dies lustricus

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll attempt to wrap up the themes of this week’s posts, which have included

As I made this list, I realized that everything related, somehow or other, to the theme of new birth and new beginnings. Changes in practice are obviously a kind of new birth, especially when teachers adapt or even eliminate practices that we’ve used for years or decades. Paulla’s decision and the lesson structure I described in Thursday’s post are also, in very different ways, examples of a major change and a new beginning. Even though I created the character of Paulla, I realize I don’t know why she decides to go and help. Does she feel some responsibility for the death of Tertius? Is she moved by Lollia’s pleas? Is she just glad to get some money from Lollius? Does she have a sense of professional obligation that overrules her economic calculations? Did she, perhaps, lose a child of her own? Does she identify with Maccia for some other reasons? We don’t know; we just know that she does, in fact, go and help with the delivery … and she seems to be a lot happier than her typical dour, cynical self as a result.

Perhaps that’s a message for all of us about the importance of giving back when you feel down and discouraged, as Paulla definitely is at the start of this story. Like many teachers, I love the summer months, but the lack of structure for my days and weeks can sometimes take a toll on me – even though I’m careful to set up other, self-imposed structures and tasks. This summer, of course, those tasks have largely related to the Tres Columnae Project. It’s really helped to know that we’re creating something that Latin teachers all over the world can freely use, and it’s an even greater help to know that we’re building a community of learners as well as a set of learning materials. So, to all of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who are part of the Tres Columnae community, grātiās maximās iterum!

Of course, the Tres Columnae Project is by no means the only way to learn Latin. There are all kinds of textbooks and other materials out there, and depending on your needs, you might find one of them to be a better fit for you, your students, or your learning goals. For example, check out this Latin-BestPractices post for a venerable and highly successful programmed-learning approach available both in book form and on CD-ROM.

As I think about the wider community of Latin teachers and learners, I’m always impressed by the thoughtfulness and generosity we tend to show each other. But one thing has been bothering me this week – especially when I read and reflect on the thoughtful things that Latin teachers say to each other on the various lists I subscribe to. For the most part, our hard-won professional knowledge is locked up in our own heads and in our own classrooms. Yes, we share our ideas, strategies, and materials freely when asked, and we ask, quite vocally, when we need help. But still, a new teacher joining our world has so little access to the “tricks of the trade”! Things are certainly better now than they were before the advent of the Internet; at least a young, overwhelmed teacher can now look for help from colleagues online! And if that young teacher knows where to look, there’s even a consensus about what beginning teachers ought to know and be able to do by the end of their first few years of practice. There are, of course, some wonderful books for beginning teachers: Harry Wong’s First Days of School, Fred Jones’s Tools for Teaching, Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, just to name a few. (These are actually for all teachers, young or “young at heart” – but they’d be especially useful for young teachers who are struggling to survive.) Unfortunately, though, there’s not a collection of content-specific daily survival strategies – things like how to implement differentiated lessons in a Latin class, as Magistrastein noted on Wednesday, or how to reconcile the anti-homework movement with a concern that language learners need more practice than class time allows, as Magistrastein mentions in this blog post. Not that there’s a single right answer for any of these! But there are a lot of good, hard-won answers … and new teachers don’t usually have access to them.

I’ve often said in this space that you can’t directly transfer Understandings, but you can help learners (including new teachers) develop them – and you can definitely help them develop their teaching Knowledge and Skills. I’ve been trying to figure out how the Tres Columnae Project might help with that, but I’m really not sure. quid mihi suādētis, lectōrēs cārissimī?

So much to think about, and so much on the horizon! But sometimes that leaves us in a “hurry up and wait” state. So perhaps it’s fitting that we close the week with this story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like. Little Quartus, of course, has to wait the requisite eight days to be named; his brother Caius had to wait to see him; and there’s a lot of other waiting that goes on, as you’ll see:

quārtō diē post Quārtum nātum, familia Valeria Herculāneum regreditur. Cāius laetus ad cēnāculum currit. “quam mīrābilis est urbs Mediolānum!” exclāmat. Cāius cēnāculum ingreditur et, “heus! quid est? num īnfāns iam adest?” attonitus rogat. Maccia Quārtum īnfantem tollit et “ecce frāter tuus!” inquit. Cāius attonitus et laetissimus ōsculum īnfantī summā cum cūrā dat. tum grātiās maximās dīs omnibus agit et “heus!” exclāmat, “mihi ad domum Valeriī statim regrediendum est! nōnne patrōnus noster hunc nūntium optimum audīre dēbet?”

familia Valeria quoque laetātur, et Valerius ipse Lolliō epistulam mittit. “mī cliēns cārissime,” inquit, “tē decet diem lustricum nōbīscum celebrāre. nōlī timēre; mē decet omnia parāre, quod familia tua mihi cordī est.”

nōnā diē post Quārtum nātum, diem lustricum celebrat familia Lollia. Lollius cum Cāiō Lolliāque scālīs dēscendit et per viās ad domum Valeriī celeriter contendit. Maccia Quārtum īnfantem manibus fert. Lollius iānuam domūs pulsat et Milphiō per faucēs festīnat iānuam apertum.

in ātriō domūs tōta familia Valeria cum augure adventum Lolliōrum exspectat. Valerius ipse Lollium amplectitur et, “nōnne Fortūna tibi favet?” laetus exclāmat. tum omnēs ad peristylium prōgrediuntur. Maccia Quārtum in mediō peristyliō dēpōnit. Lollius ipse crepundia collō pōnit et pompam dūcit. tum bullam quoque collō pōnit et omnēs vehementer plaudunt. “fēlīciter! fēlīciter!” exclāmant omnēs. Lollius sacrificia rīte offert, et omnēs vōta precēsque dīs omnibus offerunt.

tum augur caelum spectat ōmina cognitum. “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne aquila ad dextram nunc iam volat! ōmina optima dī fīliō tuō dant!” Lollius augurī grātiās maximās agit et sacculum pecūniā plēnum trādit.

tum Gallicus ē culīnā, “nōnne epulae optimae sunt parātae?” exclāmat. omnēs laetī ad triclīnium festīnant epulās optimās ēsum. Lollius manūs Valeriō prēnsat et, “ō mī patrōne,” inquit, “laetissimus tibi grātiās maximās agō, quod tantō honōre familiam meam afficis!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in on Monday, when we’ll shift gears yet again and look at an entirely different part of the Tres Columnae Project. But we may find a few recurring themes as so many new things continue to be born. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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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, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Before we get to the next story about Casina ancilla and her morbus novissimus, I want to pause for a moment to think about some of the issues raised by yesterday’s featured story, which you can find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you don’t want to do a lot of scrolling and clicking around the blog. You may have noticed that it falls into several natural sections:

  1. Casina, Valeria, and Caelia in the lectīca (and the crowds’ reactions – I was inspired by some “latest celebrity gossip” links that showed up on a website I was using for an entirely different purpose);
  2. Valerius and Lucius at Claudius Pulcher’s house (with a bit of Roman history and a few literary references thrown in for good measure);
  3. interactions between the women and the sacerdōs Bonae Deae (did you notice the rather ironic allusion to Catullus?); and
  4. the very short conclusion, where Casina consumes the herbās and everyone returns home.

As I wrote and edited the story, and much more as I re-read it while writing yesterday’s blog post, I noticed several interesting themes that one might pursue in conversations with a group of learners that focused on Understanding rather than just Knowledge or Skill. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • You may have noticed that I deliberately didn’t identify the gender of the sacerdōs Bonae Deae. How might our understanding of the story change if we knew for sure that the sacerdōs was a Roman man addressing a group of women? Or if we knew the sacerdōs was a non-Roman man? Or if we knew the sacerdōs was a woman, Roman or otherwise? Why do you suppose I kept you, the reader, in suspense about his/her gender (and, in fact, went back to edit the story to remove any gender references)?
  • Depending on your training and reading in Roman history and literature, you also may have noticed that this story “sneaks in” a number of references to “classical” Roman literature. Cicero and Catullus, in particular, play important parts – and so does the famous scandal of Clodius’ dressing up as a woman for the rites of Bona Dea at Julius Caesar’s house. If you recognized those references, did you find that they deepened your appreciation of the story, or that they annoyed you? For comparison, think of the “sneaky” references to pop culture that often appear in movies marketed for children, or the jokes for adult watchers that show up in Sesame Street segments from time to time. How do you feel about those? And if you respond differently in the two cases, why might that be?
  • What about the social-class dynamics, particularly the ways that the sacerdōs does – and does not – interact directly with Casina?
  • And what about Casina’s own emotional reactions, both to the sacerdōs him/herself and to the advice?

Many of these issues continue to be prominent in today’s story, now available from this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site. As poor, exhausted Casina is on the way home, she falls asleep and has another dream – but does it complicate or simplify our understanding of what’s “really” going on?

lectīcāriī lentē per viās urbis Rōmae prōgrediuntur. in lectīcā, quam lectīcāriī umerīs ferunt, Caelia et Valeria cum Casinā anxiae colloquuntur. “Casina mea,” inquit Caelia, “quid agis? utrum herbae remedium tibi ferunt annōn?” Casina paulīsper tacet, quod fessissima est. tandem “ō domina,” respondet, “nesciō. corpus meum nōn dolet; febrem nunc iam nōn habeō; sed fessissima sum. fortasse mē oportet in hāc lectīcā quiēscere.” Valeria et Caelia cum Casinā celeriter cōnsentiunt. mox ancilla oculōs clausit et somnō sē trādit. longum est iter, quod multitūdinēs maximae viās urbis complent. difficile igitur est lectīcāriīs per multitūdinēs prōgredī. perītī sunt lectīcāriī; iter tamen cum longum tum difficile est. saepe enim lectīcāriōs oportet cōnsistere, quod cīvēs servīque eīs obstant. Valeria et Caelia, quamquam fessae sunt, dormīre haud possunt; dormit tamen Casina.

subitō tamen in somniīs Casina lemurem īnfantis cōnspicātur. lemur manūs Casinae prēnsat et, “ō māter, māter mea,” inquit, “tē haud decet dormīre! nōnne enim dormīre est paulātim morī? tibi surgendum est, māter mea!” Casina in somniīs, “ō mī īnfāns,” respondet, “tē valdē amō, tēcum esse valdē dēsīderō. nōnne mē quoque decet morī et tēcum semper esse?”

lemur tamen, “ō māter,” respondet, “mihi decōrum est quiēscere. nōnne ille Vergilius, poēta nōtissimus, hōs versūs rēctē scrībit:

vīxī et quem dederat cursum Fortūna perēgī,
et nunc magna meī sub terrās ībit imāgō.

tibi tamen multī annī, multa gaudia parāta nunc iam manent. nōlī mortem dēsīderāre! quī enim ante diem nec fātō nec meritā morte pereunt, deōs īrātōs reddunt! nōlī perīre, sed convālēsce!”

subitō lemur abest, et vir ingēns in somniīs adest. flagellum tenet et servum aegrum identidem verberat. servus perterritus lacrimat et “cūr vapulō, domine?” rogat. “vapulās, quod ignāvus morbum fingis et mortem igitur merēs!” respondet dominus īrātissimus. Casina perterrita exclāmat et clāmōribus suīs sē ē somniīs excitat. Casina valdē timet et somnium tōtum Valeriae Caeliaeque statim nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • My first thought – even as the writer of this piece – it that the lemur is one awfully well-read and articulate īnfāns mortuus! Of course, he’s been down there in the Underworld for some time … but do Roman ghosts age, or do they stay the age they were when they died?
  • My second thought was that this dream is very different in character from the others. Casina is not terrified of the lemur, but actually engages in a two-way conversation with him … and receives some very sensible advice. I wonder if perhaps the herbae and the contents of the pōculum contributed to the different feeling of this dream!
  • And then I wonder about the end of the dream … the part with the dominus and the servus perterritus. You may recall, if you’ve been a longtime lector fidēlissimus, that the sequence of stories with Casina’s morbus novissimus comes right after this story from Lectiō XVIII, in which Casina witnessed the near-death of a servus while she was (innocently enough) at the fullonica picking up Valerius’ clean laundry. Some details – that I myself didn’t notice at the time – might be intriguing now:
    • The servus looks like (but turns out not to be) Casina’s own frāter;
    • The servus genuinely is sick – from exposure to the fumes of the ūrīna;
    • The dominus refuses to acknowledge this illness, instead punishing and almost killing the servus in a truly horrible way;
    • The servus is – barely – rescued by the intervention of a most unlikely rescuer.
  • Casina says nothing about the situation to her dominus. Perhaps she’s afraid he won’t believe her, or perhaps she fears he will take the side of his cliēns (and tenant), even though she has had ample experience with Valerius as dominus benignus. (Of course, even if a dominus is benignus, he’s still dominus and still has manus over you – so how benignus can he actually be? Or do you want to find out when he kills you, beats you, or sells you because you’ve exceeded his limits? I don’t think we can forget about the horrible side of Roman slavery – of slavery wherever it’s practiced – even when we’re dealing with supposedly “kind” and “enlightened” masters who “treat their slaves well.”)
  • Could it be that Casina’s trauma causes the suppressed memory of her īnfāns mortuus to rise to the surface, and that this combination of psychological factors causes – or at least contributes to – the morbus novissimus and the visions?
  • Or is it even appropriate to apply our twenty-first-century diagnostic terms and understandings to Casina’s situation? Would we do so if she were a character in an “authentic” Roman text from the time period?

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider how questions like these are related to a Joyful Learning Community where Choice and Ownership are important. We’ll also find out how Valerius reacts to the news of Casina’s latest somnium. What are the limits of his benignitās? And how will he react to the details of the end of the dream? Will he see himself as the cruel dominus, and if so, how will he react to his ancilla aegra? You’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I continued to reflect on the themes of community and identity we’ve been addressing in this series of posts, I noticed several things. First, of course, there are obvious connections between these themes and the core beliefs of the Tres Columnae Project. Even our commitment to providing for various types of learning stems from a passionate commitment to the very different identities of our participants: Some of you learn best in one way, while others learn best in another; some would like to make and create a lot of Submissions to the Project, while others would prefer to focus on their reading and listening-comprehension skills. Rather than dictate every step of the learning process, we aim to provide you with lots of different material, and we’ll guide you (if you need some guidance) to find the right path for you. At the same time, though, if you do join our community, we ask you to commit to building your Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding of Latin and of the Roman world.

In order to join any community – and perhaps especially a Joyful Learning Community – you, the potential member, have to make a conscious choice to identify with the values and expected behaviors of that community. In our case, of course, those values include Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership, and expected behaviors include extensive reading, active creation, participation in thoughtful dialogue, and an avoidance of what Dexter Hoyos calls “translation in order to understand.” A lēctor fidēlissimus made an excellent point about the connection between values and behavior in an email to me the other day, which I’m quoting with his permission:

I suspect that it is true of the human being that anything we do, repeatedly over time, both expresses and shapes who we are. Early on, it may express more, and through time, shape more.

So, that language that we use about what we do does express and shape who we are. A teacher who chooses to speak of what “we are doing together” is expressing something and, I believe, radically reshaping the work of education. I find that when I run into a parent in the grocery store or somewhere, and we begin to chat, I usually tell them that I have enjoyed “working with” their son or daughter. I just find it uncomfortable and really not quite true to say “I’ve enjoyed teaching your child.” Some days, some class sessions, it’s not always clear who the teacher is!

We could probably spend at least a week unpacking all the implications of this comment, and relating it to the points about I, they, and we that we’ve been considering this week! For the moment, though, I invite you to read it again and let each phrase and clause sink in.

Speaking of Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership – and Identity, too, for that matter – check out this amazing video from our faithful friend and collaborator Ann M and her Year 7 students in England. It’s the beginning of their slightly adapted version of the story of Cnaeus and the horse from Lectiō XIV. I’m told that there’s more to come!

Themes of identity and community are also important to the development of the story-line itself. By their decision to seek a cure for Casina’s morbus, Valerius and Caelia have clearly chosen a form of community with their ancilla: they’ve taken the whole familia on a difficult, expensive trip to Rome in an attempt to cure her, and Valerius himself has faced some surprise (and even some ridicule) from friends and acquaintances in the process. He seems to be committed to the spirit as well as the letter of notions like pietās, and of the complicated customs and laws that govern the interactions between dominī and servī in the Roman world – in sharp contrast to his brother-in-law, who has displayed a very different attitude about servī (and ancillae in particular) in stories like this one and this one. In fact, even Caelius’ friend Claudius Pulcher, with whom the familiae are staying in Rome, seems shocked and surprised by Valerius’ pietās, despite his not-entirely-serious exclamation of respect near the end of this story.

As the overall story-line of the Tres Columnae Project continues to unfold, we’ll see some further repercussions of Valerius’ pietās, and we’ll also find out whether young Lucius fulfills the childhood dream he expresses in this story. But that’s for another day! 🙂 Today, let’s continue to explore the sequence of stories about Casina and her morbus novissimus with the story, now available from this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, in which Valerius is explaining the initial treatment plan to a bewildered, but ultimately delighted Casina:

hodiē māne Casina ē lectō anxia surgit. Valerium quaerit et “mī domine,” inquit, “cūr mē tantō honōre afficis? nōnne ancilla sum tua? cūr igitur mēcum iter Rōmam facis? cūr remedia mihi quaeris? plūrimī enim dominī, cum servī aegrotant, illōs vel pūniunt vel vēndunt.”

Valerius “Casina mea,” respondet, “nēminem oportet servum aegrum pūnīre vel vēndere. nōnne enim et legeēs et pietās ipsa tālia prohibent? praetereā, nōnne somnia tua sunt ōmina perīculōsa? sī lemur dominum tuum quaerit pūnītum, haud mē decet tē vēndere; lemur enim sine dubiō et mē et dominum novum sānē petere potest! num quis dominōrum tam audāx est? num quis tam stultus? perīculum ā familiā meā āvertere volō, sed hospitī vel clientī trānsferre certē nōlō. nōs ergō decet tē cūrāre et remedia tibi quaerere. fortasse et dīs et lemurī sīc placēre possumus!”

Casina attonita nihil respondet. haec Valeriī verba in animō iterum iterumque volvit. tandem Valerius, “heus!” exclāmat, “tibi ad cubiculum regrediendum et quiēscendum est, Casina. hodiē enim ad templum Bonae Deae cum Caeliā Valeriāque festīnāre dēbēs, et iter longum est.”

Casina anxia, “mī domine,” rogat, “cūr ad hoc templum prōcēditur?”

et Valerius, “in hortō templī,” Casinae respondet, “sunt plūrimae herbae, quae remedia morbōrum plūrimīs aegrōtīs iam praebent. tum hodiē vespere in templō Aesculāpiī dormiendum est. nōnne deus Aesculāpius saepe somnia mīrābilia aegrōtīs mittit? fortasse vel Bona Dea vel deus Aesculapius tibi remedia praebēre potest.”

Casina, “tibi gratiās maximās agō, mī domine,” Valeriō respondet et ad cubiculum regreditur quiētum. “heus!” sēcum susurrat, “fortasse īnfāns meus lībertātem quam mortem mihi fert? nōnne enim servī aegrī, quōs dominī prope templum Aesculapiī relinquunt, sunt līberī sī forte convalēscunt? dīs dominōque grātiās maximās agō! sī enim mors mihi imminet, cum īnfantī meō erō; sī vīta manet, fortasse līberta erō; et dominus mē Valeriolae meae dōnō nūptiālī nunc iam prōmittit. grātiās maximās dīs vōbīs īnfantīque agō, quod nūntium optimum mihi fertis!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • As I wrote this story, and even more so as I read it in preparation for this blog post, I was struck by the many issues it raises. Issues of gender, of silence and speech, of authority and the response to authority, of freedom and slavery – we managed to pack quite a lot into a relatively simple little story! Which issues do you think would be the most productive to discuss with your students, and how would you want to shape the discussion? Are there issues you would not want to raise with them?
  • What do you think about Casina’s morbus now – especially her visions of the īnfāns? Do you suppose that, at some level, the sickness and the dream might have been caused by Casina’s desire for freedom? What evidence from this or other stories might you use to support such an interpretation?
  • If you accept that interpretation, I suppose it raises a number of other questions. For example, is Casina taking advantage of Valerius’ generosity and pietās? If so, is she doing it consciously or unconsciously? And would that – or should that – make a difference in Valerius’ response to her?
  • Or, if you don’t accept that interpretation, what do you suppose did cause the morbus and the dreams? And how do you respond to Casina’s sudden realization about the potential for freedom if, in fact, it is a sudden realization – or at least a sudden conscious realization?
  • How do you want the story to end? Should Casina recover? Should she join her īnfāns and be at rest? Should she become a līberta? Or should she go with Valeria as a dōnum nūptiāle? Or should this be one of the cases where we provide several alternate endings and let you, our lectōrēs fidēlissimī and subscribers, choose the one that works best for you?

Tune in next time, when Casina and her domina travel to the first of the two templa. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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, 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!

Casina ancilla, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue with our series of posts about the morbus novissimus that mysteriously afflicts Casina, Valerius’ and Caelia’s frequently-grumpy ancilla, shortly after she witnesses the horrible near-death of a servus who reminds her of her own brother in this story from Lectiō XIX of the Tres Columnae Project. Since Casina has also suffered the tragic loss of her own child, as we discovered in this story, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s upset! And given the close connections between mind and body, it’s not surprising that her emotional distress would show up as physical symptoms! Perhaps such a claim would have been surprising 100 or even 200 years ago, when the post-Enlightenment worldview was fully dominant, and when “everyone” knew that there were clean, separate categories for things like mind and body – or, for that matter, for things like language and culture. Fortunately, in our post-modern 21st-century world, we’ve rediscovered that things are connected to each other … often in surprising ways! I just finished re-reading Daniel Pink’s amazing book, A Whole New Mind, and was struck once again by his point about synthesizing the emotional and the rational, the mind and the body, the logical and the intuitive. It also struck me that what “sophisticated and educated” Western culture forgot for a few hundred years and is now rediscovering was, of course, known all along to people that “sophisticated and educated” Western culture despised and marginalized. How ironic … and yet, how hopeful!

And that brings us back to Casina, who is about as despised and marginalized as anyone in Roman society could possibly be – she’s an enslaved woman. And yet, when she’s overcome with her mysterious morbus, we’ll find that her dominus doesn’t react in the “expected” way – with punishments, threats, torture, or death – as she may well have feared. Is it just that Valerius is unusually compassionate? Or does something else cause him to treat Casina better than most Romans would have expected? We’ll find out as we look at the next two stories in the sequence. First, though, Casina’s fellow servī have to discover how sick she is in this story, now available here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site:

Milphiō et Gallicus ad cubiculum Casinae celeriter regrediuntur. Milphiō extrā cubiculum stat et “Casina, Casina mea, nōnne iam surgis?” rogat. Casina tamen nihil respondet. Milphiō solliitus cubiculum ingreditur et, “Casina, Casina mea, quid agis?” rogat. Casina tamen nihil respondet. ancilla in lectō immōta iacet. subitō oculōs aperit et “īnfāns, mī īnfāns!” exclāmat. Milphiō perterritus, “nōn īnfāns, sed Milphiō adsum, Casina mea! num aegrōtās?”

Casina subitō surgere cōnātur. “īnfāns, mī īnfāns, utrum mē ad tē vocās annōn? Casina adsum, māter tua – ō mī īnfāns, quaesō, ignōsce mihi!”

Gallicus perterritus, “num umbra adest ipsa? num lemur?” clāmat. “mihi exeundum est, quod … quod … quod mē oportet ientāculum dominō parāre!” et coquus ē cubiculō perterritus festīnat. per tōtam domum currit et “vae! heu! lemur adest ipse!” identidem clāmat. Milphiō tamen, quamquam perterritus et sollicitus est, in cubiculō manet. manūs ad caelum tollit et dīs omnibus precēs effundit.

There’s no doubt that something is seriously wrong with Casina, is there? In the language of contemporary psychology, perhaps we would diagnose her with post-traumatic stress disorder. As you might imagine, Valerius and Caelia are both surprised and terrified when they hear the news of Casina’s affliction in this story:

Valerius ē lectō attonitus surgit et “heus! quid est?” clāmat. Caelia quoque surgit et “vae! heu! quis clāmat?” attonita rogat. Valerius et Caelia ē cubiculīs ēgrediuntur et “nōnne Gallicus iterum sē vexat!” rogant et respondent. coquus enim per tōtam domum festīnat et clāmat, “vae! heu! umbrae et lemurēs mē petunt! vae! heu!” Valerius coquum clāmantem tandem prēnsat et “mēhercle!” exclāmat, “Gallice! quid clāmās? num umbrae? num lemurēs?”

Gallicus dominum suum amplectitur et “ō mī domine,” clāmat, “mī domine, umbrae et lemurēs, imāginēs quoque et dī Mānēs ipsae!” Caelia bracchium Gallicō quoque prēnsat et, “Gallice noster, num mediā nocte vīnum bibis?” rogat. Gallicus tamen, “ō domine, domina, haud ēbrius, haud īnsānus sum! quaesō, amābō vōs, mē audīte! hodiē enim māne, ut semper, Casinam in culīnā exspectō, quod illa aquam ē fonte pūblicō mihi trahere solet. Casina tamen nōn adest! ad cubiculum igitur festīnō illam excitātum – sed nihil respondet! sine dubiō Casina est mortua! sine dubiō omnēs Lemurēs cum umbrīs et imāginibus et dīs Mānibus ipsīs adveniunt mē pūnītum! vae mihi! vae vītae meae!” Gallicus perterritus lacrimīs et ululātibus sē trādit.

Valerius tamen, “Gallice, siste” clāmat, “dēsine ululāre! tē haud decet tamquam īnfantem vāgīre!” et coquus attonitus tacet. tum Valerius, “mī Gallice,” inquit, “quaesō, mihi rem tōtam nārrā – umbrās tamen cum ululātibus omitte!” Gallicus tandem sē colligit et rem tōtam nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

I realize it’s possible to go in many different directions in interpreting this story. We might choose to focus on

  • the psychological issues behind Casina’s illness;
  • Casina’s reactions to her dream about the īnfāns;
  • the responses of Casina’s fellow servī, especially poor Gallicus;
  • the responses of Valerius and Caelia;
  • the cultural and religious issues raised by the story;
  • potential issues of social class and gender; or
  • countless other possible issues raised by the stories.

Which ones would you want to focus on, and what would you want to say about them?  And can you imagine how it would feel to be any of these characters in this situation?

Tune in next time, when Valerius and Caelia observe Casina’s condition for themselves, and when we’ll take a closer look at their (rather unexpected) response. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.