this story and this one.

Let’s start, then, with poor Rīdiculus. If you’ve been trying to picture him, please take a look at the beautiful portraits of him and Impigra by our amazingly talented artist, Lucy M, and see what you think.  On the same page, you’ll find a picture of the “cēnāculum” – one that makes it clear, of course, that Impigra and the obstētrīx are right to call it by its proper name of cavus! Anyway, here are my thoughts about him in terms of each of the virtūtēs:

  1. pietās: Other than his comical obsession with the cēnāculum idea, it seems to me that Rīdiculus, in general, is in the proper relationship with all the other animals (and even humans, for the most part) in his life, at least in this sequence of stories. (I don’t think we can say the same for his foolish decision to pursue the bread during the dinner party in this story, but at least he realizes he was wrong!) He is solicitous of his wife when she’s in labor; he makes sure the children don’t pester her; he welcomes the obstētrīx (I suppose we can forgive both of them for their little exchange about the cēnāculum issue!); and he protects the whole family from Sabīna and other predators as much as he can.
  2. dignitās: Wikipedia defines this as “a sense of self-worth; personal pride,” which, meā quidem sententiā, is true enough, but hardly adequate. If I had to define dignitās in English, I’d say it was “an awareness of one’s personal and social standing, and the desire to increase one’s standing as much as possible without violating the dictates of pietās or some other virtūs.” In that light, I think we can understand Rīdiculus’ obsession with the cēnāculum terminology; to call his home a cavus, for him, would be to associate himself with common field mice. He certainly doesn’t want to call it a domus or vīlla or aula, though, since it’s clear that he’s dependent on the good-will of a patrōnus – indirectly, on the kindness (or inattention) of Valerius and his familia, and more directly on his “friends” Ferōx and Medūsa. It’s clearly closely connected with honestās, which Wikipedia defines as “The image that one presents as a respectable member of society,” but I think dignitās is more internally focused, while honestās is more external. quid respondētis? And isn’t it amazing how far English derivatives like dignity and honesty have developed from their roots?
  3. gravitās: Here’s another loaded term, especially when it’s used, unchanged, in English! Wikipedia calls it a “sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.” Rīdiculus, in general, is quite earnest and responsible – sometimes to comic excess, as with the cēnāculum issue!
  4. auctōritās: This is almost completely untranslatable – Wikipedia’s attempt, which is about as good as any I’ve seen, is “The sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.” So it’s closely connected, as well, to honestās and dignitās. But you have to be at a certain level of social standing to have auctōritās, while any Roman (even a slave or a child) might reasonably be asked to display dignitās. I’m not sure Rīdiculus really has any auctōritās, though he is the paterfamiliās … or is he? Is his father still alive? We don’t actually know!
  5. clementia: Rīdiculus isn’t normally in the position to show generosity, kindness, or gentleness to an inferior or an enemy. By his nature, he’s dependent on the clementia of others – especially of Ferōx and Medusa! You may recall this story, where Sabīna tries to turn Medūsa, and indirectly Ferōx, against the mice by appealing to other virtūtēs.
  6. industria: Rīdiculus is definitely a hard worker, though not always a smart worker! I think he’s OK in this area! 🙂
  7. iustitia: Wikipedia defines this nicely as “Sense of moral worth to an action.” I don’t think it really applies to Ridiculus’ conduct in most of these stories, except perhaps for his interactions with his wife, the children, and of course the obstētrīx.
  8. sevēritās: Rīdiculus, by nature and by his very name, is not prone to either “gravity” or “self-control,” the two synonyms Wikipedia offers. But he does control himself when first Impigra, then the obstētrīx fusses at him over the word cēnāculum.
  9. vēritās: Other than his self-deception about his home – and his lack of knowledge of animal habitats, as witnessed in this story – Rīdiculus seems to be a truthful little mouse.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of our list of virtūtēs?  Are there any we should add, and are there any that (tuā quidem sententiā) are less important than the others?
  • What do you think of our definitions of the virtūtēs?
  • For that matter, what do you think of any attempts to define them “globally” – as opposed to the (much easier and safer) prospect of defining them contextually, as they appear in a particular passage or literary work?  In other words, it’s a lot simpler to define “pietās in the Aeneid” than “pietās in general” – so should we avoid general definitions?
  • What do you think of our analysis of Rīdiculus through the lens of the virtūtēs?
  • And what do you think of the other characters’ use – or non-use – of the virtūtēs?

Tune in next time, when we’ll respond to your comments and look at the other characters – especially Ferōx and Medūsa – through the lens of the virtūtēs. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Another New Story, V

alvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I hope you’ve all had a much better weekend – and start to the new week – than poor Sabīna mustēla does in the sequence of stories we’ve been exploring in our current series of posts. If you’re a regular reader of Tres Columnae Project stories – or if you’ve been following the ones we share on this blog – you probably remember that Sabīna belongs to Flavius Caesō, the next-door neighbor of our primary character Valerius – and has caused all kinds of havoc in stories like this one. Sabīna, like any proper Roman weasel, lives to hunt mice.

I’m not sure whether Romans think of pietās as a characteristic that animals can display (does anyone know? After all, there’s so much about the Romans, especially their thought life, that we simply don’t know!). But if an animal can be pius or pia, I would think most Romans, except possibly the mice, would consider Sabina’s mouse-hunting – at least in her own master’s domus – to be an exemplum pietātis.  After all, as a Roman, you primarily keep a pet weasel for her mouse-hunting ability. Since Flavius Caesō provides Sabīna with food, a bed, and many other beneficia, her desire to hunt mice for him is probably also an exemplum grātiae. And of course grātia is hugely important in the Roman world!

Sabīna’s problem, though, is that she often oversteps her bounds. The mice she pursues in our current sequence of stories aren’t in her master’s house, and she does not have permission from the dominus (or anyone else in the domus) to hunt mice in domō Valeriī. Sabīna displays a lot of studium in her pursuit of the mice, but studium isn’t always a positive thing to a Roman.  I’m also not sure how a Roman – especially a Stoic, with their distrust of strong emotions and passions – would respond to the relish with which she pursues her bloodthirsty goals.

Of course it’s tricky to try to reconstruct exactly what conduct a Roman might consider virtuous; even to construct a list of Roman virtues is a more complicated task than it might first appear. There’s a nice list in this Wikipedia article, a rather different and longer list (as one would expect, given their perspective) at Nova Roma, a much shorter list (but with a nice explanation of pietās) at everything2, and a nice summary of Sallust’s take on the virtūtēs from the U.S. Naval Academy on the first page of a Google search for “Roman virtues.” Without taking the time to collate and compare all the virtues on these lists – or on the 2.77 million other Google results – I think we can probably all agree that Romans would recognize pietās, dignitās, gravitās, auctōritās, clementia, industria, iustitia, sevēritās, and vēritās as essentially virtuous qualities. We’ll consider Sabīna’s conduct – and that of the other characters in this set of stories – in light of these virtūtēs.

First, though, a quick recap of the storyline so far. As you may recall from Wednesday, Ferōx et Medūsa, canēs Valeriī, had puppies in this story. Then, in this story we examined on Thursday, Rīdiculus et Impigra mūrēs had a litter of mouse-babies, with some help from the local mouse-obstētrīx but with some unwelcome attention from Sabīna. On Friday, we looked at this story, in which Ferox and Medusa realized that Sabīna had entered their house uninvited and decided to take action. And on Saturday, when we considered this story, we were probably relieved (as I was, when I wrote it, and as several friends were when I shared drafts) that everyone was still alive at the end of the story.

Today we’ll look at another story from the sequence, in which poor Sabīna, angry and upset, decides to seek help from the gods. Since weasels, in the fable tradition, are almost always mateless females, I thought it might be appropriate for Sabīna to have a moment of self-awareness, as bitter, lonely people sometimes do: could it be something about me? And so Sabīna seeks out the temple of Juno Lucina, goddess of childbirth (not the temple in Rome, of course; that would be quite a long journey for a weasel!) rather than somewhere more comfortable or customary for her. (Of course, as Catullus reminds us in his hymn to Diana (c. 34), at least some Romans thought of Juno Lucina and Diana as synonymous, and anthropologists and scholars of comparative religions might describe them/her as two facets of a “triple goddess” like Cybele or Magna Mater.)

I’ve addressed my thoughts about the importance of seriously addressing Roman religious practices and perspectives, even for those of us who are very committed to our own faith traditions, in this post from late April, so I won’t repeat them here. I will say, though, that it’s absolutely up to you, each individual participant in the Tres Columnae project, to choose the stories you want to read and to avoid those that, for whatever reason, you find unappealing. Some may want to avoid stories where our characters have visions of Greco-Roman divinities; others may want to avoid the near-death of the laundry slave or the violence in the arena (stories we’ll look at in future posts) or the Circus; still others may avoid the stories in Cursus Secundus in which one of our characters gets interested in – and possibly secretly converts to – Christianity. (If I’ve piqued your interest, I invite you to wait for Cursus Secundus, which will probably be available by late summer or early fall.)

Anyway, before we say anything else, let’s look at the story of Sabīna in the temple, now available at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site:

postrīdiē māne Sabīna mustēla surgit et ē domō Flaviī ēgreditur. per viās urbis ad templum Iūnōnis tacitē rēpit. mustēla templum ingreditur et deam Iūnōnem trīstissima precātur. “ō dea Iūnō Lūcīna,” inquit lacrimāns, “cūr mihi nōn est marītus, nōn sunt līberī? cūr semper sōla et trīstissima per hanc urbem errō? cūr nēmō mē cūrat nisi iste Flavius Caesō? cūr omnēs mē spernunt, omnēs contemnunt? nōnne pia sum mustēla? nōnne sacrificia et vōta solvere soleō? nōnne mūrēs mortuōs dominō meō semper reddō? cūr omnēs mē spernunt, omnēs contemnunt?”

Sabīna valdē lacrimat et prō ārā deae trīstissima manet. mox mustēla vōcēs sacerdōtum audit et perterrita, “dea Iūnō, quaesō, mē servā!” susurrat. Sabīna imāginem deae cōnspicit et sub pedibus Iūnōnis sē cēlat.

sacerdōtēs cellam ingrediuntur et precēs longissimās deae offerre incipiunt. Sabīna quoque deam precātur. mox tamen mustēla fessissima sub pedibus deae obdormit. in somniīs dea Iūnō mustēlam perterritam tollit et in gremiō suō fovet. “Sabīna mea,” inquit dea subrīdēns, “cūr tē ita vexās? cūr vītam tuam plōrās? num marītum līberōsque cupis? mihi, ut bene scīs, est marītus potentissimus, mihi līberī quoque – sed marītus cotīdiē mē vexat, et … istum Vulcānum commemorāre haud volō.”

Sabīna attonita, “dea Iūnō!” respondet, “cūr tū, uxor sororque Iovis Optimī Maximī, mē tantō honōre afficis? cūr in gremiō tuō ipsa mē tenēs et fovēs? nōnne mustēla sum, omnium animālium miserrima et minima?”

dea autem iterum subrīdēns, “heus!” respondet, “cūr tē ita contemnis, Sabīna mea? nōnne omnia animālia cūrae dīs estis? nōnne omnibus animālibus sunt officia propria? nōnne omnia animālia officia vestra agitis vōtaque ita solvitis? nōnne semper pietātem ostenditis? tē haud contemnō, sed laudō, quod pia es!”

Sabīna attonita tacet. dea tamen haec addit: “ō Sabīna mea, trīstis et misera es, quod officia mūrīna et canīna tē fallunt. nōnne tū mūrēs agitās pietātem ostentum? nōnne tamen mūrēs ipsī fugiunt pietātem ostentum? et nōnne canēs tē persequuntur pietātem ostentum? haud tē decet flēre, sī mūribus ossa exspuere nōn potes! haud tē decet flēre, sī canēs tē mortuam reddere cōnantur! illī enim, sīc ut tū ipsa, officia sua agere vōtaque solvere cōnantur. nōlī tē vexāre, sī quandō mūrēs effugere possunt. nōlī tē vexāre, sī quandō canēs tē agitant! nōnne enim mūrēs canēsque, sīcut vōs mustēlae, cordī dīs immortālibus sunt?”

Sabīna attonita nihil respondet. paulīsper quiēta sub pedibus deae manet. mox tamen mustēla cantūs precēsque sacerdōtum nōn audit, quod illī ē cellā templī ēgrediuntur. mustēla surgit et, “dea Iūnō, tibi grātiās maximās agō! mihi necesse est omnia verba tua memoriā tenēre!” inquit. ē templō tacitē rēpit et ad domum suam regreditur.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Specifically, as you consider the whole sequence of stories, how would you rate each character’s conduct in terms of
    • pietās,
    • dignitās,
    • gravitās,
    • auctōritās,
    • clementia,
    • industria,
    • iūstitia,
    • sevēritās, and
    • vēritās
  • If anyone behaved in an unsatisfactory way (for example, Juno seems to be gently scolding Sabīna about something), what suggestions for improvement would you make to them?
  • And how do you suppose they’d respond to your suggestions?

Tune in next time for your responses (I really hope we’ll have a lot of comments now that some of you teachers are done for the summer!), your questions, and a few preliminary answers from me. Then we’ll move on to a new series of posts, with more new stories from a later point in Cursus Prīmus. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments and emails coming!

Another New Story, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs. Today we continue with our multi-part series of stories from Lectiō XVI of the Tres Columnae project. We started on Wednesday with this story, in which Ferox and Medusa, canēs Valeriī, welcomed a set of puppies into the world. Thursday we looked at this story, in which Rīdiculus and Impigra the mūrēs welcome some mouse-babies … but do not welcome the attention of Sabīna mustēla, who has crept into the house uninvited. Friday we considered this story, in which Ferox and Medusa discovered Sabīna’s presence and decided to take rather drastic action against her – but, perhaps, deserved action, given her almost obsessive desire to ossa exspuere. Today we’ll find out whether Sabīna leaves the house in one piece or as a pile of ossa exspūta!

extrā cavum Rīdiculī Sabīna mustēla sedet et “mūrēs, mī mūrēs, exīte et perīte” iterum iterumque cantat. mūrēs tamen Sabīnae haud respondent, quod verba eius audīre nōn possunt. in cavō Impigra trēs fīliōs quattuorque fīliās gignit. obstētrix laetātur et Rīdiculō līberōs suōs mōnstrat. Rīdiculus quoque laetātur et septem līberōs celeriter tollit. “ecce līberī meī!” iterum iterumque exclāmat. Rapidus et Rapida quoque laetantur. “quaesō, mī pater, nōs sine frātrēs sorōrēsque (fovēre?).” et Impigra, “mī Rīdicule,” fessa mussat, “nōnne līberōs optimōs tibi praestās?”

Sabīna tamen mustēla extrā cavum manet et carmen suum iterum iterumque canit. mustēla adventum Ferōcis haud exspectat, haud audit. subitō Ferōx per iānuam perrumpit et “mustēla!” vōce maximā lātrat, “num hanc domum intrāre audēs? tibi moriendum est!” mustēla attonita drindit, sed Ferōx īrātus ōs aperit et mustēlam petit. maximē clāmātur et drindītur et lātrātur!

in cubiculō suō Valerius lātrātūs audit et “heus!” exclāmat, “quid hoc? num fūr in domō meō inest? num lātrō hūc ingreditur?” Valerius gladium suum dēstringit et per domum celeriter contendit. Milphiō et Gallicus quoque ē lectīs surgunt et per domum festīnant causam clāmōrum cognitum.

Valerius cum Milphiōne et Gallicō tablīnum ingreditur et “heus! Ferōx! quid est?” exclāmat. Ferōx cōnsistit et Sabīna mustēla perterrita ē tablīnō currit. Ferōx paulīsper haesitat. Valerius mustēlam fugientem cōnspicit et cachinnīs sē trādit. “mī Ferōx,” inquit, “optimē facis! tibi tamen haud necesse est istam mustēlam persequī. tē decet hīc manēre! num iste Flavius Caesō, familiāris Imperātōris ipsīus, laetārī potest sī canis meus mustēlam suam mortuam reddit?”

Ferōx mandātīs Valeriī pāret et in tablīnō invītus manet. Sabīna per iānuam apertam perterrita fugit et ad domum Flaviī celeriter regreditur. per fenestram rēpit et sub lēctō Flaviī ipsīus sē cēlat. in domō Valeriī maximē gaudētur, et in cavō Rīdiculī maximē celebrātur.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Our faithful collaborator Ann M, who proofread an early version of this story, and whose voice you can hear in most of the audio clips of Tres Columnae Project stories, said of the word drindīre that it’s the sort of word that, once learned, is never forgotten – or, at least, that her students will always remember it after they read this story. But memory is a funny thing. I knew there was a weasel-sound word; I knew I’d seen it; and I even knew when I had seen it – in a Latinteach posting about animal sounds about twelve years ago! I found the word again at this site, where I’m sure it’s been since that Latinteach conversation in 1998. Ironically, at the time, I remember thinking, “This is great, but who would possibly need to know the Latin words for all these animal sounds?” 🙂
  • How would you analyze our various characters’ actions, words, and thoughts in terms of the virtūtēs Rōmānae, and especially in terms of pietās, dignitās, and gravitās? I’m also wondering about grātia, which I think is highly significant, at least for Valerius and Ferox.
  • And what do you suppose will happen next? There’s one more story in the sequence….

Tune in on Monday, when we find out a bit more about Sabīna’s notions of pietās. If you’ve ever consoled an upset, disappointed teenager – and if you’ve ever had to walk the delicate tightrope of helping her, or him, realize that he, or she, has partly contributed to the disappointing, upsetting situation – you’ll probably see yourself in one of the characters. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Another New Story, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll continue looking at the sequence of animal-baby stories from Lectiō XVI of the Tres Columnae project. If you’ve been away from the blog for a few days, you should know that in this story, which we shared on Wednesday, Ferox and Medusa, canēs Valeriī, welcomed a set of puppies into the world. In this story, featured in Thursday’s post, Rīdiculus and Impigra, the mūrēs who live in cavō (or, as Rīdiculus would say, “in cēnāculō”) in mūrō prope culīnam, are about to welcome a new litter of baby mice into the world, with the help of a mouse-midwife … but with the unwelcome attention of Sabīna mustēla, who belongs to Valerius’ neighbor Flavius Caeso and has already caused a great deal of havoc in the household in this story from Lectiō XI. In today’s story, now available at this link, Ferox and Medusa realize that Sabīna has come into “their” house – uninvited – and decide to take action.

extrā cavum Sabīna mustēla consistit et, “heus!” susurrat, “nōnne istōs mūrēs olfaciō? nōnne mūrēs quoque īnfantēs? euge! quam mē dēlectat sanguis mūrum īnfantium! quam mē dēlectat ossa parva exspuere! ō mūrēs, mī mūrēs, vōbīs exeundum est. nōnne hūc adveniō vōs cōnsūmptum? exīte, exīte, mī mūrēs, et perīte!”

in peristyliō, ubi Ferōx et Medūsa cum catulīs suīs dormiunt, Ferōx sēmisomnus vōcem mustēlae raucam audit et, “heus!” inquit, “quid hoc est?” Ferōx subitō surgit et, “dī immortālēs!” lātrat, “num ista mustēla domum nostram ingredī audet? nōnne moriendum est istī mustēlae? nōnne mē oportet ossa istīus exspuere?”

Medūsa quoque surgit et, “mī Ferōx, cūr adeō perturbātus es? quid tē vexat?” susurrat. “num tē decet līberōs nostrōs ē somnīs excitāre?”

Ferōx autem, “Medūsa mea,” respondet, “quaesō, tacē et audī!” Medūsa tacet et mox vōcem Sabīnae mustēlae audit. “mūrēs, mī mūrēs, exīte et perīte! mūrēs, mī mūrēs, date mihi ossa sanguinemque!” cantat illa. Medūsa īrātissima, “num,” exclāmat, “tam audāx est ista mustēla? num iterum domum nostram ingreditur mūrēs agitātum? nōnne catulōs quoque nostrōs ēsse in animō habet? age, mī Trux, istī mustēlae ossa exspue!”

Ferōx laetissimus cōnsentit et per domum tacitē rēpit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of Sabīna now? I’m particularly interested in an analysis of her in terms of the virtūtēs Rōmānae, and especially in terms of pietās. Is she appropriately or excessively bloodthirsty as she prepares to do her officia regarding mice?
  • For that matter, is Sabīna really doing her officia regarding Ridiculus, Impigra, and the babies? Surely no one would object to her killing mice for her dominus, in his domus – after all, that’s why he has a weasel, isn’t it? But is it appropriate for her to kill mice in someone else’s domus, under someone else’s manus?
  • Since Sabīna is a female, and a non-human, to what extent do virtūtēs like gravitās and dignitās apply to her? They certainly applied to great Roman heroines like Lucretia – but to a weasel?
  • If the virtūtēs do, or should, apply to her, though, how would you rate Sabīna in terms of gravitās and dignitās? She seems to enjoy her officia a bit more than she might … or is it in the nature of an officium that one should, in fact, enjoy it? Is Sabīna a Stoic, an Epicurean, or something else entirely … like a weasel? 🙂
  • And what about Ferox and Medusa?  To what extent are they behaving (or thinking) in accord with pietās, dignitās, gravitās, and the other virtūtēs?  Or should the virtūrēs Rōmānae be applied to dogs … even if they are rather anthropomorphic dogs?

Tune in next time for the exciting continuation, in which the animal and human worlds once again collide for a bit. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Another New Story, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll look at the second story in the sequence of “animal families” from Lectiō XVI. Yesterday, as you probably recall, we looked at this story about Ferox, Medusa, and their new puppies, and I left you with these questions:

  1. In general, we’ve tried to keep the animal and human worlds rather separate from each other – that is, the animals don’t talk to the people, and they don’t behave in people-like (or animal-fable-character-like) ways when the people are around. Does that make sense to you?
  2. Do you think we’ve accomplished that in this story? Or are the two worlds excessively or inappropriately mixed? Or, for that matter, do you disapprove of talking-animal stories and fables?
  3. To what extent have we addressed the themes of pietās and familia that we explored in last week’s posts?
  4. What other virtūtēs Rōmanae have we addressed – or, perhaps, failed to address?
  5. And what new insights, if any, into our characters do you have as a result of this story?

Just a few thoughts about each one before we move on to Ridiculus and Impigra’s new litter:

  1. There certainly are some interactions between anthropomorphic animals and humans in the fable tradition, but in general, it seems that the animals don’t talk to the people. I’ve tried to preserve that distinction in our stories – and, at the same time, I think we’re being faithful to a long line of talking-and-rational-animal stories where the animals don’t talk to the people.
  2. You may have noticed that Ferox and Medusa don’t talk to each other Latīnē when their owners are around – lātrant, sed nōn colloquuntur. Is that a problem for you, lectōrēs cārissimī? Do you want the animals to talk to the people, or do you prefer the separation?
  3. Regarding pietās and familia, I’m particularly interested in Ferox’s (very human) worries when Medusa goes into labor. I also thought you might like Caeliola’s plan to make bullas for the puppies, and I certainly wanted Ferox to acknowledge his children, as any Roman father would, by picking them up when they were laid at his feet. What else did you notice?
  4. Regarding the virtūtēs, it seemed to me that Ferox had a momentary loss of gravitās (but then he is a dog, so I guess that’s understandable) but recovered nicely at the end. What about dignitās? To what extent is it a factor for any of the animals – or humans – in this story?
  5. Regarding the characters, I was influenced a bit by my own dog, who did not display much gravitās or dignitās during a big thunderstorm we had on Monday. He’s convinced that thunder is the enemy, but he’s also convinced that he can drive it away if he only runs to the window fast enough, then barks or growls loud enough. (My cousin, who has two Dalmatians, admires his initiative and responsibility; she says her dogs, by contrast, expect her and her husband to drive the thunder away for them!) We’ll see more of Ferox’s pietās towards friends and, in a sense, clients in a later story in this sequence.

Today, though, let’s take a look at this second story, in which Ridiculus and Impigra are about to expand their family.  (Starting today, you’ll also be able to find it at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site.)  Unlike Medusa, Impigra does think it’s reasonable to call a midwife….

noctū in domō Valeriī festīnātur et exclāmātur. Impigra enim, uxor Rīdiculī māterque Rapidī et Rapidae, īnfantēs parturīre parat. Rīdiculus līberōs suōs arcessit et “vōbīs,” inquit, “tacendum et exeundum est. māter enim vestra etiam nunc īnfantēs gignere parat. quandō enim mātrēs īnfantēs gignunt līberōs haud decet adesse, haud decet clāmāre.”

infrā cavum Impigra, “mī Rīdicule,” clāmat, “cūr abes? cūr nōn in cavō adest obstētrix?” Rīdiculus īrātus, “mea Impigra,” respondet, “num mē oportet hoc iterum explicāre? num omnium verbōrum meōrum oblīvīsceris? hoc enim est cēnāculum, nōn cavus!”

Rapidus Rapidaque rīsibus et cachinnīs sē trādunt. Impigra īrāta, “marīte!” exclāmat, “quandō mātrēs partūriunt, patrēs haud decet adesse, haud decet rēs explicāre! tē oportet obstētrīcem per tōtam domum quaerere!”

Rīdiculus, “vērum dīcis, ut semper, Impigra mea,” respondet. subitō obstētrix per domum Valeriī perterrita currit. “vae! heu!” clāmat illa, “ista mustēla mē persequitur! līberōs tuōs oportet cavum intrāre mustēlam vītātum!”

Rīdiculus “ō obstētrix stultissima, nōlī cēnāculum meum contemnere!” inquit, sed obstētrix haec interpellat īrātissima: “Rīdiculus mūs! num mihi istum verbum “cēnāculum” prōnuntiāre in animō habēs? num rēs rīdiculās commemorās, quandō ista mustēla per domum saevit et uxor tua etiam nunc partūrit?! num tam audācem tamque impium tē praestās? tibi tacendum est!”

Rīdiculus attonitus tacet. obstētrix cavum celeriter ingreditur. Rapidus Rapidaque quoque intrant et rīsibus cachinnīsque iterum sē trādunt.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • As for virtūtēs, it seems to me that Ridiculus has pietās down, at least as it relates to his family, but struggles a bit with gravitās and dignitās. What do you think?
  • What new insights into Impigra, Rapidus, and Rapida do you gain from this story?
  • And what about the obstētrix? It seemed to me that we needed another strong, independent female character … and a mouse-midwife would certainly be all those things? What did you think of her response to Ridiculus’ um, ridiculous fussing about the “cēnāculum” under these circumstances? (Sorry – I just couldn’t resist the pun!)
  • And what role, if any, do you expect Sabīna mustēla to play in the next story? Keep in mind that, in the fable tradition, weasels tend to be rather bitter spinsters … the thought of a soft, fluffy little mouse-baby wouldn’t exactly gladden her heart.

Tune in next time, when we’ll find out how both Sabīna and Ferox respond to the baby mice. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Another New Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll look at another new story featuring the animal characters from the Tres Columnae project. It comes from Lectiō XVI, just about midway through Cursus Prīmus. We’ll be focusing on birth and infancy at that point, as both animal and human characters give birth over several Lectiōnēs, and we’ll try to incorporate some human Roman traditions (the diēs lūstricus, for example, and the giving of bullae) into the animals’ world.  We’ll look at several of these stories in posts over the next few days.

It’s an exciting time for the Tres Columnae Project, as we are really starting to feel that the project itself has been “born” and is starting to grow and flourish. So it seems like an appropriate time for stories of birth and new beginnings. Besides, June was the lucky month for weddings in the Roman world, so it’s a time when our characters’ attention would be focused on new life and new beginnings. And for many of our U.S. readers, school is just ending, or just ended, or just about to end – a time of new beginnings for our graduates, of course, but also for teachers as we reflect on the year that just ended and begin to think about “doing things differently” next year.

Speaking of June, I have some exciting news for our Free Trial subscribers to the Tres Columnae project.  As you may recall, the Free Trial period was originally scheduled to end on June 1 – yesterday, if you’re reading this post “live.”  But due to your requests and some logistical considerations, we’ve decided to extend the Free Trial period through June 15 for current Free Trial subscribers, and through June 30 for anyone who signs up after June 1.  Free Trial subscribers, please remember that you can submit all the stories, images, audio, video, and other “stuff” you’d like … and (other than granting us the right to publish and use it, and other subscribers some rights to use, adapt, and remix it) you still own and control what you’ve submitted to us.

In today’s story, Ferox and Medusa, canēs Valeriī, are preparing to welcome a litter of puppies into the world, and Ferox (like many proud fathers) gets just a bit flustered.  By the time you read this post, you’ll be able to find the story at this link, and it will also be featured in the Table of Contents for the project at the Version Alpha Wiki site.

per domum Valeriī festīnātur et lātrātur. Medūsa enim, canis Valeriī, catulōs partūrit. Ferōx, marītus Medūsae, “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne mē decet adesse? fortasse obstētrīcem vocāre dēbeō! nōnne mē oportet auxilium tibi ferre?” Medūsa tamen, “Ferōx! tacē et abī!” respondet. “canēs enim oportet sōlās catulōs gignere! haud opus est obstētrīcis vel medicī, mī marīte!”

Ferōx igitur per tōtam domum festīnat et lātrat. Medūsa autem sub lectō sē cēlat et “heu! marītum stultissimum!” sēcum colloquitur. “num canis umquam obstētrīcem vocāre solet?”

brevī tempore Medūsa quīnque catulōs gignit. Valeria sonōs catulōrum audit et “māter! frāter! soror! venīte!” exclāmat. tōta familia Valeria cubiculum ingreditur et “heus! catulōs optimōs!” exclāmātur. Valerius ipse Ferōcem Medūsamque valdē laudat. Caeliōla “nōnne nōs decet bullās catulīs quaerere?” rogat, et Valerius, “fortasse, filia mea,” respondet.

tum omnēs hominēs ē cubiculō ēgrediuntur. Ferōx et Medūsa cum catulīs manent. Ferōx singillātim catulōs tollit et “ecce fīlius meus! ecce fīlia mea!” prōnuntiat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • In general, we’ve tried to keep the animal and human worlds rather separate from each other – that is, the animals don’t talk to the people, and they don’t behave in people-like (or animal-fable-character-like) ways when the people are around. Does that make sense to you?
  • Do you think we’ve accomplished that in this story?
  • To what extent have we addressed the themes of pietās and familia that we explored in last week’s posts?
  • What other virtūtēs Rōmanae have we addressed – or, perhaps, failed to address?
  • And what new insights, if any, into our characters do you have as a result of this story?

Tune in next time, when we’ll feature another story from this sequence and explore some of its implications. Later this week, we’ll look at what we’ve accomplished so far with the Tres Columnae project, and we’ll also take a look at plans for the future. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Female Voices, II

salvēte, amīcī! Today we’ll look at the beginning of a new story in which focus a bit more closely on some underdeveloped, but centrally important female characters: Caelia Valeriī and Vipsānia Caeliī. As I was writing the list of female characters in yesterday’s post, I realized, to my surprise, that I’d started to fall into a trap for which I’ve criticized the Big Three reading-method textbooks in the past: their tendency to de-emphasize the māterfamiliās as they focus on her husband, her children, and even her servants.

For those who are familiar with the Big Three, you may find it humorous that my face-to-face students frequently ask, “Does (I won’t say her name) ever do anything but sit in the atrium?” Of course she does! But she rarely appears in stories. I don’t want that to happen to Caelia or Vipsānia! Ironically, if you’ve read the Tres Columnae stories that have appeared on the Version Alpha Wiki site or on the blog so far, you probably have a much stronger sense of the personalities of the female servants (especially Planēsium nūrus) and the female animals (especially Sabina mustēla, Impigra mūs, and Fortunata bōs) than you do of the main characters’ mothers. Even Lollia, māter Cāiī, is more developed than her counterparts, especially after the eruption. And we will learn a bit about Caelia, māter Lūciī, when she and Valeria are planning the wedding … we’ll see some of those stories later this week.

But you may have been wondering if we have something against wealthy Roman women at Tres Columnae! 🙂 Well, we don’t … some of our best friends are … wait! That’s not right! In fact, it’s not even possible, is it? But we really don’t have anything against wealthy Roman women; unfortunately, we seem to have fallen into that bad pattern (which dates back to the wealthy Roman men) of taking them for granted. We’ll try not to do that again!

So this story is for them, and it’s also for all parents who have ever wondered “what to do” about a wayward child … and for all the “wayward” children whose parents have ever worried about them. It comes from Lectiō XI or XII, shortly after Cnaeus’ refusal to get out of bed and go to school (the famous incident with Fortūnāta, bōs placida). Apparently Vipsānia, māter Cnaeī, has noticed that her sister-in-law’s children are better behaved than her own (what an observant lady she must be!), so she decides to ask her for advice. We’ll see the first part of the story today, and Part II tomorrow; we may have to divide Part II and finish it on Wednesday. Then, starting on Thursday or possibly Friday, we’ll consider how we might use this story (and some others) to explore issues regarding the status and experiences of all kinds of Roman women.

hodiē māne Vipsānia, uxor Caeliī māterque Cnaeī, ad urbem Herculāneum iter facit, domum Valeriī vīsitātum. “mihi necesse est cum Caeliā Valeriī, sorōre marītī meī, colloquium habēre,” sēcum putat. “Caeliae enim et Valeriō est fīlius ingeniī optimī, mihi et marītō pessimī. fortasse Caelia mē adiuvāre potest. fortasse Caelia Cnaeum meum meliōrem reddere potest.”

Vipsānia igitur duōs servōs et duās ancillās arcessit. “mihi necesse est,” inquit, “urbem Herculāneum hodiē vīsitāre. vōs iubeō mēcum iter facere. vōs iubeō carpentum parāre. necesse est nōbīs quam celerrimē prōgredī.” servī ancillaeque celeriter dominae pārent et carpentum parant.

carpentum, quod Vipsāniam fert, iam portae urbis appropinquat. ūnus servus carpentum equōsque agit, alter cum ancillīs per viam ambulat. Vipsānia mūrōs urbis cōnspicit et “heus!” exclāmat, “carpenta nōn oportet per portās īre! mihi exeundum, vōbīs servīs hīc manendum est. ancillās decet mē per viās urbis comitārī.” tum Vipsānia dē carpentō dēscendit et per portam urbis ingreditur. cum ancillīs ad domum Valeriī celeriter contendit.

Vipsānia tamen, dum per viās urbis prōcēdit, forte tabernam praeterit, ubi gemmae pretiōsae vēneunt. “hercle!” inquit, “nōnne pulcherrimae sunt illae gemmae? nōnne rēs pulchrās habēre dēbeō, quod iste Cnaeus ita mē vexat? mē decet hanc tabernam vīsitāre … sed mē oportet cōnsilia Caeliae petere. vae! heu! quid facere dēbeō?”

ancilla, Dulcissima nōmine, verba Vipsāniae audit et, “domina mea,” inquit, “cūr tē vexās? domus enim Valeriī in viā proximā stat. tibi igitur necesse est hanc tabernam bis praeterīre.” Vipsānia “hercle! vērum dīcis, Dulcissima mea!” respondet. “prīmum verba sapientia Caeliae audīre, deinde gemmās pulchrās mihi emere possum! nōnne fēlīx sum, quod ancilla optima mihi es? valēte, vōs gemmae pulcherrimae!”

Vipsānia cum ancillīs celeriter ad domum Valeriī ambulat. Dulcissima tamen “dominam stultissimam et impiam!” sibi susurrat. “nōnne iste puer multō plūris est quam gemmae?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Vipsania isn’t exactly the most sympathetic character at this point … but at least she seems to care enough about Cnaeus to seek some parenting advice. Does that seem in character or out of character for a Roman woman of her social standing?
  • How would you characterize Vipsania? Do you think she’s motivated by real concern for her son, by concern for how others perceive his behavior, or by a combination?
  • Do those categories even make sense in the Roman world, where pietās has much more to do with right conduct than it does with right attitudes as we would define them?
  • And what do you think of Dulcissima? We’ll get to know her more in later stories as well.
  • If you were Caelia, what advice would you give Vipsania?
  • And why do you suppose that Lucius is a puer ingeniī optimī while his cousin pessimē sē gerit? Nature, nurture, or both???

Tune in next time for Part II of the story, in which Caelia tries to give Vipsania some advice. interea, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!