Just Wondering, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! And warmest Christmas wishes, for those lectōrēs fidēlissimī who celebrate the holiday. I left you yesterday with this question:

Say that you were a young doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber, electrician, auto mechanic … you name it. At some point early in your training, you confront the critical issue of Where The Money Comes From. But young teachers usually don’t. Why? And how would the world be different if they did?

As I mentioned, I’ve been wondering about that for a few days … and I’m also wondering why I never wondered about it before! Perhaps things are different for my colleagues in private schools. After all, even if you don’t formally discuss the issue, it’s pretty clear Where The Money Comes From there: it comes from some combination of tuition revenues and endowment income, if the school is fortunate enough to have an endowment. When I was a young teacher, I certainly understood, in general, Where The Money Comes From to run American public schools: there’s a mixture of federal, state, and local tax dollars, a mixture that varies widely depending on where the school is located, among other factors. But no one ever sat down with me and explained the different “pots” of money and how they’re used – and how, by law, money normally can’t be moved from one “pot” to another. (I remember, years ago, when I was chair of the Foreign Language Department at a previous school, a colleague wanted to purchase a file cabinet with a special grant for “classroom supplies” – but he couldn’t, because file cabinets are “equipment,” not “supplies.” That was a difficult explanation! In the end, we did find some money for a file cabinet for him … but not in the “supplies” budget, of course.)

Those budgetary restrictions aren’t unique to public education, of course – if you’ve ever had anything to do with the operations of a nonprofit or a religious institution, you’ve probably run into similar, possibly even more baffling restrictions. But the staff and board members of nonprofits, churches, and other religious organizations get some training or explanation about the restrictions … or, if they don’t, the results are unfortunate. Why is it, then, that the details of schools’ operating budgets, the sources of the funds, and the restrictions on expenditures are so often kept secret? I can certainly understand that the details of some expenditures might be kept private … but schools are public institutions! And in most places in the United States, citizens have a right to inspect public records … so it’s not as though the budgetary details could really be kept secret forever. And most school administrators I know really don’t have any personal interest in keeping secrets, either. When the budgetary realities are understood, their teachers tend to make fewer unreasonable requests … and there are always plenty of unreasonable requests (and a few reasonable ones) coming across their desks in any case.

Why is it, then, that schools don’t routinely inform and train their teachers about Where The Money Comes From? I’m really not sure. I suppose, though, that it might be a vestige of the factory-model system; after all, in a twentieth-century manufacturing firm, why would you bother telling the assembly-line workers about the details of your firm’s annual budget and revenue forecast? That’s very far removed from their daily task of making widgets, and they probably neither know or care about such things anyway. That wasn’t a bad way to run a company in 1950 or even 1970, but in today’s turbulent economy, those production-line workers are very concerned about the company’s long-term prospects … and they often have very good ideas for cost savings when their managers ask them.

I have a feeling that the same would be true of schools, factory-model and otherwise: the people closest to the front lines know where certain money is well-spent and other funds are wasted.

For example, many teachers complain about the costs – both in money and in time – of adopting, ordering, inventorying, distributing, collecting, and accounting for textbooks, especially when the information in them is often outdated even before they’re printed … and especially when today’s learners find it difficult to relate to static words on a printed page. And I think of a former principal of mine, now long retired, who was convinced that all of his teachers needed two boxes of large paper clips and two boxes of small ones per year, no more and no less. One of my colleagues, a P.E. teacher, asked him point-blank what the P.E. department could possibly do with so many paper clips … and I think he finally realized that some teachers might need less than two boxes of each type of clip per year. That was well over a decade ago, when the factory model was much stronger than it is today … and when budgets in my face-to-face school district were much stronger than they are now.

One odd benefit of the Great Recession for learners and teachers, I think, has been the realization that Business As Usual is simply impossible. When everything is open for reconsideration, new ideas naturally emerge, and I hope that the Tres Columnae Project will help a lot of schools and teachers in this time of financial struggle. Not only can the Tres Columnae materials help teachers work “smarter, not harder,” as the old saying goes, but they can significantly reduce costs for textbooks, copy paper, photocopies, and the kinds of “supplementary materials” that teachers often buy to help a particular student. Unlike a hard-copy textbook, the Tres Columnae pages never wear out … and no one will vandalize them or tear them out of the (non-existent) book. No need to make copies, legal or otherwise; no need to spend hours grading and returning paper worksheets, only to watch students leave them on the floor under their desks. No way for organizationally-challenged students to lose things, either, since all their results are safely and securely stored online!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What benefits can you see from giving teachers (and parents and students and other community members) more detailed information about Where The Money Comes From to operate their schools?
  • What disadvantages or concerns can you think of?
  • What do you think of the potential cost savings from something like the Tres Columnae Project?
  • What other benefits – or disadvantages – can you see?

Once again, I wish all lectōrēs fidēlissimī who celebrate the holiday a very Merry Christmas, and I thank you again for continuing to read … and for coming back even on those dreary November and December days when sickness and too-busy-ness kept me from posting regularly. grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

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Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Res Novae, I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

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

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Missing Character?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

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

A Turning Point

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today marks a transition point for the Tres Columnae Project. We’ve officially finished our Free Trial period, though a few folks who attended the American Classical League Institute have a “secret code” that will give them a few more days of Free Trial access. Of course, you can still

  • read the stories,
  • hear the audio,
  • see the pictures, and
  • use the exercises and quizzes at the Instructure Demo Course site.

But for the next few days, you won’t be able to upload new stories, images, audio, or video, or, as we say, you won’t be able to make Submissions to the project for a few days.

Before too long, though, we’ll make our regular subscriptions available, so you’ll be able to follow the “regular” process for making Submissions. In the meantime, we hope you will have a chance to

  • explore the existing stories for Lectiōnēs I-XX;
  • find some intriguing “gaps” in the storyline that you might want to fill;
  • start writing stories to fill those “gaps,” or even to create your own independent “branch” of the storyline, as our subscriber David H. has done with his stories about Ortellius; and
  • start planning the images, audio clips, and/or video clips that will accompany your story.

If you’d rather not write your own story, you can still choose to base a Submission on an existing story. For example, you might decide to

  • create your own illustrations;
  • create your own audio narration;
  • create your own video;
  • create your own reading-comprehension questions, with suggested answers;
  • create your own vocabulary pre-teaching activity (or post-reading assessment) to accompany a story;
  • create your own set of grammatical analysis questions, with suggested answers; or even
  • do something we haven’t imagined yet! The possibilities are endless.

Of course, if you do create such things just for yourself or your own students, go right ahead! We’d love for you to Submit them to us, but you don’t have to. On the other hand, if you’d like to have your creation officially become part of the Tres Columnae Project – in other words, if you’d like us to publish it for you on the Version Alpha Wiki site or its successor, or include it in the Instructure course – we do need to make sure that it meets our quality standards and doesn’t conflict with our philosophy. (For example, an exercise called “Translate this story into English” might well work for your class, but it wouldn’t be a good fit with our commitment to extensive reading and direct comprehension.) We’ll let you know here, on the site itself, and on popular listservs like Latinteach and Latin-BestPractices as soon as you can sign up for a subscription or a Single Submission. In the meantime, though, please spread the word about Tres Columnae to your friends, coworkers, students, and local homeschoolers. And please keep reading and exploring the stories and other content on the Version Alpha Wiki site and the Instructure Demo course.

And speaking of stories, tomorrow we begin a series of posts focusing on the sad life of Casina, ancilla Valeriī. When we first meet Casina early in Cursus Primus, she seems to be a bit of a complainer, but we don’t exactly know why she’s bitter and unhappy. We learn more in this story, featured in this post from May, in which we learn the cause of Casina’s hatred for the city of Pompeii … and the sadness that continually seems to gnaw at her. Then, with this story from Lectiō XIX, which we featured in this post from May, poor Casina is confronted with the near-death of another innocent servus. Perhaps the combination of memories and shock is the immediate cause of the situation we’ll feature in our upcoming series, or maybe Casina’s woes only grow as she considers the upcoming wedding of Valeria, daughter of her dominus, and the (presumably) happy fate of any children born to Valeria and Vipsānius – a stark contrast to the awful fate of her own child. Anyway, something causes Casina to become extremely ill – and her illness, in turn, will give us an opportunity to explore a number of facets of Roman culture that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to address. As we find out whether, and how, Casina will recover, we’ll also explore

  • various forms of healing in the Roman world;
  • Roman attitudes toward sickness and healing;
  • Roman attitudes about death and what lies beyond;
  • some issues regarding social class; and even
  • the geography of Rome itself, as the Valeriī decide to take Casina there (for reasons that may surprise you).

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of our plans for the future?
  • What do you think of the subscription model? If you can think of a better way, I’d love to hear about it!
  • What do you think of the upcoming series of posts about poor Casina?
  • And what ideas are you starting to have about Submissions?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin to explore poor Casina’s fate. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!