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.

Listening to Marginalized Voices

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll take a closer, more analytic look at the story we developed over the past few days, in which we learn a lot more about two primary female characters:

  • Vipsānia Caeliī, mother of Prīma, Secunda, and bratty little Cnaeus, and
  • Caelia Valeriī, her sister-in-law, mother of Valeria, well-behaved Lūcius, and little Caeliōla.

We also get a hint or two about the characters of Vipsānia’s two ancillae, Dulcissima and Fēlīcissima, though they don’t play hugely important roles in this story. We’ll learn more about them later.

If you haven’t been following the story, you might want to look at

  • Tuesday’s blog post for Part I of the story, and Wednesday’s post for Part II, in which Vipsānia impulsively visits her sister-in-law (unannounced and uninvited!) to ask for her advice
  • Thursday’s post for Part III, Version A, in which Vipsānia almost understands Caelia’s advice about training children with patience rather than screams or threats; and
  • Friday’s post for Part III, Version B, in which Vipsānia definitely misunderstands Caelia’s advice … and frustrated Caelia plays a practical joke on her.

Or if you’d prefer, you can see Part I here, Part II here, Part III A here, and Part III B here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki. As always, we’d love to have your feedback about plot, vocabulary, syntax, or any other elements of the story that interest you.

Today, though, we’ll focus specifically.on the characters of Vipsānia and Caelia, and we’ll see whether we can use them as a window to greater understanding of the often-margnialized world of Roman women. In Monday’s post, at the beginning of this sequence, I noted (to my surprise!) how few stories so far had focused on the lives of Roman citizen women characters. We’ve had lots of stories about the men, the children, the animals, the servī, and even the ancillae, but not so many about the matrōnae. Since Mother’s Day is this weekend in the U.S. (tomorrow, in fact, as I write this post), it seemed like a good time to rectify the lack of attention we’d paid to matrōnae et mātrēs. Given what we know about the children of these two families, it seemed reasonable that Vipsānia and Caelia would be quite different; in fact, if you take a look at their pictures, as developed by our extremely talented illustrator Lucy M, you can probably see that she grasped their essential differences even before I did! I have to admit that Vipsānia was a tabula rasa to me for a long time; in fact, I hadn’t even decided on her name in some early drafts of the Tres Columnae metastory. Poor Vipsānia! Maybe she is the way she is because everybody, not just her author, treats her that way! 😦

The last time we took a story apart, looking to see how we might use it to explore aspects of Roman culture, several readers objected to the whole enterprise. Their point was that the story (about Rīdiculus the mouse and Sabīna the weasel) was a comedy (which it certainly is) and that, as a result, you couldn’t do serious analytical work with it. I obviously disagree with this conclusion – mostly because I’ve always been fascinated by the social messages implicit in comedies. I remember, as a child, watching reruns of I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies, and the like in the afternoons and thinking how different their assumed social norms were (though I obviously didn’t have that terminology) from those of the era in which I lived. By contrast, I wasn’t all that interested in The Partridge Family or The Brady Bunch at the time – they just reflected the world I did live in. It wasn’t until that world had changed, and I saw those shows again in a changed world, that I found them interesting. I had a similar response to “higher-quality” things like children’s books … the ones that were set in, or written in, another time were always more interesting than the ones about “here and now.” And the interest stayed with me as I studied the social roles in Plautine comedy (the subject of my undergraduate “integrative exercise” paper) … and even today, as I sometimes watch children’s comic shows on The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon with my favorite-and-only children, now 12 and 8. (Those shows are often set in a version of “here and now,” but it’s a youth-culture here-and-now and I no longer qualify as a youth!)

So, with this interest in the sociocultural implications of comedy, I set out to develop funny stories for the Tres Columnae project that could also be used as jumping-off points for more serious cultural analysis if you, the participant, want to go in that direction. Of course you don’t have to go in that direction, any more than you have to analyze the social-class dynamics at work in The Beverly Hillbillies. But if you do want to go in that direction, I wanted some interesting material to work with.

Specifically, in developing our current sequence of stories, I hope I’ve provided

  • two very different Roman women, each of whom may or may not be stereotypical in certain ways
  • two very different families, with obvious questions to consider about the relationship between the children’s characters and their parental models
  • complex and ambiguous characters who can’t be easily classified as good or bad even by the most black-and-white, concrete-operational preteen subscriber.

I’m curious to know what you think, both about these aims and about how well I’ve met them in this sequence of stories. quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • To what extent do Vipsānia and Caelia conform to stereotypic images of Roman womanhood?
  • To what extent do they challenge or subvert those images?
  • What patterns of influence can you see between the women and their children’s conduct and character?
  • To what extent have I succeeded at making Vipsānia and Caelia multidimensional and complex characterss? Or are they just inconsistent … or completely consistent and unsurprising?
  • And to what extent do you think that my goals of inverting stereotypes, exploring family dynamics, and dealing with complexity are appropriate for the Tres Columnae system?

Tune in on Monday for your answers and some more questions. Then, on Tuesday, we’ll continue our exploration of marginalized voices with more stories about servī et ancillae. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Female Voices, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll look at a second possible ending for the Tres Columnae story we started on Wednesday, in which our character Vipsānia Caeliae (mother of Prima, Secunda, and poor unfortunate Cnaeus) has come to her sister-in-law, Caelia Valeriī (mother of Valeria, Lucius, and Caeliola) for parenting advice. As you may recall, she gets a bit distracted on her travels through Herculaneum, but she eventually arrives (uninvited and unannounced!) at domus Valeriī, where Caelia graciously welcomes her and invites her to stay for lunch. In the first possible ending, which we looked at in yesterday’s post, Vipsānia eventually understands Caelia’s advice … but in this version, she doesn’t quite get the idea. Eventually, in fact, Caelia gets so tired of her that – you’ll see. The beginning of the story is similar to Version 1, but things change in the third paragraph:

Caelia et Vipsānia in triclīniō prandent et rēs minimī mōmentī commemorant. tandem Vipsānia, “prandium quidem optimum!” exclāmat. “quam mē dēlectat! sed heu! vae mihi! miserrima sum, quod fīlius tam impius mihi est. nōnne nōs decet fīlium meum commemorāre? nōnne Cnaeum meliōrem reddere potes? quaesō, amābō tē, mihi hanc rem explicā: cūr Lūcius tuus semper optimē sē gerit? et quid facere dēbeō?”

Caelia diū tacet et rem cōgitat. Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae Vipsāniae, quoque tacent, quod rīsūs cēlāre vix possunt. tandem, “ō Vipsānia mea,” inquit Caelia, “tē adiuvāre volō. quid tamen tibi suādēre possum? quid cōnsiliī dare? haud enim difficile est fīlium pium reddere. parentibus necesse est pia laudāre, impia pūnīre, et piē ipsōs sē gerere.”

Vipsānia attonita, “ō Caelia mea,” respondet, “ego et Caelius haec omnia cotīdiē facimus. Cnaeus tamen noster semper impiē, numquam optimē sē gerit. nOnne vōs artibus magicīs quoque ūtiminī? nōnne cantibus? nōnne etiam venēnīs?”

Caelia attonita rīsum cēlāre temptat. “ō Vipsānia mea, num venēfica sum? fortasse verba mea nōn intellegis. sī Cnaeus tuus pessimē sē gerit, quid vōs respondētis? quid facitis?”

et Vipsānia, “vae! heu! mē taedet poenārum!” respondet. “difficile est poenās numerāre! nōnne istum Cnaeum cotīdiē verberāmus? nōnne vituperāmus? nōnne poenās maximās mināmur? cūr igitur iste Cnaeus pessimē et impiē sē gerit? sānē opus est cantuum vel venēnōrum!”

tum Caelia, “hercle! rem tōtam intellegō!” exclāmat. “facillimum est mihi tē adiuvāre! sī quandō Cnaeum tuum castīgās, tē oportet vōce blandā, nōn clāmōribus ūtī! clāmōrēs enim puerum meliōrem reddere haud possunt!”

sed Vipsānia, “num mē dērīdēs, Caelia Valeriī? num mē dērīdēs et contemnis?” exclāmat. “num mē, uxōrem frātris tuī, contemptam habēs? haud stulta, haud īnsāna sum! Cnaeus enim, nisi clāmōribus ūtimur, verba nostra nōn audit. fortasse surdus est iste, fortasse īnsolēns, fortasse prāvus. verbīs blandīs ūtī haud possumus! nōnne miserrima sum, sed tū iocāris!”

Caelia sēcum rīdet et paulīsper tacet. tandem, “heus, Vipsānia mea, ignōsce mihi,” respondet. “ego, ut dīcis, certē iocor. vīsne mē vērum tibi patefacere?”

Vipsānia avida cōnsentit et Caelia, “tē oportet,” susurrat, “venēnum exquīsītissimum tibi et marītō et Cnaeō parāre. sī quis hoc venēnum bibit, omnēs līberōs illī pārēre oportet.” Vipsānia cēram et stilum postulat, et Caelia, “tibi necesse est haec in Forō quaerere,” susurrat.

mox Vipsānia celeriter ē domō Valeriī ēgreditur Forum vīsitātum. in forō plūrima holera emit: bētās et carōtās et brassicās. ancillās iubet holera ad carpentum celeriter ferre.

ancillae rīsūs cēlāre cōnantur, quod iocum vērum intellegunt. et in domō Valeriī, ubi Caelia familiae rem tōtam nārrat, maximē rīdētur et cachinnātur.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • My first thought was, “Poor Vipsania! Will she ever figure it out?”
  • Do you think she deserved the iocum vērum, or was Caelia a bit mean to her?
  • Is there, perhaps, some underlying family strife between the sisters-in-law?
  • Which version of the story do you like better?
  • And what do you think of the idea of multiple possible endings for a story?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin to use these stories to explore aspects of Roman women’s lives that are sometimes neglected in a “traditional” textbook-based Latin curriculum. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Female Voices, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue with our series of posts featuring a new story from the Tres Columnae project that develops the characters of Caelia Valeriī and Vipsānia Caeliae, important female characters who, until now, haven’t had much to do in the stories we’ve shared. If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Vipsānia, concerned about her son Cnaeus’ terrible attitude and behavior, has come to Herculaneum to visit her sister-in-law Caelia. She’s hoping for some good advice … or possibly a magic formula for success … and she was briefly distracted by a local jewel shop. (Before we get any nasty comments about Vipsānia, I must tell you that the model for her distraction is what happens to me in … lots of stores! Especially when there are sales! 🙂 And no, I am not a matrōna Rōmāna; it’s impossible for me both for biological and ethnic reasons.)

Anyway, as we pick up today, Vipsānia has (reluctantly) listened to her long-suffering ancilla Dulcissima, who reminded her she could stop at the store after she talked with Caelia. We’ll pick up with the last paragraph we shared yesterday and continue with the story:

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

Milphiō, servus Valeriī, forte per iānuam prōgreditur. “mihi necesse est pavimentum verrere, quod sordidissimum et foedissimum est hoc pavimentum!” sēcum putat. Milphiō Vipsāniam cōnspicātur et, “salvē, domina!” exclāmat. “heus!num immemor sum?” sēcum putat. “num domina mea adventum Vipsāniae exspectat?”

Vipsānia, “nōnne domina tua mē accipere potest, quamquam mē nōn exspectat?” Milphiōnī respondet. Milphiō Vipsāniam per iānuam dūcit et Caeliam quaerit. Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae Vipsāniae, domum Valeriī quoque ingrediuntur. Vipsānia in ātriō sedet; ancillae prope dominam stant.

Milphiō Caeliam in peristȳliō invenit et, “domina mea, domina mea, illa Vipsānia Caeliī domum vīsitat. tē enim in ātriō nunc exspectat!” Caelia “quid dīcis, Milphiō?” respondet, “num Vipsānia Caeliī, uxor frātris meī? num Vipsānia iter longum iam facit? num mē sine nūntiō iam vīsitat?” et Milphiō, “quaesō, ignōsce mihi, domina – Vipsānia tamen tē in ātriō exspectat.”

Caelia, “heus! fēminam impudentem!” susurrat. tum ad Milphiōnem sē vertit et, “Milphiō, ad culīnam festīnā! Gallicō nostrō haec mandāta fer: necesse est eī prandium dignum parāre.” Milphiō celeriter ad culīnam contendit; Caelia īrāta ad ātrium ambulat.

Vipsānia Caeliam cōnspicātur et lacrimīs sē trādit. Caelia attonita, “Vipsānia mea, cūr lacrimās? quid agis?” rogat et Vipsāniam amplectitur. Vipsānia tamen plūrimās lacrimās effundit! maximē flētur et lūgētur! Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima attonitae et immōtae stant. “quid facere dēbēmus?” sēcum putant. “cūr domina sē rīdiculam reddere vult?”

tandem Vipsānia lacrimās retinēre potest. “vae! heu!” exclāmat, “quid facere possum? quid facere dēbeō?”

Caelia, immemor īrārum, Vipsāniae sōlācium praebēre temptat. “Vipsānia mea, Vipsānia mea,” identidem susurrat, “quid est? cūr flētur et lacrimātur?”

Vipsānia tandem sē colligit et “ō Caelia mea, quam benigna es!” respondet. “quaesō, tē amābō, ignōsce mihi! vae mihi! quam misera sum, quod iste fīlius meus pessimē et impiē sē gerit! quaesō, tē amābō, mihi cōnsilium optimum dā! fīlius enim tuus semper optimē et piē sē gerit! nēmō umquam Lūcium tuum vituperat, nēmō castīgat. nōnne tibi sunt artēs magicae? nōnne cantūs? et nōnne hās artēs mihi patefacere potes?”

Caelia attonita sēcum rīdet. tandem, “ō Vipsānia mea, Vipsānia mea,” respondet. “haud mihi sunt artēs magicae, haud mihi sunt cantūs, et haud mihi est puer quī semper optimē sē gerit! haec pauca tamen tibi patefacere possum. nōnne tamen nōs oportet in prandiō haec commemorāre?”

Vipsānia libenter cōnsentit, et Caelia, “heus! Gallicus!” exclāmat. “nōnne prandium iam parātum est?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you were Caelia, how would you have responded to the unexpected arrival of your sister-in-law?
  • Does it seem that their previous relationship has been cordial or a bit strained?
  • What would you like to know about their previous relationship?  And would you like to write it yourself, or have us do it?
  • How would you have responded to the outpourings of tears?
  • Do you suppose Vipsania’s tears are genuine, manipulative, or perhaps a bit of both?
  • Do you think Caelia is being kind or stupid (or perhaps a bit of both) when she comforts Vipsania?
  • How do you suppose the servī et ancillae feel about the whole situation?
  • What advice do you suppose Caelia will give Vipsania? Will it be good advice, or will she take an opportunity to embarrass and humiliate Vipsania?
  • What specific misbehaviors of Cnaeus’ might Vipsania mention to Caelia? Might there be some that she doesn’t mention, simply because they’re too humiliating?
  • And whether her advice is sarcastic or sincere, how do you suppose it will compare with parenting advice today?

Tune in next time for Part III of the story, in which we’ll find the answers to some of these questions … and raise a few others. 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!

Some New Stories and a Virtual Seminar

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll begin to look at the experience that our fictional subscriber John (Jane’s little brother) might have with a Virtual Seminar at the end of Lectiō XI. First, though, we’ll need to read the story that sets it up, which (until today!) has not yet appeared either in the blog or at the Version Alpha Wiki site.  We also want to welcome a whole class of young Latin learners in England who have now become Free subscribers to Tres Columnae!  laetissimī vōs salūtāmus! 🙂

In case you’ve forgotten the context, John’s soon-to-be-favorite story occurs at the end of a sequence about the first day of school for Caius, Lucius, and Cnaeus, on which they interact with Quintus Flavius, the very naughty son of Lucius’ next-door neighbor Flavius Caeso. (Yes, the same Flavius Caeso who participates in the unfortunate dinner-party incident with the weasel!) Q. Flavius has behaved very badly in school – so badly that his teacher actually sent him (and his paedagōgus) home, after beating them both, in this story, and then had a most revealing conversation with Q. Flavius’ father in this story.  When our young subscribers in England get there, we think they’ll like the sequence too – especially if any of them happen to have “annoying” little brothers of their own!

Anyway, it’s now the second day of school, and here are three new stories for you. In the first fabella of Lectiō XI, which you can read at this direct link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, we see preparations for school at domus Flavia, and we explore a couple of minor grammatical points (first-person plural deponent verbs in particular). In the first long fābula, secundus lūdī diēs, we discover that Q. Flavius not only behaves badly, but is oblivious to others’ responses to him, even when Fabius the teacher attempts to convey an important life lesson:

Quīntus Flavius cum paedagōgō suō per viās urbis ad lūdum contendit. “mē nōn decet tardum advenīre!” paedagōgō attonitō dīcit, “mē nōn oportet impia facere.”

paedagōgus attonitus et laetus sibi, “nōnne multōs per diēs hoc precor?” susurrat. “nōnne pater māterque hoc quoque precantur? utrum dī an plagae magistrī hunc puerum pium nōbīs reddunt?”

Quīntus tamen Flavius, “nōnne tē oportet celeriter prōgredī, mī paedagōge? num tardī advenīre dēbēmus? num nōs decet iterum vapulāre?” et per viās urbis celeriter prōgreditur.

puer paedagōgusque iam ad lūdum perveniunt, ubi cēterī discipulī cum paedagōgīs magistrum extrā iānuam clausam exspectant. puerī inter sē susurrant. paedagōgī inter sē colloquuntur. “nōnne clāmōrēs istīus pestis memōriā tenēs?” inquit Lūcius. “utrum porcus est, an lupus quī porcum ēst?” respondet Cāius rīdēns. Cnaeus tamen, “vōs nōn decet eum contemnere; fortasse īnsaniā adflictus est!” et rīsibus sē quoque trādit.

“salvēte! quid vōs colloquiminī?” exclāmat Quīntus Flavius laetus.

puerī attonitī statim tacent; rēs enim impiās gestās Quīntī Flaviī loquuntur. “salvē tū, Quīnte Flavī,” tandem Lūcius inquit. “hominem quendam loquimur, tibi haud nōtum. quid agis hodiē?” Cāius rīsūs cēlāre frūstrā cōnātur.

Quīntus Flavius “fortasse nōtus est mihi ille homō īnsānus,” respondet. “quid nōmen illī est?”

longum est silentium. subitō Fabius ianuam aperit et, “discipulī, discipulī, quaesō, lūdum intrāte,” cantat.

“nōs decet lūdum ingredī,” exclāmat Cnaeus. tum puerī et paedagōgī lūdum intrant et magistrum circumsistunt. Quīntus Flavius puerōs sequitur. “hoc mīror,” sēcum putat, “quis est ille homō īnsānus, et quid īnsaniae ostendere solet?”

Fabius discipulōs iterum salūtat et, “hodiē,” inquit, “nōs oportet fābulam discere. quis vestrum fābulam dē asinō in pelle leōnis nārrāre potest?”

And in the second long fābula, utrum pius an impius, we see Q. Flavius’ not-so-self-aware response:

quattuor post hōrās, Fabius discipulōs dīmittit, et puerī cum paedagōgīs ē lūdō ēgrediuntur. per viās urbis ad domōs suās proficīscuntur. Quīntus Flavius quoque cum paedagōgō suō per viās prōgreditur. puer omnia magistrī verba in animō volvit; nihil igitur paedagogō dīcit. tandem, “heus, tū, num ego tam insolenter mē gerō quam illae bēstiae?” sollicitus rogat. paedagōgus attonitus, “quid dīcis, puer?” respondet. “num surdus es, asine? nōnne verba mea audīs?” respondet Quīntus Flavius. “hoc tē rogō: num ego tam īnsolenter mē gerō quam illae bēstiae?”

“quae bēstiae,” paedagōgus sollicitus rogat. “heus! pessimus paedagōgōrum es!” clāmat Quīntus Flavius.

“nōnne hās quattuor hōrās bēstiās insolentēs in lūdō loquimur? nōnne pietātem et impietātem commemorāmus? num tū in lūdō dormīs?”

paedagōgus īrātus, “haud dormiō, puer īnsolēns!” respondet. “tū tamen nihil pietātis discis, quid mē hīs verbīs afflīgis. nōnne mē decet omnēs tuās rēs impiās gestās patrī tuō patefacere? nōnne quoque tē vehementer verberāre?” paedagōgus puerum attonitum prēnsat et vehementer verberat. “et nōnne,” addit lacrimāns, “nōnne puerum pium decet paedagōgum nōmināre?”

Quīntus Flavius attonitus, “quid? quis servum nōmināre solet?” sēcum susurrat.

As a special bonus, I’ve added one more fābula called Gallicus sē vexat, which further explores some issues about slavery. But you’ll have to visit the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site to read it! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?  What do you think of the stories, and what do you think of the cultural issues they raise?

Now, suppose you were going to design a Virtual Seminar that might follow one or all of these stories. Suppose, further, that you wanted to focus on the Big Idea of moral lessons from fables or the equally big idea of Roman slavery. What types of Opening and Core questions would you develop for one or more of these seminars?  And how might young John, who I think is a typical 10-year-old boy, respond to some of them?

Tune in next time to see the one that our friend John chooses; we’ll begin explore the other one on Saturday if all goes well. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Another Animal Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday, I promised you a story that

raises interesting issues of identity and community, as well as friendship and loyalty, and it even touches on that quintessentially Roman concept of pietās. And yet most of the characters aren’t human! 🙂

You may have been wondering how that could happen! This is actually the first in a pair of stories; you’ll soon find its sequel available at if you’re interested in finding out how it ends. It comes from Lectiō XVI of Cursus Primus of the Tres Columnae project, a point when we have “paused,” so to speak, to consolidate a bunch of relatively new grammatical concepts, especially the following:

  • what Romans called the optātīvus – the present subjunctive used in what many current Latin teachers would call a “volitive” construction;
  • dative nouns, including what’s sometimes called the “double dative;” and
  • what the Romans called the inpersōnālis, which many current Latin teachers would call the “impersonal passive.”

We’re also pausing to focus on Roman practices of marriage and childbirth, and on the underlying perspectives that are revealed by these practices and their associated products. And our participants should be ready for a really deep, meaningful Virtual Seminar on these topics. We’ll look at the way this psssage might relate to the Virtual Seminar in the next few days; today, by contrast, I mainly wanted to share it with you and give you the chance to start thinking about it.

So here we go:

Trux est canis fortissimus quī vīllam fundumque Caeliō custōdit. Caelius Trucī cibum aquamque cotīdiē dat. Trux tamen trīstis est, quod sōlus agrōs custōdit. “heu! vae!” sēcum putat, “utinam coniugem habeam! quam misera est vīta mea! nēmō enim mē amat, nēmō mē cūrat. nam Caelius mē semper iubet pecus custōdīre, Vipsānia ē vīllā exīre. Prīma et Secunda aliquandō mihi pilam iactant, saepe tamen mē neglegunt. et iste Cnaeus semper mē vexat. vae! heu! mē taedet officiōrum meōrum et familiae meae! utinam ex hāc vīllā effugiam! utinam nē reveniam!”

Trux trīstis et īrātus per agrōs ambulat. nihil audit Trux, quod tam trīstis et īrātus est. Fortūnāta bōs Trucem cōnspicit et, “salvē, mī amīce,” mūgit. Trux tamen nihil audit, nihil respondet. “num quis mē salūtāre solet?” sēcum putat. Maximus taurus, marītus Fortūnātae, quoque Trucem salūtat et “quid agis, mī dulcissime?” mūgit. Trux tamen trīstis et īrātus nihil audit, nihil respondet.

ovēs in prātō pascuntur et “heus! Trux noster!” bālant. “laetissimī tē salūtāmus quod nōs dīligenter custōdīre solēs!” Trux tamen īrātus et trīstis nihil audit, nihil respondet. “num omnēs amīcī mē neglegunt?” sēcum putat. “fortasse mē decet in silvā sōlum perīre, quod nēminī cordī sum!”

iam Trux per agrōs in clīvō montis Vesuviī currit. “vae! heu!” sēcum identidem susurrat. “nēmō mē amat, nēmō mē cūrat.” subitō tamen vōcem suāvem audit et attonitus cōnsistit. aliquis enim ē silvā proximā “salvē, lupe fortissime, quid agis?” vōce suāvissimā et blandissimā susurrat.

Trux “heus! quis mē appellat?” attonitus rogat et ad silvam contendit. in silvā stat lupa formōsa et pulchra. Trux “au! au!” lātrat, “abī, lupa! nōnne lupī odiō dominō meō sunt? tē nōn oportet fīnēs meōs aggredī!”

Lupa tamen vōce blandissimā, “mī amīce,” respondet, “quid dīcis? fīnēs tuōs haud aggredior. haud inimīca, haud hostis tibi sum. nōmen enim mihi Lupa est – et nōnne tū es lupus fortissimus? sōla sum, ut vidēs, et marītum fortissimum quaerō. nōnne tū es lupus fortissimus et optimus? nōnne mihi marītō optimō esse vīs?”

Trux attonitus, “ēhem!” sēcum susurrat, “utrum canis sum, an lupus fortissimus? istī hominēs, quī mē neglegere solent, semper mē canem appellant. pecus quoque mē canem appellat. ego tamen sānē haud cordī hominibus, haud cordī pecorī sum.”

Trux Lupae appropinquat et “Lupa mea,” susurrat, “laetissimus tē salūtō. fortasse lupus sum fortissimus; istī autem hominēs mē canem Molossicum appellāre solent. mē fallit, et condiciōnem vēram maximē dubitō.”

Lupa vōce blandissimā “mendācissimī igitur sunt istī hominēs!” exclāmat. “certē lupus optimus et fortissimus es! nōnne tē taedet istōrum hominum? nōnne tē taedet boum et ovum? nōnne līber esse quam servus māvīs? et nōnne mē uxōrem dūcere cupis?”

Trux avidus, “hercle!” lātrat, “vērum dīcis!” et per silvam cum Lupā celeriter currit. Lupa tamen clam rīdet et, “canem stultissimum, sed cēnam aptissimum!” sibi susurrat!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, I suppose I should ask how we did with incorporating the “newer” grammatical forms and concepts I listed above. Is there too much, not enough, or just the right amount of “newer” stuff?
  • Then I’m wondering what you think of Trux as a character. He’s deliberately ambiguous, so it’s OK if you can’t make up your mind! 🙂
  • I also wonder what you think of the minor animal characters – Fortunata, Maximus, and the sheep in particular. They’re all important in other Tres Columnae stories (especially Fortunata, as you may recall if you’ve been reading this blog for a while – and if you haven’t, you may want to check out this story at the Tres Columnae project, in which Fortunata plays a most important role).
  • Of course, I’m very interested to know what you think of Lupa … especially at the end of the story! Are she and her fellow wolves really planning to eat Trux for dinner? Or do they have a more elaborate plan? You’ll find out in the next day or so when the sequel appears on the Tres Columnae website, but feel free to speculate in the meantime.
  • If you’re familiar with the animal fable tradition, you may see some echoes of it – and some interesting inversions as well. If you’re not familiar with fables, or if you think they’re “only for children,” please take a look at our friend Laura G’s Bestiaria Latina Zoo, an amazingly comprehensive collection of Latin animal fables – and even some descriptions of animals. Either way, what do you think of the ways we’ve employed the animal fable tradition in this story?
  • If you’ve read our previous posts about Virtual Seminars, you might even have some ideas about questions we might ask to get the conversation going. (One strand, of course, might be the relationships between our characters and the animal fable tradition.) Please feel free to share them! 🙂
  • Do you think that our animal stories are only “for” a certain age group, or are they “for” everybody? Or do they perhaps have different purposes for different audiences?

Tune in next time for your responses, our comments, and a quick look at the Virtual Seminar that might accompany this story in the “fully formed” version of the Tres Columnae project. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!