quo contendimus? II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! At the end of yesterday’s post, I listed some possible directions we could go this week:

  • We could certainly look at some more sample stories if you’d like.
  • We could consider some more specific examples of differentiated lessons, both with and without the Tres Columnae materials.
  • We could consider the things you like and don’t like about the Version Alpha Wiki site, with a view to planning the “look and feel” and the features of Version Beta.
  • We could consider ways that you might use the Tres Columnae materials in a “real” school or classroom setting, especially if you have limited access to computer technology.
  • We could look at the Tres Columnae exercises and quizzes from the perspective of differentiated instruction.

Apparently many lectōrēs fidēlissimī are busy – or busy relaxing, which is important in the summer, too 🙂 – and don’t have a lot of suggestions. So I think we’ll start with the last item on the list and look for ways to incorporate the others. That’s important because I need to do some significant work on the exercises and quizzes for the first few Lectiōnēs anyway … especially since our pilot school in England will be using those materials before too long!

For those of us who subscribe to the Latinteach listserv, there’s been a very interesting thread recently about “checking homework” that has also addressed the purposes and goals of homework assignments, and of the assignments we teachers give our students in general. In my own case (and this may not be true for everyone), I don’t think it’s possible for me to make good decisions about specific assignments or strategies unless I have a clear sense of the overall goal. Different goals can lead to radically different needs and approaches!

With my face-to-face students, I want them all to experience real success as readers of Latin and to develop a deep Understanding of the language and culture, so I prioritize reading tasks and an inductive-to-deductive approach to grammatical elements as I’ve described in posts like this one. I don’t think culture and history can be separated from the language, so I prefer to have my students think about cultural and historical issues in the context of their reading; we do, of course, read and talk about cultural background information that’s provided in our textbook, but I don’t give “culture lectures” or “history lectures” very often. Hands-on, creative work is important to me, and so are opportunities for students to share their work (especially stories they’ve written) with each other. In a perfect world, with 100% efficiency in class time, I probably would not assign much outside homework; in the world as it stands, I do have students practice choosing, and sometimes making, appropriate grammatical forms in context, and they also do some vocabulary work outside of class.

When I first envisioned the Tres Columnae Project, I was looking for a way to make this work easier and more satisfying for my students and to give them a safe, self-paced way to do extensive reading outside of regular class hours. I also wanted to save precious in-class time and energy by automating the process of checking homework; with self-correcting exercises, students know right away how they’ve done, and I can easily check to see who is having difficulty with any given concept. Having spent a number of years developing and polishing written versions of assignments like these, I had a pretty good idea of what I want the “TC” exercises to look like. But it’s still a challenge to figure out the details … especially since we want to make sure our learners have Ownership of the whole process.

As you know if you’re a long-time reader, you can see some sample exercises and quizzes for Lectiō Prīma at our Instructure Public Demo course. I’ve talked about Instructure, and their Canvas learning management system, in this post and this one. Today I want to start walking through the steps I use to create a learning pathway for material like Lectiō Secunda of the project. If you see an easier, better, or different way to do anything I describe, please tell me! This is important work for the future of the project, but it can also be exhausting – especially with the extreme heat in my face-to-face world, and with the cold (or whatever it is!) that’s been slowing me down for the past few days.

As you know if you’ve looked at the relevant page on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, the goals for Lectiō Secunda are that the learner will

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

Since the fabellae and fābulae of Lectiō Secunda are obviously designed to work on Goal 1, it’s possible that some learners won’t need any extra practice. Others, though, might want to check – or at least self-assess – their comprehension of the stories. So we’ll need at least one self-assessment opportunity (probably one per story) and some comprehension questions. These questions, in turn, need to address a variety of learning and processing styles: at a minimum, we need some that are verbally oriented and some that are visual. Given backend software that incorporates question banks, it will be fairly easy to rearrange these questions into different exercises and quizzes. For example, we might have an ITER that features visually-oriented material and one that features word-based questions, followed by a common assessment that includes both types of prompts.

Goal 2 will obviously involve a sequence of quid novī? explanations, guided practice, independent practice, and assessment (including a self-correcting quiz and a self-assessment prompt). We’ll look at those in more detail in tomorrow’s post.

Goal 3 will be similar in form to the equivalent exercise in Lectiō Prīma, but it will involve the core vocabulary for Lectiō Secunda. So we need to establish exactly which words are “core” and give our participants an opportunity to think about how well they know and can use them.

Goals 4 and 5 will be addressed in the Virtual Seminar, which isn’t exactly an exercise. On the other hand, if we send our learners out to read difficult background material (or material with an obvious slant or bias) on the Web or in print, we should probably give them a safe, private, and self-correcting way to check their understanding.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • When I was a new teacher, my longterm goal was “finishing the textbook” and my shorter-term goals were things like “find something interesting for the students in X period class to do today.” It’s taken me quite a while to get to this “backward design” approach. Where are you in your planning, and what do you think of this approach?
  • What types of self-correcting exercises would you want to see as a learner at this point in the Tres Columnae Project? Are there any types you would not want to see?
  • What exactly do you think students should be able to do to demonstrate that they have met Goals 1 and 2 for the Lectiō? In other words, how would you measure their achievement of the goals?
  • Are there other important goals that should be – but aren’t – included here?

Since this post is getting a bit long, I’ll stop here. Tune in next time for your responses and for my first attempts at Goals 1 and 2. We’ll probably have more to say about Goal 2 on Thursday, and we’ll save Goal 3 for Friday. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Instructure: A Review, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Just a few more notes about Instructure today before we move on to something different.

The more I use the rubric generator, the more I like it. I created a V-E-R-Y simple rubric for written OR multimedia responses to questions, which I originally was only going to use for blog-post response to assignments like this one. But I realized that the rubric – or a better one – would work equally well for Virtual Seminar responses and even for reflective pieces like this one about English derivatives. Net time involved: almost none. In Instructure, once you’ve made a rubric, you can “search for a rubric” to find the ones you’ve made, select one, and either use as-is or adapt it. What a fantastic feature!

In case you’re wondering, the reason why all the quizzes and surveys in the demo course are “practice” rather than “graded” is because only enrolled students in a course can take “graded” quizzes. There are some good and obvious reasons for that, aren’t there? But since the demo course doesn’t have any real students – and since I wanted you all to be able to see what the quizzes looked like – it made sense to me to set things up so that you could all see and experience the quizzes easily. In the “real” Tres Columnae materials, we’ll obviously have graded quizzes for the most part. For “quizzes” that are really practice exercises, participants will be able to retake them unlimited times; for those that genuinely are diagnostic, I’ll set a limit on retakes … but I’ll also plan to use Instructure’s “question groups” feature so that you, the learner, get similar-but-different questions if you do a retake. (And I’m hoping a question bank or quiz-copy feature will be in place sooner rather than later!)

It’s also almost effortless to upload a file like the family tree of Familia Lollia on this page, and to include it – or an external image like the one of Lollius, Maccia, and their children on that same page – in a Page or Assignment. It’s a bit less obvious how to do this in a Quiz question, but if you switch views to see the HTML, you can copy and paste the relevant code pretty easily. (And yes, the problem I mentioned yesterday with embedding multiple images in the same Page or Assignment seems to be continuing, but the workaround still works just fine. Still, I’ll mention it to the folks at Instructure and see if it’s a known issue, or if it might possibly be a browser-and-hardware configuration problem.)

I realize I didn’t mention Instructure’s powerful and flexible Modules feature yesterday … largely because I haven’t had the opportunity to use it yet. After all, Lectiō Prīma is fairly small; it doesn’t really need to be subdivided into smaller segments. But if you do use Modules to organize a course, Instructure lets you set up what it calls “criteria and prerequisites” for accessing a Module. If you think back to blog posts like this one, in which I’ve talked about the idea of different paces or pathways through the material for different learners, you can probably see the utility of this feature. For example, after a Quid Novī explanation, we can offer learners a link to attempt to bypass the rest of the module if they truly grasp the material. That way, if you already understand, for example, the nōmen / verbum distinction, there’s no need for you to work through the rest of the material in that sequence; you can simply take the relevant quiz and, if you pass, unlock the the next module and move on. Simple, effective differentiation … and without any pain at all for the teacher in the classroom.

Instructure also has the ability to create Sections of a larger course, which I think we could use for school-based groups to work together with their own teacher. And it’s possible to copy a whole Course, and to make changes to the copy … so the dream of customized Itinera through the material won’t have to stay a dream for much longer.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’ve had a chance to play around with the Tres Columnae Demo course on Instructure, what did you think?
  • For those of you who’ve signed up for an Instructure account of your own and started playing with that, what did you think?
  • Whether you’ve seen Instructure “live” or not, what do you think of my descriptions of its features?
  • What features did you find especially interesting or helpful?
  • Were there any that left you scratching your head and wondering why?
  • And are there questions about Instructure you’d like to ask me, as an external fan, rather than asking someone inside the company? If so, I’d be glad to try to answer them.

Tune in next time, when we’ll return our focus to the Tres Columnae storyline, and to the long-promised wedding of Valeria and Vipsānius. 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 http://www.classics.ucsb.edu/projects/helicon/pdfs/articles/1003.pdf 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.

Another Virtual Seminar, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll continue with our series of posts about Continuing Virtual Seminars for Lectiō Undecima, as we explore the responses our fictional subscriber John might make to the seminar he chose about slavery in the Roman world. We’ll also take a look at one of the Virtual Seminars he didn’t choose – the one about moral lessons from fables.

In an amazing example of “face to face” and online life converging, one of my Latin I students raised a very similar issue during class yesterday. I also had a short conversation with some of my Latin II students, who wish the other members of their class were more willing and able to participate in seminars. As I look at this small, definitely unscientific sample, it seems that I’m right about Tres Columnae’s real target audience, today’s Latin learners and potential Latin learners. They’re definitely interested in the bigger picture; they love to create and share all kinds of things with each other; and they deeply appreciate it when someone takes the time to look at their unique, personal learning needs. Unfortunately, they’re also suspicious of formal, organized learning environmnents like schools: so often, it seems, they’ve felt mistreated, unappreciated, or dehumanized by dreadful experiences in the institutions that should be putting them first.

Perhaps that’s why young John (if he were real) chose the seminar about slavery, and perhaps that’s why some of my face-to-face students are so fascinated by, and so eager to discuss, the lives of Roman slaves. Consciously or not, they feel demeaned and depersonalized in a factory-model school environment, so they empathize with others (servī et ancillae in our Big Three reading-method textbook or in the Tres Columnae stories) who are similarly treated. When we get to the fable seminar, we’ll find some interesting connections there, too, especially as we consider things from the perspectives of the lower-status animals in the fables.

Anyway, back to young John, who has chosen the Roman slavery seminar, reviewed a suggested list of Tres Columnae stories, and followed a couple of links to articles about slavery in the Roman world. He’s now considering the Opening question, which he’ll have to answer before he can “enter the seminar room” and participate in the Core conversation. You may recall from yesterday that the opening question says:

Slavery, by its nature, is a horrible system; it dehumanizes both the slave and the slave-owners. But are there degrees of horror? On a scale from 1-10, where 1 is “just a bit horrible” and 10 is “unbelievably horrible,” where would you rank the Roman system of slavery?  Or would you say that “degrees of horrible” aren’t actually possible?

As John considers his answer, he realizes that this deceptively simple question is, in fact, fraught with peril. In fact, he wishes he didn’t have to respond to it at all! After all, how on earth can you possibly rate any thing horrible on a “degrees of horrible” scale? Things are either horrible or not – how could you possibly claim something was more or less horrible than something else? His first thought had been “4 or 5, because it’s not race-based like slavery in the U.S. Before the Civil War, and because it’s possible for slaves to get set free and even become wealthy sometimes.” But as he thinks about it, he imagines all the “unlucky” servī who didn’t get set free … the ones who died in the mines, or who were sold by their family to pay a debt. John is still thinking that, in some ways, Roman slavery was “less horrible,” but he’s starting to realize that “less horrible” is still pretty horrible.

After a lot of thought, John goes ahead with his response but adds one point: “I’m not sure if there are degrees of horrible.” He enters the Virtual Seminar and finds that this issue – degrees of horrible – is actually one of the key questions on which participants have been focusing.

Meanwhile, here’s an outline of the Virtual Seminar that John did not choose – the one about moral lessons in fables.

Opening: Why do you suppose Fabius might have chosen asinus in pelle leonis as the fable of the day?


  1. What are some other appropriate fables with similar morals?
  2. Do you think Quintus Flavius would have been able to hear those morals more easily?
  3. Some scholars of folklore say that fables have two different morals – or different levels of morals – one for the privileged classes and one for the oppressed, perhaps depending on which character in the fable you most identify with. So, which character in asinus in pelle leōnis do you find most appealing – the master or the donkey? Why?
  4. What character traits (or details of the situation) caused you to identify more with the character you chose?
  5. What are some conclusions you might draw about yourself from the character you identified with?
  6. What moral did you derive from the story?
  7. What are some possible morals that a person might derive if they identified with the other character – the one that you did not find appealing?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • We haven’t had a lot of comments recently, and I’m not sure if that’s because you’re all exhausted at this difficult time of year, or if you find Virtual Seminars unappealing, or if they’re just foreign to your experience. Please let me know … if you, the Tres Columnae community, don’t want Virtual Seminars as an option, we certainly don’t have to offer them.
  • Do you want more stories, more sample exercises, more theoretical posts? Just let me know and I’ll be glad to focus on what you’re most interested in.

As I looked over the recent posts, I noticed that we’ve had a lot of stories and situations that focused on male characters recently. Of course, our female characters – and the issues about women’s roles in Roman society – are also very important to us. So next week’s posts will focus on them, and yes, there will be at least one new story. 🙂

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus! Please keep those comments and emails coming.

Another Virtual Seminar

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! After a wealth of new stories in yesterday’s post, we’ll be returning our focus to the idea of the Continuing Virtual Seminar today. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the options that our fictional subscriber, 10-year-old John, might participate in after he’s read the stories in Lectiō Undecima that we featured yesterday. John finds that there are at least three interesting options:

  • Since certain themes do, in fact, continue from one Lectiō to another, he could choose to continue in (or return to, or join for the first time) a Virtual Seminar about Roman education that began in Lectiō Nōna, when our main characters arrived at school;
  • He could choose to focus on moral lessons from fables, obviously starting with the one that Fabius tells his students in this Lectiō; or
  • He might decide to focus on slavery in the Roman world, which is obviously a continuing theme of the Tres Columnae stories. Until now, though, we have mostly seen relatively benign masters and relatively high-status slaves – skilled household workers and paedagōgī, for example. There will be a re-entry point to the slavery seminar in Lectiōnēs XIX and XX, where we’ll witness a much harsher side of Roman slavery.

John was really hoping for a seminar about violent entertainment or something like that – he is, after all, a 10-year-old boy! 🙂 But after some thought, he decides to choose the Virtual Seminar on Roman slavery. John isn’t interested in moral lessons at this point (partly because his big sister, our other fictional subscriber Jane, keeps trying to deliver them to him all the time!), and he doesn’t want to think about schools; he and his sister are home-schooled because of a series of unpleasant conflicts with the local school district, and he’d rather not think about those.

Here are some of the questions to which John might respond:

Opening: Slavery, by its nature, is a horrible system; it dehumanizes both the slave and the slave-owners. But are there degrees of horror? On a scale from 1-10, where 1 is “just a bit horrible” and 10 is “unbelievably horrible,” where would you rank the Roman system of slavery?


  • Pick another slave-holding culture with which you’re familiar. Where would you rank it on that same scale of horror, and why?
  • What are some specific reasons that you ranked Roman slavery where you did in comparison to the other system you chose? That is, why did you decide it was more horrible or less horrible than its counterpart?
  • What are some specific incidents in the stories in Lectiōnēs I-X that show the dehumanizing effect of slavery on the servī?
  • What are some specific incidents that show a dehumanizing effect on the dominī?
  • Why do you suppose there was no movement for the abolition of slavery in the Roman world (at least, not until much later than the time when our stories are set)?
  • Given that slavery was eventually abolished in the Roman world (at least as a matter of law), what could possibly have caused it to reappear in post-Roman European cultures?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What types of responses would you expect young John to make to these questions?
  • For that matter, what responses would you make to questions like these?
  • What do you think of the idea of a seminar with multiple entry points?
  • And how on earth would one go about assessing, evaluating, or “grading” John’s seminar participation – or, for that matter, anyone’s participation in a seminar?

Tune in next time, when we’ll follow John’s progress and consider some of these big questions about assessment. Then, depending on what you all say, we’ll either look at another Virtual Seminar; develop some other stories; or possibly build up a new kind of exercise together. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Some New Stories and a Virtual Seminar

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll begin to look at the experience that our fictional subscriber John (Jane’s little brother) might have with a Virtual Seminar at the end of Lectiō XI. First, though, we’ll need to read the story that sets it up, which (until today!) has not yet appeared either in the blog or at the Version Alpha Wiki site.  We also want to welcome a whole class of young Latin learners in England who have now become Free subscribers to Tres Columnae!  laetissimī vōs salūtāmus! 🙂

In case you’ve forgotten the context, John’s soon-to-be-favorite story occurs at the end of a sequence about the first day of school for Caius, Lucius, and Cnaeus, on which they interact with Quintus Flavius, the very naughty son of Lucius’ next-door neighbor Flavius Caeso. (Yes, the same Flavius Caeso who participates in the unfortunate dinner-party incident with the weasel!) Q. Flavius has behaved very badly in school – so badly that his teacher actually sent him (and his paedagōgus) home, after beating them both, in this story, and then had a most revealing conversation with Q. Flavius’ father in this story.  When our young subscribers in England get there, we think they’ll like the sequence too – especially if any of them happen to have “annoying” little brothers of their own!

Anyway, it’s now the second day of school, and here are three new stories for you. In the first fabella of Lectiō XI, which you can read at this direct link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, we see preparations for school at domus Flavia, and we explore a couple of minor grammatical points (first-person plural deponent verbs in particular). In the first long fābula, secundus lūdī diēs, we discover that Q. Flavius not only behaves badly, but is oblivious to others’ responses to him, even when Fabius the teacher attempts to convey an important life lesson:

Quīntus Flavius cum paedagōgō suō per viās urbis ad lūdum contendit. “mē nōn decet tardum advenīre!” paedagōgō attonitō dīcit, “mē nōn oportet impia facere.”

paedagōgus attonitus et laetus sibi, “nōnne multōs per diēs hoc precor?” susurrat. “nōnne pater māterque hoc quoque precantur? utrum dī an plagae magistrī hunc puerum pium nōbīs reddunt?”

Quīntus tamen Flavius, “nōnne tē oportet celeriter prōgredī, mī paedagōge? num tardī advenīre dēbēmus? num nōs decet iterum vapulāre?” et per viās urbis celeriter prōgreditur.

puer paedagōgusque iam ad lūdum perveniunt, ubi cēterī discipulī cum paedagōgīs magistrum extrā iānuam clausam exspectant. puerī inter sē susurrant. paedagōgī inter sē colloquuntur. “nōnne clāmōrēs istīus pestis memōriā tenēs?” inquit Lūcius. “utrum porcus est, an lupus quī porcum ēst?” respondet Cāius rīdēns. Cnaeus tamen, “vōs nōn decet eum contemnere; fortasse īnsaniā adflictus est!” et rīsibus sē quoque trādit.

“salvēte! quid vōs colloquiminī?” exclāmat Quīntus Flavius laetus.

puerī attonitī statim tacent; rēs enim impiās gestās Quīntī Flaviī loquuntur. “salvē tū, Quīnte Flavī,” tandem Lūcius inquit. “hominem quendam loquimur, tibi haud nōtum. quid agis hodiē?” Cāius rīsūs cēlāre frūstrā cōnātur.

Quīntus Flavius “fortasse nōtus est mihi ille homō īnsānus,” respondet. “quid nōmen illī est?”

longum est silentium. subitō Fabius ianuam aperit et, “discipulī, discipulī, quaesō, lūdum intrāte,” cantat.

“nōs decet lūdum ingredī,” exclāmat Cnaeus. tum puerī et paedagōgī lūdum intrant et magistrum circumsistunt. Quīntus Flavius puerōs sequitur. “hoc mīror,” sēcum putat, “quis est ille homō īnsānus, et quid īnsaniae ostendere solet?”

Fabius discipulōs iterum salūtat et, “hodiē,” inquit, “nōs oportet fābulam discere. quis vestrum fābulam dē asinō in pelle leōnis nārrāre potest?”

And in the second long fābula, utrum pius an impius, we see Q. Flavius’ not-so-self-aware response:

quattuor post hōrās, Fabius discipulōs dīmittit, et puerī cum paedagōgīs ē lūdō ēgrediuntur. per viās urbis ad domōs suās proficīscuntur. Quīntus Flavius quoque cum paedagōgō suō per viās prōgreditur. puer omnia magistrī verba in animō volvit; nihil igitur paedagogō dīcit. tandem, “heus, tū, num ego tam insolenter mē gerō quam illae bēstiae?” sollicitus rogat. paedagōgus attonitus, “quid dīcis, puer?” respondet. “num surdus es, asine? nōnne verba mea audīs?” respondet Quīntus Flavius. “hoc tē rogō: num ego tam īnsolenter mē gerō quam illae bēstiae?”

“quae bēstiae,” paedagōgus sollicitus rogat. “heus! pessimus paedagōgōrum es!” clāmat Quīntus Flavius.

“nōnne hās quattuor hōrās bēstiās insolentēs in lūdō loquimur? nōnne pietātem et impietātem commemorāmus? num tū in lūdō dormīs?”

paedagōgus īrātus, “haud dormiō, puer īnsolēns!” respondet. “tū tamen nihil pietātis discis, quid mē hīs verbīs afflīgis. nōnne mē decet omnēs tuās rēs impiās gestās patrī tuō patefacere? nōnne quoque tē vehementer verberāre?” paedagōgus puerum attonitum prēnsat et vehementer verberat. “et nōnne,” addit lacrimāns, “nōnne puerum pium decet paedagōgum nōmināre?”

Quīntus Flavius attonitus, “quid? quis servum nōmināre solet?” sēcum susurrat.

As a special bonus, I’ve added one more fābula called Gallicus sē vexat, which further explores some issues about slavery. But you’ll have to visit the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site to read it! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?  What do you think of the stories, and what do you think of the cultural issues they raise?

Now, suppose you were going to design a Virtual Seminar that might follow one or all of these stories. Suppose, further, that you wanted to focus on the Big Idea of moral lessons from fables or the equally big idea of Roman slavery. What types of Opening and Core questions would you develop for one or more of these seminars?  And how might young John, who I think is a typical 10-year-old boy, respond to some of them?

Tune in next time to see the one that our friend John chooses; we’ll begin explore the other one on Saturday if all goes well. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Virtual Seminars, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In today’s post we’ll step back from the example of a Continuing Virtual Seminar, which we explored in the last two posts, to see whether it’s logistically possible to do such a thing with the technology that’s available today. Short answer: yes! Both TikiWiki and Moodle, the two software packages that serve as the “back end” for the current version of the Tres Columnae project, have “Forum” capabilities which (with just a bit of tweaking) will be able to provide Jane, John, and our other subscribers with the experience I’ve described in this series of posts. We’ll most likely use the TikiWiki forums, at least at first, since we want to make Virtual Seminars available to the whole community, including our free subscribers who won’t normally have access to the exercises, quizzes, and other material on the Moodle site. Over time, we may possibly migrate to a single “back end” software platform, but if that happens, it probably won’t matter to you as a subscriber. Anyway, either “right out of the box” or with a few simple settings, we should be able to

  • provide multiple Fora/Forums for each Lectiō;
  • require participants to respond to an opening question before they enter the rest of the Forum;
  • provide Thematic Threads within the Forum for our participants to respond to;
  • allow participants to receive email notifications of new posts in any Thematic Thread, or not, as they prefer, and change their preferences at any time;
  • include links to audio files (hosted externally) if they prefer to respond that way; and even
  • rate each other’s responses on a scale from 1-5 if our participants would like that ability.

We’re already able to manage multiple internal blogs for our subscribers, so the Learning Log blog feature is already available if anyone would like one. The audio links are the only element that may not work “right out of the box,” but if that’s a feature that participants really want, we’ll make it happen as soon as possible. Everything else should work right away. In fact, please feel free to check out this link to the Continuing Virtual Seminar we’ve been following for the past couple of days. Everything is there except the sample responses! 🙂 We’ve also included a couple of the Core questions that Jane decided not to respond to, in case you’re interested. Please feel free to post your responses and thoughts, either there or in a comment here. For this Virtual Seminar alone, it won’t be necessary to respond to the Opening question first.

And now for something a bit different! If you haven’t yet taken a look at (potential) Part III of the story of Trux’s adventures, please do, because I need some feedback about it. When you do look at it, you’ll notice that Trux has a vision, dream, or something (his friend Callidus the serpēns would probably say it was a “something”) in which the goddess Diana appears to him. I’m not sure even how I feel about this story, and I’d really like to have your feelings about it … regardless of whether you love it, hate it, or are completely neutral about it. It relates to the rather sensitive subject of Roman religion (specifically, Roman religious practices and perspectives) … a complicated area for us to reconstruct, to be sure, and one that can be fraught with peril depending on the teaching and learning situation in which you find yourself.

As I think about the “Big Three” reading-method textbooks, I’ve observed that they tend to avoid, even minimize, discussion of Romans’ religious practices and perspectives. There’s not much mythology (and, of course, most of the “Greco-Roman” myths aren’t native to Roman culture anyway), and other than at significant milestone events (births, deaths, marriages, etc.), the characters rarely seem to participate in the rituals of pietās and cultus deōrum. I’m not sure why that is!

  • Perhaps it’s because the publishers wanted to be able to sell their books and wanted, therefore, to avoid anything that might be controversial and hurt sales.
  • Perhaps it’s because the books themselves were mostly written in a period (the mid to late twentieth century) when “educated” people saw religion as a “private” matter that need not be publicly discussed.
  • Perhaps Roman religion seemed so strange to the authors that they just didn’t want to bother with portraying it.
  • Perhaps there’s some other reason I haven’t thought of.

In any case, pietās and cultus deōrum are always below the surface of the stories in these books, but that’s where they generally stay. In some ways, that makes sense, especially if you focus (as those books do) on the experiences and attitudes of wealthy, educated Roman men of the late Republican and early Imperial periods. Many of them were quite skeptical of traditional Roman religious perspectives, though they rarely let that skepticism prevent them from taking on politically expedient religious offices or performing public rituals that the voters expected of them! They were, after all, practical men! 🙂

In any case, both pietās and cultus deōrum had a lot more to do with what we might call “right action” than “right belief” or “right feeling.” (This always surprises my students, who mostly come from religious backgrounds where feeling is paramount … and even if they aren’t personally religious, that’s what they, as products of 21st-century American culture, expect religion to be.) So, in one way, it’s perfectly reasonable that the “Big Three” de-emphasize Roman religion … but, in another way, I don’t think we’re painting a completely accurate picture if we leave it out. Anyway, I want to walk a fine but important line in our handling of Roman religious beliefs in the Tres Columnae stories:

  • As a person of faith myself, I think matters of faith and religion do need to be taken seriously, not avoided.
  • If we are to provide a reasonably authentic picture of Roman life, I don’t think we can do it without at least a few references to the religious aspects of their world view.
  • But I don’t worship the Roman divinities, so I can’t fully understand the perspectives of those who do. At the same time, I recognize that there are some folks who do worship them, some of whom may well become Tres Columnae subscribers. I don’t want us to appear to be trivializing or misrepresenting their beliefs. (Side note: that’s one reason I don’t have my face-to-face students “re-enact a Roman wedding” or pretend to do haruspication or augury, as some teachers do. I gather the haruspices use eggs rather than exta … but it still bothers me.)

So, with these thoughts in mind, what do you think of somnium Trucis? I’m especially interested in your responses to

  • the appearance of Diana;
  • the other animals’ response to the dream; and
  • the viewpoint of Callidus serpēns.

Overall, do you think we should

  • keep the story as it is;
  • modify it in some way;
  • provide different versions for different users (in keeping with our idea of ITINERA); or
  • get rid of it completely?

I really need some advice here!

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin to explore the rather different path that Jane’s brother John might take through a Virtual Seminar for another Lectiō … and at the end of that, we’ll put the Virtual Seminar in place and let you participate in it, too, if you’d like. We’ll also be sharing a new story before the week is over. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments, emails, and Virtual Seminar responses coming!

Virtual Seminars, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! At the end of yesterday’s post, our fictional Tres Columnae subscriber Jane had just posted her answer to the Opening question of a Continuing Virtual Seminar about animals in the fable tradition. Today we’ll explore what Jane might find in the Core of the virtual seminar, and we’ll also consider some logistical issues about Virtual Seminar participation.

First, one caveat: I think we can force our underlying software to do what I’m describing here! If not, we’ll find another way … and early versions of Tres Columnae may possibly not include all these features. If they don’t, though, we’ll bring the missing ones online as quickly as we can.

In any case, Jane has now entered the Virtual Seminar, where she finds a series of Thematic Threads. Some were created by “Somebody at Tres Columnae,” while others were added by seminar participants. Jane scans over them and chooses one called “Lupī et pietās,” begun by a Tres Columnae user you all know named “admin.” The question reads,

To what extent do the wolves in the story display – or not display – pietās in their interactions with Trux?

There are 14 responses already:

  • CaeliolaVera (the seminar name of Jane’s friend Ashley, who lives down the street) says “R U serious? Wolves with pietas? OK, they obviously say nothing about the state or the gods. I guess they’re loyal to each other, but they lied to Trux and tried to eat him! No pietas there!”
  • The second response, from someone Jane hasn’t met named Gladiator1234, says, “But CaeliolaVera, did they actually lie to him? Lupa said she was alone (sola sum ut vides), and at that time she was. She said she wanted a husband (maritum fortissimum quaero) and if he took their offer, he would probably be her mate. Plus, the other wolves told him what they wanted him to do. Where did anybody lie to him?
  • Then comes this response from CaeliolaVera, “Maybe not exactly lied, but they didn’t tell the whole truth. Besides, Lupa told Trux he was a big brave wolf (nonne tu es lupus fortissimus) and he obviously isn’t one.”
  • Response #4, from admin, says “CaeliolaVera, I think I know what you’re talking about when you said the wolves didn’t tell the whole truth, but what evidence would you cite from the text?”
  • #5 is CaeliolaVera, “O sorry, when Lupa is talking to Trux about the maritus and lupus fortissimus stuff. She doesn’t tell him, there’s actually three male wolves too, and what we really want you to do is help us eat your sheep and cows.”
  • #6, from someone named CryBabyCnaeus, is an audio clip, which Jane clicks on. He says, “OK, yeah, I guess that’s true, but come on. Do you think Trux would have actually gone with her if she said something like that? Dogs can be dumb sometimes, but not that dumb. He wouldn’t ever go with her if he thought there were three big hungry wolves waiting for him.”
  • #7, an audio from CaeliolaVera, says “Yes, CryBabyCnaeus, which is exactly my point. She lied. No pietas! Plus, I love your seminar name!”
  • #8, from admin, goes back to text. It says “So let’s think about pietās, as we’ve explored it from the beginning of Lectiō Prīma. CaeliolaVera said, in effect, that lying and pietās are opposites. But what if you’re a Roman dealing with an untrustworthy enemy – or, in this case, a wolf dealing with a potentially hostile dog? Let’s try to keep a Roman perspective rather than a 21st-century American one. For a Roman, would it be OK to lie to someone who might be lying to you?”
  • #9, 10, 11, and 12 are various responses to this question, evenly divided between those who say “lying is always wrong in all cultures” and those who say “maybe, but people in all cultures do lie, especially when they’re protecting themselves.”

Jane’s head is spinning a bit at this point, but then she thinks of something and posts this, using her seminar name of PuellaLaetissima:

OK, but is there a difference between lying and not telling the whole truth? I think what Lupa told Trux was mostly true (sola sum, maritum quaero), but she just left some stuff out. And the other wolves did tell Trux what they wanted him to do. And they even gave him a second chance when he said he didn’t want to. How is that not pietas? And what about clementia like in the story with the nasty boy at school? His dad was going to sell him into slavery but he didn’t. And the wolves were going to eat Trux, but they didn’t either. Clementia and pietas, right?

Jane is tired at this point, so she chooses to exit the seminar for now. According to her account settings, which she can change any time she wants to, she’ll get email notifications of additional comments in this thread. Since Jane is under 18, she can’t receive private messages from other subscribers or send them, though we may possibly enable adult participants to do so. When she’s tired of participating in this seminar, she can choose not to receive further notifications about it; if she wants to rejoin, she can do so and re-enable those notifications. I think we’ll be able to distinguish currently active participants from those who are inactive in a fairly simple way.

Anyway, Jane takes a quick look at her Learning Log blog and notes 1 response, with text, for today’s date. It’s time for supper, so she logs out of the system for the day. Down the street, a couple of hours later, CaeliolaVera is really impressed with Jane’s point and starts to write a response to it. Gladiator1234, a young American soldier stationed overseas who’s learning Latin “for fun” and “because Julius Caesar was the greatest military mind ever,” won’t see her post for a couple of days due to a situation, but he’ll also be impressed when he gets a chance to read it.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of this sample seminar? It’s based on some face-to-face ones that I’ve conducted over the years, though the specific text and responses have obviously been altered.
  • What do you think of the idea of Thematic Threads from which people choose?
  • For that matter, what do you think of the large element of choice in the whole Virtual Seminar process .. and throughout the Tres Columnae system? It’s very different from the standardized, compulsory approach (“it’s Tuesday, so everyone will be doing Exercise 4 on p. 125”) that has characterized Factory-model schools for the last 100 years or so! But does it make conceptual sense to you, even though it’s so different? Or do you think we need a more prescribed approach?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look more closely at the logistics of Virtual Seminars and address an important question about Part III of the story, in which Trux has a remarkable dream. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.