Live from ACL, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! This post really is coming to you “live” from the American Classical League Institute; in fact, as I write, I’m sitting in the Benson Center at Wake Forest University, mid-morning on June 28, 2010. It’s been a wonderful Institute, with some fascinating presentations, including a couple of really interesting, engaging, and helpful plenary sessions – and if you’ve been to very many conferences, you probably share my feeling about the value (or lack thereof) of a lot of plenary sessions. In this case, though, those have really been a highlight. I was especially pleased by

  • a very well-attended session about the ACL/APA Standards for Latin Teacher Preparation (well, to be fair, since I was on the Task Force that wrote the Standards document, I did “have a dog in that fight,” as an old friend says);
  • a fascinating session previewing the Latin Reading Proficiency Examination (designed for both teachers and students, and really intended to show proficient reading and comprehension rather than “quick translation”) that’s under development by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages; and
  • the highlight for me, this morning’s presentation by Dexter Hoyos about his Rules for Fluent Reading of Latin.

I actually met and talked with Dexter at lunch the other day, and he is as charming, funny, and humble in person as you’d expect if you’ve read his Latinteach posts or his published work. He had positive things to say about the Tres Columnae Project, too, and after talking to him, I felt … well, I felt like a Little League baseball player who looked up into the (rather small) bleachers after the game, saw his favorite Major League player sitting there, went over to get his autograph, and the player complimented his grip or his stance! I’m still on a bit of an emotional high from that.

We had a full house for my presentation about the Tres Columnae Project on Saturday evening, as well, even though it was right after dinner (and right before the welcoming plenary session and all-important reception) on Saturday evening. And it was a very receptive, engaged crowd, too! grātiās maximās omnibus quī vēnistis audītum! We even had time for participants to “play” for about 20 minutes, and enough folks had brought laptops (and iPads – I was jealous! 🙂 – and smartphones and iPod Touches) that everyone (who wanted) was able to get some hands-on time with both the Version Alpha Wiki and the Instructure demo course. grātiās quoque maximās to all who had good suggestions! Thanks to you, we’ll be adding a Scope and Sequence page that describes the grammatical and syntactic points of each Lectiō in the next few days, and I’ll also have more detailed information about subscription options before too long. (Oddly, I had expected people to question why we’d need to charge for access to things – I really don’t know why I expected that, in retrospect – but no one did! We did have a great question about how, exactly, the editing process would work, and when I described the types of feedback we’re planning, the questioner seemed extremely pleased both with the process and with the fee. So, for some reason, that was a big relief.)

I’ll have more to say about the Institute in tomorrow’s post, and probably throughout the next several days. But I do want to keep my promise from last week, and so I do have a new Tres Columnae story for you today. As I mentioned last week, in the wedding sequence in Lectiō XXIV we’ll see not only the wedding of Vipsānius and Valeria, but also (in a flashback) that of Lollia, daughter of Valerius’ client Lollius (and sister of young Lucius’ friend Caius) to Vipsānius’ “poor” cousin Marcus. “Poor,” of course, is a relative thing in the Roman world; compared to Lollius, who really does depend on Valerius’ sportula, young Marcus Vipsānius is quite well off. He owns a “small” book-copying business in Naples with “only” twenty slaves! But to Quartus Vipsānius, and to Caelius and Vipsānia, that means he, gasp, works for a living – hardly appropriate for a relative of theirs, and certainly a disqualification to marriage to anyone they know! There’s a whole series of stories about M. Vipsanius and Lollia, but we’ll begin with this one:

Marcus Vipsānius, pātruēlis Vipsāniī, iuvenis ingeniī optimī maximaeque industriae, orbus pārentibus erat. quamquam Quārtus Vipsānius ipse senātor Rōmānus et dītissimus erat, Marcō Vipsāniō nūllae erant dīvitiae. librāriam parvam in urbe Neapolī tenēbat, in quō vīgintī scrībae cotīdiē labōrābant.

ōlim Vipsānius “vae Marcō nostrō!” inquit. “sēdecim enim annōs nātus, uxōrem dignam invenīre haud potest! quis enim hospitum nostrōrum fīliam Mārcō dabit? nēmō certē, quod modō tam plēbēiō labōrat ille! vae Marcō, et vae familiae nostrae!”

Vipsānius igitur sorōrī suae, Vipsāniae Caeliī, epistulam dictāvit, in quā cāsūs Marcī Vipsāniī patefēcit, et servō trādidit. Caelia epistulam acceptam servō suō trādidit et, “Ūtilis,” inquit, “tibi ad domum Valeriī festīnandum est. nōnne illī sunt multī clientēs pauperēs? fortasse ūnus ex illīs fīliam dare cōnsentiet.” et Valerius, postquam epistulam lēgit, maximē gaudēns Lollium vocāvit, cui epistulam dēmōnstrāvit et, “hercle,” inquit, “nōnne dī tibi favent? fortasse hic Marcus Vipsānius Lolliam tuam uxōrem dūcet!” Marcus celeriter cōnsentit. “nōnne enim atāvus Lolliae erat ille Maccius Plautus, comoedus nōtissimus?” inquit. “quam fēlīx sum! praetereā, Lollia ipsa docta et formōsa, pater doctus et benignus est. nōnne dī nōbīs omnibus favent?”

duōbus igitur mēnsibus ante nūptiās Valeriae et Vipsāniī, ille Marcus Vipsānius Lolliam uxōrem dūcere parābat. nūllī tamen servī lēctum sacrificiave parābant. diē enim nūptiārum, Lollia, ut Valeria, ante prīmam hōram surrēxit et togam cum bullā pupīsque lāribus dēdicāvit. Maccia, ut Caelia, crīnēs fīliae ōrnāvit, et Lollia tunicam rēgillam cum flammeō induit. Maccia tamen cum Lolliā iam cibum vīnumque cēnae nuptiālī parāverat. septimā diēī hōrā advēnit Marcus Vipsānius cum patre familiās et ūnō servō. Lollia et Marcus dextrās iunxērunt et verba sollemnia prōnuntiāvērunt. tum Cāius, ut pātrīmus et mātrīmus, facem per viās tulit, et tōta familia Lollia gaudēns pompam sequēbātur. Lūcius quoque, cui Cāius et Lollia cordī erant, pompam comitābātur et versūs Fescennīnōs cantābat. Lollia tamen et Marcus nōn domum magnam, sed īnsulam intrāvērunt; nōn in ātriō sed in cēnāculō stābat lectus nūptiālis. postrīdiē, omnēs ad cēnāculum revēnērunt repōtia cōnsūmptum. Lollia ipsa lentēs Aegyptiās et panem parāverat. Lūcius amphoram vīnī, ā patre suō datam, sēcum tulit, et omnēs hospitēs grātiās maximās Valeriō agēbant. duōbus diēbus post nūptiās, Marcus et Lollia ad urbem Neāpolim abiērunt, ubi ille librāriam prope forum tenēbat. “haud dīvitēs, sed certē fēlīcēs sumus,” Marcus et Lollia inter sē cotīdiē āiunt. in cēnāculō enim pulchrō habitābant, et Marcus uxōrī suae saepe dōna dare poterat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you were at the ACL Institute and did attend my session on Saturday, I’d love to know your unfiltered, unvarnished impressions and responses. I’ve spoken to a number of lectōrēs fidēlissimī (some of whom I’ve corresponded with for years, but never met in person until today) and reconnected with a lot of old friends. But it would be great to know what you really think … especially if you have concerns or suggestions for improvement.
  • If you weren’t at the Institute and would like to see either the handout or the slides from the presentation, just let me know … or check the Version Alpha Wiki site in the next few days. I’ll try to get them uploaded there if people want them.
  • What do you think of this story of Lollia and M. Vipsānius’ wedding … and of M. Vipsānius as a new character? He’ll be important, as it turns out, in the stories of Cursus Secundus … but I don’t want us to get too far ahead of ourselves! 🙂
  • Do you think the relatively sudden jump to multiple verb tenses in Lectiōnēs XX – XXIV is too sudden, or too big of a jump? And if so, what would you suggest as an alternative?
  • What issues of social class – and what comparisons between and within cultures – are raised by the story, and how might we encourage our participants to explore them in greater depth?

Tune in next time, when we’ll hear about the last day of the 2010 ACL Institute, respond to your questions and concerns, and share another story about M. Vipsānius’ and Lollia’s wedding. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Wedding Stories and a Presentation

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As you read this, I’m on the way to the 2010 American Classical League Institute in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just a 100-mile drive from home for me. With me, in addition to a trusty laptop computer and clothing for the next few days, is a small stack of handouts for those who will attend my session tonight about the Tres Columnae Project. I’ve done a number of presentations at ACL Institutes over the years and have been part of a group that did a Pre-Institute Workshop, so the process of preparing for sessions like this isn’t at all new for me. I found my “TC” session easier to prepare, in some ways, than previous sessions about things like “Implementing Paideia in the Latin Classroom” (2006) and “Collaborative Reading Games” (2008). In those cases, I was sharing strategies and activities that I’d used successfully in my own classroom, but I found it difficult to pare the material down to the 90-minute length of a session, while still giving participants a chance to try the activities out.

Unlike those previous sessions, this one almost wrote itself! Maybe that’s because I’ve been talking and writing about the Tres Columnae project to so many people (including you, of course, lectōrēs cārissimī) for months. But I also want to thank Chip and Dan Heath, authors of books like Made to Stick and Switch, for sharing their insights and research findings about presenting new ideas. If you haven’t read either book, I recommend them both highly! I’ve just been re-reading Switch, and I can’t say enough about the metaphor of the Elephant, the Rider, and the Path.

Getting back to my presentation for a moment, it falls into four main sections: an introduction, a bit of background, a live demonstration of the Tres Columnae Project, and a conclusion. First there’s an introduction, in which we examine five critical problems that, meā quidem sententiā, are common for Latin teachers and programs in the age of what Dr. Larry Rosen, in Rewired, calls the “iGeneration.” It’s interactive, but not in a high-tech way; I want to know if, in fact, others are seeing these problems – other than you lectōrēs cārissimī who have frequently agreed with me, in blog comments and emails, that you see the problems. In briefest form, the problems I’ve seen are with

  • students’ fluency and comprehension when reading Latin,
  • availability of extensive rather than intensive reading material,
  • opportunities for creativity and sharing by learners,
  • opportunities for immediate feedback, and
  • ways to help learners build deeper Understandings along with Knowledge and Skill, to use the Paideia terminology for a moment.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or if you’ve perused some of the information “about us” at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, you’re probably not surprised by the list of problems! After the introduction, we’ll explore two aspects of background: the research base that suggested to me that there was a problem, and the existing attempts to solve the problem that I was able to uncover. As you know if you’re a lēctor fidēlis, I had assumed there were lots of good, existing alternatives, but I couldn’t find them if they were out there; hence the decision to build the Tres Columnae Project.

And of course the bulk of the session is a demonstration and exploration of the TC materials themselves, both at the Version Alpha Wiki site and at the Instructure Demo site. I’m not sure how many attendees will bring their own computers and want to play independently (we’ve been assured that everyone at ACL will have access to Wake Forest University‘s wireless network), so I’ll do a “teacher-led” exploration for part of the time and will also invite computer-less participants to come up and take us on pathways that seem interesting to them. Finally, in conclusion, we’ll close with a return to the five problems we addressed in the introduction … specifically, by looking at how well the current version of TC addresses them, and by asking participants to brainstorm about improvements they’d want to see in future versions of the project. If there’s time, I’ll encourage participants with computers to think about creating and submitting their own stories and other content.

As I said, the presentation was simple to write and simple to describe. But it’s challenging in a different way: it’s a lot more participant-directed than most conference sessions I’ve presented! So there’s a lot of it that I can’t practice in advance – a difficult situation for Mr. Over-Prepared! 🙂

I think that’s why I chose to focus on the wedding stories this week: because just like a participant-driven class or conference session, you can’t practice a marriage, a friendship, or any other deep relationship in advance. Of course you can rehearse a wedding ceremony – but do we know how much the Romans rehearsed them? They may not have, since the participants had a lot less to say than the bride and groom in a twenty-first-century American wedding – ubi tū Gāius, ibi ego Gāia isn’t that hard – and relatively few things to do – join hands here, try to eat there, parade through the streets, anoint some door posts, pick up (or be picked up, depending on your gender), throw a torch or some nuts (again depending on your gender), etc. But even if you do rehearse the ceremony, you can’t rehearse the relationship; that has to be created each day by countless interactions, large and small, between the spouses. And even if you know a lot of theory about how relationships work, that doesn’t necessarily help with the nitty-gritty of this relationship on this day, does it?

Food for thought, for me as well as for you, lectōrēs cārissimī! Anyway, today we’ll return to the preparations for Valeria and Vipsānius’ wedding with this story (now available here at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested) about the preparations at domus Vipsānia. And if you’re curious about why Quartus Vipsānius bought a house in Herculaneum – especially when his own sister Vipsānia and her husband Caelius live so close by – you might want to check out this story at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site. Let’s just say that, while Caelius did (reluctantly) offer, Vipsanius (not so reluctantly) declined.

So here we go with today’s story:

hodiē māne, cum Valeria et Caelia vestēs nūptiālēs parant, tōtam per domum Vipsāniī clāmātur et festīnātur. Britannicus coquus et Ulyssēs scrība cum cēterīs Vipsāniī servīs lēctum geniālem in ātriō, lectum nūptiālem in cubiculō parant et flōribus lānīsque ornant. “hercle!” inquit Britannicus, “nōs oportet hoc officium celerrimē cōnficere. mē enim decet ad culīnam regredī, quod mihi necesse est epulās dapēsque repōtiōrum parāre!” ancilla tamen Pēnelopē subrīdēns, “tacē, Britannice,” respondet, “et labōrā! nisi enim hic lectus rīte parātus erit, haud opus erit repōtiōrum!”

aliae ancillae tōtam domum flōribus ōrnant et canistra nucum prope iānuam pōnunt. “hercle!” inquit Helena ancilla, “quam mihi placent nucēs! nōnne mē oportet multās ēsse, quod valdē ēsuriō?” “nōnne ōmen pessimum?!” respondet Xanthippē ancilla. “tē haud decet nūcēs māne ēsse! paucīs tamen hōrīs, quandō dominus uxōrem dūcet, nōnne ille plūrimās nūcēs iactābit? tum tē decēbit nūcēs captāre et permultās ēsse! nōlī illās tangere!” Xanthippē, haec verba locūta, ad iānuam festīnat oleum lānāsque parātum. “heus!” inquit, “ōleum ubi est? nōnne opus est oleī? quid, sī uxor postēs iānuae oleō unguere nōn poterit? nōnne ōmen pessimum?”

Helena questūs Xanthippēs audit et, “ō Xanthippē, nōlī tē vexāre? nōnne oleum nunc iam in culīnā est? nōnne ampullam oleī hūc ferre potes?”

et Xanthippē rīdēns, “certē,” respondet, “nōnne tamen tū quoque illam ferre potes? et nōnne tē decet? quid sī, sōla hīc cum nūcibus relicta, illās ēsse cōnāberis?”

Helena “hercle! callidissima es,” respondet et ad culīnam festīnat oleī ampullam quaesītum.

tum Ulyssēs, “nōnne tē decet, Pēnelopē, Ulysseō tuō, ut marītō, ōsculum dare?” inquit et ōs ad illam prōtendit. Pēnelopē tamen haec interpellat: “tacē, stultissime! haud tua sum! sī enim vīgintī annōs aberis, regressus mē dolentem haud inveniēs!” tum omnēs servī iocīs et cachinnīs sē trādunt.

intereā Vipsānius cum patre in tablīnō colloquitur. “pater mī pater,” inquit, “sollicitus sum! quaesō, amābō tē, mihi cōnsilium dā!” Quārtus Vipsānius, fīlium amplexus, cūrās fīliī lēnīre et mollīre cōnātur.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If we run into each other at the American Classical League Institute – and I hope we will – feel free to tell me in person!
  • Otherwise, please comment here – whether you’d like to respond to the presentation as I’ve described it, to the story (especially the new servī et ancillae), or to anything else!

I hope to be able to write posts from the Institute on Monday and Tuesday, though they may be somewhat brief … and I’m not sure whether they’ll be about the Institute itself, the next stories in this sequence, or a combination. We’ll have to see! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Wedding Stories, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it? I had feared that my day of waiting for the car repair wouldn’t be very productive … and so it was hugely productive. I even had Wi-Fi access for much of the day! So I was able not only to draft stories, but to use online resources like GoogleBooks and Glossa to do some editing and fact-checking. (I’m eternally grateful to GoogleBooks for scanning Harold Johnston’s Private Life of the Romans, which is available at this link. At almost 110 years old, it’s a bit outdated in places, but it has a huge amount of useful information – including specialized Latin terminology for things related to Roman marriage that you’ll find in our current series of stories. Grātiās maximās tibi, Professor Johnston, et vōbīs, GoogleBooks team!)

Anyway, today we’ll look at the next story in the sequence about Valeria’s wedding to Vipsānius. I realized yesterday morning, while driving to drop off the car for service, that some of you lectōrēs cārissimī, who are familiar with the Big Three reading-method Latin textbooks, might be a bit concerned about a wedding-themed story. I’m thinking of one particular book, quem nōmināre nōlō, in which the wedding turns into a disaster because the bride is secretly in love with someone else … a really exciting and gripping story-line, and one of my students’ traditional favorites. But that’s not what will happen in the Tres Columnae stories.

I’m very fond of the Pyramus and Thisbe motif, but I must say I enjoy the ironic way that Ovid treats the story far more than I would a “straight-up” treatment. So no one will die horribly in Lectiō XXIV, I promise! Or I guess I should say, to be fair, that no one will die in our primary stories! If participants and subscribers want to create stories like that, they’re certainly welcome to do so … though, of course, we also reserve the right to edit and approve. In the primary story-line, though, I really don’t want any Teenage Relationship Drama; I get plenty of that whenever I talk with my face-to-face students and my almost-teenage daughter. 🙂

Anyway, in today’s story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, Caelia is dressing her daughter for the Big Day. I’m grateful, once again, to

  • Professor Johnston, quite posthumously, for reminding me about the tunica rēgilla and the nōdus Herculāneus, and that Hercules watches over married life (which, when you think of his problematic relationships with women, is rather ironic, isn’t it?)
  • Professors Lewis and Short, also quite posthumously, and via Glossa, for cofirming that cōmere is the verb you use for arranging hair in this context, that involvere is what you do with a flammeum, and that vīncīre applies to the nodus Herculāneus as it does to ordinary knots.

Here we go:

in ātriō domūs, Valeria togam suam praetextam exuit et tunicam rēgillam induit. Caelia crīnēs Valeriae in sex partēs hastā cōmit et vittīs retinet. tum Caelia, fīliam suam amplexa, “mihi laetandum est, Valeriōla mea, quod hodiē vespere iuvenī optimī nūbēs!” māterfamiliās, haec verba locūta, flammeō caput Caeliae involvit. tum, fīliam iterum amplexa, lacrimīs iterum sē trādit. Valeria, mātrem quoque amplexa, “ō mater mea,” inquit, “quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimēs! nōnne ego ipsa gaudeō? nōnne iuvenis optimus mē uxorem vespere dūcet? quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimās ita effundās!”

Caelia tandem lacrimās retinēre potest. Valeriam iterum amplexa, “ō fīlia,” inquit, “nōnne lacrimō quod laetissima sum? rēctē tamen dīcis: mihi haud lacrimandum est! haud decet mātrem diē nūptiārum fīliae lacrimāre! ōmina enim optima tibi praebēre dēbeō.” Caelia sē colligit et haec addit: “siste nunc, mea fīlia, et nōlī ita tē movēre! mē enim oportet nōdum Herculis vīncīre. difficile tamen est nōdum rīte vīncīre, cum sponsae nōn cōnsistunt!”

Valeria “ignōsce mihi, māter,” respondet, et statim cōnsistit. Caelia cingulum sūmit et nōdum Herculāneum perītē circum īlia fīliae vīncit. “heus,” sēcum putat, “nōnne tempus fugit? nōnne paucōs ante diēs māter mea nōdum Herculis mihi ita vīnxit?”

Valeria tamen, “māter mea,” subitō inquit, “cūr nodum vīncīre haesitās?” et Caelia “ignōsce mihi, fīlia mea,” respondet. “haestiābam enim, quod diem nūptiārum meārum in animō volvēbam.” Caelia nōdum cōnficit et “nunc iam,” inquit, “nōnne nōs decet precēs Herculī ipsī, quī mātrimōnia omnia custōdit, iam adhibēre?”

Valeria manum Caeliae prēnsat. tum māter fīliaque verba sollemnia prōnuntiant. haec verba locūtae, ambae ex ātriō ēgrediuntur rēs nūptiālēs parātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you happen to be a specialist in Roman wedding ceremonies, please let me know if there are any factual errors here! I think I’ve accurately depicted what we do know, but I’m always open to corrections. And, of course, the beauty of an online “text” like the Tres Columnae Project is that it’s easy to make such corrections – no expensive reprints, lists of errata and corrigenda, or economic decisions about new editions!
  • You can probably see that I was trying to strike a balance between “universal” emotional issues and culturally specific details in this story. And, of course, I’ve never been a bride myself, nor have I ever been the mother of a bride! So, how well does this story depict the “universal” emotions of Valeria and Caelia? That is, if you’ve been a bride (or the mother of one), can you see yourself in Valeria, Caelia, or both? And if not, what do we need to change?
  • How well does it depict the specific cultural details of Roman wedding preparations?
  • How is the balance? Is there too much of one or the other, or did we manage to get the balance “just right”?
  • And, most of all, does this story grab your attention and make you want to keep reading?

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore some other stories in the sequence. By the end of Lectiō XXIV, not only will we follow Valeria through her wedding day, but we’ll also witness

  • the servī et ancillae who are preparing for the wedding feast;
  • the nervous bridegroom, with his father and servants;
  • the recent wedding of Caius’ sister Lollia, in a flashback;
  • our friend Lucius’ response to Lollia’s wedding; and even
  • preparations for the weddings of two of your favorite mouse-children.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments and emails coming, and I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend in Winston-Salem, NC, for the 2010 American Classical League Institute.

Wedding Stories, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we begin the long-promised series of posts featuring the Tres Columnae stories about the wedding of Valeria and Vipsānius. For you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who tune in every day, I should probably warn you that there may not be a post tomorrow (Thursday, June 24), and there almost certainly won’t be one on Saturday (June 26) or Monday (June 28). As you’re reading this, I’m spending my day with a much needed but possibly lengthy car service appointment; depending on how that goes, I may not be able to write a post for Thursday. We should be OK on Friday, but then, over the weekend, I’ll be at the 2010 American Classical League Institute in Winston-Salem, NC. It’s only a short distance from home for me – just long enough that I can’t stay peacefully at home in the evenings – but it will be a busy time. You can expect a full report starting on Tuesday the 29th.

I realize that wedding stories are, appropriately enough, common in reading-method Latin textbooks; all of the Big Three have them in one place or another, for example. They’re obviously an important part of Roman culture, and they do provide great opportunities to compare and contrast specific customs (practices) as well as more general attitudes (perspectives). As we often do with the Tres Columnae Project, we’ll take things a step farther by featuring two different weddings (and eventually some others, as Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus become young men of marriageable age) and encouraging comparisons among different Roman weddings as well as between “the” Roman wedding and “the” modern one (or even just “the” modern American one). We all know – or at least I assume we know – that there’s no single pattern for “the” American wedding, just as there’s no single pattern for “the” Roman wedding, or house, or meal, or familia. And I think we do a disservice to our learners when we don’t at least attempt to acknowledge some of the diversity – or when we acknowledge the diversity in our “English background reading” but focus the Latin readings narrowly on a single social class or a single pattern. Does that make sense?

Our stories today (and tomorrow, if possible, and Friday) come from Lectiō XXIV, just before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Lectiōnēs XXV and XXVI, which we’ll look at another time. Lectiō XXIV is all about weddings; if you’re a long-time reader of the blog you may remember that back in March, in this post, we saw preparations for the wedding of Lollia. By this point in Cursus Prīmus, our participants have been exposed to non-present tense forms of verbs, but we continue to use the “historical present” for most of our narratives. Today’s story features preparations on the morning of Valeria’s wedding, and it’s now available at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site:

per tōtam domum Valeriī gaudētur et celebrātur.  hodiē enim vespere Quārtus Vipsānius Valeriam in mātrimōnium dūcet. Valerius igitur et Caelia mātūrē ē lectō surgunt et ad ātrium contendunt, ubi Valeria ipsa etiam nunc prō larāriō stat. Valeria verba sollemnia prōnuntiat et bullam pupāsque lāribus dēdicat. Caelia, fīlam suam amplexa, lacrimīs sē trādit. Valeria attonita, “māter mea, “ exclāmat, “num tē decet lacrimāre? nōnne tē decet gaudēre, quod Vipsāniō, iuvenī optimō quem omnēs dīligumus, nūbere iam parō?” Caelia autem Valeriae, “ō fīlia mea,” respondet, “nōnne gaudēns lacrimō? multōs post annōs, quandō fīliam tuam diē nūptiārum vidēbis, lacrimās meās memoriā tenēs intellegēs. sed ubi est pater tuus?”

Valerius enim, ex ātriō clam ēgressus, in peristyliō nunc iam stat et lacrimīs tacitīs sē trādit. “ō māiōrēs nostrī,” susurrat, “quaesō, fīliam meam servāte et tuēminī! ō dea Venus benignissima, quaesō, fēiliam meam aspicite! ō dea Iunō Lūcīna, quaesō, amābō tē, etiamsī vir sum, precēs meās audī et Valeriae meae nātūs facilēs tempore propriō dā! ō dī omnēs, quaesō–” Valerius tamen adeō flet ut nihil dīcere iam possit.

Caeliōla, peristylium forte ingressa, patrem lacrimantem cōnspicātur. attonita Valerium salūtat et, “ō pater, pater, cūr lacrimās?” sollicita rogat. Valerius, Caeliōlam amplexus, sē colligit et “ō fīlia mea,” respondet, “deōs precor ut Valeriae nostrae Vipsāniōque faveant. maximē autem gaudeō, quod hodiē vespere iuvenis optimus Valeriam nostram in mātrimōnium dūcet; fleō tamen, quod mē oportēbit fīliam meam marītō suō trādere. lacrimō quoque, quod difficile est mihi, ut patrī familiās, līberōs meōs iam adultōs spectāre!”

Valerius, Caeliōlam amplexus, iterum lacrimīs sē trādit. Caeliōla attonita, “vae patrī!” sēcum putat. “dīs grātiās agō et laetor, quod sānē difficillima est vīta virōrum!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’ve read the related story of Lollia’s wedding, you probably noticed some similarities, as well as some differences, in the responses of the two fathers. Do you find their reactions convincing and appropriate?
  • What opportunities for intra-cultural comparisons do you see between the weddings of Valeria and Lollia?
  • What additional types of weddings (or informal Roman arrangements) would you like to see featured at this point in the Tres Columnae storyline?
  • What about inter-cultural comparisons? What specific things would you point out to your students … or ask them to look for and point out to each other?

Tune in next time, when we’ll see at least one actual wedding ceremony and find out whether a transfer of manus is involved or not. I hope to see many of you lectōrēs cārissimī at the 2010 ACL Institute, either at my session about Tres Columnae or at other points during the weekend. And for those of you who are coming from other places, I want to welcome you to North Carolina, my “face-to-face” home for the past 20 years.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Rites of Passage, VII

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll wrap up our current series of posts with a couple of stories, and then on Saturday we’ll step back and take a more “big picture” look at the how and why of Tres Columnae Project stories. Next week we’ll pick up with my first impressions of the Instructure LMS software, and we should have some examples of exercises, quizzes, explanations, and Continuing Virtual Seminar prompts for the first few Lectiōnēs to share there … and to compare with the versions at the Tres Columnae Moodle site, in case you’re interested. I’d really love to know what you all think when you have a chance to make side-by-side comparisons between similar activities on the two platforms. After that, we’ll most likely look at the actual wedding stories from Lectiō XXIV, which haven’t yet appeared on the Version Alpha Wiki site.

Today, though, let’s finish – or almost finish – the sequence of stories about the engagement of Valeria and Vipsānius. When we left them yesterday, Valeria and her family had just arrived at the vīlla rūstica of the Vipsāniī, and poor, nervous, sweaty Vipsānius was trying to avoid greeting his future bride. If you’ve ever been, or known, a teenager, you probably smiled in sympathy as you read his feeble excuse! 🙂 Today’s story picks up just after their awkward meeting, as Quārtus Vipsānius the elder is showing everyone around his “little place in the country.” You’ll be able to find it at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like.

Quārtus Vipsānius Valerium salūtat et “ēhem! libenter vōs in vīllā accipimus!” exclāmat. omnēs per iānuam vīllae prōgrediuntur et ātrium intrant. “nōnne magnificum est ātrium!” Lūcius Cāiō susurrat. “nōnne hoc ātrium māius est quam vīlla vestra?” respondet Cāius attonitus. “fortasse vīlla māior est quam urbs Herculāneum!” respondet Lūcius. “Vipsānius enim vir maximae pecūniae est, et senātor Rōmānus. utinam tālem vīllam habeam!” et Cāius, “utinam nē ex hāc vīlla discēdam! utinam nē ad cēnāculum parvum regrediar!”

omnēs per ātrium prōcedunt. servī et ancillae susurrant, “quaesō, dominī, nōbīscum venīte ad cubicula vestra.” et Quārtus Vipsānius, “valdē laetāmur,” exclāmat, “quod vōs in vīllā meā parvā hodiē accipiō. hodiē celebrātur et cēnātur; crās ad Circum ītur; tertiō diē negōtium agitur.” Valeria Vipsānium iuvenem cōnspicit et iterum ērubēscit. “nōnne benignus et cōmis est iuvenis?” sēcum putat. “nōnne lepidus et fortis! utinam nē innūpta ad Herculāneum regrediar!” Vipsānius quoque ērubēscit et, “dī immortālēs! quam pulchra et cōmis est Valeria!” sēcum putat. “utinam nē umquam discēdat!”

The next story in the sequence, of course, is the one we looked at back in February – the unfortunate events in the Circus. The good news, as we’ll see in this story from Lectiō XV, is that the drunken spectators do get what they deserve:

extrā Circum vigilēs Iulium et Clōdium vehementer vituperant. “vōbīs dīligenter audiendum est!” exclāmant īrātissimī. “nēminem decet in Circō ita pugnāre! nōnne rem intellegitis? tū enim, stultissime, senātōrī enim Rōmānō, virō maximae dignitātis, caput bōtulō percutīre audēs! et tū, asine, senātōrī Rōmānō ōs oculōsque vīnō foedāre audēs! nōnne in perīculō maximō estis, quod pietātem spernitis? nōnne vōs decet multōs annōs in carcere manēre?”

Iulius ēbrius et attonitus vigilēs invicem vituperat. “cūr ā servīs clāmātur? cūr ā gallīs vituperātur? ego enim et amīcus cīvēs sumus Rōmānī; vōs nec decet nōs tangere nec comprehendere! mihi ad Circum reveniendum est, vōbīs lacrimandum et flendum!”

Clōdius tamen, quod minus ēbrius est quam amīcus, sollicitus interpellat, “Iūlī! tē nōn decet vigilēs vituperāre! tibi tacendum est! nōnne vigilēs tē in carcere conicere possunt? nōnne vigilēs decet cīvēs turbulentōs comprehendere? tacē, stultissime – ad istum carcerem redīre haud volō!”

Iulius tamen verba Clōdiī neglegit. bracchium vigilī prēnsat et, “tibi audiendum est, serve! et tibi cavendum est quoque! nōnne–”

vigil tamen īrātus manūs Iuliō prēnsat et, “satis! satis! tacendum tibi est!” clāmat. vigil Iulium vehementer verberat et ad carcerem trahit. cēterī vigilēs Clōdium quoque prēnant et in carcerem coniciunt. spectātōrēs vigilibus plaudunt. “optimē facitis!” exclāmant. “nōnne bōtulum ēsse vultis?”

And the really good news is that, even despite the assaults of spectators Clōdius and Iūlius, Valerius and Vipsānius do successfully make the arrangements, with the wedding is scheduled for the following June. Check out this story:

intereā familia Valeria ē Circō exit et per viās urbis prōcēdit. familia Caelia quoque ad domum Vipsāniī regreditur. Quārtus Vipsānius ipse rīdet et “heus!” exclāmat, “spectātōrēs īnsolentissimōs! nōnne istīs ēbriīs necesse est poenās scelerum dare? rīdeō tamen, quod spectāculum novissimum nōbīs hodiē, multās pecūniās in tempore futūrō praestāre possunt illī. nōnne mē oportet istōs ad basilicam quaerere?”

Valerius quoque rīdet et, “mī Vipsānī,” vōce blandā inquit, “nōnne nōs decet dē dōte colloquium habēre?” “dē dōte?” respondet Vipsānius. “num quis fīliam meam in matrimōnium dūcere vult? Vipsānilla enim puella sex annōrum haud est.” tum Vipsānius rīdet et, “nōnne iocus optimus?” exclāmat. “nōs sānē decet dē dōte et dē matrimōniō ipsō colloquī. fīlius enim meus cotīdiē ad mē venit nūptiās Valeriae tuae quaesītum. cotīdiē mē ōrat, cotīdiē deōs precātur.” Vipsānius et Valerius tablīnum ingrediuntur pecūniam commemorātum.

Vipsānius iuvenis ērubēscit et ad iānuam currit vīllam intrātum. “valēte vōs omnēs!” susurrat. Valeria cum mātre stat et “ēhem! iuvenem pulchrum et benignum!” sēcum putat. Caelia rīdet et, “Valeria mea, num istum iuvenem dīligere audēs?” rogat. Valeria attonita rīsūs matris cōnspicit et quoque rīdet. “iuvenis sānē tam celer quam pulcher est!” respondet et cachinnīs sē trādit.

Lūcius attonitus “vah! mē taedet fēminārum!” exclāmat. “māter mea, nōnne Cāiō et mihi ad forum festīnandum est? nōnne per viās currendum est? nōs enim maximē taedet dōtis et matrimōniī!”

Caelia rīdet et, “festīnāte, puerī, sed dīligentiam maximam praestāte!” respondet. “et vōbīscum veniendum est consōbrīnō tuō!” Cnaeus “vae! heu! mē taedet viārum, et pedēs mihi maximē dolent!” respondet. Caelia tamen, “abī pestis!” exclāmat. Caelia et Valeria garrītum vīllam ingrediuntur; puerōs in viā relinquunt.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, what do you think of Vipsānius’ and Valeria’s response to each other?
  • What do you think of the rather relaxed, jocular relationship between Valerius and the elder Vipsānius?
  • How about Lucius’ and Caius’ response?
  • What other big issues – of characterization or of culture – do you want to talk about after reading these stories?

Tune in next time for the “big picture” questions … and your questions and answers, if you’re willing to share them. Then, on Monday or Tuesday, we should be able to start looking in detail at Instructure. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Rites of Passage, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Coming up early next week, once I’ve had a chance to work with its features, will be a much fuller review of the Instructure course-management system I mentioned in yesterday’s post. It’s a remarkable piece of software … and, best of all, it’s free for individual teachers to use, and it “plays nicely” (as its founders said) with other online tools that we – and our students – might already be using anyway. Check it out and see what you think – and compare it with some of the other course-management systems out there. And please let me know what you think! It seems like a great tool for what we’re doing with the exercises, quizzes, and Continuing Virtual Seminars of the Tres Columnae project, but I suppose it might not be right for what you need such a system to do.  Anyway, I’ll let you know – and make some publicly available samples – when I’ve had a chance to explore it in greater detail.

Today, though, we’ll continue our series of posts about Valerius and Vipsania’s wedding. (I’ve also been busy writing some stories for Lectiō XIX, which – as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve looked at the Tres Columnae Table of Contents – is a bit short at the moment. It turns out that poor Casina ancilla – but I don’t want to give too much away! 🙂 You’ll have to wait until next week for that set of stories!)

Anyway, today we’ll look at this story, in which the Valeriī and Caeliī have finally arrived in Milan after Cnaeus’ unfortunate incident with the horse. It turns out that both Valeria and young Vipsānius are a bit nervous about their meeting (apparently it’s not their first-ever meeting, since Valeria had a positive response to him when her dad mentioned his name in this story … but still! It would certainly be different to know that you were about to be married to this person!)

Here we go:

post longum iter Valerius et Caelius cum familiīs urbī Mediolānō tandem appropinquant. prope urbem Valerius, “nōs oportet sistere!” exclāmat. Valerius Milphiōnem arcessit et, “Milphiō, nōnne vīllam rūsticam Vipsāniī memōriā tenēs?” rogat. Milphiō, “mī domine, nōnne ibi nātus sum? nōnne verna Vipsāniī sum?” respondet. et Valerius, “festīnā igitur ad vīllam et adventum nostrum Vipsāniō nūntiā.” Milphiō celeriter ad vīllam proficīscitur.

tum Valerius, “nōs decet ex equīs et carpentīs dēscendere dum reditum Milphiōnis exspectāmus.” Valerius igitur ex equō suō dēscendit. Lūcius Cāiusque et Caelius quoque dēscendunt. fēminae et puellae dē carpentīs dēscendunt et fessae per agrōs ambulant.

Cnaeus tamen īnsolēns in carpentō manet. “vae! heu! mē taedet itinerum!” clāmat. “crūra mihi, caput mihi, bracchia mihi maximē dolent. quam miser sum, quod iste equus est impius et neglegēns!” Prīma et Secunda rīsūs cēlāre haud cōnantur, sed magnā vōce Cnaeum dērīdent. “nōn equus, sed tū impius et neglegēns es!” clāmat Prīma. “fortasse melius est tibi iter per bovem quam per equum facere!” clāmat Prīma. Prīma Secundaque rīsibus et cachinnīs sē trādunt. Lūcius Cāiusque quoque rīdent. etiam Vipsānia et Caelius clam rīdent.

Cnaeus tamen, “vae! heu! mē taedet rīsuum et cachinnōrum! cūr mē dērīdētis? utinam nēmō mē dērīdeat!” clāmat. Cnaeus in carpentō manet et lacrimīs sē trādit.

Milphiō iam cum servō Vipsāniī revenit et, “domine, nūntium optimum tibi ferō!” exclāmat. “Vipsānius enim ipse nōs exspectat, et brevissimum est iter.” omnēs carpenta et equōs cōnscendunt et celeriter ad vīllam rūsticam Vipsāniī progrediuntur.

in āreā vīllae Quārtus Vipsānius cum fīliō adventum Valeriōrum Caeliōrumque exspectat. Valeria per rīmam carpentī Vipsānium iuvenem cōnspicit et ērubēscit. iuvenis quoque ērubēscit et, “pater, mī pater,” susurrat, “nōnne mē decet servōs arcessere? utinam nē Valeriam iam salūtem, quod valdē sūdō!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Did you find some “universal teenager” issues in this story? If so, I’m not surprised – and do remember that a large number of our subscribers will be teenagers of various ages.
  • Did you find Valeria’s and Vipsānius’ responses convincing and authentic?
  • And what about the parents, siblings, and other relatives?

Tune in next time, when the story continues at the “vīlla parva” of the Vipsāniī – which, as you can imagine, is hardly parva. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog, you’ve already seen one episode (the unfortunate incident in the Circus, when Vipsānius’ poor father is attacked by two drunk race fans) in this blog post from February, but we don’t yet know what happened right before that … or right after. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Rites of Passage, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue our series of posts exploring the preparations for Valeria and Vipsanius’ wedding in Lectiōnēs XIV-XV of the Tres Columnae project … and the actual wedding in Lectiō XXIV, shortly before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. You may recall that we started out on Friday with this fabella, in which Vipsanius’ father apparently has sent a much-expected letter, and this story, in which Valeria’s parents are celebrating the good news. We took the day off on Saturday and Sunday, and then on Monday we looked at this story, in which Valeria, not unlike a young teenager today, was sitting in her room … but not, of course, multitasking as they would!

Speaking of multitasking, I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment, Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn by Dr. Larry D. Rosen. He has a lot to say about the good side – and the simple reality – of our media-saturated, constantly-plugged-in students … and everything I’ve read so far has only increased my determination to make the Tres Columnae Project happen for them. Just a quick sample: Chapter 1 is called “Why Tweens and Teens Hate School,” and based on his research, it’s because factory-model schools (though he doesn’t use the term) expect a kind of lockstep, technology-free approach to learning that’s utterly different from what they’ve been wired to do. My own children are academic achievers, and they’re too polite to complain to their teachers for the most part – but I compare the “academic” tasks they’re asked to do for homework with the engaging, interactive stuff they do online for fun, and I weep – for them, but especially for their friends and classmates, and for my own students who come to me bored and turned off from school because it’s such an alien environment for them. And yet, like Procrustes, we school people keep trying to make the children fit our model, rather than fitting the school to the learner! As our friend Cnaeus would say (and he will say, in a story later this week), “vae! heu!” I think you’ll enjoy that story, which hasn’t yet appeared on the blog or on the Version Alpha Wiki site.

Today, though, we’ll look at the story in which Valerius and his daughter have The Talk about her upcoming marriage. You’ll be able to find it at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site, too, if you’d like. Here we go:

Valerius in tablīnō sedet et fīliam exspectat. Valeria tablīnum ingreditur et patrem salūtat. Valerius fīliae ōsculum dat et, “quaesō, mea fīlia,” inquit, “hoc mihi explicā: quālem marītum tibi invenīre dēbeō?”

Valeria ērubēscit et, “cūr hoc mē rogās, pater?” tandem rogat.

Valerius “hoc tē rogō, quod pater sum tuus, et quod trēdecim annōs es nāta, et …”

et Valeria, “et quod iuvenem in animō habēs? quis est, mī pater, et quālis?”

tum Valerius, “puella mea, quam sapiēns es! num māter tibi rem iam patefacit?”

sed Valeria, “mī pater, nōnne fīlia sum tua? nōnne tē hōs trēdecim annōs cognōscō? haud difficile est mihi hoc intellegere … praesertim cum servus mihi ignōtus in tablīnō etiam nunc stat. dīc ergō mihi: quis est iuvenis et quālis?”

et Valerius attonitus et rīdēns, “heus! num dēlātōrēs Imperātōris tam callidī sunt quam fēminae meae? rem tōtam intellegis. et Vipsānius, consōbrīnus matris tuae, iuvenis ingeniī optimī magnaeque pecūniae est.”

Valeria ērubēscit et “num Vipsānius ille quī in urbe Mediolānō habitat?”

et Valerius, “Vipsānius ipse!”

Valeria patrem amplectitur et “dea Fortūna nōbīs favet!” exclāmat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Obviously not all Roman girls were as happy as Valeria about their father’s choice of husband. In fact, we’ll have a less-positive story of another marriage before too long. But what do you think of Valeria’s reaction?
  • How about Valerius’ attempts to tiptoe around the situation? As the father of an almost-teenage daugher, I found it rather funny … but not dissimilar to some conversations I’ve attempted to have with her.
  • And what about Valerius’ reference to dēlātōrēs Imperātōris? Keep in mind that we’ve set these stories during the Flavian era, when dēlātōrēs were very much in people’s minds … and when the memory of Julio-Claudian emperors’ behavior would have been pretty fresh.
  • And I have to ask – how do you suppose Lucius and Caeliola will respond to the news of their big, “bossy” sister’s impending wedding … and her impending departure from the domus?

Tune in next time, when we’ll follow the Valeriī – and the Caeliī – on their trip from Herculaneum to Milan for the negotiations and betrothal. Of course you know this means that young Cnaeus will either be in the carpentum, and bitter about it as in this story from Lectiō XIII, or on an equus … which might be a true disaster. You’ll find out soon! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Rites of Passage, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll return to our sequence of “Rites of Passage” stories as we continue to feature the ones about preparations for the wedding of Valeria to her distant cousin Vipsānius. We started out on Friday with this fabella, in which Valeria’s father Valerius had received a letter from Vipsānius’ father, and this story, in which he informs his wife, Caelia. (You may recall that Caelia’s brother Caelius, father of Prima, Secunda, and annoying little Cnaeus, is married to Vipsania, so this is evidently a cousin on the maternal side. Perhaps Vipsānia and Vipsānius are brother and sister, but I think they’re actually cousins themselves, most likely patruēlēs since they share the same nōmen. It’s funny: even though I’m responsible for these people, I still don’t know everything about them! 🙂 Sometimes I feel the same way about my own, actual children….)

Of course, we don’t exactly know what’s in the letter, but we can make a pretty good assumption based on Valerius’ and Caelia’s joyful expressions of grātia to dea Fortūna. It would seem that the Valeriī, unlike some Roman families, hadn’t made arrangements for their daughters’ marriage far in advance … perhaps they want Valeria and Caeliola to have a bit of a say, or perhaps they’re just holding out for a good offer. In any case, they’re delighted now that one has come.

After I shared the story on Friday, I spent a bit of time speculating about the thoughts and feelings a Roman father – or his daughter – might have during the conversation when he announced her impending marriage. I have a few acquaintances from cultures where arranged marriage is still the rule, and a small number of former students (most of whom are sufficiently Americanized that it’s not an issue for them, but most of their parents did have arranged marriages.) When we’ve discussed the idea in class, as we’re reading about Roman arrangements for marriage, my “typically American” students are usually appalled, but the ones who come from arranged-marriage cultures are often able to give them some valuable insight. I remember one in particular, a few years ago now, who said it would be sort of comforting to know in advance who your spouse would be. That way, there’s none of the dating and relationship pressure that most American teenagers “have to” go through, she said, and you also know you need to get to know the person, get along with them, and become friends with them. It was really interesting to me, as mostly an observer in the discussion – I had thought my student would be very opposed to arranged marriages, given some of her feelings about other issues. I don’t think her parents were planning to arrange one for her, but she was a bit wistful about that.

Anyway, it’s always dangerous to make cultural generalizations, especially across so much time and space. We know so little, of course, about Roman family relationships. But I think of Cicero’s letters to (and about) his own daughter, and I make certain assumptions about “universal” human nature as I’m planning and writing the stories. It turns out that Valeria (who is, after all, That Age) has started thinking about the kind of potential husband she might want if the choice was up to her. As of today, you’ll find the story at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site.

Valeria in cubiculō sedet et librum legit. “nōnne Ovidius poēta optimus erat?” sēcum putat. “utinam marītus meus ōlim tālēs versūs mihi recitet. et quem marītōrum pater in animō iam habet?”

Caelia in līmine stat et Valeriam legentem audit. Caelia sēcum rīdet et, “fīlia mea Valeriōla, pater tē in tablīnō exspectat,” Valeriae dīcit. Valeria “ēhem! māter, quaesō, ignōsce mihi! tē nōn salūtō, quod intenta librum iam legō.”

et Caelia, “nōnne librum Ovidiī poētae? nōnne Amōrēs Ovidiī?”

Valeria ērubēscit et, “num tū versūs Ovidiī legis?” inquit. “nōnne matrōna es?”

Caelia, “matrōna certē nunc, ōlim puella et, ut Ovidius, iuvenca. tē tamen oportet festīnāre, quod pater tē exspectat.”

Valeria mātrī pāret et ad tablīnum contendit. “adveniō, mī pater,” clāmat. liber in pavimentō apertus iacet. Caelia librum manibus sūmit et “eugepae! quam mihi placet hoc carmen!” sibi susurrat. Caelia in lectō sedet et versūs tacitā vōce legere incipit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I’ve really tried to put the focus on the women in this story – and, thereby, to raise some issues about Roman women’s experiences. What do you think?
  • What do you think of Valeria’s surprise that her mom (of all people!) has read Ovid? (As the father of an almost-teenager myself, I’ve had versions of that conversation from time to time.)
  • What about Caelia’s reading of the poem?
  • And aren’t you dying to know which one of the Amōrēs they were reading? Just don’t ask me; I certainly don’t know! 🙂 Perhaps we’ll ask our participants to take a look at the Amōrēs (in translation, if necessary; in a Latin paraphrase, if we can get some more advanced learners to make these; or even in the original, if we can) and choose ones they think are likely.

Tune in next time for the actual conversation between father and daughter; then we’ll continue with the sequence and with stories about the actual wedding, a few months later. We may interrupt the series for a bit on Wednesday or Thursday, though, since I may have some important news about the Exercise and Quiz component of the Tres Columnae Project by then. And for those of you who will be attending the 2010 American Classical League Institute in Winston-Salem, NC, later this month as I write, please look for my presentation about the project and come if you can; it’s currently scheduled as Session 3E, right after dinner on the first evening of the Institute.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments and emails coming.

Rites of Passage, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, a transitional day in my face-to-face world, we’ll start looking at stories in which our younger characters make transitions. Specifically today, we’ll begin to address the wedding of Valeria, young Lucius Valerius’ big sister, to their distant cousin Quartus Vipsānius. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog, you may recall some another story from this sequence, now available through this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site … this is the story where Valeria and her family have gone to visit the Vipsanii in Mediolānum. They attend a chariot race, and Vipsānius’ father has an unfortunate encounter with two drunk race fans and a bōtulus! In this series of posts, we’ll look at some other stories from this sequence, as well as some from the actual wedding ceremony.

The sequence actually begins in Lectiō XIV with this fabella, which introduces what Romans called the modus optātīvus, and what most English speakers would call a “volitive” use of the subjunctive mood. The spectāculum to which it refers comes in Lectiō XIII and also features some unruly spectators; you can find it at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested.

paucīs mēnsibus post spectāculum, Valeria diem nātālem celebrat. Valeria iam trēdecim annōs nāta est. “mea fīlia, nōn puella, sed fēmina est,” inquit Caelia. “utinam marītum Valeriae aptum inveniam!” Valerius sēcum putat.

servus iānuam domūs pulsat et clāmat. Milphiō servō iānuam aperit et “quid hīc petis?” rogat. servus Milphiōnī epistulam trādit et in ātriō morātur. Valerius in tablīnō sedet et epistulam legit. “heus!” exclāmat, “utinam ille servus dominō responsum referat!”

Valerius Milphiōnī epistulam dictat. Milphiō Valeriō epistulam scrībit. Valerius servum vocat et “heus! puer! Fortūna tibi favet! utinam ad dominum suum celeriter reveniās!”

As you probably expect, there’s a quid novī explanation about the new verbs and the word utinam, followed by some interactive exercises with which our participants gain comfort with the forms of the optātīvus. They then see this story:

Valerius per tablīnum ambulat. “ēhem!” sibi dīcit. Caelia Valerium audit et tablīnum intrat. “heus! mī marīte!” inquit, “cūr continuō ambulās? cūr ēhem continuō dīcis? num quid tibi cūrae est?”

Valerius “heus! Caelia ades!” clāmat, “num diū in tablīnō stās? multa enim in animō volvō. nōnne Valeria nostra iam fēmina est? nōnne iuvenī optimō nūbere dēbet?”

Caelia, “certē, mī Valerī,” respondet, “et nōnne diem nūptiārum nostrārum memōriā tenēs? nōnne vōcēs patrum et mātrum? nōnne –”

Valerius, “certē, Caelia mea,” respondet, “et dea Fortūna nōbīs favet. nōnne consōbrīnus tuus, ille Quartus Vipsānius, in urbe Mediolānō habitat? nōnne Vipsānius vir magnae dignitātis magnārumque dīvitiārum est?”

Caelia, “vērum dīcis, mī marīte,” respondet, “Vipsānius autem –”

et Valerius, “nunc iam in ātriō morātur servus Vipsāniī. servus enim hūc pervenit epistulam mihi portātum. et … epistulam quaesō lege!”

Caelia epistulam legit et, “prō dī immortālēs! dea Fortūna nōbīs certē favet!” exclāmat.

Valerius cum uxōre cōnsentit et, “Caelia mea, fīliam nostram hūc vocā! mē enim oportet cum Valeriā colloquium habēre.”

You can probably imagine what the colloquium is about! I’m not sure, though, that any of us, whether scrīptor or lectōrēs, can imagine Valeria’s thoughts or feelings. As a Roman girl of a fairly wealthy family, she certainly would have grown up expecting an arranged marriage, and she’d certainly be aware that she’d reached marriageable age. Would she be shocked, nervous, excited, relieved, or some combination when her father finally summoned her and told her who the man would be? And in Valeria’s case (of course, I know her better than you do … there are stories about her that you haven’t seen yet!), was she hoping for a local boy? Or was she expecting a distant relative like Vipsānius? Has she ever met him, and (whether she has or not) what does she know about him? How did Roman girls and women feel about the reality of arranged marriage anyway? And how did Roman fathers feel when they were actually making the arrangements – and actually informing their daughters about the arrangements? I think of my own daughter, who’s a bit younger than Valeria … as I write the draft of this post, she’s not-exactly-celebrating the end of school at her last dance class before this weekend’s big recital. I can’t imagine sitting down with her and announcing the name of her new husband – but then, as we know, I’m not a Roman!

I suppose I should tell you, though, that a former student once asked me if I was a native speaker of Latin … and was surprised to find out that I wasn’t! The conversation went something like this:

Her: Really? You’re not a native speaker?

Rest of class: (desperate attempts not to snicker)

Me (in my mid-twenties at the time): Just how old do you think I am?

Her: I don’t know, you’re a teacher, you must be like fifty or something.

Me: Are your parents fifty?

Her: No.

Me: Do I look older than your parents?

Her: I don’t know. You’ve got to be pretty old.

I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or terrified at the time … and many years later, I’m still not sure. Ironically, my current students tend to underestimate my age and are surprised that I’m in my early forties – “You don’t look that old!” they say. Again, should I be flattered or terrified? And no, I don’t ask how old their parents are anymore … I don’t want to know! 🙂

Returning to the two stories for a moment, though, quid respondētis?

  • In a previous post, I’ve mentioned our reasons for introducing the optātīvus rather earlier than a “conventional” Latin course would do. What do you think, having now actually seen the fabella?
  • What do you think of the characterization of Valeria … and of her father and mother?
  • And how would you have responded if you were Valeria?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at more stories from the sequence and share some of your comments and questions. I’ll describe the exercises next week … and I may be able to send you to a live demonstration! More on that soon … we’re inspecting some different possible software platforms for the exercises and quizzes of the Tres Columnae project, and we may have some good news in the next week or so. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

utrum di Romani pii sunt annon?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In yesterday’s post, as we started to wrap up our series of posts about the stories in Lectiō XVI of the Tres Columnae Project, we returned once again to the theme of pietās as it relates to the conduct of our characters. But whenever I talk about pietās with my face-to-face students, especially in a seminar context, we inevitably raise questions about the conduct of the Greco-Roman gods – whether in “simple” myths we read in Latin I or in the complicated machinations of Vergil’s divine characters in the Aeneid. In a nutshell, our question is this: do the Greco-Roman gods display pietās or not? And if they don’t, what does that say about the whole Roman worldview? Is pietās a convenient fiction, a tool for the dominant classes of society to keep their “inferiors” in line? And if so, what are some possible implications for us, here and now?

Of course, we need to be very careful in making generalizations about untranslatable Roman concepts (or “perspectives,” to use some technical language from the National Standards for Classical Language Learning) like pietās! We also need to be careful about applying Roman concepts, like pietās, to myths that were originally Greek. Still, in so far as Romans did appropriate the Greek names and stories and apply them to their own gods, they evidently saw some connection – and in so far as Vergil, for example, includes episodes in which the gods behave very inappropriately (at least to our twenty-first-century viewpoint), I think it’s a fair line of questioning to pursue. And of course Aeneas criticizes his own mother for appearing to him in disguise … and Neptune threatens the winds even though they displayed some sort of pietās by obeying Aeolus, their master, and ultimately Juno … and Venus and Juno engage in all sorts of machinations around the relationship between Aeneas and Dido … and Juno doesn’t care about fate and prophecy … and we could create a much longer list of episodes like this, couldn’t we?

As our faithful reader and collaborator Ann M said in an email to me this week, “ My highly selective fictional glimpses of Romans talking about their gods doesn’t make me think the gods are very just or very kind. They’re interesting and they have to be taken into account.” So, if gods (and, for that matter, Emperors and other powerful people) rarely display justice or kindness, and if pietās is justice or kindness, where does that leave this “central” Roman value? Or, when we assume that pietās is synonymous with justice and kindness, are we applying twenty centuries of Judeo-Christian perspective to a culture in which that perspective would be utterly alien?

Perhaps we need to look again at that definition of pietās as right relationship or proper treatment and ask, once again, how a Roman would define that as it relates to figures of very unequal power or status. Maybe, if you’re a Roman, the right behavior of a powerful figure toward someone less powerful is … to display your power. I think of the law that requires death for all household slaves if they “should have known” that one of their fellow slaves was plotting against his master in this context, and while it makes me shiver, it also seems to fit. But what do you think? And how does all of this apply to our stories from Lectiō XVI?

When I wrote these stories of relatively kind, gentle interactions between divinities and human-like characters, I had these issues in mind; in fact, writing the stories was one way for me to grapple with the issues. I deliberately saved the apparitions for a point in the story when the characters were in (mostly) right relationship with others: Trux has returned home and been welcomed back by his fellow residents of the vīlla, and Sabīna has been appropriately punished – but not killed – for trespassing in domō Valeriī in her pursuit of the mūrēs. In both cases, the characters have gone to places traditionally associated with the divinities (Trux is asleep in the woods, under a tree, and Sabina is actually asleep at the foot of the image of Juno Lucina in cellā templī). Their hearts may not be pure, but their current conduct is appropriate – and pietās has a lot more to do with conduct than it does with feeling or belief. In this context, then, Diana offers comfort to Trux and Juno offers comfort – and a challenge – to Sabīna. Juno’s challenge (or mild criticism) has to do not with Sabīna’s actions, but with the excessive zeal with which she pursues the mice – she seems to be advocating, if not a Stoic detachment from strong emotion, at least some degree of control of one’s mouse-hunting passions. I think it’s a Roman-sounding voice … but of course I’m not one, and neither are most of you lectōrēs cārissimī! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the interchanges between the goddesses and the animals?
  • What do you think of my attempt to link these to the larger issues of pietās?
  • And what do you think of my point about pietās and the gods … or pietās and the powerful in general?

As you read these words, it’s the last day of school in my face-to-face teaching world, a time when we often think about both the past and the future, the strong and the weak, the old and the young. We’ll continue with that theme tomorrow as we begin a series of posts about the stories, later in Cursus Prīmus, in which our young characters (Valeria, Lucius, Caeliola, Caius, Lollia, Prima, Secunda, and Cnaeus in particular) begin to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. We’ll begin with Valeria and her impending marriage to Quartus Vipsānius tomorrow, and then we’ll spend some time on other rites of passage – a fitting way, meā quidem sententiā, to start the transitional time of summer. So tune in next time, and prepare for a few tears if you’re a sentimental person – and especially if you’re the father of a daughter. (I cried writing this story … and not just because my own daughter would be making this transition quite soon if she were a Roman!) intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.