Res Novae, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today’s post continues our series from last week about Change on many different levels. If you’ve been a lēctor fidēlissimus for a while, you know that Change is a recurrent theme in these posts and in the Tres Columnae Project stories themselves. From time to time, we focus on

  • Changes in the small world of my face-to-face school and classroom;
  • Changes in the larger world of American education, and of teaching and learning in the 21st century more generally;
  • Changes that have taken place, over time, in the ways that Latin (and other subjects) are taught and learned; and, of course,
  • Changes in society, culture, and language over the past few millennia.

One of the great benefits of learning and teaching an ancient language and culture, meā quidem sententiā, is that it compels you to take a longer view. Especially in this time of rapid, systemic Change, it’s easy to get caught up in the Changes (and confusions and concerns) of the moment … and that sometimes makes us believe that current problems or concerns are universal and timeless even when they really aren’t. The perspective of a few centuries or millennia can be very helpful as a counterweight to this common tendency!

I’ve been reading an interesting new book called Waiting for “Superman”: How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools. It’s intended as a companion to the documentary film of the same name, which I haven’t seen yet (it’s supposed to open nationwide on September 24, though it’s apparently been shown – and won awards – at several film festivals already). I really hope it makes its way to my face-to-face world quite soon, or else I suppose I’ll have to find the DVD when that becomes available. If you’re not familiar with the film, it sets out to give both a big-picture look at the state of America’s schools and a small-picture, very human perspective through a focus on five families who are trying to get their children enrolled in charter schools or other alternatives to the unsatisfactory schools in their neighborhoods. I obviously can’t review a film I haven’t seen, but I’m really looking forward to this! I have seen the trailer, and it moved me deeply.

Anyway, having read about a third of the book, I came across a wonderful anecdote from a school leader who describes how she turned around a failing school by, among other things, inviting the students and families to suggest improvements that needed to be made. In our terms, she built a Learning Community (and it sounds like it was a pretty Joyful one, too) by offering Ownership to her students and families … and they responded with pleasure and with significantly increased academic achievement. And this was the kind of chronically unsuccessful neighborhood school, in a high-poverty urban school district, that many “enlightened” reformers would write off as “unfixable.” A leader who saw the school as “unfixable” would never have bothered to consult the community or to invite them to take Ownership … and, of course, the school most likely would have remained stuck in low performance and low expectations.

I realized as I was writing that “fixable” and “unfixable” are usually more in the eye of the beholder than they are inherent in an institution or situation. I’m reminded of a house I went to look at a few weeks ago … the one I menioned briefly as “Number 3” in this post last month. When it was previously listed for sale, the description began with the phrase, “Glorious ole lady needs rescue” … but, in fact, “glorious ole lady” needed to be completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside out. For my purposes, “glorious ole lady” was unfixable; that is, even at a bargain-basement price, I’m not willing to devote the time, money, and energy that would be needed for this “rescue.” But this recent New York Times article describes an equally troubled house that was “fixable” – and, in fact, was “rescued” and restored to beauty – by a buyer who did have the time, energy, and resources to devote to the job. Even in the world of physical objects, “fixable” and “unfixable” are mostly a matter of perspective.

There’s a wonderful quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” Personally, I usually choose to think I can do the thing … or at least possibly can improve a chronically negative situation … and more often than not, I’ve been able to make at least some impact. And, of course, on those occasions when I think I can’t make any meaningful changes, I don’t have the energy or motivation to put forth the effort that would help changes happen. Whether it was crotchety old Mr. Ford or the prolific Anonymous who first uttered this sentiment, it’s helped me greatly as I try to navigate a world of rapid Change … and as I try to decide for myself whether a given Change is worth my attention and energy or not.

And speaking of Change, I had promised you a Tres Columnae Project story about a character who faces overwhelming Change today … so here we go! As you may recall, the characters we come to know and love in the stories of Cursus Prīmus are all living (though they don’t know it) under the shadow of the impending eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which will destroy-and-preserve Herculaneum along with Pompeii, Stabiae, and Oplontis in late August of 79 CE. I have deliberately avoided sharing most of the eruption stories – in fact, most of them don’t even appear on the Version Alpha Wiki site yet – but we did learn the fate of Flavius Caeso and his (current) mustēla in this post from last March. As we continue to think about Change, though, I’ll share a few selections from that part of Cursus Prīmus, including this bit about the fate of Valerius and Caelia:

hodiē māne Valerius et Caelia ante hōram prīmam surrēxērunt et anxiī inter sē in hortō domūs colloquēbantur. “mī marīte,” inquit Caelia, “quid facere vīs? utrum nōs decet in urbe manēre an Neāpolim iter facere Valeriam nostram vīsitātum?”

Valerius, “Caelia mea,” respondit, “deōs et māiōrēs hoc diū precibus vōtīsque rogō, nūllum tamen responsum datur. incertus igitur sum. quid mihi suādēs, uxor mea?”

Caelia diū tacēbat. montem Vesuvium intentē spectābat, sonitūsque audiēbat, tremōrēsque sentiēbat. tandem, “rem tōtam intellegere haud possum, mī marīte,” respondit. “quid tamen nōbīs accidet, sī Neāpolim iter faciēmus?”

“sine dubiō Valeria et marītus nōs laetissimī accipient,” respondit Valerius. “paucōs diēs cum illīs mōrātī, domum tūtī regredī poterimus, sī nihil malī accidet.”

“et quid nōbīs accidet,” inquit uxor, “sī hīc manēbimus?”

“nihil malī, sī tremōrēs nihil significant. sī autem tremōrēs pestem perniciemque significant …” Valerius tacēbat, quod vox dēficiēbat.

tandem Caelia “mī marīte,” respondit, “nōnne prūdentissimus es?”

et Valerius, “prūdentissimus? prūdēns certē! mihi placet cum tōtā familiā Neāpolim iter facere.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time for more about Change … and sometime this week, we might just learn the fate of the family of Rīdiculus mūs. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As the first week of school in my face-to-face teaching world comes to a close, I’ve been realizing once again how valuable the Tres Columnae Project materials will be for so many teachers and learners. Unfortunately life has intervened a bit in our timeline for migrating to Version Beta, but that should still happen before too long. When it does, I hope the improved look and feel of the site, the ease of registration, the enhanced security functions, and the other new features will be worth the wait – not just for me, but for all of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī. Without you, and without your comments and encouragement, there would be no Tres Columnae Project. (I suppose I might have written a few stories to share with my students, but I probably would not have taken all the time and effort to develop the Metastory, the Continuing Virtual Seminar idea, and the ever-evolving system of users’ contributions “just” for myself and a few hundred learners. Anyway, please know that I really appreciate you!

I’ve had interesting conversations with my face-to-face colleagues this week: it seems that we’re all stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new things. For some, it’s new technology; for others, new teaching techniques; for still others, new ways of engaging and relating to students and their families. I guess the Tres Columnae Project involves all of these areas, but the most important one for me is the issue of student engagement. Even in these first few days, I’ve seen that some of my new Latin I students (especially those who are new to the school) are wary. They’d like to believe in the idea of a Joyful Learning Community – and my face-to-face school really does try to be one – but they’ve never really experienced that before, and they’re not sure whether to trust us or not. And trust, of course, is the foundation on which a Joyful Learning Community has to be built.

Those first few days of school can certainly help to build trust, but they can also make trust-building difficult. Sometimes schedule adjustments have to be made; sometimes classes have to be extended or shortened for logistical reasons; and sometimes busy teachers and administrators forget to keep our students “in the loop” about what’s happening. Even when we tell them what’s happening, we sometimes forget to explain why it happens … and that can take a toll on a fragile sense of trust. I realized yesterday that I needed to be absolutely, utterly clear about transitions between small-group and large-group activities – apparently some of my newer students, and even some of my “veterans” in Latin III, were having trouble with a signal that used to work beautifully. So we adapted … and adopted a much clearer signal, which seems to be working well. We also took the time to talk about why … and I think that contributed to one of the best seminars about “Knowing Vocabulary” that I’ve ever had with a Latin III class.

If you recall, I talked briefly about the plan for that in yesterday’s post, but I was a bit apprehensive: some of these students really struggled with the seminar process when they were in Latin I and II. In the end, though, I was delighted because most of the critical issues came up in students’ conversations – I didn’t have to ask questions about them. My III’s have really taken Ownership of their learning, and I’m eager to see how that new-found sense of Ownership will play out as we continue through the semester.

But why did I begin this post with a claim that the Tres Columnae Project materials will be so useful and valuable?

  • Partly because I’ve seen, once again, how much my students need learning materials other than traditional textbooks.
  • Partly because the budgetary realities of schools in the current economic conditions have left me with significantly larger classes (a good thing!) and insufficient numbers of textbooks … and we’re a well-run school district that so far has avoided severe budgetary issues.
  • Partly because I can see how much better it is for students to have individually responsive learning materials … and things that offer them immediate feedback when they’re struggling.
  • Partly because I can imagine how hard all this would be for a new teacher, when it continues to tax my imagination and energy even after almost two decades in the classroom.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll wrap up the themes of this week’s posts and have a short preview of what’s coming next. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

More about Casina, II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

More about Casina, I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

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

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

Casina ancilla, V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

Casina ancilla, 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!

Casina ancilla, II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

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

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

Casina ancilla, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! For our readers in the United States, I hope your Fourth of July weekend was wonderful, meaningful, and very relaxing. For readers elsewhere, I hope we didn’t overwhelm you with Saturday’s reflections about Freedom and Opportunity. I realize they’re very American concepts, but they’re also at the heart of the Joyful Learning Community that the Tres Columnae Project will be. Anyway, I appreciate your patience, and I promise we’ll be returning to the real core of the project – the stories, characters, vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and cultural ideas on which we focus. Today, as I mentioned in Saturday’s post, we’ll begin a series of posts about a series of stories – stories of a morbus novissimus that afflicts Casina, the sometimes-grumpy ancilla of Valerius and Caelia. If you haven’t read all of the stories in Lectiōnēs I-XX on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, all the background you really need to know is

  • Casina has evidently belonged to familia Valeria for some time, but is not a verna;
  • She’s sometimes a bit grumpy, especially when Gallicus the coquus gets flustered (as in this story from Lectiō XI) or when Milphiō, her fellow servus, seems to express a bit of romantic interest in her; and
  • As we discovered in this story from Lectiō XIII, she has good reason to hate the city of Pompeii, where she was once sold (perhaps to Valerius?) and where her īnfāns died and (as far as she knows) still lies unburied.
  • Just before the sequence of events in this post, she’s had a very unpleasant and painful reminder of the way some servī are treated in this story from Lectiō XIX, in which a servus who looks like (but turns out not to be) her own brother is almost killed by his master.

Imagine, if you can, what it must be like to be Casina! We’ll find out how she came to be sold in Pompeii later on (actually, we’ll have several possible explanations; I’m not sure whether we’ll ever find out the whole story). But imagine the pain of losing a child – and then compound that unimaginable pain with an inability to say goodbye properly, and with the lack of a grave, or even the freedom to visit a grave if there had been one! Of all the Tres Columnae Project stories I’ve written, the one about Casina’s īnfāns was, without a doubt, the hardest – not because of the grammatical constructions, but because of the subject matter. As a parent myself, I don’t want to imagine Casina’s pain, but as I wrote the story, I could feel it … and I really didn’t want to! I did want poor Casina to find some peace, though, which is probably why this set of stories came to me. I originally had a different idea in mind for the stories in this Lectiō, but then I realized I could

  • give Casina some resolution;
  • get our characters to Rome for a brief visit;
  • explore some of the interesting Roman holidays from the spring months;
  • explore issues of healing (both medical and, um, non-medical) in the Roman world; and even
  • get our characters to some fascinating places in Rome.

And I also thought the etiology of Casina’s illness might be interesting for our participants to consider … but I’m getting ahead of myself!

I deliberately avoided uploading the stories in this sequence to the Version Alpha Wiki Site until now … and I’ll only be uploading them as we look at them. If you get impatient, you’ll Just Have To Wait … or, if you’d prefer, you can create your own suggestions about possible endings or Next Steps. For a couple of weeks, as I mentioned on Friday, you won’t be able to make official contributions to the site; we hope you’ll use that time to develop some really exciting multimedia versions, either of existing stories like these or of stories that you create. Anyway, here we go with the first story in the sequence, now available at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site:

Casina, ancilla Valeriī, in cubiculō parvō prope culīnam dormīre solet. hodiē māne Gallicus coquus cubiculum intrat et, “heus! Casina! num dormīs?” exclāmat. “tibi surgendum est, quod hōra prīma adest. tē oportet aquam ē fonte publicō trahere.”

Casina tamen neque surgit neque respondet. Gallicus sollicitus, “Casina! quid agis?” clāmat. “num aegrōtās? tibi surgendum est!” clāmat. Casina tamen nihil respondet. Gallicus anxius Milphiōnem quaerit.

Milphiō in ātriō pavīmentum verrit. Gallicus ātrium ingreditur et “vae! heu! Milphiō!” exclāmat. Milphiō attonitus verrere dēsinit et “mī Gallice, quid est? cūr clāmās?” respondet. Gallicus trīstis “ō Milphiō, mī Milphiō, Casina moritūra in cubiculō iacet! quid facere dēbeō? quid facere dēbeō?”

Milphiō sē colligit et, “mī Gallice,” respondet, “nōnne saepe tē ita vexās? num Casina rē vērā moritūra est?”

Gallicus tamen lacrimāns, “ō Milphiō, Milphiō, sine dubiō moritūra est Casina. nōnne prīma hōra diēī iam adest? Casina tamen in cubiculō nunc iam manet. neque surgit neque mihi quid respondet. vae! heu! nōnne necesse est nōbīs dominum arcessere? nōnne vespillōnem quoque?”

Milphiō, “ō Gallice, mī Gallice,” respondet. “nōs oportet ad cubiculum regredī. sine dubiō Casina nunc iam surgit tē dērīsum!” Milphiō tamen sollicitus cum Gallicō ad cubiculum regreditur Casinam excitātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll find out whether there was, in fact, a good reason for Milphiō and Gallicus to be worried or whether, as so often, Gallicus has been overreacting “just a bit.” intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.