quo contendimus? V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I hope yesterday’s post wasn’t too repetitive for you all! In looking over it, I was afraid I’d simply rehashed what I said on Tuesday and Wednesday; if so, I hope you’ll forgive me. We’ll definitely try to break some new ground today as we consider this critical point about the exercises and quizzes for Lectiō Secunda:

But we think there might be some steps we skipped. We’d really like to know what you think, too.

If you think back to last week’s posts, especially this one and this one about Differentiated Instruction, you probably realize what I think is missing. There seems to be an assumption that everyone will need to do all parts of every exercise – in other words, that everyone is starting at the same point (knowing nothing about the nominative-genitive distinction) and will need to travel the same route (all the exercises) at more or less the same pace in order to reach the goal. Of course, that’s probably not true.

  • Some learners may come to us with prior experience, either with Latin or with another language (German, Russian, Polish, Greek, …) with noun inflections.
  • Some may be “quick learners” who grasp everything almost instantaneously, needing little practice.
  • Some may struggle with the concept and need some additional practice.

So how does the Tres Columnae Project accommodate different types of learners? Of course, if you’re using the project materials in a “regular” classroom, the teacher can obviously decide which exercises – or how much of a given exercise – to assign. In doing so, the teacher will most likely consider the needs of the learner … although, of course, it’s not necessary for the teacher to do so. Some teachers might well ask all their students to proceed through the materials in lockstep and according to a fixed, unalterable plan developed by the teacher. (We hope none of you will choose to do that, but we do have to admit it’s possible.)

For our homeschooled learners, a parent could obviously play the deciding role if necessary. Of course, many homeschooling families choose that option because they want their children to develop autonomy and ownership of their learning. So in many cases the learners themselves could fill the regulating, differentiating function. But what about learners who don’t have much self-confidence? And what if there was a school, or a homeschooling cooperative, or a group of adult learners using the Tres Columnae Project materials without a trained teacher? In other words, is it possible to differentiate instruction effectively in the absence of an instructor?

We certainly don’t think that such a situation is ideal, but we recognize the possibility. We also recognize that, over time, some young or inexperienced teachers might want a helping hand as they work to devise the right learning paths for their students. So, while the Tres Columnae Project can’t do all the work of matching the task to the learner, it can do quite a bit to help teachers and learners choose appropriate tasks, levels of difficulty, and amounts of work. Here are some ways that can happen even as early as Lectiō Secunda.

If you think back to Wednesday’s list of the existing instructional activities for Lectiō Secunda, you’ll probably remember that we begin with

Fabella Prīma, which contains sentences that introduce genitive case forms in a simple, highly comprehensible way

and we continue with

Quid Novī? I, which helps learners make a comparison between the genitive endings and English possessive markers.

At the end of the quid novī? we can easily invite our learners to rank their comfort with the idea of genitive-case nouns on a scale from 1-5, where 1 is something like “I really have no idea what you just said” and 5 means “I grasp the concept and can recognize the forms easily.” Then it’s just a matter of developing suggested ITINERA (small ones, in this case) for the different levels of self-rating. For example,

  • If you chose 1 or 2, we might provide some more examples of English possessives and Latin genitives, then an exercise where our learners choose the right Latin form (nominative or genitive) to complete a Latin sentence … possibly even with an English version provided. For example, given Lūcius fīlius _____ est (Lucius is Valerius’ son), the learner would choose between Valerius and Valeriī. In previous posts like this one, we’ve considered the types of feedback such an exercise can provide for right and wrong answers. It’s possible to set up exercises like this such that they automatically end themselves after a learner has a certain number of consecutive right answers; we might do that, or we might count on the learners themselves to decide when they are ready to move on.
  • If you chose 3 or 4, your ITER would skip over the examples and proceed directly to the exercise … or perhaps a similar one without an English prompt. (We’d probably include sentences without English prompts later in the “1 or 2” exercise in any case.) Again, the exercise might end itself after the learner had a certain number of answers correct in a row, or might leave the learners themselves in charge.
  • For a 5, the ITER would lead directly to a self-checking quiz similar in structure to the last sentences in the exercise for the “3 or 4” ITER. If you, the learner, did not demonstrate proficiency on the quiz, its feedback would suggest that you go back to one of the other ITINERA … again, depending on your overall score.

While we assume that most learners know themselves well and would tend to rate themselves accurately over time, we also recognize that there are a lot of not-so-confident learners out there – not to mention a lot of formerly-confident learners who have been led to take a passive stance by poor school experiences. Like a released prisoner adjusting to freedom, such learners may need a “halfway house” with a bit more structure for a while … and the Tres Columnae Project can provide it for them. After a while, though, we think our learners will be more than capable of managing their own learning and assessing their own progress. But we certainly encourage all of our teachers and learners to use the structures and supports for as long as necessary, and we definitely want teacher-subscribers to play an active role in guiding, assessing, and encouraging the learners in their classes.

quid respondētis, amicī?

  • What do you think of our model for differentiating instruction in pursuit of our common goal for all learners?
  • What do you think of the goal itself?
  • Do you get the picture, or would you like some more specific examples of how the  Tres Columnae Project can use differentiated assignments in the context of a Joyful Learning Community?

Tune in on Monday, when we’ll respond to your comments, wrap up this thread, and preview the next few topics for blog posts. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 31, 2010 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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quo contendimus? IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I’m very sorry there wasn’t a post here yesterday! Both Wednesday and Thursday were busy days for the family, with many demands both on my time and on everybody’s favorite computer. I was also both physically and emotionally drained, and it seems I was fighting off a summer cold or some other minor health issue. Anyway, things are a bit calmer today, so I hope to be able to catch up a bit.

I’m excited to see, from a recent thread on the Latinteach listserv, that so many people are interested in teaching Latin to upper-elementary and middle-school aged children. While there are all kinds of great materials out there already, I hope that some of these learners – and their teachers – will be interested in exploring the Tres Columnae Project. I think we can provide a really exciting, engaging alternative, especially if

  • the learners are meeting after school and don’t want a “traditional” textbook;
  • the teacher or facilitator doesn’t want to deal with a lot of paperwork;
  • there isn’t a lot of money available to buy books, packets, photocopies, or other materials; and
  • the learners would like to make and share beautiful things as part of the learning process.

If you know anyone who would like to start such a program – or if you’ve been thinking about such a thing yourself – I hope you’ll take a look at Tres Columnae and tell us what you think. We’d be happy to help you build an ITER through the materials that would meet your needs and those of your favorite young learners.

Of course, we firmly believe that the Tres Columnae materials are for people of every age. We certainly don’t claim to be in the timeless league of fairy tales, folktales, and fables, but we do aim to have universal appeal on many different levels. We’d love to know what you think, both of our goal and of how well we’ve reached it so far.

Anyway, at the end of Wednesday’s post, after I listed the instructional materials that we’ve already developed for Lectiō Secunda of the Tres Columnae project, I asked us all to think about these questions and issues:

  • I hope you like what you see so far … but if you don’t, please let me know.
  • There are obviously some missing steps – or at least I think there are some missing steps.
  • Before I tell you what else we’re planning, though, I’d love to hear from you. What other steps in the instructional sequence do you think there need to be for learners who use the Tres Columnae materials as a supplement, or even a primary text, in classroom-based instruction?
  • Are there any additional (or different) steps that might be needed for a learner who is using the Tres Columnae materials in a homeschool or self-study environment without a trained Latin teacher?

I want to deal with the “missing step” and “other step” issues today. First, though, let’s step back and consider the goals of Lectiō Secunda as I listed them on the relevant page on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, and in earlier posts this week:

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

The exercises and quizzes I listed on Wednesday are all about Goal 2, distinguishing and using Latin nominative and genitive case nouns. We think this large goal needs to be broken down into a number of simpler steps:

  • First, we need some examples of sentences with genitives – sentences that our learners can comprehend directly without explicit knowledge of the genitive forms.
  • Then, after a bit, we need to point out the new words to them.
  • We’d like the learners, rather than “us,” to be the ones who discover the genitive endings.
  • Then we think our learners will need to practice distinguishing nominatives and accusatives with several different kinds of exercises.
  • Since distinguishing the forms is not an end in itself, but a tool to greater Skill and Understanding, we want to practice nominatives and genitives in the context of reading comprehension exercises.
  • Then we want our learners to be able to create sentences and stories that use the nominative and genitive forms.
  • Along the way, we believe our learners will also develop some deeper Understandings about the structure of Latin, and perhaps even about languages in general.

But we think there might be some steps we skipped. We’d really like to know what you think, too.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in tomorrow for a few of the missing steps we’ve already identified. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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quo contendimus? III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll look at how a sequence of exercises, quizzes, and explanations in the Tres Columnae Project can be designed to fulfill the second of the important goals for Lectiō Secunda. As a reminder, the goals are that the learners will:

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

We’ll look more closely at our approach to Goals 3, 4, and 5 in posts later this week.

As you know if you’ve taken a close look at the Version Alpha Wiki site, the sample materials available for Lectiō Secunda are

  1. Fabella Prīma, which contains sentences that introduce genitive case forms in a simple, highly comprehensible way;
  2. Quid Novī? I, which helps learners make a comparison between the genitive endings and English possessive markers;
  3. Fabella Secunda, which has a lot more examples of genitives in context;
  4. some sample Quaestiōnēs in draft form, including a draft self-assessment;
  5. quid novī about the question words quis and cuius;
  6. this quid novī explanation and this one about declension patterns;
  7. an exercise that practices the application of nominative and genitive forms; and
  8. a fābula longa that practices the new forms extensively.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I hope you like what you see so far … but if you don’t, please let me know.
  • There are obviously some missing steps – or at least I think there are some missing steps.
  • Before I tell you what else we’re planning, though, I’d love to hear from you. What other steps in the instructional sequence do you think there need to be for learners who use the Tres Columnae materials as a supplement, or even a primary text, in classroom-based instruction?
  • Are there any additional (or different) steps that might be needed for a learner who is using the Tres Columnae materials in a homeschool or self-study environment without a trained Latin teacher?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at your suggestions and our ideas. We’ll also take a closer look at the process of actually creating exercises, quizzes, and such. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Quartus infans and Differentiated Instruction

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Just as little Quārtus īnfāns is “on the way” in the Tres Columnae Project stories we’ve featured this week, it feels like a lot of other things are “on the way,” too – things are building, growing, and developing at exactly the right pace. That’s exciting, but also a bit frustrating if you want those things to hurry up and get here already! 🙂

First, I must mention this amazing video interview with Alan November, which happened to appear in my in-box as I was working on a draft of this post. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much insight and wisdom in less than eleven minutes! Plus, it’s nice to know that folks outside the Tres Columnae Project and the National Paideia Center talk about Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding as distinct aspects of learning.

It’s also really heartening to see how many Latin teachers are moving away from a lockstep “delivery” of a unitary curriculum. I loved this comment on yesterday’s blog post from a young teacher, who writes

I have been following the debate on Best Practices as well, and I do like your mission statement. My problem with differentiated instruction is simply implementation. I’m a beginning teacher still figuring things out, and the idea of (a) determining the current level of each student, (b) creating/finding materials targeted at that level, (c) using those materials in such a way so that everyone knows what they’re doing and is comfortable with it, and (d) bringing everyone back together seems so overwhelming. I think I just need some concrete examples, which I hope to obtain from the list as well as you.

Yes, Magistrastein, there will be some specific examples in today’s post. In fact, there will be an example of how to do differentiated instruction with a traditional textbook-based class. And Magistrastein, you are absolutely right about the complexity of the four steps you mention! On the other hand, walking is also an incredibly complex process for a beginning walker … and driving a car is even more complex! Yet, out of the lectōrēs fidēlissimī reading this post, I assume that well over 90% of you walk without conscious thought, and many can probably drive without constant attention to your hands and feet. Practice is the key to this automaticity – deliberate practice, with reflection. And it’s perfectly OK to experiment, make mistakes, learn from them, and try again in the classroom, just as it was when you were learning to walk.

There was a wonderful post on the Cambridge Latin listserv yesterday that addresses step (a) on Magistrastein’s list. Fran notes that, as teachers, we often “don’t know what our students don’t know” until we give a formal assessment like a test or a quiz … but that’s awfully late in the learning process! There are lots of ways to assess learners informally, and to encourage them to assess their own levels of understanding. We’ll look at some of them later this week.

Today, though, I want to look at a complete lesson I’ve used with my own face-to-face students; then, tomorrow, we’ll look at how Tres Columnae Project materials can make the process a lot easier. We’ll also get back to the stories of Quartus’ birth tomorrow.

Very early in Latin I, my face-to-face students discover the distinctions between nominative and accusative case nouns. (We actually introduce the genitive before the accusative in the Tres Columnae system, partly because English possessives, like Latin genitives, have a distinct ending, and partly because genitives empower our learners to use a standard Latin-English dictionary.) Before this lesson, my students have heard, read, repeated, and understood a lot of sentences and stories with nominative-accusative-verb sentences. They’ve also noticed and practiced the patterns of forming accusatives. Today’s goal is to apply and create: they will work together to construct a story that uses nominative-accusative-verb sentences, assess their own stories, and share them with each other.

We’ll begin the lesson with an informal pre-assessment. I put a simple English sentence on the board and ask groups or pairs to restate it (notice that I don’t say “translate”) Latīnē on mini-whiteboards. I could also use a picture rather than an English sentence as the prompt, of course. I’ll have three or four of these sentences prepared; students take turns as the Writer and the Checker, and after they’ve worked for two minutes or so, we all reveal our answers by holding up the boards. During the work time, I walk around and listen to each group’s conversations; I also see their end products. I now have a good, informal sense of how each student is doing with the nominative-accusative distinction and with vocabulary.

Having taught this lesson many times, I know there will probably be three levels of performance:

  • those who can make the sentences well (who have both vocabulary and forms under control);
  • those who know vocabulary pretty well, but have trouble with accusatives; and
  • those who have trouble with both vocabulary and forming accusatives.

Near the end of the pre-assessment, I might ask students to decide for themselves which group is right for them, or (since this is early in the school year) I might assign the groups by giving each person a colored index card. I’ll then direct the groups to report to different parts of the classroom for the next activity.

Once they arrive in their assigned areas, each group will discover a colored folder (matching the color of their card) with copies of the assignment – and its rubric – for each pair. I might assign the pairs, or I might allow students to choose their own partners, depending on the personality of the class. All three groups will be producing a similar product, but their learning materials and process are different.

Group Red, the strongest group, divides into pairs to create a Latin story (5 or more sentences) using the nom / acc / verb pattern. They have some possible scenarios (building on stories they’ve read in their textbook) but no specific suggestions for vocabulary. They may take a while to decide on the scenario and the vocabulary.

Group Blue, the middle group, receives a chart with a large number of familiar nouns, listed as they would be in the textbook. They are to make the accusative singular form of each noun, taking turns as the Writer and the Checker. When each pair finishes, it compares answers with another pair. Then the partners work together to create a Latin story (5 or more sentences) using the nom / acc / verb pattern, including five of the accusatives they made.

Group Green, the weakest group, also forms pairs. But each pair receives a word bank. Some nouns are provided in both nominative and accusative forms; others have the nominative missing; still others are missing the accusative. The partners work together to supply the missing forms, and I check their answers as they work. When they finish, they use the word bank to create a Latin story (4 or more sentences) using the nominatives, accusatives, and verbs in the word bank.

I monitor the groups as they work and help with any problems.

When they finish, the pairs use a rubric (included on the assignment sheet) to assess their stories. If they have extra time, they can also exchange stories within their group and rate each other’s stories. I also make preliminary notes about ratings at this point if I have time.

Once everyone is finished, each pair presents its story orally to the class, and everyone else proposes a rating with the rubric. If there is any disagreement, we discuss the story and attempt to reach a consensus.

The next day, there will be a quiz where students choose the correct (nominative or accusative) form to complete sentences in a story. Everybody takes the same quiz.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • You probably noticed that this lesson involves a good deal of advance planning and preparation, but it doesn’t produce a whole lot of “grading” in the traditional sense. Since the products, the students’ stories, are presented to the class, I can have “the grade” instantaneously.
  • Do you think students would tend to be more successful – and more on-task – with a lesson like this, where the tasks are much more closely aligned with their current level of proficiency?
  • What are the alternatives to a differentiated lesson like this? I can think of two common ones called “teach to the top” and “teach to the middle,” and one called “teach to the bottom” that I don’t think is very common. What usually happens when you choose one of these?
  • How might something like Tres Columnae make the planning and preparation easier?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at how Tres Columnae Project materials can support differentiated instruction,. We’ll get back to Quartus īnfāns on Saturday. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Published in: on July 22, 2010 at 10:31 am  Comments (6)  
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Quartus infans, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Tres Columnae Project, and today looks like it will be full of adventures, too. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the recent thread on the Oerberg listserv about passive verbs, in which this blog post of mine from February was mentioned very favorably. That led to an interesting exchange about the mechanics of teaching such structures. Two items, in particular, stood out for me:

  1. Rebecca, our regular reader who started the exchange, mentioned that it helps her to think about how a construction (especially an impersonal one) might be “literally” expressed in English – not as an end in itself, but as a gateway to understanding the differences between the Latin and English structures.
  2. One teacher who responded mentioned that his students’ eyes glaze over when he tells them about such things. He also mentioned that his students understand who does the action and who is affected by it in both passive and active sentences, but they have trouble transforming sentences from active to passive – to change his metaphor just a bit, they seem to get lost in a jungle of endings. He wondered if this was a common problem.

Of course, translation is such a hot-button issue for so many Latin teachers! And I’m sure we all struggle with students who get lost in that metaphorical jungle. For those of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who don’t subscribe to the Oerberg listserv, here’s a portion of what I said… and I invite you to join in, especially if you disagree!

As for “translation of a structure,” for want of a better term, for it to be most successful, I think the key is that it has to be done by the learner, not by the teacher! Now, obviously, as a teacher, you can ask or even require your learners to participate in the process, but “translation of a structure” is a high-level cognitive task. It has to do with what learning theorists would call Analysis and Synthesis, or what the Paideia model calls Understanding. For that to happen, and to stick, the learner has to do the analysis and synthesis him/herself. Otherwise, you’re just imparting factual Knowledge (“the Latin literally means …”), which is probably why you get those blank stares.

That principle of small steps with plenty of practice is definitely operative when it comes to passives. It sounds like your students are at a good place: they comprehend the sentence AND can tell who is doing and who is receiving the action. Those are two important steps in making that transformation, but there are MANY others. Perhaps the next step is to practice _matching_ a passive sentence with its active equivalent, and vice versa. Picking a frequent example from the Tres Columnae stories, “Cnaeus ā sorōribus dērīdētur,” the choices would be “Cnaeus sorōrēs dērīdet” or “sorōrēs Cnaeum dērīdent.” From there, you might move to having students just change the verb ending (since the passive verb endings are the “new thing” in this context): “Cnaeus ā sorōribus dērīd____.” Then you might practice one of the two noun transformations (acc to nom, or nom to abl) in isolation, and then practice changing it AND the verb at the same time. Then you’d add the other transformation, first in isolation and then in context. And, of course, if you want to “go the other way,” you’d need to model and practice each step of that process, too.

Actually, I think the “thicket of changing cases and endings” – like other “thickets” in which our students get lost – is a sign that there are too many steps going on at once. Latin teachers (and teachers in general!) tend to fall into the trap of explaining or demonstrating a complicated process once or twice, then assuming our students should be able follow all the steps perfectly. But that rarely happens! Breaking the process down this way might appear to take more time in the beginning, but it saves a lot of time later … no anguished cries of “I don’t get it,” fewer low quiz scores, less frustration!

I went on to mention that the Tres Columnae self-correcting exercises (like the samples you can see here at our Instructure Public Demo site) are designed to build students’ skills in this step-by-step manner. I also noted the old axiom that comprehension precedes production, which I hope was helpful to him and to the other list members there. Even if you haven’t used the textbook, I think you’ll find a very congenial, creative, insightful bunch of teachers and learners on that list … and many of them don’t participate in such “mainstream” groups as Latinteach or Latin-BestPractices.

At the moment, though, let’s return our focus to the Tres Columnae Project stories featured in this week’s posts. Today, as promised, we feature the story from Lectiō XVI in which Maccia Lolliī, mother of Cāius and Lollia, is about to give birth to their baby brother Quartus. Cāius, conveniently, is still on the trip to Milan with his friend Lucius that begins in Lectiō XVI, and Lollius himself (as we saw in yesterday’s featured story) is busy praying for a safe delivery. So Maccia turns to her daughter Lollia for help summoning the midwife.

As I think about the Latin textbooks I know well, I realize that midwives aren’t very prominent, even when (as usually happens in the “Big Three” reading-method books) a character does give birth. I don’t know why that is, either. Of course, midwives are the archetype of the independent woman in the ancient world – and, for that matter, they’re just about the only independent women in the ancient world – so Roman men probably found them a bit terrifying. Other than the father’s role of acknowledging paternity by picking up the newborn child, men had very little to do with birth in the Roman world, and that probably helps to explain the silence of the textbooks. But we’re aiming for more, so Paulla the obstētrīx (like her mouse-counterpart in this story from later in Lectiō XVI), plays a major role in the birth narrative, which you can also find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you prefer.   We think you’ll find her a memorable character, too!

dum Lollius ad sepulcrum māiōrum Mānēs precātur, Maccia quoque mātūrē surgit et deae Iunōnī Lucīnae precēs adhibet. tum per cēnāculum celeriter ambulat onmia bene purgātum. dum mūrōs lavat, subitō “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne venter mihi maximē dolet. Lollia! mē audī!” Lollia ad mātrem celeriter contendit et, “quid vīs, māter mea?” sollicita rogat. tum Maccia, “heus!” inquit, “venter mihi maximē dolet! tē oportet obstētrīcem quaerere, quod tempus adest!”

Maccia ad cubiculum prōgreditur et statim recumbit. Lollia iānuam cēnāculī aperit et celeriter ēgreditur. obstētrīx est anus sexāgintā annōrum, cui nōmen Paulla est. in īnsulā proximā habitat. Lollia igitur celeriter quīnque scālīs dēscendit et hanc īnsulam ingreditur. tribus scālīs Paulla in cēnāculō pulchrō habitat. Lollia iānuam pulsat et, “quaesō, Paulla obstētrīx, māter mea Maccia Lolliī tē rogat!”

Paulla in cēnāculō clāmōrēs Lolliae audit et “hem!” sēcum putat, “sine dubiō iste pauper Lollius mē grātīs uxōrem adiuvāre exspectat.” īrāta et fessa est Paulla quod hīs tribus diēbus quīnque mātrēs īnfantēs suōs gignere iam adiuvat. ad iānuam cēnāculī igitur haud contendit, sed in sellā suā prope fenestram sedet. Lollia tamen, ignāra īrārum Paullae, iterum iterumque iānuam pulsat et clāmat. tandem Paulla “heus!” sēcum putat, “mē oportet istam iānuam aperīre! sine dubiō ista puella eam frangere in animō habet!” Paulla igitur iānuam aperit et, “quis mē ita appellat?” īrāta Lolliam rogat. Lollia anxia, “salvē, obstētrīx,” inquit et Paullam rīte salūtat. Paulla “salvē atque tū, puella,” respondet et, “num tū partūrīs?” magnō cum rīsū rogat. Lollia ērubēscit et, “nōn ego, sed māter mea, illa Maccia Lolliae, amīca tua,” obstētrīcī respondet.

Paulla “haud mihi amīca māter tua, sed pater certē dēbitor!” exclāmat. “nōnne pater tuus mihi trēs dēnāriōs hōs duōs annōs iam dēbet?” Lollia iterum ērubēscit et, “obstētrīx benigna,” Paullae respondet, “nōnne adveniō dēnāriōs tibi datum?” sacculum pecūniā plēnum obstētrīcī offert. Paulla sacculum aperit et pecūniam avida numerat. tum “ēhem! trēs enim dēnāriōs, duōs sestertiōs quoque! dī mihi favent … et sine dubiō dī patrī tuō favent! cūr tamen mē hodiē petis?”

et Lollia “ō obstētrīx benigna,” respondet, “quaesō, amābō tē, venī mēcum ad cēnāculum! māter enim nunc iam partūrit et tē exspectat.” Paulla “veniō nunc iam,” Lolliae respondet. “fortasse iste pater tuus mihi dēnāriōs dēbitōs celerius iam potest.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Since this post is getting a bit long, we’ll save my questions … and any that you want to share … for tomorrow’s post. We’ll also find out what happens when little Quartus arrives. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 10:43 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, 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.

Casina ancilla, IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

Casina ancilla, III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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