Res Novae, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today’s post is the first in a series about the scary (but necessary) idea of Change … as it applies to the Tres Columnae Project, to teaching and learning more generally, and to the characters we come to know and love as part of the Tres Columnae Metastory. This is an interesting time to be involved with teaching and learning! Just in the past few days, as I worked on drafts of this post, I came across two seemingly random New York Times Online articles about huge (potential) changes in our conceptions of learning … and in our ideas about the structure and functions of schools:

  • This article, after mentioning some research that challenges the ideas of learning styles and teaching styles, has some utterly counter-intuitive suggestions about study techniques that increase retention. I was especially fascinated by the idea of studying the same concept in different physical environments!
  • This one describes the growing numbers of teacher-led schools, which are organized along the lines of a legal or medical practice rather than a hierarchical factory. I’ve done a bit of reading about these in the past, but their numbers are apparently growing … and in some areas where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them. The comments on the article are, if anything, more interesting than the article itself … especially the ones from veteran teachers who are excited and energized by the idea.

Of course there are all kinds of other new things afoot, too.

Tres Columnae Version Beta will be here soon, and it represents a significant improvement over the Version Alpha Wiki. It also required me to Let Go of some of the control I’d maintained over the site; I’m no longer the Primary Person for technical matters, which is a welcome development but also, of course, a bit scary.

In my face-to-face teaching world, I’m experimenting with a number of New Things besides, of course, Tres Columnae materials themselves. I’ve (gasp!) slightly reorganized the classroom – a bit step for a strongly kinesthetic learner like myself. I’ve (louder gasp!) re-thought when my students should be introduced to certain concepts – a big change for the former Mr. Predictable, who used to gaze with utter satisfaction at his beautifully organized file cabinet. And I’ve completely rethought – and significantly improved – lesson closure, especially in my Latin I classes. It’s a simple little system: near the beginning of the class, we look at the specific learning goals for the lesson, which I’ve taken to phrasing as questions in the form of “Can I … ?” So, at the end of class, I now ask, “Can we, in fact, … ?”

Scores on the first Latin I test are usually pretty good, but they were dramatically better than usual this time – and even my one completely-lost student seems to have found herself, or at least found her way closer to the path. (Plus, there’s only one completely lost Latin I student out of 62, and in a “typical” year there would probably be two or even three in each class at this point.) Change can be very, very good, but it’s still hard, even in a culture that claims, as most 21st-century Western cultures do, to embrace change as a good – or at least a necessary – thing.

Just imagine how scary the thought of change must have been for Romans, for whom (as I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post) the very term rēs novae implied a violent political or military upheaval. And yet, of course, Romans did sometimes try new things; in many ways Roman culture was very progressive and open to change, especially when you compare it with some of its violently xenophobic neighbors. The Roman attitude toward change and newness obviously wasn’t monolithic, any more than the “21st-century Western culture” attitude toward change or even my own attitude toward change … or toward anything else, for that matter.

One important goal for the Tres Columnae Project will be to help our learners (and teachers) deal with the complexity of Roman attitudes and perspectives – to undermine the kind of stereotypic thinking that, all too often, we language teachers unwittingly encourage in our beginning students when talk about “the Romans” or “the Roman attitude” or “Roman” whatever, as if “Romans” were a monolithic group with a single attitude. If you’ve looked at the Framework for 21st-century Learning, you probably noticed that the idea of handling complexity appears over and over again, in strand after strand. So I hope the Tres Columnae materials will help our 21st-century learners come to terms with their own complex world as well as with the complex Roman world they’ll be studying with us.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How do you feel about Change … or should I say, about different Changes that are happening in your face-to-face world?
  • What evidence of the changes in teaching and learning I’ve mentioned here have you seen? How are those affecting you – and how do you feel about the effects?
  • How do you feel about the changing learners (and teachers!) you’ve encountered recently?
  • What role for the Tres Columnae Project materials do you see in a complex, changing world?

Tune in next time, when (if all goes well) we’ll finally see that long-promised story in which several of our characters have to confront an uncomfortable change. I hope that “next time” will be tomorrow, but Wednesdays are often crazy days in my world, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the post completely drafted. We’ll have to go with the flow … and the complexity and the change!

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Thanks again for sticking with us through all the complexity, change, and uncertainty of the past few weeks!

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Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading today’s post “live,” it’s the second day of school in my face-to-face teaching world. We’ve survived the excitement and jitters of the first day, including a first-day celebration that’s become a cherished tradition over the past few years. It was a particularly nice first day of school, too. For some reason, I always expect fog in the morning on that first day; I remember many first days of school with fog in my childhood, and I can’t remember the last time we did not have fog here on The Day. Today, though, there were a few morning showers and some clouds … but no fog! By the end of the day, it was a beautiful, sunny day, but not at all as hot as it’s been for the past few weeks. Even the weather cooperated to make an especially nice day.

Today, other than a briefly extended homeroom period (to collect all those required forms and go over a few procedural things), we’ll be on an almost-regular schedule. My Latin III students will be following a not-so-cherished tradition known as the “Cumulative Vocabulary Review Thing” – it’s a pre-assessment of vocabulary in isolation, followed by a Socratic Seminar about the idea of Knowing Vocabulary. We’ll consider such issues as

  • what knowing means, and how it’s connected with Skill and Understanding;
  • what vocabulary means, and whether the “Review Thing” really measures it or not;
  • what strategies have worked well for us as we attempt to Know Vocabulary in various disciplines, not just Latin; and
  • why one would even bother Knowing Vocabulary in an always-on world where a Latin dictionary is only a few keystrokes away … and where the Lewis & Short is an almost-free download for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

We may look at some early Tres Columnae Project stories after that, or we may save them for a day next week when we’ll review verbs. I think it might be fun for my students to transform a short Tres Columnae fābula from a historical present to a “typical” narrative with imperfect, perfect, and maybe even some pluperfect tense verbs. They can work together to decide which tense seems best for each verb in the story, and we can talk about the process and about the different choices that each group makes, especially with imperfects and perfects. There are twenty Latin III students and five student-use computers in the classroom, so we might rotate among different stations for this review process. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were a one-to-one computer school … or if students could use the technology they bring with them to school each day? Recently I was reminded once again that my (not very new) cell phone is much more powerful than the mainframe computer my mother programmed for years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. That filled a room, but the phone doesn’t even fill my whole pocket!

Of course, in my face-to-face teaching world, students aren’t allowed to use cell phones or other electronic devices that the school doesn’t provide – and I do understand the reasoning behind that policy, since I’ve dealt with my share of surreptitious (and not-so-surreptitious) texters and emailers over the years. For many teachers, especially new ones, tired ones, and impatient ones, making sure that technological tools are actually used for instructional purposes would be quite overwhelming! I’ve been all of those teachers myself, sometimes at the same time, so I have a lot of sympathy for them. Still, I remember the battles about calculators in math class 25 years ago, which have pretty much been settled; I don’t know very many math teachers who refuse to let their students use calculators these days! I also wonder (and this may be a bit cynical on my part) how long it will take cash-strapped school districts around the country to offload their technology budgets by embracing tools that students already have. In a world where some schools are asking students to bring toilet paper, it’s easy to imagine asking them to bring phones and computers before too long.

Meanwhile, if all goes as planned, my Latin I students will be reading and hearing some Tres Columnae Project stories from Lectiō Prīma in addition to the stories in their textbook that we’d usually read today. I think we’ll see and hear the first several fabellae, and we might even get to Prīma Fabella Longa if all goes well. If not today, then possibly tomorrow … though much of tomorrow will be devoted to a Connection and Comparison activity called vīlla Rōmāna et vīlla mea in which students create a floor plan of their “dream home” and try to label as many rooms as possible with “their Latin names.” Of course, we quickly discover that a lot of rooms – and their functions – don’t translate very well, and that leads to a seminar (or something like one; this is, after all, very early in the year for the “real thing”) about the idea of housing and homes, and about the difficulties involved in translation between different languages and cultures. As you know, Understandings are really important to me, and I want my students to grapple with important ideas like this from the beginning of their time with me. I also want to know how much work on seminar process we’ll need to do, and the best way to find out is by attempting a seminar and seeing what happens! I will, of course, make sure that my students know it’s OK not to be proficient the first time … that’s an important life lesson that schools often don’t have the time or resources to teach.

As I continue to work on Tres Columnae Project materials – and on the logistics for the project – I’m reminded again and again that it’s not only OK, but quite expectable, for versions Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and even Epsilon of anything to have some flaws. The great thing about the Tres Columnae Project, of course, is that the flaws are easy to fix … and the changes happen instantaneously! By contrast, there always seem to be a few typographical errors in even the best-proofread textbook, but just imagine the cost and difficulty of preparing corrections! Even if you send out a sheet of errata and corrigenda, as most publishers do, you can’t know for sure that every potential user will receive it … or that the corrections will be made. If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that’s one of the main reasons I embarked on the journey toward the Tres Columnae Project to begin with.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll continue to explore the theme of new beginnings, ways of knowing, and making contributions. It’s possible that there may not be a post tomorrow; my afternoon and evening are unexpectedly full today, so I may not have my normal writing time. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

quo contendimus? II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! At the end of yesterday’s post, I listed some possible directions we could go this week:

  • We could certainly look at some more sample stories if you’d like.
  • We could consider some more specific examples of differentiated lessons, both with and without the Tres Columnae materials.
  • We could consider the things you like and don’t like about the Version Alpha Wiki site, with a view to planning the “look and feel” and the features of Version Beta.
  • We could consider ways that you might use the Tres Columnae materials in a “real” school or classroom setting, especially if you have limited access to computer technology.
  • We could look at the Tres Columnae exercises and quizzes from the perspective of differentiated instruction.

Apparently many lectōrēs fidēlissimī are busy – or busy relaxing, which is important in the summer, too 🙂 – and don’t have a lot of suggestions. So I think we’ll start with the last item on the list and look for ways to incorporate the others. That’s important because I need to do some significant work on the exercises and quizzes for the first few Lectiōnēs anyway … especially since our pilot school in England will be using those materials before too long!

For those of us who subscribe to the Latinteach listserv, there’s been a very interesting thread recently about “checking homework” that has also addressed the purposes and goals of homework assignments, and of the assignments we teachers give our students in general. In my own case (and this may not be true for everyone), I don’t think it’s possible for me to make good decisions about specific assignments or strategies unless I have a clear sense of the overall goal. Different goals can lead to radically different needs and approaches!

With my face-to-face students, I want them all to experience real success as readers of Latin and to develop a deep Understanding of the language and culture, so I prioritize reading tasks and an inductive-to-deductive approach to grammatical elements as I’ve described in posts like this one. I don’t think culture and history can be separated from the language, so I prefer to have my students think about cultural and historical issues in the context of their reading; we do, of course, read and talk about cultural background information that’s provided in our textbook, but I don’t give “culture lectures” or “history lectures” very often. Hands-on, creative work is important to me, and so are opportunities for students to share their work (especially stories they’ve written) with each other. In a perfect world, with 100% efficiency in class time, I probably would not assign much outside homework; in the world as it stands, I do have students practice choosing, and sometimes making, appropriate grammatical forms in context, and they also do some vocabulary work outside of class.

When I first envisioned the Tres Columnae Project, I was looking for a way to make this work easier and more satisfying for my students and to give them a safe, self-paced way to do extensive reading outside of regular class hours. I also wanted to save precious in-class time and energy by automating the process of checking homework; with self-correcting exercises, students know right away how they’ve done, and I can easily check to see who is having difficulty with any given concept. Having spent a number of years developing and polishing written versions of assignments like these, I had a pretty good idea of what I want the “TC” exercises to look like. But it’s still a challenge to figure out the details … especially since we want to make sure our learners have Ownership of the whole process.

As you know if you’re a long-time reader, you can see some sample exercises and quizzes for Lectiō Prīma at our Instructure Public Demo course. I’ve talked about Instructure, and their Canvas learning management system, in this post and this one. Today I want to start walking through the steps I use to create a learning pathway for material like Lectiō Secunda of the project. If you see an easier, better, or different way to do anything I describe, please tell me! This is important work for the future of the project, but it can also be exhausting – especially with the extreme heat in my face-to-face world, and with the cold (or whatever it is!) that’s been slowing me down for the past few days.

As you know if you’ve looked at the relevant page on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, the goals for Lectiō Secunda are that the learner will

  1. directly comprehend a Latin sentence;
  2. distinguish Latin nominative and genitive case nouns;
  3. continue to recognize and explore English derivatives of Latin words;
  4. continue to compare housing and family structure in Roman world with our own housing and family structure; and
  5. continue to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās.

Since the fabellae and fābulae of Lectiō Secunda are obviously designed to work on Goal 1, it’s possible that some learners won’t need any extra practice. Others, though, might want to check – or at least self-assess – their comprehension of the stories. So we’ll need at least one self-assessment opportunity (probably one per story) and some comprehension questions. These questions, in turn, need to address a variety of learning and processing styles: at a minimum, we need some that are verbally oriented and some that are visual. Given backend software that incorporates question banks, it will be fairly easy to rearrange these questions into different exercises and quizzes. For example, we might have an ITER that features visually-oriented material and one that features word-based questions, followed by a common assessment that includes both types of prompts.

Goal 2 will obviously involve a sequence of quid novī? explanations, guided practice, independent practice, and assessment (including a self-correcting quiz and a self-assessment prompt). We’ll look at those in more detail in tomorrow’s post.

Goal 3 will be similar in form to the equivalent exercise in Lectiō Prīma, but it will involve the core vocabulary for Lectiō Secunda. So we need to establish exactly which words are “core” and give our participants an opportunity to think about how well they know and can use them.

Goals 4 and 5 will be addressed in the Virtual Seminar, which isn’t exactly an exercise. On the other hand, if we send our learners out to read difficult background material (or material with an obvious slant or bias) on the Web or in print, we should probably give them a safe, private, and self-correcting way to check their understanding.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • When I was a new teacher, my longterm goal was “finishing the textbook” and my shorter-term goals were things like “find something interesting for the students in X period class to do today.” It’s taken me quite a while to get to this “backward design” approach. Where are you in your planning, and what do you think of this approach?
  • What types of self-correcting exercises would you want to see as a learner at this point in the Tres Columnae Project? Are there any types you would not want to see?
  • What exactly do you think students should be able to do to demonstrate that they have met Goals 1 and 2 for the Lectiō? In other words, how would you measure their achievement of the goals?
  • Are there other important goals that should be – but aren’t – included here?

Since this post is getting a bit long, I’ll stop here. Tune in next time for your responses and for my first attempts at Goals 1 and 2. We’ll probably have more to say about Goal 2 on Thursday, and we’ll save Goal 3 for Friday. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

A Missing Character?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs!  And grātiās maximās to our faithful reader Rebecca, who mentioned this post from February in a recent message to the Oerberg listserv about impersonal verbs.  I thanked her there, but I want to acknowledge her publicly … and to welcome any new lectōrēs fidēlissimī who have found the blog because of her post.  There’s an interesting conversation going on there at the moment; more about it in tomorrow’s post.

Just to repeat one point I made there: one of the primary purposes of the Tres Columnae Project is to build a large collection of “extensive” reading material – stories that a Latin learner can read quickly, independently, and confidently without much guidance from a teacher or other authority figure.  Extensive reading builds speed, confidence, fluency, and what we call Ownership of the learning process … and we think that’s absolutely vital.  If you’re just joining us, I’d like to invite you to check out the information about Who We Are and learn more about our Core Beliefs.  You might also be curious about why we call ourselves a Joyful Learning Community.

If you’ve looked at the very beginning of the Tres Columnae Project, the stories that introduce the Valerii, the Lollii, and the Caelii in Lectiō Prīma and Lectiō Secunda, you may have noticed that all three of the primary families appear to have 3 children:

  • Valerius and Caelia have Valeria, Lucius, and Caeliola
  • Caelius and Vipsania have Prima, Secunda, and Cnaeus
  • Lollius and Maccia have Caius, Lollia, and … Quārtus īnfāns?

But why hasn’t Quārtus appeared in any of our existing stories? You may have wondered that … and so did our amazing illustrator Lucy when she was developing the illustrations for the familiae. As it turns out, little Quartus is a – what’s the opposite of a flashback? A flash-forward? A prolepsis? A not-yet?

Anyway, at the narrative time of Lectiō Prīma, Quartus is still on the way; he’ll actually be born in Lectiō XVI, along with all the animal babies in this story of Ferox and Medusa’s puppies and this one of Ridiculus and Impigra’s baby mice.

This week we’ll focus on little Quartus, and on the related issue of his brother Tertius, who (as it turns out) died young as so many Roman babies did. Infant mortality is a sad thing for us to think about (especially for me as a parent), but it was certainly a fact of life in the Roman world – and throughout the world well into the “modern” age. My own grandfather was one of three brothers who survived to adulthood, all born between 1904 and 1910, but there were at least two other siblings who died in infancy.

And yet, common as it was, infant mortality seems to be another cultural issue that most Latin textbooks don’t address. I’m not sure whether it’s because they don’t want to offend or upset young children who might be using the textbooks, or whether there’s just a desire to gloss over the less-pleasant aspects of Roman society. Of course, most introductory Latin textbooks don’t have very many strong female characters, and that may be another reason for their silence about this “women’s” issue. I don’t think the reasons are actually all that important, though.

Regardless of the cause, while infant mortality is certainly mentioned in “cultural background” essays, it rarely appears in the actual core stories of most Latin textbooks. But, as with the other “unmentionable” features of Roman culture that we’ve addressed in Tres Columnae Project stories, I really think we do a disservice to our learners if we don’t at least give them an opportunity to think about infant mortality. If the topic is too sensitive, or too painful, for a given group of readers, we encourage them – and their teachers, if it’s a school-based group – to create an ITER through the materials that meets their need and avoids topics that are unnecessarily painful. But in general, we want to give as full and accurate a picture as we can, and sometimes that includes some potentially painful topics.

Anyway, we’ll begin our series about little Quartus (who does survive, as we’ll discover) with this story from Lectiō XVI, in which his arrival is imminent and his father is praying for a safe delivery. This is the only story that features little Tertius, and it’s hardly essential to the plot. So if your learners would be disturbed or saddened by him, it’s one you can safely skip. For the rest of us, though, here we go:

dum Cāius Lollius cum familiā Valeriā urbem Mediolānum iter facit, Maccia et Lollia in cēnāculō cūnās parant. Maccia enim partūrīre parat. laeta est Maccia, quod fīlium secundum Lolliō suō dare valdē cupit. anxia tamen et trīstis est, quod īnfantem Tertium, duōbus ante annīs nātum, memōriā tenet. Tertius īnfāns pulcher sed aeger erat. febrēs et tussēs maximī saepe eum afflīgēbant. novem mēnsēs nātus, Tertius mortuus est. Maccia cotīdiē Tertium suum flet et saepe ad sepulcrum contendit precātum et dōna datum. Lollius quoque Tertium suum saepe tacitē flet.

hodiē Lollius ante prīmam hōram surgit et ad sepulcrum ipse contendit flētum. quamquam Lollius ipse pauper est, inter māiōrēs erant nōnnūllī virī dīvitēs. magnum igitur et splendidum est sepulcrum Lolliōrum. extrā mūrōs urbis Herculāneī stat, et multās urnās tenet. in urnīs sunt cinerēs Lolliōrum mortuōrum. prope sepulcrum stat āra, ubi Lolliī sacrificia precēsque Dīs Mānibus offerre solent. hodiē māne Lollius ipse ad āram stat. mātrem, māterterās, aviam, et omnēs mulierēs iam mortuās adloquitur. “quaesō, ō mortuae,” inquit, “uxōrem meam aspicite et eī partum facilem dā!” tum Lollius urnam parvam cōnspicit et lacrimīs ululātibus sē trādit. urnam manibus suīs tenet et Tertium, īnfantem suum, adloquitur. “mī īnfāns,” inquit, “utrum mē audīre potes annōn? utrum īnfantēs quoque auxilium ferre possunt annōn? quaesō autem, amābō tē, sī haec potes, parentēs cum frātre et sorōre aspice et nōbīs favōrem deum conciliā! nōnne māter tua nunc iam partūrīre parat? quaesō, amābō tē, mātrem tuam aspice et eī partum facilem dā!” Lollius Mānēs māiōrum iterum adloquitur et eīs quoque sacrificia vōtaque offert.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I suppose Lollius, like any good Roman, was probably praying for another son (who could carry on the family name and bring some money into the family through marriage) rather than a daughter (who would require an expensive dōs down the road), but he doesn’t say so. Do you think he should?
  • I asked a few lectōrēs fidēlissimī about the depiction of Roman religion in this story, and the general consensus was that
    • we know very little about what everyday Romans actually did and believed;
    • “Roman religion” is a monolithic term for what was actually a very diverse set of practices and beliefs; and
    • it’s probably impossible to reconstruct “authentic” Roman beliefs and practices in any case.
  • What do you think about that? How important is reconstruction of authentic Roman beliefs and practices to you?
  • Looking at the story itself, I was aiming to acknowledge the reality of infant mortality without dwelling on it excessively. How well do you think this story accomplishes that goal?
  • Do you find any new insights into Lollius, as a character, from this story?
  • Is there anything else you wish you knew about him, or about the family?
  • What other questions about the story do you have?

Tune in next time, when Lollius’ wife Maccia sends for the midwife, as Quartus’ arrival is imminent. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I closed Friday’s blog post with a number of questions about that day’s featured story from the Tres Columnae Project, in which the lemur of Casina’s īnfāns mortuus appears to her in somniīs as she’s riding home from her visit to the templum Bonae Deae. I wondered how you lectōrēs fidēlissimī felt about such issues as

  • the quotation from Vergil by the lemur;
  • the difference in tone between this and Casina’s other somnia about the lemur;
  • the terrifying image of the dominus īrātus at the end of the somnium;
  • Casina’s silence about a very similar situation she witnessed in this story; and
  • possible causes for Casina’s morbus in twenty-first-century terms.

I also promised that we’d

consider how questions like these are related to a Joyful Learning Community where Choice and Ownership are important.

I’m not sure about answers to any of the questions I raised yesterday – but I think the questions, and others like them, are intriguing. I encourage you (and all our participants) to pursue the ones that are meaningful and relevant to you. And that’s where Choice and Ownership become very important! At Tres Columnae, we feel very strongly that deep learning requires the learner to grow in Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding – and so we provide lots of ways for our learners to do that. On the other hand, the very nature of the Tres Columnae Project is such that you don’t have to pursue any individual question if you don’t want to.

  • If you’re an independent learner, you can choose the areas of the project you want to explore without any interference from anyone.
  • Even if you’re a school-based learner, you can choose your personal areas of focus.
  • And of course, if you’re a teacher, you can suggest an ITER through the material for your students – or, if you prefer, you can step back and help them find their own way through.

Over time, we hope you’ll engage with the issues that are most meaningful to you, not the ones that we dictate to you; we’re building a Joyful Learning Community, not a Standardized Learning Factory here.

At the same time, though, no single community is perfect for everybody, and that’s OK. As our lector fidēlissimus pointed out in that email I quoted the other day, communities do develop behaviors, languages, and other norms that both shape and express the values of their participants. A participant whose values don’t fit with the behaviors, languages, and norms of a given community probably won’t want to join that community. For example, when I was a young teacher, I avoided one group of colleagues during lunch; their interests (the soap operas they’d taped and watched yesterday, and the complaints about “those kids” and “those administrators” they liked to share) were very different from mine. Rather than make everybody unhappy, I chose to sit at a different lunch table … and that was fine with everybody! Community is a complicated thing, and its borders can shift in different circumstances. I did enjoy the members of that lunch-table community in different settings – for example, in staff-development sessions, when they usually had interesting, thoughtful perspectives about teaching. We just liked to talk about different stuff over meals!

And that concept of Community, with all its complications, is critical to the plot of today’s story, in which poor Casina is asked to reveal her dream to her dominus. No doubt she has many reasons to be afraid. And yet, as we’ll see in today’s story – which you can also find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like – Casina does, in fact, tell Valerius about the dream:

in ātriō domūs Claudiī Pulchrī, Valerius et Lūcius reditum fēminārum exspectant. subitō clāmor extrā iānuās domūs oritur. mox servī per faucēs contendunt iānuās aperītum. per iānuās ingrediuntur Caelia et Valeria cum Casinā. lectīcāriī lectīcam umerīs tollunt et per angiportum ad postīcum ferunt.

Caelia et Valeria per faucēs contendunt et ātrium celeriter ingrediuntur. Casina lentē eās sequitur, quod fessa et anxia est. in ātriō Valerius uxōrem fīliamque salūtat. tum anxius, “uxor mea,” inquit, “quaesō, rem mihi nārrā. quid Casinae sacerdōs suadet? utrum herbae remedium afferunt annōn?”

Caelia sollicita marītō rem tōtam nārrat. tum Casinam arcessit et, “Casina mea,” inquit, “nōnne tē decet somnium dominō patefacere?” Casina perterrita paulīsper tacet. mox tamen Valerium adloquitur et somnium tōtum nārrat. anxia et sollicita est ancilla, quod dominī servōs, quī morbōs simulant, ferōciter pūnīre solent. Valerius tamen, “heus!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō dī ipsī tibi haec somnia mittunt! nōnne sacerdōs tē iubet in īnsulā Aesculapiī hodiē vespere dormīre? nōs decet mandātīs sacerdōtis sapientis pārēre.”

Casina anxia, “ō domine,” respondet, “hōs multōs annōs tibi fidēliter serviō. grātiās quoque maximās tibi agō, quod mihi remedia comparāre iam temptās. mē tamen oportet tē hoc rogāre: vīsne mē, aegram et inūtilem, līberāre? nōnne servī, quōs dominī in illā īnsulā relinquunt, aut perīre aut lībertī fierī solent?”

Valerius, “vae tibi, Casina nostra,” exclāmat, “num tē ita relinquere volō? num Caelia haec vult? num Valeria? haud tē oportet sōlam in īnsulā dormīre! nōnne Lūcius noster tē comitārī potest? sī tamen lībertātem cupis, nōnne tē līberāre possum?”

Casina “ō mī dominē!” exclāmat, “quam benignus es! nōnne optimus es omnium dominōrum Rōmānōrum?” ancilla Valerium amplectitur et lacrimīs sē trādit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of Valerius’ offer to Casina? Is it “Roman enough” for you, or do you think he should be less generous?
  • What about Casina’s reaction? Is it “over the top,” or does it strike you as authentically Roman?
  • Why on earth did I claim that this story is an illustration of Community?
  • And finally, what do you want to happen? Do you want Casina to be free, or do you want her to remain a very loyal and grateful ancilla?

In a previous series of posts featuring this story from Lectiō XII, we actually experimented with having participants choose their own ending for a story. What did you think of that approach? And do you think it would work well here?

Tune in Monday, when we’ll turn our attention to a different part of the Tres Columnae Project and look at an entirely different sequence of stories. We’ll see if the themes overlap, and we’ll also find out about a “mystery character” whose very existence seems to be in doubt! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! It was good to hear from several lectōrēs fidēlissimī by email about the idea of the I, they, and we aspects of teaching and learning. (If you come from a religious tradition that uses the Revised Common Lectionary, you probably heard the parable of the Good Samaritan last Sunday, and that may have sparked some of your thoughts about community – we, rather than I or they – as it did for me.) We’ll actually explore more issues of community and identity in today’s featured story – and, like the wounded man in the parable, we (and our characters) may find community in some pretty unlikely places, though I hope we won’t suffer the kind of rejection by “our own” community that he faces.

First, though, I’d like to deal with an issue I meant to raise in yesterday’s post, but postponed until today so the post wouldn’t become excessively long … and also because writing about I, they, and we took a lot of emotional energy! That issue, which you’ve probably guessed if you read yesterday’s featured story, was the way that Latin teachers and textbooks relate to various kinds of violence in the ancient world. As I think about the Latin textbooks I know best, they certainly make it plain that Rome was a violent place: there are lots of violent stories from Roman history and from mythology, and of course there are scenes of slaves being beaten and of spectācula in the amphitheater. But it’s not all that common to mention crucifixion – even though crucified criminals were a fairly common sight along Imperial roads.

Why this silence about crucifixion, I wonder? Perhaps some textbook authors are understandably squeamish – after all, crucifixion was certainly one of the most painful and horrible methods of execution ever devised. Others may not want to bring up the obvious and unavoidable connections to Christianity, fearing that their books might not sell as well. But I really don’t think we do justice to the whole picture of the Roman world without considering the public display of executions, both in the arena and on crosses. In both case, there’s an obvious show of state power, and an obvious belief that public executions will serve as a deterrent to others who might commit similar crimes … and yet, in both cases, there was a continuing supply of victims! Does that mean that public executions did or didn’t work as a deterrent? I’m not sure that we can know – especially since we don’t have access to Imperial Roman crime statistics, and in any case we can’t use our local time machine to go back and do a controlled trial in different parts of the Roman world. But that issue is one that might fruitfully be discussed with a group of learners, depending on their interests and maturity.

And that raises yet another issue: how old, or how mature, should young learners be before we introduce them to the ugly realities of the ancient world?   If you’re producing a conventional textbook, one where all the learners will, ipso facto, be expected to read all the stories and do all the exercises, that question alone might cause you to leave out the Romans’ penchant for violent public executions. After all, you might lose sales to programs for younger learners – and rightfully so! But with the Tres Columnae Project, that is much less of an issue. There are more stories than most teachers or students would probably want to read, so you have a choice … and as a teacher, you might well want to make some choices for your learners, especially if you work with younger children or with families who have special requirements. We’ll be designing ITINERA through the materials for that purpose, and we invite you to create – and share – your own ITER or multiple ITINERA too. And if you like parts of a story, but think other parts are too violent or “too too” in some other way, we’ll invite you to create a Submission that keeps the parts you like and eliminates the ones you find objectionable. Just try that with your local textbook!

Anyway, in today’s story, which you can now find here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, the Valeriī and Caeliī have finally arrived at Rome, and Valerius expects to need a hotel room. There’s a bit of a conflict when he discovers that Caelius has made other arrangements:

post longum iter familia Valeria urbem Rōmam advenit. “nōbīs necesse est,” inquit Valerius, “tabernam nōtissimam invenīre, ubi manēre et quiēscere possumus.” Caelius tamen attonitus, “mī Valerī!” exclāmat, “num mē, quī senātor sum Rōmānus, decet in tabernā manēre? nōs oportet cum Claudiō Pulchrō, quī cōnsōbrīnus uxōris meae est, manēre. nōnne Claudius vir optimī ingeniī et multae pecūniae est? nōnne amīcus et hospes vīcīnī tuī, illīus Flavius Caesōnis? Claudius autem nunc iam nōs exspectat.”

Valerius, quī Claudium haud amat, nihilōminus cōnsentit, quod Claudius ipse prope portum urbis stat. lectīca maxima, quam octō servī ferunt, quoque adest. Claudius Valerium cōnspicit et “heus! mī Valerī!” clāmat. “nōnne mē decet hospitium tibi et Caeliō praebēre? dīc mihi, amīce, quis fēminārum tuārum nunc aegrōtat? num uxor tua? num fīlia?”

Caelius haec interpellat: “mī Claudī, Valerius noster hoc tam longum iter facit, quod ancilla aegrōtat.” Claudius attonitus manūs Claudiō prēnsat et “ancilla?” susurrat. “num ancilla – in lectīcā meā – Caelī, cūr nōn –?”

Valerius īrātus interpellat, “mī Claudī, tacē et audī! ancilla enim mea, cum aegrōtat, in somniīs imāginem īnfantis mortuī semper videt et audit. nōnne portentum horribile? Rōmae adsum, quod pietās ipsa mē cōgit. mē enim decet cāsūs ruīnāsque ā familiā meā āvertere!”

Claudius, quī dīs portentīsque haud crēdit, sēcum rīdet, sed tandem, “mī Valerī, tē valdē laudō,” inquit, “quod vir summae pietātis es. nonne ego, quī sacerdōs ipse sum, tē adiuvāre possum? omnēs enim sacerdōtēs, quī in hāc urbe habitant, nōtissimī mihi sunt. facile est tibi cum illīs colloquī; facile est cūram ancillae invenīre et portentum āvertere.”

Valerius laetus cōnsentit. Caelia cum Valeriā et Caeliōlā lectīcam cōnscendit; Casina perterrita quoque cōnscendit. Vipsānia cum Prīmā et Secundā cōnscendit. lectīcāriī summā cum difficultāte lectīcam tollunt et per viās urbis lentē prōgrediuntur. Valerius et Caelius cum līberīs lectīcae sequuntur. Claudius ipse cum decem servīs agmen dūcit. in animō verba Valeriī volvit et cachinnibus rīsibusque sē trādit. “heus!” inquit, “quam stultus et rūdus est iste, quī dīs ita crēdit!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How might you approach the social-class issues inherent in this story?
  • Would it make a difference if you were working with very wealthy students (who might identify with Caelius), with very poor students (who might identify with Casina and the colōnī), or with a socioeconomically mixed group?
  • What about Claudius’ attitude towards dīs portentīsque, even though he is sacerdōs ipse?
  • How do you suppose Valerius would have responded if he’d heard Claudius’ closing words?
  • Or for that matter, do you think Valerius himself believes what he said to Claudius about the portentum? Or are both of them playing their parts, saying the “right” words and hedging their bets just in case there really are listening, thunderbolts in hand?

Tune in next time, when the search for Casina’s cure begins in earnest. We may or may not find out the answers to some of these questions! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Thanks again for becoming part of the “we” that is the Joyful Learning Community of the Tres Columnae Project.

More about Casina, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! et grātiās maximās to our new Tres Columnae Project “free” subscribers – especially those of you who are planning to convert to Basic and Standard subscriptions when those are available! It’s an exciting time for all of us, and I truly appreciate your comments, messages, and all the other ways you’ve been supporting the project recently. Particular thanks to our friend Paul P, who very kindly pointed out that the -o- in Caeliola is short. We’ll be re-recording all the stories in which she appears, and future stories with –ola and –olus words will have correct accents and quantities! (Isn’t it odd, though, that –illus and –ellus words, with their double consonants, have a heavy syllable there?) Please do let us know, either with a comment or a private email, if you find other issues with quantities, accentuation, syntax, or anything else in any of the Tres Columnae Project stories.

Anyway, we’ll let you know as soon as the paid subscription options – and the Single Submission opportunity – become available. In the meantime, of course, if you’d like to start working on a story – or illustrations and audio to accompany an existing story, or a video version of an existing story – please go ahead! We’ll let you know as soon as you can start submitting them, but we really need to resolve the “backend software” issue I mentioned in Thursday’s post, and we also need to be able to accept your payments. We’ll be working on those issues behind the scenes for the next few weeks, and we’ll also be working hard on our software solution for Version Beta.

We’ll continue today with the sequence of stories about poor Casina, ancilla Valeriī, and the morbus novissimus that has caused her dominus to take her (and the whole familia) to Rome in search of a cure. It turns out that Valerius’ brother-in-law Caelius is also coming to Rome with his familia, planning to sell some of the produce from his vīlla for a better price in the big city – or to have someone do that for him, since it would hardly be suitable for a man of his status to deal directly with, gasp, commerce! Unfortunately, this means that young Cnaeus and his sisters are there, too – and, for you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who have been following the project for a while, Cnaeus has once again earned the privilege of riding a horse! (I think we can all safely assume it’s a different horse from the one in this story from Lectiō XIV; I don’t think either Cnaeus or that horse would want to continue their relationship!) Anyway, in today’s story, which you can also find at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site, different members of the familiae respond very differently to a typical roadside sight in the Roman world:

“heus!” clāmat Valerius, “quam mē taedet itinerum!” Valerius et Lūcius lentē per Viam Appiam equitant. quibus sequitur carpentum, in quō Casina cum Caeliā et Valeriā Caeliōlāque sedet. Milphiō equōs, quī carpentum trahunt, per viam agit. tum Caelius ipse cum Cnaeō equitat. carpentum splendidum Prīmam et Secundam cum mātre Vipsāniā vehit. tum duō servī mūlōs agunt, quī plaustrum maximum trahunt. in plaustrō sunt plūrimī saccī plūrimaeque amphorae. trēs colōnī quoque in plaustō sedent. Caelius enim olīvās ūvāsque suās cum vīnō et oleō Rōmae vēndere in animō habet; haud tamen decet senātōrem Rōmānum negōtium in forīs agere. colōnī igitur Caelium comitantur negōtium āctum et haec omnia vēnditum. Valerius laetissimus est quod olīvae ūvaeque Rōmae māiōris pretiī vēneunt quam Herculāneī.

“ūna tamen cūra,” sēcum putat, “mihi est. cūr Valeriō, amīcō meō et marītō sorōris meae, ancilla aegra cūrae est? num mē oportet –?”

subitō ingēns clāmor oritur. “heus! quid est? quī clāmant?” omnēs rogant et respondent. tum omnēs ad agrum proximum oculōs vertunt, ubi quīnque crucēs in summō collō stant. in crucibus sunt corpora lātrōnum; prope crucēs fēminae ululātibus et lacrimīs sē trādunt. adsunt duō mīlitēs Rōmānī, quī crucēs custōdiunt. “vōs haud oportet crucibus appropinquāre!” exclāmant mīlitēs.

Cnaeus avidus crucēs spectat. “vae! heu!” subitō clāmat. “num mortuī sunt istī? utinam nunc iam latrōnēs clāment et ululent!” Caelius Cnaeō, “ita vērō, mī fīlī,” respondet, “nōnne latrōnēs cruciātī spectāculum optimum nōbīs, monitūs optimōs sodālibus suīs praebent?” Cnaeus laetus cōnsentit, et pater fīliusque cachinnīs sē trādunt.

Lūcius tamen mīlitēs Rōmānōs avidus spectat et, “pater, mī pater,” tandem rogat, “ecce mīlitēs et gladiī! ecce scūta et galeae! hercle! quam mihi placent mīlitēs!” Valerius subrīdet et, “mī fīlī,” Lūciō respondet, “nōnne equitēs sumus? tē nōn decet mīles esse, sed fīliōs equitum certē decet tribūnōs fierī. fortasse, cum iuvenis eris–”

subitō ingēns clāmor in carpentō oritur. Casina enim crucēs cōnspicit et “īnfāns! mī īnfāns!” magnā vōce exclāmat. ancilla manūs extendit et subitō exanimāta dēcidit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

There certainly are a lot of issues that one could discuss with a class – or a small group, or an individual – after reading this story, aren’t there? But before we delve into them, I want to deal with one of my least-favorite phrases, which someone might be tempted to use in this context. We teachers often refer to “teaching a story” (or, in the case of some Latin teachers, “teaching a translation,” where the word translation is synonymous with reading passage because the not-so-hidden assumption is that translation is the only means of reading or comprehending such a passage). Maybe it’s just me, but that phrase has always bothered me! I don’t think I “teach a story” to my students at all; instead, we work together to use a story to learn (or practice) something – the actual learning goal of the lesson or unit. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually cringe when I hear “I’m teaching Chapter 8 this week,” or even “I’m about to start To Kill a Mockingbird.” Teaching is not an “I” activity! Nor is it a “they” activity, as in “they’re taking their test on Chapter 12 today.” By its very nature, meā quidem sententiā, the best and deepest form of teaching is a “we” thing … teacher and students working together, learning from each other and emerging with something deeper, higher, better, and other than the knowledge, skill, or understanding with which we all started the lesson or unit. Even in a factory-model school, after all, isn’t everyone in that assembly-line classroom working? And I think the “we” nature of teaching and learning is even more apparent if you have a retail-store or workshop model of learning.

Of course, no one is perfect as a teacher or a learner; I’m certainly not, and I definitely have some “I” and “they” days from time to time – especially if I’m not feeling well, or if I’m under stress, or if students seem completely disengaged or apathetic. You probably have days like that from time to time, too. But one truly important goal of the Tres Columnae Project is to increase the number of “we” moments in all kinds of teaching and learning environments. As we build a Joyful Learning Community together, and as everyone builds real Ownership through creating and sharing original stories with each other, the sense of “we” should increase – and that should leave less time, less space, and less energy for the “I” moments of isolation or the “they” moments of adversary relationships.

So if you already are a “we” teacher, or if you’d like to become more of one, I hope you and your students will enjoy working together to explore some of the many issues raised by today’s story. I’m sure you’ve already thought of plenty, but in Version Beta of the project we’ll have some suggestions for background research and some Virtual Seminar prompts to start the conversations.

Tune in next time, when we’ll continue the conversation about this idea of I, we, and they – and when the Valeriī and Caeliī finally arrive in Rome. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Casina ancilla, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! And thank you for the huge spike in blog traffic on Thursday! I’m not sure exactly what caused that, but I’m very grateful … and I’m also very grateful for all the visitors to the Version Alpha Wiki of the Tres Columnae Project, and for you new subscribers … and for you long-term lectōrēs fidēlissimī, too! If you haven’t looked at the first few Fabellae of Lectiō Prīma in a while, you may not have seen the new, full-color illustrations from our amazing illustrator Lucy M. Please check them out! And if you need an illustrator for an upcoming project, let me know and I can put you in touch with her.

We had an exciting email request this week … I don’t want to give too many details at this early point, but if it works out, it could lead to significant exposure for Tres Columnae among prospective Latin teachers. I’ll let you know when I can say more.

I do have one quick request, especially for my readers in the United States. I’d really like to hear from you if you work in a middle school (or even an elementary school) that uses a Pyramid of Intervention model for unsuccessful students – or if you live or work in a school district that uses that model – especially if the district doesn’t offer Latin classes at the middle-school level. (Actually, I’d love to know about districts like this that don’t offer Latin classes at all, too!) I’m particularly interested in schools that have a remediation/enrichment period built into the school day. I know that schools in this situation often struggle with what to do for the constantly-changing enrichment groups – the students who have mastered the skills or objectives that the remediation groups are working on – and I think we might be able to help.

If you have no idea what the last paragraph was about, please don’t worry! 🙂

Like the members of familia Valeria, I feel as though I’m at a crossroads as I write this post. There are all kinds of amazing opportunities out there, both for me personally and for the Tres Columnae Projec, but it’s hard to know which way to go, or which direction to turn first. I feel a bit like Valerius, I suppose: a perfectly ordinary, predictable life, with settled routines and comfortable expectations, suddenly turns upside down. Of course, in Valerius’ case, it’s all caused by a thing that seems pretty terrible – the mysterious illness of a faithful servant. In my case, the cause is much more positive – all the interest and excitement you’ve shown about Tres Columnae. What began life as a “small” collaborative space where my face-to-face students could create and share stories with each other has caused quite a stir and commotion. It’s very exciting for me, and very enjoyable, too, but it does upset the predictable routines of summer, just as Casina’s morbus novissimus upset the routine of an ordinary day for Valerius, Caelia, Milphio, Gallicus, and the children … not to mention poor Casina herself!

If you haven’t been following this story-line from Lectiō XIX of the Tres Columnae Project, you probably ought to know that

  • Casina, Valerius’ and Caelia’s sometimes-impatient ancilla, surprises her fellow-servants by not appearing at the crack of dawn in this story.
  • When Milphio and Gallicus investigate in this story, they find that Casina is afflicted by something that causes her not to recognize them, though she does see visions of Someone Else.
  • Valerius and Caelia are understandably concerned when they hear the (exaggerated) news from Gallicus in this story, and when they see for themselves in this one.
  • Valerius unsuccessfully seeks help from the religious authorities of Herculaneum (For some reason, he doesn’t call a doctor! I don’t know why, either), and finally, his daughter Valeria suggests some possible avenues for a cure in this story, and the whole familia sets out for Rome in today’s story.

Valerius is clearly a dominus pius et benignus in several senses of the word pius. Yes, he’s concerned about Casina’s welfare, but he’s also concerned about possible supernatural consequences for his family from an angry umbra or lemur. As I was reminded by the Google Books preview of Buckland’s The Roman Law of Slavery, a debt payable from a slave’s peculium legally survives the death of a previous owner, or other transfers of ownership. So, if ultiō owed to a lemur transfers like other debts, Valerius has some sound legal reasons to be afraid of the lemur – and besides, Roman ghosts probably aren’t very concerned with legal niceties! Even if the lemur has taken vengeance already, it might still be thirsty for more blood.

In any case, Valerius has decided to take Casina to Rome to seek a cure. (Maybe he’s thinking, as well, of the law, mentioned by Buckland, that grants freedom to sick slaves who are exposed by their masters on the island of Aesculapius, but survive. Perhaps he’s hoping that the lemur would respect manūmissiō?) It’s an interesting journey, to say the least, as we discover in today’s story, now available here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested:

hodiē māne per tōtam domum Valeriī festīnātur et clāmātur. Valerius enim cum uxōre līberīsque Rōmam proficīscī parat. Casina ancilla, quae quattuor diēs aegrōtat, in sellā iam anxia et fessa sedet. cotīdiē enim in somniīs Casina imāginem īnfantis mortuī videt, vōcem audit, manūs tangit. cotīdiē febrēs ancillam afflīgunt; cotīdiē surgere et labōrāre cōnātur, sed frūstrā. Valerius Casinae trīstī haec verba dīcit: “Casina mea, nōnne dominus tibi sum benignus? nōnne remedia morbōrum praebēre volō? nōs igitur tēcum Rōmam iter facimus. Rōmae enim est templum deī Aesculāpiī, ubi aegrōtī saepe remedia morbōrum accipiunt. Rōmae quoque est templum Bonae Deae, ubi aegrōtī herbās ēsse solent. Rōmae sunt medicī perītissimī. et Rōmae remedium morbōrum tuōrum invenīre possumus.”

Casina aegra et languida, “mī domine,” respondet, “tibi crēdere volō, sed difficile est. nam per tōtam noctem imāginem īnfantis mortuī videō, vōcem audiō, manūs tangō … et imāgō nōn crūdēlis, sed benigna esse vidētur. fortasse dī mē ad Tartarum nunc arcessunt – num dīs impedīre vīs? nōnne melius est omnibus domī manēre et mortem meam exspectāre?”

Valerius paulīsper tacet. nam in somniīs suīs quoque appāret imāgō īnfantis Casinae. aliquandō imāgō benignē sē gerit; per viās urbis Rōmae ambulat, manūs extendit, et remedia morbōrum Casinae offert. aliquandō tamen in somniīs imāgō cubiculum Valeriī ingreditur et “hīc manē, asine!” clāmat. tum imāgō manūs extendit Valerium verberātum et necātum; “tē petō pūnītum” vōce dīrā exclāmat. Valerius igitur maximē dubitat. “quid facere dēbeō?” identidem tacitus rogat. nihil tamen dē somniīs, nihil dē pavōre suō familiae patefacit, quod paterfamiliās pius est.

tandem Valerius, “Casina mea, nōnne dominus sum tuus?” rogat. Casina statim cōnsentit. “nōlī,” inquit Valerius, “tālia verba dīcere! nōnne tē decet mandātīs dominī pārēre?” Casina statim cōnsentit. “et tibi hoc māndō,” addit Valerius, “tē oportet remedia morbōrum Rōmae petere. surge nunc, et hoc carpentum intrā!” Casina fessa lentē surgit et in carpentum ascendit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of Casina’s suggestion to Valerius? Is it the response that pietās, or any of the other Roman virtūtēs, would dictate for a person in her situation?
  • Or, for that matter, would Casina even think in such terms? Did the Romans bother to inculcate an idea of the virtūtēs in their slaves, or did they just manage them with fear and intimidation?
  • What about Valerius’ dreams? From our twenty-first-century perspective, it’s easy to understand why Valerius is having dreams about the imāgō, isn’t it? Even if you’re not a psychologist, you probably can come up with some good psychological-sounding terms. But put those aside for a moment, and imagine you live in Valerius’ world. What possible explanations could he have for such dreams?
  • Why do you suppose Valerius has said nothing about his dreams? And why did I put in that little clause quod paterfamiliās pius est as an explanation for his silence? Does pietās really dictate that the paterfamiliās hide his own fears? I’m thinking of a passage in Book I of the Aeneid here, one that many lectōrēs fidēlissimī have probably already thought of, too.
  • And what about Valerius’ decision to go to Rome? Do you suppose he’s trying to escape the lemur? Or does he believe the first set of dreams, in which the imāgō seems to be inviting him to go to Rome?
  • And since Romans did believe so strongly in dreams and visions, how do you suppose they reconciled conflicting ones like these?

Tune in next time, when we’ll observe familia Valeria on their journey to Rome and attempt to answer some of these questions. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. I especially look forward to hearing from folks who know anything about “Pyramid of Interventions” schools!

Casina ancilla, IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

Casina ancilla, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Before we continue with the story of Casina’s morbus novissimus, I want to share some good news. As of yesterday, the Tres Columnae Project has received our first request for a full-school subscription, to start in the fall. (With well over 50 students involved, they’ll be paying US $7.50 per Basic subscription per year, or 75 cents a month. We think that’s a pretty good deal, since the students will

  • have access to Tres Columnae materials (stories, images, audio, video, explanations, exercises, quizzes, and the Virtual Seminar) from home, school, or anywhere, without having to carry any heavy textbooks;
  • get immediate feedback on their responses to exercises and reading-comprehension questions; and even
  • periodically make Single Submissions of stories, images, audio, and video to the project.

We challenge you to find a textbook that can do all of that … especially for $7.50 per user per year! 🙂

After talking with the teacher, I think they’ll save even more money by having students do joint submissions and split the editing fee several ways – and I’d encourage you to consider that approach, especially if budgets are a concern for you. Even with a Standard subscription, groups of 4 could make 4 submissions each month without overwhelming themselves or the Tres Columnae Project.

To celebrate – and to prepare for what lies ahead as our subscriptions grow – we’ll probably be migrating from the Version Alpha Wiki to a different software system. The Version Alpha will still be there, but we’ll also offer a link from it to the “production” version of the site when it’s ready. We’re still thinking about the best “backend” software to use, since we want something that

  • makes various levels of subscriptions, and Single Submission purchases, trouble-free for you, the community, to purchase;
  • allows for different types of access for different levels of subscribers, without requiring complicated log-in procedures;
  • makes it easy and painless to upload multimedia submissions – and to edit, approve, and publish them; and
  • doesn’t require a lot of complicated maintenance or programmer time to keep going.

If any of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī have good suggestions about CMS packages – or wiki engines, or anything else – that could serve as the backbone of Version Beta of Tres Columnae, please let me know! Or, for that matter, if you have any horror stories, please let us know about that, too. (The top contenders, if you’re fascinated by that sort of thing, are Drupal, Joomla, and MediaWiki (in no particular order), but we’re open to other suggestions, too. Feel free to gloss over that sentence if it’s meaningless to you!)

Regardless of our final decision about backend software, we have a lot of work to do between now and the Fall. But it’s really exciting to know that folks do want to be involved in the project on that type of scale. If you’re interested in a school-wide subscription, or know someone who might be, please let us know!

As we face important decisions about The Future, I’m glad I’ve chosen to feature the sequence of stories about Casina’s morbus this week. After all, everyone involved with Casina’s life has some decisions to make … especially Valerius, her dominus. I was interested to find, here at Google Books, an extensive preview of W.W. Buckland’s The Roman Law of Slavery; it seems that even as early as the reign of Claudius, slaves who were not treated for illness, but left to die on the island of Aesculapius, were automatically freed if they recovered … and that a master who did seek treatment for a sick slave could deduct the medical expenses from the slave’s peculium. In later stories, we’ll see how these factors and others affect Valerius’ and Caelia’s response to Casina’s sickness.

At the moment, though, we’ll pick up with this story, in which Valerius and Caelia have only just learned about Casina’s sickness … and they’re about to discover some other things they didn’t know about their favorite ancilla:

Valerius et Caelia ad cubiculum Casinae contendunt, ubi Milphiō pius et sollicitus nunc iam deōs precātur et ancillae vīnum offert. Casina tamen Milphiōnem haud agnōscit. iterum iterumque surgit et manūs extendit. iterum iterumque “ō mī infāns, nōnne mē quaeris?” rogat. iterum iterumque fessa et aegra in lectō resīdet vel ad pavīmentum lābitur. Valerius et Caelia extrā cubiculum haesitant et rem tōtam tacitī spectant. tandem Valerius “quid hoc est?” rogat. “num Casinae nostrae est īnfāns?” et Milphiō, “ō domine, īnfāns Casinae nōn vīvit, sed in urbe Pompēiīs insepultus nunc iam iacet, ā vēnālīciō necātus et disiectus. nōnne Casina ipsa mihi rem tōtam nārrāre solet ubi diēs Lemurālia adsunt?”

tum Caelia, “heus! rem intellegō!” exclāmat. “nōnne Casina saepe ē domō festīnat flētum, ubi līberī nostrī diēs nātālēs celebrant? et nōnne urbem Pompēiōs plōrāre solet? vae Casinae! et vae īnfantī sepultō! et vae nōbīs!”

et Valerius attonitus et territus, “edepol! ecastor! dī omnēs!” respondet, “fortasse Casina aegrotat, quod umbra īnfantis insepultī iniūriās suās ulcīscī vult! sine dubiō iste vēnālīcius impius nunc iam poenās scelerum luit! etiamsī dominus sum pius, fortasse lemur advenit nōs pūnītum! vae! heu! nōs oportet multa sacrificia offerre!”

subitō Casina oculōs aperit et “heus! quis clāmat?” fessa et languida rogat. omnēs ad lectum festīnant et “Casina? an nōs iam agnōscis?” sollicitī rogant. illa attonita, “domine! domina! Milphiō mī amīce!” respondet, “cūr hoc mē rogātis? nōnne semper vōs agnōscō?”

Milphiō attonitus Casinae rem tōtam nārrat. et Casina, “vae! heu!” ululat. “nōs haud decet rēs tālēs memoriā tenēre. mē oportet surgere et aquam trahere!” ancilla surgere cōnātur, sed frustrā! membra sua movēre haud potest!

Valerius, “Casina mea,” inquit, “tibi in hōc lectō manendum est! perīculōsum enim est nōbīs talia ōmina contemnere! mihi nunc ē domō exeundum est, quod mē decet augurem vel haruspicem quaerere.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • As I mentioned above, I’d really love your feedback if you have experience, good or bad, with any of the software we’re considering for Version Beta.
  • Were you surprised by anything you learned about Roman laws regarding slavery?
  • What about Valerius’ and Caelia’s rections to Casina’s morbus?
  • And what about Casina’s own reaction? Why do you suppose she tries to minimize what’s happening to her?

Tune in next time, when we’ll address these questions and others … and when we’ll find out whether Valerius was successful in his quest for an augur or a haruspex. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!