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.

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.

Live from ACL, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! This post really is coming to you “live” from the American Classical League Institute; in fact, as I write, I’m sitting in the Benson Center at Wake Forest University, mid-morning on June 28, 2010. It’s been a wonderful Institute, with some fascinating presentations, including a couple of really interesting, engaging, and helpful plenary sessions – and if you’ve been to very many conferences, you probably share my feeling about the value (or lack thereof) of a lot of plenary sessions. In this case, though, those have really been a highlight. I was especially pleased by

  • a very well-attended session about the ACL/APA Standards for Latin Teacher Preparation (well, to be fair, since I was on the Task Force that wrote the Standards document, I did “have a dog in that fight,” as an old friend says);
  • a fascinating session previewing the Latin Reading Proficiency Examination (designed for both teachers and students, and really intended to show proficient reading and comprehension rather than “quick translation”) that’s under development by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages; and
  • the highlight for me, this morning’s presentation by Dexter Hoyos about his Rules for Fluent Reading of Latin.

I actually met and talked with Dexter at lunch the other day, and he is as charming, funny, and humble in person as you’d expect if you’ve read his Latinteach posts or his published work. He had positive things to say about the Tres Columnae Project, too, and after talking to him, I felt … well, I felt like a Little League baseball player who looked up into the (rather small) bleachers after the game, saw his favorite Major League player sitting there, went over to get his autograph, and the player complimented his grip or his stance! I’m still on a bit of an emotional high from that.

We had a full house for my presentation about the Tres Columnae Project on Saturday evening, as well, even though it was right after dinner (and right before the welcoming plenary session and all-important reception) on Saturday evening. And it was a very receptive, engaged crowd, too! grātiās maximās omnibus quī vēnistis audītum! We even had time for participants to “play” for about 20 minutes, and enough folks had brought laptops (and iPads – I was jealous! 🙂 – and smartphones and iPod Touches) that everyone (who wanted) was able to get some hands-on time with both the Version Alpha Wiki and the Instructure demo course. grātiās quoque maximās to all who had good suggestions! Thanks to you, we’ll be adding a Scope and Sequence page that describes the grammatical and syntactic points of each Lectiō in the next few days, and I’ll also have more detailed information about subscription options before too long. (Oddly, I had expected people to question why we’d need to charge for access to things – I really don’t know why I expected that, in retrospect – but no one did! We did have a great question about how, exactly, the editing process would work, and when I described the types of feedback we’re planning, the questioner seemed extremely pleased both with the process and with the fee. So, for some reason, that was a big relief.)

I’ll have more to say about the Institute in tomorrow’s post, and probably throughout the next several days. But I do want to keep my promise from last week, and so I do have a new Tres Columnae story for you today. As I mentioned last week, in the wedding sequence in Lectiō XXIV we’ll see not only the wedding of Vipsānius and Valeria, but also (in a flashback) that of Lollia, daughter of Valerius’ client Lollius (and sister of young Lucius’ friend Caius) to Vipsānius’ “poor” cousin Marcus. “Poor,” of course, is a relative thing in the Roman world; compared to Lollius, who really does depend on Valerius’ sportula, young Marcus Vipsānius is quite well off. He owns a “small” book-copying business in Naples with “only” twenty slaves! But to Quartus Vipsānius, and to Caelius and Vipsānia, that means he, gasp, works for a living – hardly appropriate for a relative of theirs, and certainly a disqualification to marriage to anyone they know! There’s a whole series of stories about M. Vipsanius and Lollia, but we’ll begin with this one:

Marcus Vipsānius, pātruēlis Vipsāniī, iuvenis ingeniī optimī maximaeque industriae, orbus pārentibus erat. quamquam Quārtus Vipsānius ipse senātor Rōmānus et dītissimus erat, Marcō Vipsāniō nūllae erant dīvitiae. librāriam parvam in urbe Neapolī tenēbat, in quō vīgintī scrībae cotīdiē labōrābant.

ōlim Vipsānius “vae Marcō nostrō!” inquit. “sēdecim enim annōs nātus, uxōrem dignam invenīre haud potest! quis enim hospitum nostrōrum fīliam Mārcō dabit? nēmō certē, quod modō tam plēbēiō labōrat ille! vae Marcō, et vae familiae nostrae!”

Vipsānius igitur sorōrī suae, Vipsāniae Caeliī, epistulam dictāvit, in quā cāsūs Marcī Vipsāniī patefēcit, et servō trādidit. Caelia epistulam acceptam servō suō trādidit et, “Ūtilis,” inquit, “tibi ad domum Valeriī festīnandum est. nōnne illī sunt multī clientēs pauperēs? fortasse ūnus ex illīs fīliam dare cōnsentiet.” et Valerius, postquam epistulam lēgit, maximē gaudēns Lollium vocāvit, cui epistulam dēmōnstrāvit et, “hercle,” inquit, “nōnne dī tibi favent? fortasse hic Marcus Vipsānius Lolliam tuam uxōrem dūcet!” Marcus celeriter cōnsentit. “nōnne enim atāvus Lolliae erat ille Maccius Plautus, comoedus nōtissimus?” inquit. “quam fēlīx sum! praetereā, Lollia ipsa docta et formōsa, pater doctus et benignus est. nōnne dī nōbīs omnibus favent?”

duōbus igitur mēnsibus ante nūptiās Valeriae et Vipsāniī, ille Marcus Vipsānius Lolliam uxōrem dūcere parābat. nūllī tamen servī lēctum sacrificiave parābant. diē enim nūptiārum, Lollia, ut Valeria, ante prīmam hōram surrēxit et togam cum bullā pupīsque lāribus dēdicāvit. Maccia, ut Caelia, crīnēs fīliae ōrnāvit, et Lollia tunicam rēgillam cum flammeō induit. Maccia tamen cum Lolliā iam cibum vīnumque cēnae nuptiālī parāverat. septimā diēī hōrā advēnit Marcus Vipsānius cum patre familiās et ūnō servō. Lollia et Marcus dextrās iunxērunt et verba sollemnia prōnuntiāvērunt. tum Cāius, ut pātrīmus et mātrīmus, facem per viās tulit, et tōta familia Lollia gaudēns pompam sequēbātur. Lūcius quoque, cui Cāius et Lollia cordī erant, pompam comitābātur et versūs Fescennīnōs cantābat. Lollia tamen et Marcus nōn domum magnam, sed īnsulam intrāvērunt; nōn in ātriō sed in cēnāculō stābat lectus nūptiālis. postrīdiē, omnēs ad cēnāculum revēnērunt repōtia cōnsūmptum. Lollia ipsa lentēs Aegyptiās et panem parāverat. Lūcius amphoram vīnī, ā patre suō datam, sēcum tulit, et omnēs hospitēs grātiās maximās Valeriō agēbant. duōbus diēbus post nūptiās, Marcus et Lollia ad urbem Neāpolim abiērunt, ubi ille librāriam prope forum tenēbat. “haud dīvitēs, sed certē fēlīcēs sumus,” Marcus et Lollia inter sē cotīdiē āiunt. in cēnāculō enim pulchrō habitābant, et Marcus uxōrī suae saepe dōna dare poterat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you were at the ACL Institute and did attend my session on Saturday, I’d love to know your unfiltered, unvarnished impressions and responses. I’ve spoken to a number of lectōrēs fidēlissimī (some of whom I’ve corresponded with for years, but never met in person until today) and reconnected with a lot of old friends. But it would be great to know what you really think … especially if you have concerns or suggestions for improvement.
  • If you weren’t at the Institute and would like to see either the handout or the slides from the presentation, just let me know … or check the Version Alpha Wiki site in the next few days. I’ll try to get them uploaded there if people want them.
  • What do you think of this story of Lollia and M. Vipsānius’ wedding … and of M. Vipsānius as a new character? He’ll be important, as it turns out, in the stories of Cursus Secundus … but I don’t want us to get too far ahead of ourselves! 🙂
  • Do you think the relatively sudden jump to multiple verb tenses in Lectiōnēs XX – XXIV is too sudden, or too big of a jump? And if so, what would you suggest as an alternative?
  • What issues of social class – and what comparisons between and within cultures – are raised by the story, and how might we encourage our participants to explore them in greater depth?

Tune in next time, when we’ll hear about the last day of the 2010 ACL Institute, respond to your questions and concerns, and share another story about M. Vipsānius’ and Lollia’s wedding. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Wedding Stories, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we begin the long-promised series of posts featuring the Tres Columnae stories about the wedding of Valeria and Vipsānius. For you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who tune in every day, I should probably warn you that there may not be a post tomorrow (Thursday, June 24), and there almost certainly won’t be one on Saturday (June 26) or Monday (June 28). As you’re reading this, I’m spending my day with a much needed but possibly lengthy car service appointment; depending on how that goes, I may not be able to write a post for Thursday. We should be OK on Friday, but then, over the weekend, I’ll be at the 2010 American Classical League Institute in Winston-Salem, NC. It’s only a short distance from home for me – just long enough that I can’t stay peacefully at home in the evenings – but it will be a busy time. You can expect a full report starting on Tuesday the 29th.

I realize that wedding stories are, appropriately enough, common in reading-method Latin textbooks; all of the Big Three have them in one place or another, for example. They’re obviously an important part of Roman culture, and they do provide great opportunities to compare and contrast specific customs (practices) as well as more general attitudes (perspectives). As we often do with the Tres Columnae Project, we’ll take things a step farther by featuring two different weddings (and eventually some others, as Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus become young men of marriageable age) and encouraging comparisons among different Roman weddings as well as between “the” Roman wedding and “the” modern one (or even just “the” modern American one). We all know – or at least I assume we know – that there’s no single pattern for “the” American wedding, just as there’s no single pattern for “the” Roman wedding, or house, or meal, or familia. And I think we do a disservice to our learners when we don’t at least attempt to acknowledge some of the diversity – or when we acknowledge the diversity in our “English background reading” but focus the Latin readings narrowly on a single social class or a single pattern. Does that make sense?

Our stories today (and tomorrow, if possible, and Friday) come from Lectiō XXIV, just before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Lectiōnēs XXV and XXVI, which we’ll look at another time. Lectiō XXIV is all about weddings; if you’re a long-time reader of the blog you may remember that back in March, in this post, we saw preparations for the wedding of Lollia. By this point in Cursus Prīmus, our participants have been exposed to non-present tense forms of verbs, but we continue to use the “historical present” for most of our narratives. Today’s story features preparations on the morning of Valeria’s wedding, and it’s now available at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site:

per tōtam domum Valeriī gaudētur et celebrātur.  hodiē enim vespere Quārtus Vipsānius Valeriam in mātrimōnium dūcet. Valerius igitur et Caelia mātūrē ē lectō surgunt et ad ātrium contendunt, ubi Valeria ipsa etiam nunc prō larāriō stat. Valeria verba sollemnia prōnuntiat et bullam pupāsque lāribus dēdicat. Caelia, fīlam suam amplexa, lacrimīs sē trādit. Valeria attonita, “māter mea, “ exclāmat, “num tē decet lacrimāre? nōnne tē decet gaudēre, quod Vipsāniō, iuvenī optimō quem omnēs dīligumus, nūbere iam parō?” Caelia autem Valeriae, “ō fīlia mea,” respondet, “nōnne gaudēns lacrimō? multōs post annōs, quandō fīliam tuam diē nūptiārum vidēbis, lacrimās meās memoriā tenēs intellegēs. sed ubi est pater tuus?”

Valerius enim, ex ātriō clam ēgressus, in peristyliō nunc iam stat et lacrimīs tacitīs sē trādit. “ō māiōrēs nostrī,” susurrat, “quaesō, fīliam meam servāte et tuēminī! ō dea Venus benignissima, quaesō, fēiliam meam aspicite! ō dea Iunō Lūcīna, quaesō, amābō tē, etiamsī vir sum, precēs meās audī et Valeriae meae nātūs facilēs tempore propriō dā! ō dī omnēs, quaesō–” Valerius tamen adeō flet ut nihil dīcere iam possit.

Caeliōla, peristylium forte ingressa, patrem lacrimantem cōnspicātur. attonita Valerium salūtat et, “ō pater, pater, cūr lacrimās?” sollicita rogat. Valerius, Caeliōlam amplexus, sē colligit et “ō fīlia mea,” respondet, “deōs precor ut Valeriae nostrae Vipsāniōque faveant. maximē autem gaudeō, quod hodiē vespere iuvenis optimus Valeriam nostram in mātrimōnium dūcet; fleō tamen, quod mē oportēbit fīliam meam marītō suō trādere. lacrimō quoque, quod difficile est mihi, ut patrī familiās, līberōs meōs iam adultōs spectāre!”

Valerius, Caeliōlam amplexus, iterum lacrimīs sē trādit. Caeliōla attonita, “vae patrī!” sēcum putat. “dīs grātiās agō et laetor, quod sānē difficillima est vīta virōrum!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’ve read the related story of Lollia’s wedding, you probably noticed some similarities, as well as some differences, in the responses of the two fathers. Do you find their reactions convincing and appropriate?
  • What opportunities for intra-cultural comparisons do you see between the weddings of Valeria and Lollia?
  • What additional types of weddings (or informal Roman arrangements) would you like to see featured at this point in the Tres Columnae storyline?
  • What about inter-cultural comparisons? What specific things would you point out to your students … or ask them to look for and point out to each other?

Tune in next time, when we’ll see at least one actual wedding ceremony and find out whether a transfer of manus is involved or not. I hope to see many of you lectōrēs cārissimī at the 2010 ACL Institute, either at my session about Tres Columnae or at other points during the weekend. And for those of you who are coming from other places, I want to welcome you to North Carolina, my “face-to-face” home for the past 20 years.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

utrum di Romani pii sunt annon?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In yesterday’s post, as we started to wrap up our series of posts about the stories in Lectiō XVI of the Tres Columnae Project, we returned once again to the theme of pietās as it relates to the conduct of our characters. But whenever I talk about pietās with my face-to-face students, especially in a seminar context, we inevitably raise questions about the conduct of the Greco-Roman gods – whether in “simple” myths we read in Latin I or in the complicated machinations of Vergil’s divine characters in the Aeneid. In a nutshell, our question is this: do the Greco-Roman gods display pietās or not? And if they don’t, what does that say about the whole Roman worldview? Is pietās a convenient fiction, a tool for the dominant classes of society to keep their “inferiors” in line? And if so, what are some possible implications for us, here and now?

Of course, we need to be very careful in making generalizations about untranslatable Roman concepts (or “perspectives,” to use some technical language from the National Standards for Classical Language Learning) like pietās! We also need to be careful about applying Roman concepts, like pietās, to myths that were originally Greek. Still, in so far as Romans did appropriate the Greek names and stories and apply them to their own gods, they evidently saw some connection – and in so far as Vergil, for example, includes episodes in which the gods behave very inappropriately (at least to our twenty-first-century viewpoint), I think it’s a fair line of questioning to pursue. And of course Aeneas criticizes his own mother for appearing to him in disguise … and Neptune threatens the winds even though they displayed some sort of pietās by obeying Aeolus, their master, and ultimately Juno … and Venus and Juno engage in all sorts of machinations around the relationship between Aeneas and Dido … and Juno doesn’t care about fate and prophecy … and we could create a much longer list of episodes like this, couldn’t we?

As our faithful reader and collaborator Ann M said in an email to me this week, “ My highly selective fictional glimpses of Romans talking about their gods doesn’t make me think the gods are very just or very kind. They’re interesting and they have to be taken into account.” So, if gods (and, for that matter, Emperors and other powerful people) rarely display justice or kindness, and if pietās is justice or kindness, where does that leave this “central” Roman value? Or, when we assume that pietās is synonymous with justice and kindness, are we applying twenty centuries of Judeo-Christian perspective to a culture in which that perspective would be utterly alien?

Perhaps we need to look again at that definition of pietās as right relationship or proper treatment and ask, once again, how a Roman would define that as it relates to figures of very unequal power or status. Maybe, if you’re a Roman, the right behavior of a powerful figure toward someone less powerful is … to display your power. I think of the law that requires death for all household slaves if they “should have known” that one of their fellow slaves was plotting against his master in this context, and while it makes me shiver, it also seems to fit. But what do you think? And how does all of this apply to our stories from Lectiō XVI?

When I wrote these stories of relatively kind, gentle interactions between divinities and human-like characters, I had these issues in mind; in fact, writing the stories was one way for me to grapple with the issues. I deliberately saved the apparitions for a point in the story when the characters were in (mostly) right relationship with others: Trux has returned home and been welcomed back by his fellow residents of the vīlla, and Sabīna has been appropriately punished – but not killed – for trespassing in domō Valeriī in her pursuit of the mūrēs. In both cases, the characters have gone to places traditionally associated with the divinities (Trux is asleep in the woods, under a tree, and Sabina is actually asleep at the foot of the image of Juno Lucina in cellā templī). Their hearts may not be pure, but their current conduct is appropriate – and pietās has a lot more to do with conduct than it does with feeling or belief. In this context, then, Diana offers comfort to Trux and Juno offers comfort – and a challenge – to Sabīna. Juno’s challenge (or mild criticism) has to do not with Sabīna’s actions, but with the excessive zeal with which she pursues the mice – she seems to be advocating, if not a Stoic detachment from strong emotion, at least some degree of control of one’s mouse-hunting passions. I think it’s a Roman-sounding voice … but of course I’m not one, and neither are most of you lectōrēs cārissimī! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the interchanges between the goddesses and the animals?
  • What do you think of my attempt to link these to the larger issues of pietās?
  • And what do you think of my point about pietās and the gods … or pietās and the powerful in general?

As you read these words, it’s the last day of school in my face-to-face teaching world, a time when we often think about both the past and the future, the strong and the weak, the old and the young. We’ll continue with that theme tomorrow as we begin a series of posts about the stories, later in Cursus Prīmus, in which our young characters (Valeria, Lucius, Caeliola, Caius, Lollia, Prima, Secunda, and Cnaeus in particular) begin to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. We’ll begin with Valeria and her impending marriage to Quartus Vipsānius tomorrow, and then we’ll spend some time on other rites of passage – a fitting way, meā quidem sententiā, to start the transitional time of summer. So tune in next time, and prepare for a few tears if you’re a sentimental person – and especially if you’re the father of a daughter. (I cried writing this story … and not just because my own daughter would be making this transition quite soon if she were a Roman!) intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Comparing Stories

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As we begin to wrap up our sequence of stories about Ferōx, Medūsa, Rīdiculus, Impigra, Sabīna, and the mouse-obstētrīx, you may have noticed some parallels between yesterday’s story and one from earlier this year. At the end of his adventures with the wolves, faithful Trux, canis Caeliī, also receives a vision about (general) approval and pietās. You’ll find the story at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested.

The story of Trux and Diana was the first that featured a dream or vision, though a number of readers (including our faithful reader Laura G) had suggested that these would be a natural way to expand the Tres Columnae storyline beyond its geographic and temporal limitations of Roman Italy in the late first century C.E. I struggled with visions, as you may recall from this blog post and from yesterday’s post, because I felt a need to respect several possibly conflicting things:

  • the Romans’ own worldview;
  • the worldview of today’s worshipers of the Greco-Roman divinities (I don’t want to offend them by using their sacred figures in “inappropriate” or “irreverent” ways);
  • potential readers and subscribers from various religious traditions who might be offended by the presence of “false” or “pagan” divinities as characters; and
  • my own feelings about the matter.

In the end, as you know, I did decide to write the two stories, for several reasons. First, I want to be faithful, as far as possible, to the time and place in which our stories are set – a time and place where Romans didn’t necessarily expect regular visitations from their divinities, but certainly considered such visitations and visions possible. Second, I wanted to be faithful to the epic tradition (you’ll see some epic journeys of our characters in Cursus Secundus), in which such apparitions are fairly common. Third, I wanted to give our participants a chance to grapple with these issues for themselves – and to use our stories as a jumping-off point to explore myths and other forms of literature in which Greco-Roman divinities play important roles. And fourth, I wanted to grapple with some of the more complicated issues regarding that central Roman concept of pietās.

(Or at least I think pietās is a central Roman concept; as our loyal reader Laura G pointed out to me in an email the other day, there’s very little about pietās in the proverb and fable tradition. She wondered if that means that pietās was more a concern of wealthy Romans … of course our sources are so incomplete and fragmentary that it’s probably impossible to know for sure. In any case, pietās is important in the Vergilian world and in other Golden Age literature, and many Tres Columnae subscribers will go on to read those authors, either formally or informally.)

So today I want to consider a few differences between these two stories, and I also want us to think about a bigger question about the idea of right relationships. The similarities between the stories are obvious.

  • Both feature animal characters who have, in some way, overstepped their proper bounds (Trux by running off with Lupa, Sabīna by trespassing in domō Valeriī).
  • In both, the vision occurs after the wayward animal has returned home.
  • In both, the vision is a dream … and could well be explained psychologically – at least if anthropomorphic animal characters’ subconscious minds work the same way, and are subject to the same types of analysis, as human minds.
  • In both, the divine figure is oddly comforting and does praise the pietās of the no-longer-wayward animal.
  • And in both, the divine figure offers some advice about how to be – I started to write “a better person,” but I realize neither Sabīna nor Trux is a person! Let’s say that in both, the divine figure offers advice about how to be more pius, or how to do better in the future, or something.

But I think the differences are significant, too. In the story of Trux and Diana, Trux has been restored to community – and pietās seems to have a lot to do with community. In the story of Sabīna and Juno, though, Sabīna doesn’t seem to have a community. It’s natural for Trux to have a vision of Diana, since she is a patron goddess of animals and has a special fondness for dogs … but it’s rather unusual for spinster Sabīna to have a vision of Juno Lūcīna, goddess of childbirth. Diana doesn’t have very much specific advice for Trux, but Juno does have specific advice for Sabīna: stop being so angry (or bloodthirsty, or something like that) and realize that other animals, not just you, have officia to perform and display pietās by doing these things. Of course, we really have no idea whether a Roman would feel that a dog or weasel could display pietās or have officia – but I want our readers to have opportunities to grapple with the concepts, and these seemingly simple stories (like lots of good “stories for children”) can provide such opportunities.

I also think that both stories raise an important, and probably unanswerable, question: If pietās is defined as right relationship or treating others in the proper way, what is the right or proper way for a Roman to behave toward an enemy? I have a ready answer from my own faith tradition, and from the 2000 years of Judeo-Christian influence on Western culture: follow the Golden Rule and treat them as you would like to be treated. But I’m not at all sure that a Roman would give that response! I actually ask my students that question early each semester, when we have a seminar about pietās in my face-to-face Latin II, III, IV, and AP classes … and I keep asking the question each semester because I’m not satisfied with my own answer to it. As I think about the pattern of Roman treatment of conquered people (from Caesar’s genocidal conduct in Gaul to the “gentle” Romanization of conquered territory in the early Empire to Vespasian and Titus’ destruction of Jerusalem, and on and on), it seems to me that if pietās means right or proper treatment, then pietās toward a resisting or rebellious enemy must involve destroying or killing them. So, in our examples, Caesar killed the Gauls who resisted or rebelled; later generations of Roman governors (Agricola in Britain, for example, or Pontius Pilate before him in Judea) were “merciful” to those who did not resist, but took drastic action against those who did. And one could argue that Vespasian and Titus destroyed Jerusalem because the “stubborn, rebellious” natives refused a “simple” request to put up a statue in their temple – a statue that, of course, would be an exemplum pietātis (as well as a patriotic symbol) from a Roman perspective.

Whenever I think about pietās, the phrase pius Aeneas comes naturally to mind. So I wanted to take a fresh look at the end of Aeneid XII, when Aeneas has defeated Turnus and is trying to decide whether to spare or to kill him. I found an interesting article at in which the author, in comparing pietās and other virtūtēs in Vergil and Livy, argues that pietās and clementia / misericordia are almost synonymous. In her argument, when Aeneas sees Pallas’ balteus, tells Turnus that it’s Pallas who’s now taking revenge him, and kills Turnus, Aeneas’ rage is the very opposite of pietās. It’s certainly a reasonable argument, especially from a twenty-first-century perspective, but I’m not what the Roman perspective would be.

What, I wonder, are the obligations of pietās on a Roman in Aeneas’ situation? What obligations does he have not only to Turnus, his defeated foe, but to Pallas, to Evander, and to his own people? A few years ago, one of my Latin IV students said that, in essence, pietās is the opposite of the Golden Rule: you treat others not as you would want them to treat you, but as they have deserved to be treated (or maybe as they have treated you or are planning to treat you). So, in dealing with an enemy who killed the son of your hospes – the son whom you swore to protect as much as possible – what would pietās dictate? I really don’t think a Roman would say it would dictate clementia or misericordia! I thought about this issue a lot as my AP® students were reading the end of the Aeneid earlier this spring, but I still don’t feel a “perfect” resolution … and I hope I never have such a “perfect” resolution that I stop being open to new learning!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, what do you think of our two stories, and of the comparisons I’ve made between them?
  • Second, what do you think about pietās? Is it as important to the Romans as I’ve claimed, and do you agree with our tentative definition?
  • Even if you disagree with the importance or the definition, do you think it’s reasonable for pietās to be a recurring theme for the Tres Columnae Project?
  • What other virtūtēs would you want us to address formally – or do you think we should wait and see what virtūtēs, if any, our participants want to talk about?
  • And what do you think of my interpretation of the end of Aeneid XII?

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider a related question about pietās and the Roman divinities. Then, on Friday, we’ll celebrate the end of my face-to-face school year (apologies to those of you who are still “in the trenches!”) by beginning a new series of posts. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Building Understanding, VII: A Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday in the U.S., we’ll continue to focus on the Roman concept of pietās – which, as you probably know (or discovered in yesterday’s post) has some intriguing similarities to, as well as some obvious differences from, the American ideals of family, patriotism, and devotion to one’s comrades that are celebrated this weekend. Specifically, we’ll consider ways that our characters have shown – or not shown – pietās in the stories we’ve shared on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, and we’ll close with a new story that – at least according to my sometimes-fallible memory! 🙂 – hasn’t previously appeared there or here until now.

Yesterday, I closed with these questions:

  • What do you think about pietās (and the other principal virtūtēs) as an organizing principle for the Tres Columnae storyline? If you’ve explored the stories beyond Lectiō I, can you see how we’ll continue to play with pietās, dignitās, gravitās, and the other big –tās words as we consider our characters’ motivations, behaviors, thoughts, and words?
  • Have you seen any characters who seem utterly un-Roman in their conduct or attitudes?
  • And what about our “naughty” characters like young Cnaeus Caelius? His parents frequently complain that he impiē sē gerit … and what conclusions should we draw from that? Is he behaving in an un-Roman way, or just a bad Roman way? And is there a difference?

It’s clearly been a difficult week for a lot of our faithful readers (it has for me, too, as we’re preparing for exams to start on Tuesday in my face-to-face teaching world). So let me address each question briefly, then move us on to the exciting new story.

A number of years ago, it occurred to me that pietās was such an important virtūs Rōmāna that I ought to bring it to my students’ attention. At the time, there was no Tres Columnae project; in fact, I hadn’t even begun to consider anything like it. So I went looking for examples of pietās in the “Big Three” reading-method Latin textbook that I still use with my face-to-face students, and I was pleased to find a lot of them. In fact, it seemed that pietās was a constant motivator, especially for the “good” characters … but the word itself rarely appeared. So I decided to bring this “hidden” theme to the front and make it more visible. We began that year in Latin II (and have continued until now) with a seminar about pietās, and we returned to the theme with additional seminars at the end of each chapter. By mid-semester, my students were a bit tired of pietās, but they were also very clear about its importance … and we had wonderful discussions in the Latin IV and AP Vergil classes that grew from those Latin II students. Sadly, though, my current students are just not very keen on seminars! 😦

Anyway, once I realized that one could use pietās (or any other virtūs Rōmāna) as an organizing principle for thinking about existing stories, it only seemed natural to me to weave them into the storyline of the Tres Columnae project in a thoughtful and intentional way. As I outlined the plots for the Lectiōnēs of Cursus Prīmus, I found that I needed to track the virtūtēs so I could remember when they were introduced, what we did with them, and how they influenced each character’s words, thoughts, and actions.

So what have you seen in the stories in those first few Lectiōnēs? In looking back at them, I see that

  • Both the Valeriī and the Lolliī are very family-focused;
  • There’s a clear distinction between those who labōrat and those who lūdit according to their status in the family;
  • Valerius seems to treat his slaves well, and they respond with respect (at least most of the time);
  • Lollius, though poor, also treats his family with respect, and they respond appropriately;
  • There seem to be some issues with pietās in familia Caelia, and they’re clear from the disrespect and unpleasantness with which the children treat each other (even as early as this story), not to mention the interactions among the servants!
  • I want to think some more about the Caeliī, who clearly are typical Romans in a lot of ways. If you’re a Roman who impiē sē gerit, does that mean you aren’t a real Roman, or does your very recognition of the impietās prove that, in fact, you really are a Roman?

Ponder that, if you dare, while you enjoy the following story from Lectiō XIII. Everyone is on the way to Pompeii to see a spectāculum, but, of course, Cnaeus starts behaving badly….

sexta diēī hōra iam adest. Valerius et Caelia ad iānuam domūs contendunt. Valeria et Caeliōla quoque ad iānuam contendunt. “tandem ad urbem Pompēiōs proficīscimur!” inquit Valerius. “attonitus sum, quod hōra sexta adest, nōsque parātī!”

in viā stat carpentum magnum. duō equī carpentum trahunt. Milphiō iuxtā carptentum stat et lōra tenet. servus Trāniō quoque adest. Trāniō lōra trium equōrum tenet. Valerius Lūcium vocat et, “mī fīlī, tē oportet mēcum ad urbem Pompēiōs equitāre, quod octō annōs nātus es. sorōrēs tamen et māter in carpentō iter facere dēbent, et amīcus tuus Cāius tēcum equitāre potest. tertius equus adest, quod decōrum est Lolliō quoque equitāre. breve est iter, sed multō celerius equīs quam pedibus prōgredī possumus.”

Lollius et Cāius domuī appropinquant et Valerium familiamque salūtant. Cāius laetissimus equum post Lūcium cōnscendit. Lollius laetus grātiās patrōnō agit et equum suum quoque conscendit. Valerius equum cōnscendit et “nōs oportet proficīscī!” clāmat. Trāniō “heus! equī” clāmat, et equī carpentum lentē trahere incipiunt. omnēs per viās urbis ad portam prōgrediuntur.

post breve tempus Cāius montem spectat et “ecce! mōns Vesuvius! quam altus et quam pulcher!” exclāmat. Lūcius tamen, “ecce! consōbrīnus meus! quam molestus et loquāx!” susurrat. Cnaeus enim cum mātre et sorōribus in carpentō splendidō sedet. iuxtā carpentum Caelius, avunculus Lūciī, vir magnae pecūniae magnaeque dignitātis, superbus equō splendidō prōcēdit.

Valerius Caelium cōnspicit et, “salvē, mī Caelī!” exclāmat. Caelius, “mī Valerī! exspectātissimum tē salūtō! nōnne tū et familia quoque Pompēiōs contenditis, gladiātōrēs spectātum?”

Valerius cum Caeliō cōnsentit. “certē, mī Caelī, et nōnne amīcus noster, Vatia ille, nōs ad vīllam invītat?” Caelius, “et nōs quoque!” exclāmat. “nōnne dī nōbīs favent, quod omnēs cum ūnō amīcō manēre possumus?”

Cāius et Lūcius Cnaeum in carpentō sedentem cōnspiciunt. “heus!” Cāius Lūciō susurrat, “nōnne Cnaeus māior nātū est quam tū? cūr carpentō, nōn equō iter facit?” Lūcius, “st!” respondet, “equī haud cordī Cnaeō sunt,” et rīsum cēlāre cōnātur.

Cnaeus puerōs equitantēs cōnspicit et “vae! heu! mē taedet carpentōrum!” exclāmat. “māter! māter! equitāre volō!” Prīma et Secunda rīsibus sē trādunt. Vipsānia “mī fīlī,” lēniter respondet, “nōnne iter ultimum memōriā tenēs? nōnne corpus tuum etiam nunc dolet?”

Cnaeus tamen, “vae! heu! cūr ista commemorās?” clāmat. “eque! tē oportet istōs in terram dēicere!” Cnaeus saxum manū tenet et ad caput Cāiī iaculātur. Vipsānia saxum per āera volāns cōnspicit et “puerum īnsolentem! num mīrārīs, quod carpentō iam iter facis? īnfantem nōn decet equitāre, et tū es pēior quam īnfāns!” Vipsānia Cāium prēnsat et vehementer verberat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

I’m especially interested in your response to the question I asked above, right before the story!  Where can you see themes of pietās (or its opposite) at work?  And (thinking ahead to that Continuing Virtual Seminar about pietās) what if a person knows what’s right (as we all do, at times) but doesn’t do it?  Or does Cnaeus genuinely not know the right thing to do?

And I wish you a good, happy, and peaceful Memorial Day weekend … one that’s entirely free of the family drama in this story. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Building Understanding, VI: Housing, Families, and Pietas

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue our series on Understanding, shifting the focus from language elements (like nouns and verbs) and a Connection or Comparison task (like native-language derivatives from Latin) to focus on Roman Culture. As you may recall if you’ve read the stories in Lectiō Prīma on the Version Alpha Wiki site, our cultural goals for Lectiō Prīma include helping our learners to

compare housing and family structure in Roman world with our own housing and family structure

begin to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās

Our faithful reader Laura G pointed out in this blog post that we’ve done a lot with housing and family structure, but not so much with pietās in the materials she’d seen. Today and tomorrow we’ll attempt to make the pietās connections clearer.

First, for our readers who may not be experts on Roman beliefs and values, I suppose we should try to define and translate pietās … except that it’s a completely untranslatable Roman concept! If you doubt my claim of untranslatability, just check out this lengthy definition for the adjective pius and this even longer definition for pietās itself and see if you can find a single-word equivalent in any language other than Latin! 🙂 In a nutshell, pietās is the way a Roman acts so that he (or she) is in the right relationship to everyone: family, friends, the state, the gods, nature, enemies … everyone and everything. It has a lot more to do with conduct than with inner attitudes or beliefs – which is perfectly natural for Roman culture but often leaves twentieth- and twenty-first-century Americans and Europeans scratching their heads in confusion.

That’s one reason why our goal is to begin to explore the concept; fully exploring it will be, in some senses, the work of the entire Tres Columnae project and possibly beyond. But of course, with any huge exploration, you do have to start somewhere. That’s why we chose to begin with housing and family structures. In any culture, the layout and design of people’s homes says a lot about what they value and what their culture as a whole values, and housing is closely related to family structure. For example, I’m writing this post in a “family room” which is designed to be the heart of the house, with a fireplace on one wall and the perfect-sized space for an “entertainment center” (big cabinet for TV and stereo) on another wall. The house was built in the early 1990’s, and it absolutely reflects a cultural view of what families “should” do (sit together in the evenings after dinner and watch TV) that was dominant in this part of the U.S. at that time. A different house, built at another time in another part of the world, would have a very different layout.

So, after they read stories set in a domus and an īnsula, our participants will have the opportunity to explore lots of freely available online images of domūs and īnsulae. (Over time, we hope that lots of them will go to Roman sites, including Herculaneum, and contribute their own photos and other images of what they see, too!) We’ll also provide some links to a range of different perspectives about Roman family structure, probably with a few annotations about the perspective or “slant” of the authors if that’s important for our readers. We’ll then offer a Continuing Virtual Seminar in which participants can explore issues about housing, family, or both, depending on their particular interests and goals.

After that, though, we’ll begin to address the issue of pietās more formally with a sequence like this:

quid novī?

If you think back to our five goals for Lectiō Prīma, you may remember that the fifth goal was

begin to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās

We haven’t used the word very much … mostly because it’s very difficult to represent in English. Check out this Wikipedia article, this definition of the adjective pius, and this definition of pietās itself, and you’ll see what we mean! You’ll also, notice, though, that pietās is closely connected with familia. Pietās is much broader and deeper than just “devotion to your family,” but “devotion to your family” is a big part of it.

What evidence of devotion – and concern for right relationships and proper conduct – among familia members have you seen in the stories in Lectiō Prīma? Please take a moment or two to record them in your Tres Columnae learning blog. You may even want to begin to compare pietās with your own ideas about duty, respect, and devotion to family – especially if your ideas are very similar to pietās or very different from it! Then, if you’d like, please feel free to join the Continuing Virtual Seminar about pietās and share your thoughts with others.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’re familiar with pietās, like many readers of the blog, do you agree with our (very inadequate) attempt at a definition? If not, we’d really like to hear from you, because we’re quite dissatisfied with it ourselves!
  • What do you think about the sequence of tasks? They’re a bit more free-form than the ones about grammar and etymology, but we think that’s appropriate under the circumstances. On the other hand, we may well be wrong … and if so, we’d really like for you to tell us!
  • What do you think about pietās (and the other principal virtūtēs) as an organizing principle for the Tres Columnae storyline? If you’ve explored the stories beyond Lectiō I, can you see how we’ll continue to play with pietās, dignitās, gravitās, and the other big –tās words as we consider our characters’ motivations, behaviors, thoughts, and words?
  • Have you seen any characters who seem utterly un-Roman in their conduct or attitudes?
  • And what about our “naughty” characters like young Cnaeus Caelius? His parents frequently complain that he impiē sē gerit … and what conclusions should we draw from that? Is he behaving in an un-Roman way, or just a bad Roman way? And is there a difference?

Tune in next time when we’ll try to have some answers to some of these questions. Due to the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S., we’ll be taking a break from posting on Saturday and Monday – and I hope our Roman characters would agree, as we’ll take some time to honor those who have sacrificed much for our freedom and security. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.