Another Story, With Vocabulary

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Coming your way today is a brand-new Tres Columnae story from Lectiō XI. In case you’re wondering, we’re aiming to have an essentially complete version of Cursus Primus ready by the end of May, 2010, since we’re planning to make a presentation at the American Classical League Institute in June.

I say “essentially complete” because, in one way, Tres Columnae will never be “complete” – as long as there are new participants creating and adding stories, images, audio, and video, the project will be constantly growing and changing. In another way, though, we can say that we’re “essentially complete” when all the main or core stories are written and published online, and when all the quid novī explanations, exercises, and quizzes that we’d originally planned are finished and available to subscribers.

I considered using the word “mature” instead of “essentially complete” for a while, but I was afraid someone might take that word in its newer sense of “not intended for children” rather than its original sense of “grown up.” And I want to assure you that we won’t tolerate that type of “maturity” in Tres Columnae submissions! Not only is it inappropriate for our audience, but it’s often pretty immature! I think of my face-to-face Latin I students, who often like to smirk about things like the thermae; one easy way to outsmart them 🙂 is to invite them to have an “immaturity moment – everybody giggle really loud and say ‘naked people! naked people! naked people!’ until you get it out of your system.” It’s especially effective, I find, when I turn on my mountain-South twang and pronounce the word as “nekkid!” 🙂

In any case, we plan to be done with all of the stories in Lectiōnēs I-XXX by early May, and with the other initial “stuff” by the end of that month. Initial “stuff” includes audio and some more illustrations – if you haven’t been to our Version Alpha Wiki site recently, you may not have seen the amazing work of our illustrator, Lucy. If you need an illustrator for any purpose after May of this year, I hope you’ll get in touch with her … but you can’t have her (or her contact information) until then! 🙂 You just can’t! 🙂 We’ll have a few videos available by then, as well, but we anticipate that more videos will come as our subscriber base grows.

If you’re a school-based participant (or group of participants) who would like to create a video, we’d strongly encourage you to use Lucy’s beautiful puppet templates, which will soon be available. Not only will Lucius, Caius, Valeria, Caeliola, Lollia, and their friends always be recognizable that way, but your parents, teachers, and principals won’t have to worry about … all the things that adults worry about when kids post videos of themselves on the Internet. In fact, at this point, we think we simply won’t accept non-puppet or non-masked videos from participants who are under age 18. The safety of our Joyful Learning Community members is very important to us!

Of course, children’s safety was a very different thing in the Roman world, where childhood was a lot shorter, child mortality was a lot higher, and the attitude towards children was very different from that of most industrialized societies today. That’s one of the big cultural themes that we’ll explore in Tres Columnae Cursus Primus, of course, along with the vocabulary and the morphological and syntactic issues.

And it’s very important to today’s story, part of a sequence revolving around Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus’ first day of school. (Yes, it’s the same day when Cnaeus had the unfortunate incident with Fortūnāta the cow … and there’s actually a story where we’ll get Fortūnāta’s perspective, too! But you’ll have to wait for another day to read that one … or go and look at the relevant page at if you can’t wait.)

It turns out that Cnaeus – big surprise! – behaved badly at school … but not as badly as another little boy named Quintus Flavius, whose father was responsible for the unfortunate mustēla incident. Anyway, Cnaeus’ father has punished him (more conventionally this time … with a beating, not a cow!) and his sisters (big surprise!) are making fun of him:

Caelius tandem Cnaeum pūnīre dēsinit et “abī, puer īnsolēns!” clāmat. Cnaeus “vae! heu!” clāmat et ē tablīnō celeriter currit. Prīma et Secunda extrā iānuam tablīnī rem tōtam audiunt et inter sē iocōs faciunt.

sorōrēs bracchia Cnaeī prēnsant et hoc rogant: “frāter noster, nōnne diem tuum commemorāre vīs?  an amīcum novum, illum Quīntum Flavium?”

“minimē, puellae molestae, nōlīte mē vexāre,” respondit ille.

Prīma autem “nōnne nōbīs dē lūdō commemorāre vīs?” rogat. et Secunda haec addit: “nōnne laetāris, mī frāter, quod puerum tam īnsolentem quam tē iam vidēs?” Cnaeus tamen īrātus, “puellās īnsolentēs!” exclāmat. “nōnne vōs decet in maximam malam crucem īre? cūr mē ita vexās? et iste Quīntus Flavius est īnsolentissimus! multō īnsolentior est quam ego!”

Prīma et Secunda cachinnibus sē trādunt. “heus! multō īnsolentior quam tū? utrum bove pater illum pūnīre solet, an taurō?” inquit Prīma. “nōn taurō, sed lupō!” inquit Secunda. “immō leōne ferōcissimō!” clāmat Prīma. “vel bālaenā maximā?” exclāmat Secunda.

“tacēte, pessimae puellae!” exclāmat Cnaeus īrātus. “nōnne mē decet vōs ambās in maximā malā crūce suspendere?”

“tacē, frater pessime! patrī verba tua commemorāre possum!” exclāmat Prīma ērubēscēns. Secunda, “verba enim impiissima!” addit. Cnaeus tamen, “num mē terrēre potestis? nōnne bracchium patris in pavīmentum cadere potest, sī mihi plagās plūrēs dare temptat? et quid poenārum minārī potest ille?”

Prīma et Secunda rīdent. tandem Secunda respondet, “fortasse nōn patrem, sed nūrum vocāre dēbēmus. fortasse Planesium tibi poenās aptās parāre potest.”

et Prīma, “fortasse nōn nūrum, sed bovem vocāre dēbēmus!” Cnaeus bracchium Prīmae prēnsat et, “vae! heu! nōlī umquam,” puellae susurrat, “istam bovem commemorāre. tē in crucem malam et maximam ipse mittere possum! tē cum sorōre tuā crūciāre volō! haec sōlus facere possum!”

Prīma et Secunda rīsūs cēlāre frūstrā temptant. Cnaeus fessus et īrātus ad cubiculum contendit. iānuam cubiculī firmē claudit et in lectum sē iactat. Cnaeus in lectō lacrimās tacitē effundit! “cūr omnēs mē dērīdēre et pūnīre solent?” sēcum susurrat. “dī magnī, cūr vōs mē ita torquēre solētis? cūr omnēs mē torquēre solent? vae! heu! heu! vae mihi!”

fortasse dī verba Cnaeī audiunt, sed nihil responsī puerō mittunt. tandem Cnaeus fessus in cubiculō obdormit. extrā iānuam cubiculī Nestōr verba Cnaeī audit et clam rīdet.

paedagōgus iam servīs et ancillīs rēs gestās Cnaeī nārrat. Planesium “Cnaeum miserrimum!” benigna dīcit. “quid Cnaeō suādēre possum? sī melius sē gerit, nēmō eum dērīdēre vel pūnīre vult.” cēterae tamen ancillae attonitae, “num īnsānīs, Planesium?” rogant. “num Cnaeus umquam bene sē gerere vult? num melius sē gerere potest?” servī rīdentēs cum ancillīs cōnsentiunt.

iam nox est, et in vīllā Caeliī Cnaeus lacrimīs et somnīs, servī cachinnīs et iocīs sē trādunt.

Beginning on Monday, we’ll look at some vocabulary-related issues with this story, including

  • the shades of meaning among oportet, decet, necesse, and dēbeō;
  • the quid novī that will address sōlus and solēre (and solēre’s relative īnsolēns);
  • “untranslatable” idioms like sē trādere and sē gerere;
  • why Prima and Secunda were so insulted by Cnaeus’ one comment; and
  • some other issues … but we’ll keep you guessing for now! 🙂

Gratias maximas to our faithful reader Elizabeth, who asked about this first point in a recent comment!  And yes, we’ll also talk about the sibling rivalry … and whether or not we feel (or should feel) any sympathy for Cnaeus. He does have two rather persistent big sisters, who do love to tease him … and then to get him in trouble! And he is less ill-behaved than Quintus Flavius, who … but you’ll have to check out this link to see what he did. I promise it was really, really bad – but entirely suitable for our audience! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the story … as a story?
  • What do you think of the characterization of Prima, Secunda, and Cnaeus … and Nestor and the other servī?
  • And what do you think of the vocabulary elements we’ve chosen to talk about Monday?  Are there others we should mention?

Tune in on Monday for our answers … and your answers, and your questions, too! 🙂  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! Please keep those comments and emails coming, and please feel free to join us with one of the remaining Free Trial Subscriptions.

Perfect and Future Infinitives, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In yesterday’s post, I closed by saying

Now that we know how participles work, it will be a lot easier to deal with the perfect passive and future active infinitives, won’t it? 🙂 We’ll also find out a bit more about our characters’ experiences during the eruption of Vesuvius … and afterwards.

This next series of posts will deal with these three points in order, beginning with the presentation of the non-present infinitive system in Tres Columnae. Then, over the weekend and early next week, we’ll look at some of the stories about our characters’ experiences during the eruption of Vesuvius. We’ve already seen what happened to Caelius and Cnaeus in this post, which quotes a story that can be found here on the Tres Columnae website. We’ll have more to say about the presentation of vocabulary after that!

By the time that we reach Lectiōnēs XXVII and XXVIII, the eruption has occurred, and our surviving characters have the opportunity to retell their experiences (a natural setting for ōrātiō oblīqua with perfect-system infinitives) and to make plans for the future (which can reasonably involve the future infinitives). Here’s how the introduction of perfect infinitives will work, beginning with the perfect actives in this fabella:

  • Cāius cum mātre apud Lolliam et Vipsānium in urbe Neāpolī manēbat.
  • Lollia trīstis, “cūr pater nōn effūgit?” frātrem mātremque rogāvit.
  • “nōnne pater fortissimus erat? nihil perīculī timuit?” respondit Cāius.
  • Valeria haud crēdēbat Lollium nihil perīculī timuisse.
  • Caelius in domō urbānā lacrimāns stābat.
  • “pater, cūr lacrimās?” rogāvit Cnaeus. “nōnne fortūnātissimī sumus, quod iam vīvimus?”
  • Caelius, “mī fīlī, iste mōns vīllās nostrās dēlēvit. iste mōns multum pecūniae cōnsūmpsit. et tū asinus stultissimus fuistī, quod urbem Pompēiōs petere mihi iterum suādēbās!”
  • Cnaeus libenter cōnsēnsit sē asinum stultissimum fuisse.

As usual, there is a brief explanation:

quid novī?

You probably noticed something about the ōrātiō oblīqua in this fabella. The infinitives were different!

In each case, the action of the ōrātiō oblīqua is marked for completion before the main verb in the sentence:

  • Lollius was already done with his lack of fear (and, in fact, was dead as a result!) before Valeria found his stupidity difficult to believe!
  • Cnaeus was already done being stupid (or, at least, advising Dad to go to Pompeii because it’s a shorter trip!) before he admitted this.

So a perfective-aspect infinitive was needed! And that’s what timuisse and fuisse are. Donatus and the grammaticī called this form infinītīvus temporis praeteritī perfectī (et plusquamperfectī). English speakers usually call it a “perfect active infinitive” for short.

What I find amazing – and very revealing – is that Donatus calls this form the infinītīvus temporis praeteritī perfectī et plusquamperfectī, while he calls the “present” infinitive the infinītīvus temporis praesentis et praeteritī inperfectī. I think it’s clear that the distinction, for Donatus, is between completed, or perfective action (the perfectī et plusquamperfectī) and incomplete, or imperfective action (the praesentis et praeteritī inperfectī).  In other words, infinitives are “about” aspect rather than tense!

If you’re a veteran reader of this blog, I’m sure you can imagine the cycle of self-assessment and exercises that we’ll use to practice the new forms. And then, of course, we’ll see the deponent and passive perfect infinitives, which we’ll look at in more detail tomorrow, and then the futures.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I’m not sure how many Classicists read what the Romans themselves said about their language! Until I started working on the Tres Columnae project, I must confess that I had only scanned and skimmed through the grammaticī. Was that a defect of my preparation and personal reading, or is it common?
  • Obviously the grammaticī didn’t have a perfectly scientific understanding of the grammar of their language, but still … they were native speakers, or were trained by native speakers! At the same time, they were deeply influenced by the Greek grammarians, and they may have (consciously or unconsciously) attempted to force Latin into Hellenic categories. (Ironically, English grammarians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in turn, tried to fit English into Latinate categories … I once saw an old English grammar book that presented the “declension of the English noun” with five or six cases, all of course the same except for the possessives!) How much stock do you think we should put in their ideas or their terminology?
  • More directly on our topic, do you find the fabellae comprehensible and reasonable?
  • And what do you think of the grammatical explanations?

Tune in next time for a bit more about the presentation of the infinitive system, and for a story or two. And, in the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus et respondentibus.

Editing and Revision, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As promised, today we’ll take a look at the editing and revision process for the second story submitted by our contributor David H. First, though, let’s “close the loop” on the first story with my ratings in each category of our rubric. (Sorry about the glitch with the rubric’s appearance in that last post, too!)

  • Morphology and Syntax: Not Yet Acceptable, but quite close. We just need David to fix those adjective-agreement problems and the accusatives used where nominatives were needed.
  • Vocabulary: Acceptable. There are a few slightly obscure words, but the meaning is generally clear from context or from English derivatives.
  • Storyline: Acceptable. It’s an interesting story, with some nice links to other content on the site, but it stands nicely by itself as well. I think Ortellius is going to be a very interesting and continuing figure as we learn more about him. 🙂

Considering that David H has a highly demanding academic job (in a field only tangentially related to Latin) and hasn’t used the language actively in years, I am very impressed with his first effort! Each draft has become successively better, and that’s very promising, too. Spectātōrēs, plaudite! 🙂

And now let’s take a look at David’s second story, with more information about Ortellius. Here’s the current version, available at this link:

Quid agis? Si vales, deinde valeō sum. Quid nomen tibi est? Ortellium mē vocant. Unde venitis? Ubi habitas? Quam patriam habēs? Hibernicus sum. In Hiberniā habitō. Hibernia insula parva ac pulchra est, prope Britanniam. Dē vitā meā tibi narrare volō.

Rusticus summissus sum, atque senex macilentus et stomachosus. Nec fratres nec sorores habeō. Uxorem quoque nōn habeō. Baccalaureus sum. Quamquam multos amicos et multas amicas habeō, solitarius homo sum, et vītam quiētam ac simplicem vīvō. Hoc mihi placet.

Senex invenustus sum, nōn pulcher. Barbam longam et horridam habeō, sed caput meus calvus est. Ego quoque caecus in unō oculō sum. Genūs meae nōn bonae, sed malae sunt. Genūs meae semper tumident ac dolent. Praeterea claudus sum, ergō agilis non sum. Multis abhinc annis in lutō lapsavi et ad terram cēcidi, atque coxam meam frēgī. Paulisper ambulare nōn poteram. Iampridem iuvenis validus eram, atque currere celeriter poteram. Hodiē currere nōn possum. Difficilis est mihi ambulare, ergō baculō lentē ambulō. Claudicare mihi nōn placet.

Ō mē miserum! Tempus fugit atque senescere mihi quoque nōn placet. Quam molestus est! Interdum melancholicus et morosus sum. Quamquam senex sum et sine dubiō vita dura et onerosa est, nihilominus nōn desperō. Magnam pecuniam et dives nōn habeō, sed pauper non sum. Ut dixi, ego multos amicos et multas amicas habeō.

So, before I reveal my comments and ratings (which I’ll do in tomorrow’s post), quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How would you rate this story in each of the three areas of the rubric, and why?
  • Are there specific grammatical areas you’d recommend that David concentrate on? If so, which ones and how?
  • What specific advice would you give David to strengthen his story? Are there vocabulary items, constructions, or other problematic features you’d want to point out specifically?
  • And what suggestions for practice would you offer him?

Tune in next time for my responses to these questions, as well as my overall ratings of this story on the rubric. Then, on Monday, we’ll begin to look at some more “core” Tres Columnae stories … ones with participles and infinitives, for example. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! And please keep those comments and emails coming – and, if you’d like a Free Trial subscription, just let us know at this link; space is still available, and we’d love to welcome you to the Tres Columnae family!

An Infinitive Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll look at a story from Lectiō XXV of Cursus Prīmus, in which we see a great amount of ōrātiō oblīqua with present infinitives. The setting is Herculaneum, in mid-August A.D. 79, about 8 years after the time when Lectiōnēs I-XXI are set.  So Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus are now about 16 years old … young men in the eyes of Roman law … and their sisters are all married, in many cases with children of their own. Lectiōnēs XXV-XXVII will explore the eruption, including the fates of characters who live and who perish in the disaster.  Of course, some of our animal friends are no longer among the living … but Ridiculus the mouse has some lineal descendants who continue to occupy the “cēnāculum” in Valerius’ house. 🙂

Today’s story focuses on Caelius and Cnaeus; other stories in the Lectiō will feature Caius, Lucius, their old teacher Fabius, and poor old Flavius Caeso, who has (unfortunately) gone to Pompeii for a few days on business (!) with his new mustēla, Livia.  As this story opens, our friends are a bit worried about what seems to be going on up on Mt. Vesuvius….

Caelius sollicitus prope larārium stat et dīs parentibus precēs effundit. “quid mihi suādētis, ō dī parentēs?” rogat. “heri, cum per agrōs ambulābam, subitō vīdī fumum flammāsque ē summō monte ascendere! hodiē māne, quandō istum Cnaeum vituperābam, subitō sēnsī terrās vehementer tremere! quid facere dēbeō, mī pater? quid mihi suādēs, mī ave carissime?” Caelius trīstis et sollicitus prope larārium manet.

in vīllā proximā, Caelia Prīma quoque sollicita cum marītō suō colloquium habet. “mī Flavī,” inquit, “nōnne sentiēbās terrās vehementer tremere? nōnne flammās fūmumque ē summō monte ascendere etiam nunc vidēs?” Flavius sollicitus Prīmae respondit, “uxor mea, nōnne nōs decet ab hāc vīllā paucōs diēs abīre? nōnne nōs decet sorōrem tuam marītumque eius in urbe Neāpolī vīsitāre?” Prīma celeriter cōnsentit. paucīs post hōrīs Prīma Flaviusque cum īnfante suō ad urbem Neāpolim contendunt, Secundam Aeliumque vīsitātum. servī tamen perterritī in vīllā manent. Flavius enim, “vōbīs necesse est,” inquit, “hīc manēre et vīllam custōdīre. nōnne facile est furibus lātrōnibusque vīllās vacuās intrāre? vōs enim istōs hominēs ā vīllā arcēre potestis.”

intereā Caelius iam prope larārium stat. “ō dī,” iterum iterumque exclāmat, “quaesō, dī mānēs, nōs adiuvāte! quaesō, mihi cōnsilium praebēte!” imāginēs māiōrum tamen tacitī et immōtī in mūrō ātriī pendent.

subitō Caelius “vae! heu!” audit et īrātus sē ad iānuam vertit. per agrōs currit Cnaeus, fīlius Caeliī sēdecim annōs nātus. “vae! heu!” identidem exclāmat ille, “ubi est iste servus neglegentissimus? nōnne intellegit mē vehementer ēsurīre? nōnne cognōvit mē servōs negelegentēs semper crūciāre?”

Caelius attonitus, “mī fīlī,” rogat, “cūr servōs ita castīgās? quis erat neglegēns?” et Cnaeus īrātissimus, “mī pater, nōnne servōs oportet aquam trahere? cum tamen ad fontem prōcessī, nihil aquae aderat. fōns vacuus erat! nōnne mē oportet istōs servōs crūciāre?”

Caelius, “tacē, mī fīlī, et mihi rem mōnstrā!” exclāmat. tum pater fīliusque per agrōs contendunt. Caelius ipse videt nihil aquae in fonte stāre. tum ad montem oculōs vertit et multum fumī ē summō monte ascendere videt. Caeliusque Cnaeusque subitō sentiunt terrās vehementissimē tremere. “heu! vae!” exclāmant ambō, “dī magnī, nōs servāte, quod maximam pietātem semper ostendimus!” Cnaeus agnum, Caelius vīnum quaerit. servī attonitī vident āram maximam ā dominīs in agrīs aedificārī, sacrificium splendidum dīs īnferīs offerrī. tum Caelius cum Vipsāniā Cnaeōque ē vīllā celerrimē effugit. “quō contendere dēbēmus, mī pater?” rogat Cnaeus. “nōnne melius est nōbīs urbem Pompēiōs petere, quod iter brevius est?”

“mī fīlī stultissime,” clāmat Caelius perterritus, “breve est iter, sed necesse est trāns istum montem iter facere! istī montī appropinquāre haudquāquam volō! longius est iter ad urbem Neāpolim, sed tūtius, quod istum montem vītāre possumus.”

Cnaeus “vae, heu, mē taedet itinerum,” respondet, sed celeriter per viās prōcēdit.  servī in vīllā perterritī precēs et vōta dīs omnibus offerunt.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, how do you like the story … as a story?
  • How do you respond to the characters and situation?
    • If you’ve read the previous stories in which Cnaeus appears (a much younger Cnaeus – he’s 8 in those stories and 15 or 16 in this one), do you find his character consistent?
    • For purposes of future stories – and of historical accuracy – how many of our characters do you think should survive?
  • Second, how do you like the incorporation of ōrātiō oblīqua?
    • Does it fit naturally? Does it illustrate the concept, as developed in yesterday’s post, without “beating the learner over the head” with the new material?
    • Do you find enough examples, too many, or not enough?
    • If the number is wrong, where would you suggest that we add … or subtract?
  • And would you like to see the story that practices ōrātiō oblīqua with perfect-tense infinitives?

Tune in next time for a series of posts in which we explore the editing and revision process for user-contributed stories. Our subscriber David H has provided a pair of interesting, exciting, but slightly imperfect stories, and (with his generous permission!) we’ll take a look at the editing process that such stories will undergo in the Tres Columnae system. When we’re done, you’ll have a greater understanding of the time commitment involved (both for the editor and for the contributor), and we hope you’ll see why an editing charge will be necessary.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus! I truly appreciate you for continuing to read the blog, visit the site, and be part of the Tres Columnae family! 🙂

Logistics, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday, I closed with this set of questions:

But how will the illustrations, audio, video, and additional stories become part of the project? And is it really true that anyone will be able to contribute? If so, how can we possibly ensure the accuracy and quality of submissions?

Today, as promised, I hope to answer those questions, which will also require us to take a brief look at some surprisingly literal implications of our central value of Ownership.  We’ll continue this logistical conversation in tomorrow’s post.

Until now, when we’ve talked about Ownership in the Tres Columnae system, it’s been rather metaphorical. We discussed Ownership of Learning, for example, in a series of posts like this one, contrasting Tres Columnae’s “subject-centered” approach to our discipline with the “teacher-centered” approach that often dominates schools, and pointing out how our “workshop” model is different from the “factory” model upon which most schools operate.

But in addition to the metaphorical sense, Ownership obviously has a literal meaning. Who owns – and therefore controls – the stories, images, audio, and video that make up the Tres Columnae project? Who can access them, and under what conditions? And, whenever we talk about Ownership, we usually have to talk about Money, too. What are the financial implications of something like the Tres Columnae project?

In a “perfect world,” I would want the whole project to be freely available to everyone, without any cost to anyone and without any external advertising. Unfortunately, Tres Columnae’s hosting provider doesn’t live in that perfect world; they naturally expect to be paid for the bandwidth they provide us. A perfect world would also have abundant numbers of excellent Latinists, all vying with each other to contribute their expertise to the project – again without any financial compensation. If you know any, please send them our way! 🙂 But in our current world, such editors’ time has monetary value. (That’s obvious, down the road, if and when they’re working full-time on the project, but it’s also true now, when they’re “squeezing us in” among other commitments.) Our goal is to provide the best experience possible for all our users, and to do so at the most reasonable price that we can.

With these considerations, here is our current vision for the economic side of the Tres Columnae project:

  • First, a lot of “stuff” is, and will always be, free. You’ve been reading stories and looking at other things on this blog for months now, and they’ll continue to be available here. As the project grows, final versions of stories, illustrations, and audio will be freely available, without charge, on our website at We think that video will be freely available, too, if our participants use an external site like YouTube or TeacherTube to host it. The free content (and there will be a lot of it!) is our gift back to the world, and to Latin learners, and to the profession of Classics. Without you, none of this would be possible! So, if you’d like to read, listen, or view things online for free, please go ahead.
  • We hope that many of our “free” viewers will choose to register, again for free, at When you register, you also gain the ability to make comments on stories, to make your own internal Tres Columnae blog, and to participate in the Continuing Virtual Seminars which we’ve discussed in posts like this one.
  • After you’ve registered, we hope that many of you will choose to upgrade to a Basic Annual subscription, which will give you access to the interactive grammar explanations, quizzes, and exercises. Since we’ll be tracking your scores, and giving you the ability to submit them to your teacher (or to see your students’ results), we’ll encounter some additional costs for webspace, bandwidth, software development, and maintaining databases. We anticipate that a Basic Annual subscription will cost about $10 – 20 per year for an individual; if there’s sufficient interest, we may be able to offer a discount for classes and schools. Since the exercises are self-correcting and offer immediate feedback to learners, we think they’re a much better value (both for students and for teachers) than the “traditional” approach of workbooks, worksheets, and the like, which have to be collected, graded, and (in the case of worksheets) often created and certainly photocopied by the already-busy teacher. With Tres Columnae, there’s no need to copy anything, and the student can’t “lose the book” on the way home from school!

If you’re a Registered participant, or if you have a Basic Annual subscription, you’ll be able to contribute stories, pictures, audio, and video to the project, but we’ll ask you to pay a small fee per item to cover our editing costs. If you’ve ever looked at students’ writing – even their writing in English – you know that it can frequently benefit from polishing and revision! We’ll leave that revision and polishing in the participants’ hands, where we feel it rightfully belongs, but we’ll make specific suggestions about the improvements that need to be made. (“Your story has real promise, but you used the nominative singular forms for all nouns, including the ones that clearly weren’t!”)

Not only will the fees cover the cost of our time and our hosting costs, but we think they’ll also encourage participants to submit higher-quality work.  We may also be able to provide discounts, over time, for participants who consistently submit high-quality work … and we hope to offer discounts to classes and schools where teachers are willing to take on some of the editing for their students’ work.

We also want to know what you think about some alternatives for editing charges. We had considered the following options:

  • a flat rate per item submitted, whether that item is a story, an illustration, an audio clip, or a video
  • different rates for different types of content (illustrations require less editing, for example, than audio. Audio just needs to be listened to once. Stories may require multiple drafts; videos may need to be re-edited and re-submitted.)
  • a lower charge if the item is “perfect” (or almost perfect) the first time it’s submitted
  • discounts for participants who, over time, submit work that’s uniformly high in quality and requires minimal editing.

What do you think? And what do you think would be a reasonable per-item rate for editing?

  • If you know you’ll be contributing a lot, and doing so on a regular basis, we’ll encourage you to upgrade to a Standard Monthly subscription, which will include a certain number of contributions per month at no additional charge. If you “go over the limit,” you’ll be able to pay a per-item charge for the extra contributions.
  • If you know you’ll be contributing vast amounts, we may make a Premium Monthly subscription available. It would include unlimited contributions but, naturally, would cost a bit more.

Tune in next time for more about Ownership, including the rewards that we plan to offer for particularly outstanding contributions, and the royalties we plan to pay to participants whose submissions are reused in … stuff that we’ll talk about tomorrow.  And, in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

Cnaeus and the Cow, A Pluperfect Story

salvēte, amīcī! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember this post from back in January. It’s the one where young Cnaeus Caelius refuses to get out of bed until, at last, his mother (and his nurse Planesium) go to the barn to get Fortūnāta, the cow. But until today, you haven’t known exactly how they used Fortūnāta to punish Cnaeus and make him get up. Nor, for that matter, will Tres Columnae participants know! 🙂 All they’ll know is that Cnaeus shows up at school, in the next Lectiō, with slightly dirty clothes and a very bad attitude. But, with this story, you – and they – will finally learn the truth.

I deliberately saved the resolution of the “cow story” until now for several reasons. First, and probably most important, I needed to know how the story would end. Second, I did want to build interest and engagement, and postponing the resolution of a story is one way to do that. Third, I wanted the story to be retold, as a past event, and I really wanted to be able to use all four of the verb tenses we’ve learned by Lectiō XXII.

Once I realized how the story should end, it also seemed quite reasonable to have it told in the theater, and to contrast it with the comic play that our friends are about to watch. It wouldn’t be possible to enact this story in a Roman New Comedy, or in the Greek plays on which they were modeled, for several reasons … unity of time and place, for one, and the whole issue of props and costumes, for another. But the most important action in such plays often occurs offstage, and is described by other characters. Those features of New Comedy – and the Romans’ liking for physical comedy, and the tastes of our potential audience – all suggested when and how we should resolve the story. If you don’t care for slapstick, I hope you’ll forgive us! 🙂 And, in that case, you might enjoy the character development anyway.  By the end of this story, we know a lot more about the Caelius family.

So picture the illustrations, and imagine the audio:

āctōrēs in theātrō fābulam Plautī agere parant. spectātōrēs in theātrō sedent et fābulam exspectant. in orchēstrā Caelius, vir maximae pecūniae, sedet et rīdet. iuxtā Caelium Valerius cum Lūciō et Cāiō sedet. Fabius, magister puerōrum, quoque adest, quod Caelius eī dōnum optimum nūper dedit. iuxtā Fabium Cnaeus trīstis et īrātus scaenam spectat. Flavius Caesō quoque adest; Sabīna tamen mustēla domī manet.

“ubi sunt istī āctōrēs?” rogat Cnaeus īnsolēns. “cūr fābulam nōn agunt? cūr nōs ita impediunt?”

nēmō Cnaeum audit, quod Valerius et Fabius cum Flaviō Caesōne contentiōnem habent. “nōnne, mī amīce,” rogat Valerius, “haec Plautī fābula est optima? nōnne Plautus ipse optimus poētārum erat?”

Flavius Caesō tamen, “quid? Plautus?” attonitus rogat. “nōnne antīquissimus omnium poētārum, sed haudquāquam optimus est ille? fortasse, mī amīcī, urbem Romam numquam vīsitāvistis. fortasse tragoediās illīus Annaeī Senecae numquam spectāvistis. certē Seneca est optimus poētārum. etiam istum Imperātorem Nērōnem īnsānum tragoediae Senecae valdē dēlectāvērunt!”

Fabius “quid? Seneca? īnsānīs, mī amīce!” incipit. Cnaeus tamen īnsolentissimus interpellat, “heu! vae! mē taedet fābulārum et contentiōnum!”

Caelius attonitus fīlium neque castīgat neque verberat. “ō mī fīlī,” respondet, “nōnne rēs gestae tuae sunt fābulae optimae? nōnne tū semper contentiōnēs habēs? cūr tē taedet tālium rērum?”

Cnaeus attonitus tacet. tum Lūcius, “ō mī avuncule,” inquit, “fortasse hanc rem explicāre potes. nōnne, ubi ad urbem prīmā lūdī diē advēnerat Cnaeus, togam sordidam gerēbat? nōnne lacrimābat et paedagōgum vituperābat? quid eī acciderat?” “tē crūciāre possum, Lūcī,” susurrat Cnaeus īrātissimus. “nōlī istam diem commemorāre!”

Caelius tamen, “ō mī Lūcī, fābulam optimam quaeris. iste consōbrīnus tuus in lectō manēbat, quamquam māter nūrusque eum identidem vocāverant. tandem uxor mihi rem nārrāvit. ego, quod vir benignus sum, fīlium verberāre, nōn necāre volēbam. māter tamen poenās multō meliōrēs in animō habēbat.”

Cnaeus īrātissimus et miserrimus, “ō pater, quaesō, istam rem nē commemorēs! quaesō, amābō tē!”  exclāmat. Caelius tamen, fīliī verbōrum neglegēns, haec addit rīdēns.

“Maccia mea cum nurū Planesiō ad stabulum contendit ubi Fortūnāta, bōs nostra, contenta et tacita stābat. nōnne illae sorōrēs Cnaeī iam ad iānuam cubiculī contenderant, rem tōtam spectātum? Maccia et Planesium, quandō Fortūnātam ē stabulō per tōtam vīllam duxerant, tandem ad cubiculum Cnaeī pervēnērunt. mūgīvit Fortūnāta, quod ē stabulō exīre nōlēbat. tōtam per vīllam Fortūnāta mūgiēbat et resistēbat.

“tum Maccia, ‘mī fīlī,’ rogāvit, ‘nōnne surgere dēbēs? nōnne etiam nunc surgis et vestīmenta induis?’

“Cnaeus tamen īnsolenter respondit et in lectō etiam tum manēbat. Maccia igitur Fortūnātam in cubiculum impulit. Fortūnāta, quod ē stabulō exīre nōluerat, identidem mūgiēbat! nōnne pavimentum erat sordidissimum, quod –

Cnaeus tandem interpellat, “hercle! num optima est fābula? nōnne pessima et foeda? sed nōnne fābulam ipse nārrāre dēbeō? ista bōs in cubiculum irrūperat et lectum meum ēverterat. ego attonitus et fessissimus in lutum cecidī. vehementer exclāmāvī quod perterritus eram. nōnne fīnis est fābulae?”

Caelius autem, “ō mī fīlī, haudquāquam fīnis est. num lutum erat in pavimentō? num lutum est nōmen vērum? vōs tamen plānē intellegitis! Cnaeus tamen, postquam surrēxit, bovem identidem percussit. subitō lacrimāvit et ad pavimentum iterum cecidit. bōs enim attonita et īrāta Cnaeō pedem trūserat.”

“et tū, pater crūdēlissime,” susurrat Cnaeus, “postquam mē verberāvistī, coēgistī mē pavimentum lavāre. nōnne lutum in tunicā et togā haeserat? nōnne ista bōs mē miserrimum reddiderat? nīmīrum lacrimābam et paedagōgum vituperābam! num mē reprehenditis? nōnne mātrem, nūrum, sorōrēs pūnīre dēbēbās?”

Lūcius tamen iterum iterumque rīdet. Cāius quoque cachinnat. tum Cnaeus, “sed cūr rīdētis?” inquit. “nōnne haec fābula est optima tragoediārum? nōnne multō melior quam Senecae?”

Valerius et Fabius adeō rīdent ut vix respondēre possint. tandem Fabius, “ō Cnaeum miserrimum! nihil intellegis! nōnne haec fabula est cōmoedia optima? nōnne pater tuus est cōmoedus optimus?”

et Valerius, “minimē, mī Fabī,” respondet, “nōnne mulier nūrusque bōsque sunt cōmoedae optimae!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • It seems that the “Big Three” reading-method textbooks have memorable stories … ones that, once read, their students never forget! And they often involve comic violence or accidents … broken statues, wrecked carts, and angry teachers with large sticks, for example! How have we done in comparison with them?
  • Of course, if you hate the story, you have a lot more power than the user of a traditional textbook.  As a Tres Columnae subscriber, if you hate a story, you can always choose to
    • rewrite it in a way that you like better;
    • write something completely different;
    • omit it;
    • write nasty comments about it; or even
    • urge us to remove it completely, and start a petition to do so, if you’d like.
  • Regardless of how you feel about the story, what do you think of its use of verb tenses? Do they “work” for you, and do they illustrate the aspectual points we made earlier this week?
  • And if you do like the story, do you want to try to illustrate it … or to make an audio version … or to film it? As a Tres Columnae participant, you’ll have that right; in fact, we’ll expect and encourage you to do so.

But how will the illustrations, audio, video, and additional stories become part of the project? And is it really true that anyone will be able to contribute? If so, how can we possibly ensure the accuracy and quality of submissions? Tune in next time, when we’ll look at these issues and the various types of subscriptions that will be available for the Tres Columnae project. And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

Introducing Aspect, V, Pluperfects

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As promised, today we’ll look at the introduction of pluperfect indicative verbs … what Donatus calls verba temporis praeteritī plusquamperfectī … in the Tres Columnae system.  I had expected to post this at my normal early-morning hour, but found myself unexpectedly busy, as my one-and-only eight-year-old had an unpleasant stomach bug. 😦

Anyway, the pluperfect will make its first appearance in Lectiō XXII, to complete our initial exploration of verbal aspect. Once we know about it, we’ll have a pretty clear sense of how Romans expressed the relationship between time and aspect:

Ongoing Action (Imperfective) Completed Action (Perfective)
Looking at things “now” tempus praesēns: present tense, formed from infinitive or imperfective stem with no additional marker tempus praeteritum perfectum: perfect tense, formed from third principal part or perfective stem with no additional marker
Looking at things “in the past” tempus praeteritum inperfectum: imperfect tense, formed from infinitive or imperfective stem, plus – tempus praeteritum plusquamperfectum: pluperfect tense, formed from third principal part or perfective stem, plus –erā

It wasn’t until I made this chart that I saw how simple and logical the system is! I can’t wait to share it with my face-to-face students. 🙂 And I hope you like it, too, and that it helps you … and your students … even if you never become a Tres Columnae subscriber.

Anyway, today we’ll explore the introductory material for pluperfects; tomorrow, we’ll look at an actual story that features all four of the tenses we’ve come to know. Lectiō XXII, in which we meet the pluperfect, takes place in mid-to-late spring, before all the wedding festivities for Valeria and Vipsanius. The setting is in the theater, where an old favorite play of Valerius’ is to be performed. The whole family is there, of course, as is Fabius the teacher, who also admires the old favorites. But Valerius’ neighbor Flavius Caeso is also in attendance (he did leave Sabina the mustēla at home, thank goodness!) and he has a rather different – and rather un-Roman – viewpoint about drama. As the Lectiō opens, though, everyone is getting ready to attend the play, and poor Cnaeus (poor Cnaeus? Well, he does bring a lot of it on himself, doesn’t he?) is about to be reminded of an unfortunate incident he’d rather forget.

So picture the illustrations and imagine the audio for this little fabella:

  • hodiē āctōrēs in theātrō fābulam Plautī agunt.
  • proximā nocte āctōrēs in caupōnā dormiēbant.
  • heri āctōrēs urbem intrāvērunt.
  • trēs annōs hī āctōrēs urbem Herculāneum nōn vīsitāverant.
  • hodiē Cnaeus cautē sē gerit.
  • heri Caelius Cnaeum valdē castigābat, quod Cnaeus īnsolēns erat.
  • heri māne Cnaeus Fortūnātam bovem verberāvit.
  • Fortūnāta enim pedem Cnaeō trūserat, et Cnaeus valdē lacrimāverat.
  • hodiē Prīma et Secunda laetissimae ad theātrum contendunt.
  • heri, quandō Caelius Cnaeum vituperābat, Prīma Secundaque intentē audiēbant.
  • heri puellae, postquam Cnaeus Fortūnātam verberāvit, bovī māla et carōtās obtulērunt.
  • heri māne puellae in stabulō sē cēlāvērant et rem tōtam spectāverant.

If we can work out the logistics, I envision an animated timeline where the verbs will actually move into position so that we see the time relationships. Anyway, we’ll eventually proceed to this explanation:

quid novī?

You probably noticed the new verb forms like vīsitāverant, trūserat, lacrimāverat, cēlāverant, and spectāverant. They describe actions that were already completed at some point in the past; in other words, they’re perfective-aspect verbs that talk about the past.

  • vīsitāverant – there had been a period of three years when the actors didn’t visit the city. It ended, of course, when they came back … and that happened “yesterday.”
  • trūserat and lacrimāverat – Cnaeus got in trouble yesterday for beating the cow. Before that happened, she had already finished stepping on his foot, and he had already finished crying about it.
  • cēlāvērant and spectāverant – Cnaeus’ sisters fed Fortunata yesterday. Before they fed her, they had already hidden in the stable and watched Cnaeus mistreat her. And fortunately for Cnaeus, Fortūnāta’s mate Audāx the taurus was in the field at the time! 🙂

Romans called these verb forms verbum temporis praeteritī plusquamperfectī; English speakers usually refer to them as “pluperfect tense verbs” for short.

Then we’ll show – or build up – the chart I showed you above, and then we’ll pause for a brief self-assessment:

  • On our traditional scale from 1-5, how comfortable do you feel with the concept of verba temporis praeteritī plusquamperfectī?
  • How comfortable do you feel with recognizing these verbs?

And, as usual, you can either choose to do a self-checking exercise right away, or you can choose an explanation first. Here’s the explanation:

quid novī?

As we usually do, let’s take a closer look at the verba temporis praeteritī plusquamperfectī that we’ve seen.

  • trēs annōs hī āctōrēs urbem Herculāneum nōn vīsitāverant.
  • Fortūnāta pedem Cnaeō trūserat, et Cnaeus valdē lacrimāverat
  • heri māne puellae in stabulō sē cēlāvērant et rem tōtam spectāverant.

Compare them, for a moment, with the partēs prīncipālēs of the verbs:

  • vīsitāverant is a form of vīsitō, vīsitāre, vīsitāvī, vīsitātum
  • trūserat is a form of trūdō, trūdere, trūsī, trūsum
  • lacrimāverat is a form of lacrimō, lacrimāre, lacrimāvī, lacrimātum
  • cēlāvērant is a form of cēlō, cēlāre, cēlāvī, cēlātum
  • spectāverant is a form of spectō, spectāre, spectāvī, spectātum

Since these are perfective aspect verbs, they’re formed (as you would expect) from the perfective stem, the third principal part.

In all cases, the changed to –erat (for third-person singulars) and –erant (for third-person plurals).

I’m sure you can imagine the self-evaluation and the exercises that will follow! 🙂 And there will, of course, be an explanation of how the praeteritum plusquamperfectum might be represented in English. We’ll look at the story tomorrow, and – I promise! – we’ll finally find out why there’s so much bad blood between Cnaeus and that poor cow! 🙂

In the meantime, quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I’m particularly interested in your response to the chart. It’s rather similar, I realize, to a “sequence of tenses for the subjunctive” chart … but I think that’s because the principle is the same.
  • My hope is that subjunctives (and non-finite verb forms like participles and infinitives) will fall naturally into place if learners understand the concept of aspect. From what you’ve seen, do you think that will happen or not?
  • What do you think of the sentences themselves? Do they do enough to make the tense distinctions clear, or do we need something more … or something less?
  • And are you just dying to find out what happened between Cnaeus and Fortunata? You can always look here for the first story in which they come into conflict.

Tune in next time, when we’ll finally learn The Truth about The Cow. And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

Introducing Aspect, IV, Another Story

salvēte iterum, amīcī et sodālēs – et inimīcī novī iam legentēs! I hope there aren’t too many inimīcī as a result of the last post, but I want to be very clear: Tres Columnae is not, at its heart, “about” translating Latin into English. We’re not opposed to translation; it’s just not our primary focus.  Here’s our perspective in a nutshell:

  • Translation is a reasonable tool, but one that has been significantly overused in our profession for a very long time, along with English (or other L1) discussions of Latin grammar and the use of nineteenth-century English (or other L1) “grammar” terminology to analyze the construction of a Latin passage.
  • We think of the old saying, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” There’s nothing wrong with the hammer, per se, but it isn’t the only tool you need!
  • In the same way, translation, L1 discussion, and L1 terminology have their place, but they aren’t the only tools you need, either.
  • Since “everybody” (by which I mean the vast majority of the Latin and Classics community) already knows how to use those tools, we aim to show you how to use some other tools, too. And we think you’ll find it a lot easier to cut things with a saw, for example, than with that hammer of yours. 🙂 But we don’t want you to start driving nails with your new saw … depending on how you hold it, that could be extremely painful for you!

Anyway, in today’s post, we’ll be looking at our first real story that uses present, imperfect, and perfect tense verbs together. If you’re reading this “live,” you know that I wrote it in late winter or early spring, “real world” time. In narrative time, though, today’s story takes place a bit earlier in the year, during the feast of Parentālia in mid-February. As the Wikipedia article reminds us, this is the festival during which Romans commemorate (and celebrate, and proptiate) the spirits of their ancestors, the Larēs and the dī parentēs.

By contrast, later in the year, in mid May, Valerius and his family will celebrate the Lemurālia or Lemuria, casting black beans over their shoulders at midnight and clanging bronze pots together in order to feed – and scare away – the “restless” or unfriendly spirits of the unknown, unhonored, and unburied dead. We plan to have a story about that, too, and about the other major (and not-so-major) Roman festivals. There will obviously be a lot for our participants to say in the Continuing Virtual Seminar about burial customs – and about views of the afterlife!

Anyway, some time has passed since everyone returned home from the races (and the negotiations) in Milan. Plans are underway for the wedding of Valeria and Vipsanius, which will take place later in the year, much to the continuing disgust of her little brother Lucius. Valerius, the paterfamiliās, is a sentimental soul and will be telling a lot of old family stories; hence the need for the additional tenses. Of course, as for all Tres Columnae stories, there will be at least one illustration per paragraph, and there will be an audio version for you to listen to as many times as you’d like.

So, if you will, imagine the audio and illustrations for this story:

diēs Parentālia adest. hodiē omnēs Rōmānī sacrificia et vōta dīs parentibus offerunt. “dī parentēs,” inquiunt, “sī nihil laudis, nihil precum, nihil cibī accipiunt, saepe īrāscuntur et neglegentēs pūniunt. necesse est nōbīs poenās deum parentum vītāre!”

proximā igitur nocte Valerius ipse multās horās vigilābat, quod sacrificia parābat. hodiē māne, ante hōram prīmam, Valerius ē lectō surrēxit et ad ātrium festīnāvit. Caelia quoque per tōtam noctem vigilābat, quod precēs dīs parentibus offerēbat. nunc hora prīma est. Caelia in cubiculō dormit, quod fessissima est. Valerius nunc in ātriō stat.

imāginēs māiōrum in ātriō pendent. prope imāginēs stat larārium, ubi Valerius et Caelia larēs adōrāre solent. Valerius prope larārium stat et imāginēs māiōrum spectat. Valerius imaginem patris suī spectat et precēs lacrimāsque effundit.

Valeria et Lūcius, postquam vōcem patris audīvērunt, sollicitī ē cubiculīs exeunt et ad ātrium celeriter festīnant. Caeliōla, ubi pater lacrimāre coepit, in cubiculō suō cum Medūsā lūdēbat. puella attonita canem in cubiculō relinquit et ad ātrium celeriter festīnat. līberī ātrium ūnā intrant et, “pater cārissime, quid agis?” rogant. Valeria patrem amplectitur et “ō mī pater, nōlī lacrimāre,” inquit. “num trīstis es? num tē offendimus?”

Valerius, quī vehementer lacrimābat, adventum līberōrum haud cognōvit. nunc tamen, postquam vōcem fīliae audīvit, lacrimās retinet et “ō Valeria dulcissima, nōlī timēre,” respondet. “lacrimō quod memor patris meī cārissimī sum. nōnne vōbīs saepe dē patre meō, illō Mārcō Valeriō, anteā fābulās nārrāvī? nōnne pater meus hōs quīnque annōs cum dīs mānibus est? nōnne decōrum est mihi patrem commemorāre et flēre? et nōnne mē decet mātrem aliōsque māiōrēs commemorāre?”

Lūcius nihil respondet, quod ipse lacrimat. Valeria quoque tacet et lacrimat. Lūcius enim, ubi avus periit, trēs annōs nātus est, Valeria septem. avus Valeriam et Lūcium saepe laudābat, rārō pūniēbat. avum vīvum Valeria et Lūcius valdē dīligēbant; mortuum iam meminērunt. ab omnibus lacrimātur et flētur. Caeliōla quoque, etiamsī nāta nōn erat ubi periit avus, lacrimās piās cum vōtīs effundit.

tandem omnēs lacrimāre cessant et precēs dīs pārentibus adhibent. Valeria flōrēs in hortō quaerit. Lūcius panem cum vīnō et sale ē culīnā fert. Caeliōla patrem amplectitur et ad cubiculum revenit. Valerius, postquam līberōs suōs laudāvit et omnia sūmpsit, ad sepulcra parentum ambulat.

And you can probably imagine the types of questions (both for comprehension and for cultural connections and comparisons) that will follow this story. As for grammatical analysis, picture some questions like these:

(for the second paragraph)

utrum Valerius semel an identidem vigilat?

You, as a learner, answer identidem. If you choose the wrong answer, you get an explanation like this one:

Look more closely at the sentence. There are actually two clues that should have led you to choose identidem. Can you see them?

If you choose “no,” there follows a sequence where we highlight

  • multās horās – this obviously took a while
  • vigilābat – this is a verbum temporis praeteritī inperfectī. It also shows that Valerius’ lack of sleep was continuing or ongoing.

Then, of course, there’s a similar question:

utrum Caelia precēs semel an indentidem offert?

And there’s a similar path of explanations for wrong answers. And then there are questions like

utrum Valerius semel an identidem ē lectō surgit?

In this case, if you don’t choose semel, the explanation looks like this:

Look more closely at the sentence. There are actually two clues that should have led you to choose semel. Can you see them?

If you choose “no,” there follows a sequence where we highlight

  • hodiē māne, ante prīmam hōram – this is a single point in time
  • surrēxit – this is our old friend, a verbum temporis praeteritī perfectī. It shows that the action was completed in the past.

And, of course, there will also be some questions where you just have to identify the tempus of the verb, or change a verb from one tempus to another.

quid respondētis, amīcī – et inimīcī iam legentēs, sī adestis?

  • First, what do you think of the story itself? We’re aiming to highlight a couple of things that make Romans very different from many twenty-first century readers: the open expression of emotion and the views and beliefs about the afterlife. How did we do?
  • Do you think that readers would be sympathetic with all this emotion, or do you think they’d be annoyed by it?
  • Second, what do you think of the shifting verb tenses? Do they “work” in the context of the story? Do they make sense to you? And, more important, do you think they’ll make sense to the learners?
  • Finally, what do you think of the morphology-focused exercises – especially the questions with semel and identidem, which will both be familiar vocabulary items by the time of this Lectiō?
    • If you’ve always thought that “translation is essential,” are you starting to see some ways that translation can be postponed, but understanding – and even grammatical analysis – can still happen?
    • And, if you do want your learners to translate at some point (which is perfectly fine with me if you do!), can you see how translations would actually be improved if they’re postponed until after the learner has good comprehension and good analysis of the passage?
  • In other words, am I beginning to “sell” translation fans on the idea that, if used, translation might be better as a summative rather than a preliminary task? Of course, Dexter Hoyos, in his rules for reading Latin, says much the same thing … and more eloquently than I ever could. But sometimes it’s helpful to see for yourself as well as to hear from the experts.
  • As for you “no-translation” fans, what do you think of our approach to tense and aspect … and to comprehension?

Tune in next time for your responses, and for a sequence where we’ll introduce the pluperfect tense. And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

A Complete Lectio, VI

salvēte, amīcissimī! As promised, today we’ll consider Continuing Virtual Seminar questions that might relate to Lectiō Secunda. In a face-to-face teaching environment, the Paideia model proposes that about 20% of instructional time should be devoted to these “collaborative, intellectual dialogues about a text” – which, in my face-to-face context, would translate into one full class period per week. As a friend of mine says, with a rueful smile, “I’m good, but I ain’t that good!” I certainly try to engage my students in collaborative intellectual dialogues every day – and frequently we do engage in formal seminars or the “mini-mini” ones I’ve described in a previous post. But the pressures of time and “coverage” keep me from using seminars as regularly as I’d like to.

Of course, in the Tres Columnae system, there’s no pressure for time or coverage. Learners can take as much time as they’d like, and they can progress at the proper rate for them rather than a standardized, factory-model “pacing” that’s too fast for some and too slow for others. In that context, the Continuing Virtual Seminar is an opportunity to stop and reflect, whenever you’d like, on what you’ve been learning. You might go back to a previous Lectiō with a new insight; you might look forward to a future Lectiō whose subject matter fascinates you; you might have a lot to say, or you might have very little to say. And, of course, no one will make you participate at all!

So I envision at least two Continuing Virtual Seminar opportunities in each Lectiō, maybe more. One will be primarily concerned with Language features, while the other is more concerned with Story or Culture. And, of course, participants can start their own new Continuing Virtual Seminar if they want; all they have to do is post an internal blog, or a comment on a story, and see what happens.

In the case of Lectiō Secunda, the Language seminar will focus on our big new concept: that Latin words have different forms to show their different functions in a sentence. We might start out with something like this:

As you reflect on your own native language – and other languages you know – what are some similarities to the Latin system of cāsūs? What are some differences?

Our Story and Culture seminar (or seminars) might focus on the characters:

From what you have seen and learned about Roman gender roles, to what extent do Ridiculus and Impigra seem to embody a “typical” Roman marriage relationship?

Or on their attitudes:

From what you know of Roman social class attitudes, how do you suppose a Roman might respond to Ridiculus’ insistence that it’s a cēnāculum, not a cavus?

Or on “material culture”:

Using your favorite search engine, look for images of houses in Herculaneum and, if you’d like, in Pompeii, Stabiae, and Oplontis. What are some of the thoughts and feelings you had when you looked at these?

“We” (that royal or Imperial we for the moment) will be reading participants’ responses … and responding to them, as needed, to help them connect and deepen their ideas. Sometimes “we” will ask additional questions, but sometimes other participants will do that for us. And, of course, there’s no formal Closure or Post-Seminar step with a Continuing Virtual Seminar since, by their nature, they continue! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Do these seem like reasonable topics for a Continuing Virtual Seminar for Lectiō Secunda?
  • What are some other good topics?
  • What responses might participants make … to any or all of them?
  • And how would you respond to these if you were “we”?

Tune in next time for a Big Question of a different sort … a Big Question about verbs. In some ways, Tres Columnae has chosen a very “traditional” order of introduction of grammatical concepts: we start with nominative and genitive case nouns so that you, the learner, can use a standard Latin dictionary. Of course, in other ways, we’re rather “untraditional”: you learn about all 5 declensions from the beginning, and you use your knowledge of nouns to create stories, not to fill out declension charts. But we’re contemplating something very untraditional when it comes to verbs, and I’d really like to know what you think!

Tune in next time for the question, and after that for some answers. And please keep those comments and emails coming!

Examining the Story: Connections and Comparisons, II

salvēte iterum, amīcī. As promised, today we’ll begin to explore the theme of Connections and Comparisons, again using our most recent story as a starting point. First, though, a quick response to our faithful reader Randy, who had a really important question about the validity of the whole endeavor. It’s actually closely related to our theme of Connections, as it turns out.

Randy’s question is this:

As I read this entry, I noticed that nearly all of the questions are predicated on the event that a weasel and a mouse might be causing an uproar in the dining room. In light of this, the questions you ask (e.g. “Would a 10 year old girl respond to a senator in this way?”) to me seem pointless if the answer to the question “Is it realistic that the primary events of this story would happen?” is “no.” Having had pets nearly all my life I don’t think my dinner has every been interrupted by an such uproar. As a result, I believe the rest of the discussion is a non sequitur.

Let me give a close parallel. In the first episodes of The Brady Bunch, the boys’ dog Tiger chases the girls’ cat Fluffy, thereby wrecking Mike and Carol’s wedding cake, turning over people in their chairs, etc. It’s a preposterous (albeit not impossible) scenario. But I would never follow up the episode with a discussion of whether or not Cindy’s behavior was consistent with American attitudes/culture, because the hypothesis on which it is base is not probable.

Am I being unduly critical? I don’t mean to be. I’m just pretending to approach it like my students would if they were in my class (and, yes, they are my second worse critics).

Randy goes on to say this:

As I think more about this, I’m wondering if a study of genre could be introduced here. Could this story be paratactically arranged so that when elements of comedy are presented (as this story seems to me to be) it could be written as a “play.” If this were done, then I might find the following discussion more likely to happen. I’m a fan of Plautus (and to some extent, Terrence) and would love to see features of comedy in a project like this.

Perhaps a second set of characters could be used for “comic relief.” They might have their own story line that runs parallel.

I guess what I’m asking is the following: Is it suitable to explore Plautus for an understanding of pietas, gravitas, etc.?

What do you think?

I think Randy’s point cuts to the heart of cultural and Cultural analysis, not just of a comic story, but of any work of fiction. If, in fact, an implausible event triggers a series of other events in a story, does that mean the other events are, ipso facto, implausible? And that, as a result, they defy analysis? And for that matter, do you find the idea of a weasel chasing a mouse through the dining room to be as implausible as Randy does?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Do you think it’s possible to analyze a comic story for serious cultural or Cultural elements?
    • If so, how do we distinguish what’s serious from what’s deliberately exaggerated?
    • If not, does the same principle apply equally to epic and tragic stories?
  • In other words, is it only possible to analyze a non-fiction piece for serious cultural or Cultural elements?
    • After all, any piece of fiction will necessarily distort “reality” (whatever that is!) to some degree.
    • And, if that’s true, where does that leave the kinds of literary analysis that Classicists have traditionally done? Must we discard the whole discipline?

I would say not, though I’d also say that the kind of historical criticism that has characterized our discipline over the years can be fraught with peril … as can all kinds of literary criticism, I suppose. But I’d really like to hear from the community about this. If you don’t think cultural and Cultural elements can be analyzed in a comic story, I suppose we could

  • separate the comic characters completely from the “serious” ones (such that Ridiculus, for example, never interacted with the human characters, venturing out only at night);
  • eliminate the comic characters completely; or
  • eliminate the serious characters completely.

But I’d really prefer not to do that … unless you, the community, think it’s necessary.

Even if, in fact, it’s not possible to distinguish serious cultural or Cultural elements in a comic story, I’d like to think we can still make Connections between the story (or some elements of it) and other academic disciplines. quid putātis, amīcī?

If it is possible to make such Connections, what specific Connections might this story spark? Depending on the learner’s personal interests, they might choose to connect

  • Roman slavery with American slavery (or slavery in other societies);
  • Roman gender attitudes with those of the United States today, or of some other period in American history, or some other culture with which the learner is familiar;
  • Latin words used in the story with English derivatives or cognates, or with derivatives in the Romance languages
  • Latin syntactic or morphological elements with their English equivalents;
  • Roman ideas about pets and pests with the ideas of other cultures;
  • the “typical” Roman diet of different social classes, with the “typical” diet in other cultures, including perhaps the learner’s own culture; or
  • “typical” Roman housing for various social classes with “typical” housing in other cultures.

quid putātis, amīcī?

  • What specific Connections might we ask – or expect – learners to make?
  • And how might we assess the Connections that learners make – or encourage learners to assess the quality of their connections?
  • And what about the more personal Comparisons?

Tune in next time for some preliminary thoughts about these issues. And please let me know what you think about the issue of analyzing serious elements in a comic story.