Wedding Stories, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as many of us are traveling – or preparing to travel – to the 2010 American Classical League Institute in lovely Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we’ll continue our exploration of the rather shorter journey that young Valeria takes to begin her married life to Vipsānius. Actually, today we’ll be focusing on the final preparations for the cēna nūptiālis – the first wedding feast, the one that occurs in the bride’s father’s house right after the actual ceremony, and before the dēductiō. We’ll look in on familia Vipsānia next time, in the house that Quartus Vipsānius has bought, just for the occasion, in Herculaneum … apparently he is as considerate as he is wealthy, and he decided to spare everyone a lengthy journey from Herculaneum to Milan. As a friend of mine sometimes says of such cases, “Must be nice!”

Today, though, we take a break from the emotional ups and downs of Valeria and her parents to look in on the servī et ancillae as they make final preparations for the cēna nūptiālis. For some reason, I had in mind that everything regarding a Roman wedding took place in the evenings – probably because I love the Catullus wedding hymns, with their references to Vesper and the dēductiō. But in Private Life of the Romans, Harold Johnston maintains that the first part of the ceremony (the iunctiō dextrārum, the cōnfarreātiō or coemptiō, and the cēna) took place earlier in the day, and that the ōmina were checked before dawn … which, of course, makes sense both in terms of pietās (you’d hardly want to start a wedding on a diēs nefastus, after all) and of logistics (these things do take a while).

No doubt Gallicus did the serious cooking yesterday, or perhaps he was up most of the night; in any case, he’s now working on the, um, delicious mustāceum, which (as I had temporarily forgotten) was not only flavored with must but baked on a bed of bay leaves. Not exactly what the twenty-first-century sweet tooth looks for in a dessert! But, of course, the Roman sweet tooth had far fewer sweet things to choose from than its modern equivalent … no chocolate, no refined sugar! vae Rōmānīs! But they didn’t know what they were missing, did they? 🙂

Anyway, it turns out that poor Gallicus is “in a tizzy,” as some of my relatives like to say. He doesn’t do well under stress in any case, as we discovered in this story from Lectiō XI, and his mood can’t be helped by the fact that Casina, his old friend, will soon be departing, a wedding gift to Valeria from her father. (We’ll find out more about how that happened in some stories from Lectiō XIX that I’ll feature in an upcoming series.)  Besides, Gallicus is not entirely pleased with the replacement that Valerius has bought (on the cheap) from his brother-in-law Caelius; if you’ve read this story, this one, and this one from Lectiō XIX, you may remember that Caelius was under a bit of pressure to replace some ancillae. But Gallicus’ opinion of Dulcissima is about to change, as we’ll see in this story. You can now find it at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, if you’d like.

dum Caelia et Valeria in ātriō Herculem precantur, in culīnā domūs clāmātur et festīnātur. Gallicus enim coquus ultimās cēnae nūptiālis epulās parāre cōnātur. “heus!” clāmat ille, “ubi est mustum? ubi folia laurea? mē oportet mustāceum celeriter cōnficere – sed quis mustāceum sine mustō foliīsque facere potest? vae! heu!”

Casina, iam Valeriae dōnō nātālī dāta et ad salūtem reducta, cūlīnam ingressa “ēhem!” inquit. “mī Gallice, nōnne tē decet mēnsam īnspicere? nōnne omnia quae petis adsunt?” Gallicus “hercle!” respondet, “adsunt enim omnia! Casina mea, quid tamen faciam, quandō tū cum Valeriā et marītō disēcdēs? quis mē adiuvābit, cum tālia invenīre nōn poterō?” Casina subrīdēns, “nōnne illa Dulcissima, quam dominus noster nūper ēmit, tē adiuvāre potest? nōn modo perīta, sed pulchra est illa.” Gallicus tamen, quī Dulcissimae nōn iam crēdit, “pulchra certē, sed haud tam perīta quam tū!” respondet. “nēmō enim tam perītam quam Casina sē praestāre potest!”

Dulcissima, culīnam ingressa, haec Gallicī verba audit et ērubēscit. paulīsper tacet; tum “ēhem!” inquit, “mī Gallice, quid petis?” Gallicus quoque ērubēscit et “Dulcissima!” exclāmat, “an ades? heus! rēs enim dīra etiam nunc accidit – cultrum enim meum invenīre haud possum! hercle! ecastor! ubi est iste culter?” Casina subrīdet, sed nihil respondet. Dulcissima quoque subrīdēns “mī Gallice,” respondet, “nōnne manū nunc iam tenēs? tibi cūrandum est, mī Gallice; facile enim est coquō, quī cultrum ignārus fert, sibi nocēre!”

“manū?” exclāmat Gallicus. “nunc iam?” Gallicus attonitus cultrum manumque spectat et “heus, Dulcissima mea, mihi ignōsce!” gaudēns exclāmat. “tē enim nōn modo pulchram sed etiam perītissimam nunc praestās! fortasse perītior es quam Casina nostra ipsa!” Casina subrīdēns, “fortūna tibi faveat,” Dulcissimae susurrat et, ē culīnā ēgreditur. Dulcissima quoque ē culīnā exit et “num Gallicus semper ita sē gerit?” attonitus rogat. “semper,” respondet Casina. tum ancillae ambae cachinnīs et rīsibus sē trādit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of poor, frazzled Gallicus?
  • And what about Casina and Dulcissima?
  • Do you like the idea of breaking the tension with a comic episode like this one, or would you prefer an uninterrupted set of wedding stories?

The good news is that with an online text like the Tres Columnae Project, you can choose the “perfect” order for yourself. No more compulsion to read page 92 before you go on to page 93!  In fact, if you don’t want to read the stories that aren’t directly about the wedding, you can skip them completely! We promise we won’t tell! 🙂

Besides, the point of extensive reading material like this is that you, the reader, get to choose stories and sequences of stories that appeal to you! Just try that with a typical textbook … by their very nature, and by the economics of their production, they really can’t offer much in the way of extensive reading. If they tried, they’d be huge, heavy, and prohibitively expensive.

Tune in next time for another story from the sequence. Depending on how things go Saturday, when I’ll be making my presentation about the Tres Columnae Project at the 2010 American Classical League Institute, I may interrupt the series for a special report about that, or I may save that special report for the end of this series. If you have a strong preference either way, please let me know. And, once again, safe travels to those who are coming from a distance to the Institute.

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

Rites of Passage, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Coming up early next week, once I’ve had a chance to work with its features, will be a much fuller review of the Instructure course-management system I mentioned in yesterday’s post. It’s a remarkable piece of software … and, best of all, it’s free for individual teachers to use, and it “plays nicely” (as its founders said) with other online tools that we – and our students – might already be using anyway. Check it out and see what you think – and compare it with some of the other course-management systems out there. And please let me know what you think! It seems like a great tool for what we’re doing with the exercises, quizzes, and Continuing Virtual Seminars of the Tres Columnae project, but I suppose it might not be right for what you need such a system to do.  Anyway, I’ll let you know – and make some publicly available samples – when I’ve had a chance to explore it in greater detail.

Today, though, we’ll continue our series of posts about Valerius and Vipsania’s wedding. (I’ve also been busy writing some stories for Lectiō XIX, which – as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve looked at the Tres Columnae Table of Contents – is a bit short at the moment. It turns out that poor Casina ancilla – but I don’t want to give too much away! 🙂 You’ll have to wait until next week for that set of stories!)

Anyway, today we’ll look at this story, in which the Valeriī and Caeliī have finally arrived in Milan after Cnaeus’ unfortunate incident with the horse. It turns out that both Valeria and young Vipsānius are a bit nervous about their meeting (apparently it’s not their first-ever meeting, since Valeria had a positive response to him when her dad mentioned his name in this story … but still! It would certainly be different to know that you were about to be married to this person!)

Here we go:

post longum iter Valerius et Caelius cum familiīs urbī Mediolānō tandem appropinquant. prope urbem Valerius, “nōs oportet sistere!” exclāmat. Valerius Milphiōnem arcessit et, “Milphiō, nōnne vīllam rūsticam Vipsāniī memōriā tenēs?” rogat. Milphiō, “mī domine, nōnne ibi nātus sum? nōnne verna Vipsāniī sum?” respondet. et Valerius, “festīnā igitur ad vīllam et adventum nostrum Vipsāniō nūntiā.” Milphiō celeriter ad vīllam proficīscitur.

tum Valerius, “nōs decet ex equīs et carpentīs dēscendere dum reditum Milphiōnis exspectāmus.” Valerius igitur ex equō suō dēscendit. Lūcius Cāiusque et Caelius quoque dēscendunt. fēminae et puellae dē carpentīs dēscendunt et fessae per agrōs ambulant.

Cnaeus tamen īnsolēns in carpentō manet. “vae! heu! mē taedet itinerum!” clāmat. “crūra mihi, caput mihi, bracchia mihi maximē dolent. quam miser sum, quod iste equus est impius et neglegēns!” Prīma et Secunda rīsūs cēlāre haud cōnantur, sed magnā vōce Cnaeum dērīdent. “nōn equus, sed tū impius et neglegēns es!” clāmat Prīma. “fortasse melius est tibi iter per bovem quam per equum facere!” clāmat Prīma. Prīma Secundaque rīsibus et cachinnīs sē trādunt. Lūcius Cāiusque quoque rīdent. etiam Vipsānia et Caelius clam rīdent.

Cnaeus tamen, “vae! heu! mē taedet rīsuum et cachinnōrum! cūr mē dērīdētis? utinam nēmō mē dērīdeat!” clāmat. Cnaeus in carpentō manet et lacrimīs sē trādit.

Milphiō iam cum servō Vipsāniī revenit et, “domine, nūntium optimum tibi ferō!” exclāmat. “Vipsānius enim ipse nōs exspectat, et brevissimum est iter.” omnēs carpenta et equōs cōnscendunt et celeriter ad vīllam rūsticam Vipsāniī progrediuntur.

in āreā vīllae Quārtus Vipsānius cum fīliō adventum Valeriōrum Caeliōrumque exspectat. Valeria per rīmam carpentī Vipsānium iuvenem cōnspicit et ērubēscit. iuvenis quoque ērubēscit et, “pater, mī pater,” susurrat, “nōnne mē decet servōs arcessere? utinam nē Valeriam iam salūtem, quod valdē sūdō!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Did you find some “universal teenager” issues in this story? If so, I’m not surprised – and do remember that a large number of our subscribers will be teenagers of various ages.
  • Did you find Valeria’s and Vipsānius’ responses convincing and authentic?
  • And what about the parents, siblings, and other relatives?

Tune in next time, when the story continues at the “vīlla parva” of the Vipsāniī – which, as you can imagine, is hardly parva. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog, you’ve already seen one episode (the unfortunate incident in the Circus, when Vipsānius’ poor father is attacked by two drunk race fans) in this blog post from February, but we don’t yet know what happened right before that … or right after. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Another Animal Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday, I promised you a story that

raises interesting issues of identity and community, as well as friendship and loyalty, and it even touches on that quintessentially Roman concept of pietās. And yet most of the characters aren’t human! 🙂

You may have been wondering how that could happen! This is actually the first in a pair of stories; you’ll soon find its sequel available at if you’re interested in finding out how it ends. It comes from Lectiō XVI of Cursus Primus of the Tres Columnae project, a point when we have “paused,” so to speak, to consolidate a bunch of relatively new grammatical concepts, especially the following:

  • what Romans called the optātīvus – the present subjunctive used in what many current Latin teachers would call a “volitive” construction;
  • dative nouns, including what’s sometimes called the “double dative;” and
  • what the Romans called the inpersōnālis, which many current Latin teachers would call the “impersonal passive.”

We’re also pausing to focus on Roman practices of marriage and childbirth, and on the underlying perspectives that are revealed by these practices and their associated products. And our participants should be ready for a really deep, meaningful Virtual Seminar on these topics. We’ll look at the way this psssage might relate to the Virtual Seminar in the next few days; today, by contrast, I mainly wanted to share it with you and give you the chance to start thinking about it.

So here we go:

Trux est canis fortissimus quī vīllam fundumque Caeliō custōdit. Caelius Trucī cibum aquamque cotīdiē dat. Trux tamen trīstis est, quod sōlus agrōs custōdit. “heu! vae!” sēcum putat, “utinam coniugem habeam! quam misera est vīta mea! nēmō enim mē amat, nēmō mē cūrat. nam Caelius mē semper iubet pecus custōdīre, Vipsānia ē vīllā exīre. Prīma et Secunda aliquandō mihi pilam iactant, saepe tamen mē neglegunt. et iste Cnaeus semper mē vexat. vae! heu! mē taedet officiōrum meōrum et familiae meae! utinam ex hāc vīllā effugiam! utinam nē reveniam!”

Trux trīstis et īrātus per agrōs ambulat. nihil audit Trux, quod tam trīstis et īrātus est. Fortūnāta bōs Trucem cōnspicit et, “salvē, mī amīce,” mūgit. Trux tamen nihil audit, nihil respondet. “num quis mē salūtāre solet?” sēcum putat. Maximus taurus, marītus Fortūnātae, quoque Trucem salūtat et “quid agis, mī dulcissime?” mūgit. Trux tamen trīstis et īrātus nihil audit, nihil respondet.

ovēs in prātō pascuntur et “heus! Trux noster!” bālant. “laetissimī tē salūtāmus quod nōs dīligenter custōdīre solēs!” Trux tamen īrātus et trīstis nihil audit, nihil respondet. “num omnēs amīcī mē neglegunt?” sēcum putat. “fortasse mē decet in silvā sōlum perīre, quod nēminī cordī sum!”

iam Trux per agrōs in clīvō montis Vesuviī currit. “vae! heu!” sēcum identidem susurrat. “nēmō mē amat, nēmō mē cūrat.” subitō tamen vōcem suāvem audit et attonitus cōnsistit. aliquis enim ē silvā proximā “salvē, lupe fortissime, quid agis?” vōce suāvissimā et blandissimā susurrat.

Trux “heus! quis mē appellat?” attonitus rogat et ad silvam contendit. in silvā stat lupa formōsa et pulchra. Trux “au! au!” lātrat, “abī, lupa! nōnne lupī odiō dominō meō sunt? tē nōn oportet fīnēs meōs aggredī!”

Lupa tamen vōce blandissimā, “mī amīce,” respondet, “quid dīcis? fīnēs tuōs haud aggredior. haud inimīca, haud hostis tibi sum. nōmen enim mihi Lupa est – et nōnne tū es lupus fortissimus? sōla sum, ut vidēs, et marītum fortissimum quaerō. nōnne tū es lupus fortissimus et optimus? nōnne mihi marītō optimō esse vīs?”

Trux attonitus, “ēhem!” sēcum susurrat, “utrum canis sum, an lupus fortissimus? istī hominēs, quī mē neglegere solent, semper mē canem appellant. pecus quoque mē canem appellat. ego tamen sānē haud cordī hominibus, haud cordī pecorī sum.”

Trux Lupae appropinquat et “Lupa mea,” susurrat, “laetissimus tē salūtō. fortasse lupus sum fortissimus; istī autem hominēs mē canem Molossicum appellāre solent. mē fallit, et condiciōnem vēram maximē dubitō.”

Lupa vōce blandissimā “mendācissimī igitur sunt istī hominēs!” exclāmat. “certē lupus optimus et fortissimus es! nōnne tē taedet istōrum hominum? nōnne tē taedet boum et ovum? nōnne līber esse quam servus māvīs? et nōnne mē uxōrem dūcere cupis?”

Trux avidus, “hercle!” lātrat, “vērum dīcis!” et per silvam cum Lupā celeriter currit. Lupa tamen clam rīdet et, “canem stultissimum, sed cēnam aptissimum!” sibi susurrat!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, I suppose I should ask how we did with incorporating the “newer” grammatical forms and concepts I listed above. Is there too much, not enough, or just the right amount of “newer” stuff?
  • Then I’m wondering what you think of Trux as a character. He’s deliberately ambiguous, so it’s OK if you can’t make up your mind! 🙂
  • I also wonder what you think of the minor animal characters – Fortunata, Maximus, and the sheep in particular. They’re all important in other Tres Columnae stories (especially Fortunata, as you may recall if you’ve been reading this blog for a while – and if you haven’t, you may want to check out this story at the Tres Columnae project, in which Fortunata plays a most important role).
  • Of course, I’m very interested to know what you think of Lupa … especially at the end of the story! Are she and her fellow wolves really planning to eat Trux for dinner? Or do they have a more elaborate plan? You’ll find out in the next day or so when the sequel appears on the Tres Columnae website, but feel free to speculate in the meantime.
  • If you’re familiar with the animal fable tradition, you may see some echoes of it – and some interesting inversions as well. If you’re not familiar with fables, or if you think they’re “only for children,” please take a look at our friend Laura G’s Bestiaria Latina Zoo, an amazingly comprehensive collection of Latin animal fables – and even some descriptions of animals. Either way, what do you think of the ways we’ve employed the animal fable tradition in this story?
  • If you’ve read our previous posts about Virtual Seminars, you might even have some ideas about questions we might ask to get the conversation going. (One strand, of course, might be the relationships between our characters and the animal fable tradition.) Please feel free to share them! 🙂
  • Do you think that our animal stories are only “for” a certain age group, or are they “for” everybody? Or do they perhaps have different purposes for different audiences?

Tune in next time for your responses, our comments, and a quick look at the Virtual Seminar that might accompany this story in the “fully formed” version of the Tres Columnae project. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Another Infinitive Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’ve been hoping for another Tres Columnae story, your wait is over. But before we begin, I’d like to point out just a few of the new, participant-created stories – and audio and illustrations, too! – that are already available at the Version Alpha Wiki of the Tres Columnae project.

We’ve already explored two contributions by our first-ever subscriber, David H:

David has kindly contributed three more Ortellius stories:

And David isn’t our only recent contributor.

  • Our friend and collaborator Laura G has built an amazing “zoo” of animal fables to accompany the Tres Columnae project (and for any other purpose you might be interested in).
  • Our collaborator Ann M (whose voice you can hear in the audio clips that are now available for Fabella Prima, Fabella Secunda, Fabella Tertia, and Fabella Quarta) has also contributed a wonderful story called Pagina Annae about Caeliola’s pet pig … complete with our first-ever user-contributed illustration!

We also have Ann to thank for our amazingly talented illustrator, who has contributed some truly beautiful illustrations for the first few fabellae. And I’d like to give a big shout-out to whose members are responsible for the lovely photographs of Herculaneum and Vesuvius. If you need great royalty-free images at a reasonable price, it’s hard to beat them … and most of their contributors are “real people” like us, rather than professional photographers. They were one of the inspirations for our Joyful Learning Community, and we’re glad to be able to give them some recognition … and some business! 🙂

If you’d like to contribute a story, an audio clip, an illustration, or a video, there’s still a very limited number of Free Trial subscriptions available. Or, if you’d like, we’ll be making the regular, paid subscriptions available before too long. It’s up to you! 🙂

Of course, we’ve also promised you a “core” Tres Columnae story that makes use of all six infinitives (present, perfect, and future active and passive) and comes from near the end of Cursus Primus, after the eruption of Vesuvius and destruction of Herculaneum. So here we go:

Valerius et Caelia cum Lūciō, postquam ex urbe Herculāneō effūgērunt, celeriter ad Neapolim prōcessērunt. postquam per portās urbis apertās cucurrērunt, ad īnsulam magnam et pulchram contendēbant, ubi Valeria fīlia cum marītō Vipsāniō in cēnāculō magnō et splendidō habitābat. īnsulae enim trēs magnae in urbe Neapolī, quīnque vīllae prope lītora, multum pecūniae Valeriō iam erant. Valerius tamen trīstis meminerat domum suam et quīnque īnsulās in urbe Herculāneō dēlētās esse. “vae servīs, vae clientibus,” exclāmābat. multīs lacrimīs effūsīs, cāsūs amīcōrum et clientium lūgēbat.

Valeria et Vipsānius laetissimē Valerium Caeliumque salūtāvērunt. Valeria affirmāvit sē per tōtam diem deōs omnēs precātam esse. Vipsānius addidit sē in templō Herculis sacrificia plūrima cum multīs vōtīs obtulisse. “mī pater cārissime,” exclāmat Valeria, “tibi apud nōs manendum est! īnsula enim tua, cēnāculum rē vērā tuum est.” Valerius trīstis dīcit sē libenter apud fīliam mānsūrum esse. “paucīs tamen mēnsibus,” inquit, “ad vīllam nostram prope Caprēās prōcēdēmus, quod nōs oportēbit colōnōs vīsitāre et annōnam accipere. fortasse in illā vīllā maximā et splendidā per hiemem manēbimus.” Vipsānius cōnsentit cōnsilium optimum ā Valeriō captum esse.

tum Valeria, “mī pater cārissime,” rogat, “quis amīcōrum nostrōrum superest? cuius fāta incerta?” Valerius lacrimāns explicat sē fāta multōrum nōn iam cognōvisse. “num clientem meum, illum Lollium, cōnspexistis?” rogat. “valdē timeō, quod Lollius vir maximae contumāciae est.” addit Valerius sē iterum iterumque Lollium ōrāvisse ut ex urbe discēderet, Lollium tamen iterum recūsāvisse. “utrum vōs Cāium an Macciam nūper vīdistis?” rogat sollicitus. “mī Vipsānī, nōnne cōnsōbrīnum tuum uxōremque Lolliam vīdistī?” Vipsānius celeriter Valerium certiōrem facit sē heri Lolliam vīdisse, nūntiumque optimum Cāiī et Macciae audītum esse. “Cāius enim, quandō iste mōns flammās ēmittere coepit, mātrem suam coēgit ex urbe fūgere, Lolliamque in hāc urbe vīsitāre,” inquit. “trīstis tamen est Cāius, quod patrī suae persuādēre nōn poterat. Lollius enim, ut dīcis, vir maximae contumāciae fuit. quamquam Cāius iterum iterumque illum hortābātur ut fugeret, Lollius pollicēbātur sē ā deīs servātum īrī quod pius esset. affirmāvit enim sē in urbe mānsūrum esse, nihil perīculī passūrum esse. fātum Lolliī incertum est, sed dubium!”

Valerius et Caelia, verbīs Vipsāniī audītīs, lacrimās effundēbant et cāsum Lolliī trīstissimē lūgēbant. Lūcius quoque mortem Lolliī, quem maximē dīlēxerat, iterum iterumque flēbat. “quid tamen nūntiōrum dē vīcīnō nostrō, illō Flaviō Caesōne, audītis?” rogāvit ille.

Valeria, cui Flavius Caesō multōs annōs odiō erat, rīsum cēlāre temptābat; Vipsānius quoque, ōre in manibus suīs cēlātīs, rīdēbat. Lūcius attonitus, “quid est?” rogāvit. tandem Valeria, “mī frāter, quaesō, ignōsce mihi; nōs nōn decet mala dē mortuīs dīcere. difficile tamen est mihi fātum illīus Caesōnis sine rīsū commemorāre. nōnne meministis illum, paucīs ante diēbus, in animō habuisse ad urbem Pompēiōs prōcēdere negōtium āctum? sēcum ferēbat illam mustēlam, Līviam nōmine, fīliam istīus mustēlae quae Milphiōnem nostrum paene necāvit! in urbe Pompēiīs manēbat ille quandō mōns fūmum cinerēsque ēmittēbat. et nēmō, nē mustēla quidem, ex urbe Pompēiīs incolumis effūgit. mē nōn decet rīdēre; rīdeō tamen, quod Flavius Caesō poenās arrogantiae certē dedit. laetissima quoque sum quod ista mustēla est mortua!”

rē vērā Flavius Caesō, vir magnae arrogantiae maximīque corporis, in urbe Pompēiīs perierat. tēctum enim vīllae, pondere cinerum lāpsum, Caesōnem dormientem presserat et statim necāverat. Līvia tamen mustēla ēlāpsa erat, quod mūrem capere et ēsse cōnābātur. Līvia fūrēns mūrem per multa mīlia passuum īnsecūta erat et incolumis ad urbem Neapolim pervēnerat. nēmō tamen Līviam agnōvit, nēmō Līviae cibum aquamve dedit. Līvia tamen laeta in angiportibus mūrēs captābat et cōnsūmēbat. “quam fēlīx sum,” sibi dīcēbat, “quod, istō dominō meō mortuō, ego supersum! ō mūrēs, mī mūrēs, ubi estis? nōnne cōnsūmī vultis? ossa vestra exspuere volō, mī mūrēs!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How do you like the story as a story?
  • What do you think of our characters’ fates … especially that of Flavius Caeso?
  • What about Livia the mustēla? Like her mom Sabina, she’s quite persistent when it comes to chasing mice! 🙂
  • And what do you think of our use of ōrātiō oblīqua in this story?

Tune in next time, when we’ll take a closer look at a critically important issue: the development of vocabulary in the Tres Columnae system. How will we distinguish “core” vocabulary from “recognition” vocabulary, and how will we go about introducing and practicing new words in the context of our Joyful Learning Community? If you’ve been with us for a while, you may remember a series of posts about vocabulary from a few months ago, but we’ll go into more detail this time. In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus, respondentibus, et scrībentibus! We’re so glad that you’re part of our Joyful Learning Community.

A Story with Participles

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Here, as promised, is the one of the first “real” Tres Columnae story that features participles qua participles, not just as slightly-unusual adjectives.  It was originally scheduled to appear on Wednesday, but life intervened! 🙂  In Tuesday’s post, we looked at the introduction of the aspect of participles and at some of the exercises that we’ll use to practice the idea. We deliberately said very little about the voice of participles; we’ll look at that in more detail later.

A bit of background: as you may recall, if you’ve been reading for a while, the Tres Columnae metastory features three primary families:

  • the wealthy Valeriī;
  • the rather poor Lolliī, their clients; and
  • the very wealthy Caeliī (Valerius’ wife is the sister of Caelius the paterfamiliās).

Many of the stories we’ve shared have focused on the children of each family:

  • Lucius Valerius, his older sister Valeria, and their little sister Caeliōla;
  • Cāius Lollius and his big sister Lollia; and, of course,
  • Caelia Prīma, Caelia Secunda, and their annoying little brother Cnaeus.

By the time of Lectiō XXIV, the girls are all old enough (at least in the Roman world) to be married, and there are a number of weddings in this part of the Metastory. There are probably also some bruised feelings, as children who have grown up together (and, if human nature hasn’t changed that much, possibly had crushes on each other from time to time) are moved into the adult roles required by Roman arranged marriage. Another factor, of course, is the difference in social standing among the families: Valerius, as we’ve seen, is unusually solicitous of this set of clients (and we still don’t quite know why!), but the Lollii are of a distinctly lower social standing than their equestrian patrōnus. We’ll explore the social and emotional issues along with the linguistic ones in the stories in this Lectiō.

In any case, with Valerius’ help, Lollius has arranged for his daughter to marry young Marcus Vipsānius, a slightly-poorer cousin of Valerius’ daughter’s future husband. In this story, we see the family preparing for their daughter’s upcoming wedding. If you’ve read Cicero’s letters regarding his daughter (especially when he mourns her untimely death), you’ll see the inspiration for Lollius’ emotional reaction. Of course, the “official” party line among Roman men was that daughters were distinctly inferior to sons….

Maccia in cēnāculō stābat et lacrimās retinēre temptābat. Lollia mātrem lacrimantem audīvit et sollicita “māter mea, cūr lacrimās?” rogāvit. “num trīstis es, quod diēs nūptiārum meārum advenit?” Maccia ā Lolliā sīc interrogāta, “ō mea fīlia,” respondit, “lacrimās laetās effundō! mātrem tamen decet lacrimāre cum fīlia nūptūra sit. tertiā enim post diē tū mātrōna et uxor eris! tertiā enim diē ille Mārcus Vipsānius tē in mātrimōnium dūcet! laetissima sum; ergō lacrimō.”

Lollia “ō māter mea, tē amplectī cupiō!” exclāmāvit. mātrem vehementer amplexa sē quoque lacrimīs trādidit. Cāius ūlūlātūs fēminārum audīvit et attonitus, “heu! num quis mortuus est? num in servitūtem pater vōs vēndit? num in servitūtem nunc iam vēnītis? cūr igitur lacrimātis?” rogāvit. fēminae tamen haec dicta neglegēbant et continuō lacrimābant. Cāius attonitus “fēminās īnsānās! vae virīs!” exclāmāvit et per iānuam cēnāculī celeriter exiit. “domum Valeriī festīnō, ubi omnēs iam mentis sānae sunt!” ēgrediēns clāmāvit, et iānuam firmē clausit.

Maccia fīliō ēgressō valēdīxit et “virōs īnsānōs! nihil intellegunt! vae fēminīs!” exclāmāvit. tum Lollia et Maccia cachinnīs, nōn lacrimīs, sē trādidērunt. Lollius, ē popīnā regressus, fīliam et uxōrem cachinnantēs per fenestram audīvit. “vae mihi!” sēcum susurrāvit, “quid nunc? mē valdē taedet nūptiārum! quārtā post diē maximē laetābor, quod fīnem īnsāniārum vīderō!”

haec verba locūtus Lollius ad popīnam regressus “heus caupō!” exclāmāvit, “fer mihi pōculum maximum!” mox caupō attonitus Lollium quoque lacrimantem cōnspexit. “num ēbrius es, mī amīce?” rogāvit sollicitus. “multōs enim per annōs tē amīcum habeō, numquam tamen tē ebrium cōnspiciō? quid agis?”

Lollius haec rogātus rīdēre temptābat et, “mī amīce,” respondit, “tertiā post diē fīliam in matrimōnium ductam vidēbō. lacrimō ergō quod laetus sum.” caupō, “certē, mī amīce,” respondit, “nōnne ego quoque nūptiās fīliārum quattuor iam celebrāvī? nōnne laetissimus quoque sum, quod iuvenēs optimī eās dūxērunt?” tum caupō pōculum vīnō implēvit. pōculum vīnō implētum hausit et lacrimīs quoque sē trādidit.

As you might imagine, reading-comprehension questions will focus on the time (or aspect) relationships between the participles and the sentences in which they occur. For example, consider the sequence in the second and third paragraphs:

Cāius “domum Valeriī festīnō, ubi omnēs iam mentis sānae sunt!” ēgrediēns clāmāvit, et iānuam firmē clausit. Maccia fīliō ēgressō vale dīxit et “virōs īnsānōs! nihil intellegunt! vae fēminīs!” exclāmāvit.

We’ll ask questions like this:

quandō Cāius “domum Valeriī festīnō” clāmāvit?

  • postquam exiit
  • quandō exībat
  • priusquam exīret

Learners who correctly choose quandō exībat receive positive feedback like this:

ita vērō! ēgrediēns is a participium temporis praesentis, so the exiting is not marked for completion.  It happened at the same time as his shout.

Those who choose the other responses receive corrective feedback like this:

heus! Please take a closer look at the word ēgrediēns. cuius temporis participium est?

with choices of praesentis, perfectī, or futūrī. If they correctly choose praesentis, they see this:

ita vērō! So, since a participium temporis praesentis is imperfective, quandō Cāius “domum Valeriī festīnō” clāmāvit?

If they wrongly choose perfectī or futūrī, we’ll probably send them back on a “loop” through the quid novī cycle about participial aspect or tense, as we described it in yesterday’s post.

We’ll also ask this question about the next sentence:

quandō Maccia fīliō vale dīxit?

  • postquam Cāius exiit
  • quandō Cāius exībat
  • priusquam Cāius exīret

Again, if you correctly choose postquam exiit, you’ll receive sustaining feedback:

ita vērō! ēgressō is a participium temporis perfectī, so the exiting is marked as complete before Maccia spoke. If you are (or ever have been) a teenager, you may be familiar with conversations that involve slammed doors! 🙂

Otherwise, you can probably imagine the cycle of feedback.

quid respondētis, amīcissimī?

  • First, what do you think of the story itself?
    • Do you find it culturally authentic … or at least plausible?
    • Or are you skeptical of so much emotion from those “stoic” Romans?
  • Then, what do you think of the use of participles?
    • And what do you think of the comprehension questions?
    • And what about the feedback for correct and incorrect answers?
  • For those who haven’t tried using Latin questions to get at the meaning and the grammar of a passage, can you see how this could actually be made to work in your classroom or learning situation?
  • Or are you still skeptical?

Tune in next time (which may be Saturday, not Friday, depending on life!), when we’ll take a look at your comments … and we’ll also return to our previous theme of infinitives. Now that we know how participles work, it will be a lot easier to deal with the perfect passive and future active infinitives, won’t it? 🙂 We’ll also find out a bit more about our characters’ experiences during the eruption of Vesuvius … and afterwards.  In the process, we’ll also take up the issue of participles’ voice.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments, emails, and Trial Subscription requests coming!

An Infinitive Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll look at a story from Lectiō XXV of Cursus Prīmus, in which we see a great amount of ōrātiō oblīqua with present infinitives. The setting is Herculaneum, in mid-August A.D. 79, about 8 years after the time when Lectiōnēs I-XXI are set.  So Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus are now about 16 years old … young men in the eyes of Roman law … and their sisters are all married, in many cases with children of their own. Lectiōnēs XXV-XXVII will explore the eruption, including the fates of characters who live and who perish in the disaster.  Of course, some of our animal friends are no longer among the living … but Ridiculus the mouse has some lineal descendants who continue to occupy the “cēnāculum” in Valerius’ house. 🙂

Today’s story focuses on Caelius and Cnaeus; other stories in the Lectiō will feature Caius, Lucius, their old teacher Fabius, and poor old Flavius Caeso, who has (unfortunately) gone to Pompeii for a few days on business (!) with his new mustēla, Livia.  As this story opens, our friends are a bit worried about what seems to be going on up on Mt. Vesuvius….

Caelius sollicitus prope larārium stat et dīs parentibus precēs effundit. “quid mihi suādētis, ō dī parentēs?” rogat. “heri, cum per agrōs ambulābam, subitō vīdī fumum flammāsque ē summō monte ascendere! hodiē māne, quandō istum Cnaeum vituperābam, subitō sēnsī terrās vehementer tremere! quid facere dēbeō, mī pater? quid mihi suādēs, mī ave carissime?” Caelius trīstis et sollicitus prope larārium manet.

in vīllā proximā, Caelia Prīma quoque sollicita cum marītō suō colloquium habet. “mī Flavī,” inquit, “nōnne sentiēbās terrās vehementer tremere? nōnne flammās fūmumque ē summō monte ascendere etiam nunc vidēs?” Flavius sollicitus Prīmae respondit, “uxor mea, nōnne nōs decet ab hāc vīllā paucōs diēs abīre? nōnne nōs decet sorōrem tuam marītumque eius in urbe Neāpolī vīsitāre?” Prīma celeriter cōnsentit. paucīs post hōrīs Prīma Flaviusque cum īnfante suō ad urbem Neāpolim contendunt, Secundam Aeliumque vīsitātum. servī tamen perterritī in vīllā manent. Flavius enim, “vōbīs necesse est,” inquit, “hīc manēre et vīllam custōdīre. nōnne facile est furibus lātrōnibusque vīllās vacuās intrāre? vōs enim istōs hominēs ā vīllā arcēre potestis.”

intereā Caelius iam prope larārium stat. “ō dī,” iterum iterumque exclāmat, “quaesō, dī mānēs, nōs adiuvāte! quaesō, mihi cōnsilium praebēte!” imāginēs māiōrum tamen tacitī et immōtī in mūrō ātriī pendent.

subitō Caelius “vae! heu!” audit et īrātus sē ad iānuam vertit. per agrōs currit Cnaeus, fīlius Caeliī sēdecim annōs nātus. “vae! heu!” identidem exclāmat ille, “ubi est iste servus neglegentissimus? nōnne intellegit mē vehementer ēsurīre? nōnne cognōvit mē servōs negelegentēs semper crūciāre?”

Caelius attonitus, “mī fīlī,” rogat, “cūr servōs ita castīgās? quis erat neglegēns?” et Cnaeus īrātissimus, “mī pater, nōnne servōs oportet aquam trahere? cum tamen ad fontem prōcessī, nihil aquae aderat. fōns vacuus erat! nōnne mē oportet istōs servōs crūciāre?”

Caelius, “tacē, mī fīlī, et mihi rem mōnstrā!” exclāmat. tum pater fīliusque per agrōs contendunt. Caelius ipse videt nihil aquae in fonte stāre. tum ad montem oculōs vertit et multum fumī ē summō monte ascendere videt. Caeliusque Cnaeusque subitō sentiunt terrās vehementissimē tremere. “heu! vae!” exclāmant ambō, “dī magnī, nōs servāte, quod maximam pietātem semper ostendimus!” Cnaeus agnum, Caelius vīnum quaerit. servī attonitī vident āram maximam ā dominīs in agrīs aedificārī, sacrificium splendidum dīs īnferīs offerrī. tum Caelius cum Vipsāniā Cnaeōque ē vīllā celerrimē effugit. “quō contendere dēbēmus, mī pater?” rogat Cnaeus. “nōnne melius est nōbīs urbem Pompēiōs petere, quod iter brevius est?”

“mī fīlī stultissime,” clāmat Caelius perterritus, “breve est iter, sed necesse est trāns istum montem iter facere! istī montī appropinquāre haudquāquam volō! longius est iter ad urbem Neāpolim, sed tūtius, quod istum montem vītāre possumus.”

Cnaeus “vae, heu, mē taedet itinerum,” respondet, sed celeriter per viās prōcēdit.  servī in vīllā perterritī precēs et vōta dīs omnibus offerunt.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, how do you like the story … as a story?
  • How do you respond to the characters and situation?
    • If you’ve read the previous stories in which Cnaeus appears (a much younger Cnaeus – he’s 8 in those stories and 15 or 16 in this one), do you find his character consistent?
    • For purposes of future stories – and of historical accuracy – how many of our characters do you think should survive?
  • Second, how do you like the incorporation of ōrātiō oblīqua?
    • Does it fit naturally? Does it illustrate the concept, as developed in yesterday’s post, without “beating the learner over the head” with the new material?
    • Do you find enough examples, too many, or not enough?
    • If the number is wrong, where would you suggest that we add … or subtract?
  • And would you like to see the story that practices ōrātiō oblīqua with perfect-tense infinitives?

Tune in next time for a series of posts in which we explore the editing and revision process for user-contributed stories. Our subscriber David H has provided a pair of interesting, exciting, but slightly imperfect stories, and (with his generous permission!) we’ll take a look at the editing process that such stories will undergo in the Tres Columnae system. When we’re done, you’ll have a greater understanding of the time commitment involved (both for the editor and for the contributor), and we hope you’ll see why an editing charge will be necessary.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus! I truly appreciate you for continuing to read the blog, visit the site, and be part of the Tres Columnae family! 🙂

Cnaeus and the Cow, A Pluperfect Story

salvēte, amīcī! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember this post from back in January. It’s the one where young Cnaeus Caelius refuses to get out of bed until, at last, his mother (and his nurse Planesium) go to the barn to get Fortūnāta, the cow. But until today, you haven’t known exactly how they used Fortūnāta to punish Cnaeus and make him get up. Nor, for that matter, will Tres Columnae participants know! 🙂 All they’ll know is that Cnaeus shows up at school, in the next Lectiō, with slightly dirty clothes and a very bad attitude. But, with this story, you – and they – will finally learn the truth.

I deliberately saved the resolution of the “cow story” until now for several reasons. First, and probably most important, I needed to know how the story would end. Second, I did want to build interest and engagement, and postponing the resolution of a story is one way to do that. Third, I wanted the story to be retold, as a past event, and I really wanted to be able to use all four of the verb tenses we’ve learned by Lectiō XXII.

Once I realized how the story should end, it also seemed quite reasonable to have it told in the theater, and to contrast it with the comic play that our friends are about to watch. It wouldn’t be possible to enact this story in a Roman New Comedy, or in the Greek plays on which they were modeled, for several reasons … unity of time and place, for one, and the whole issue of props and costumes, for another. But the most important action in such plays often occurs offstage, and is described by other characters. Those features of New Comedy – and the Romans’ liking for physical comedy, and the tastes of our potential audience – all suggested when and how we should resolve the story. If you don’t care for slapstick, I hope you’ll forgive us! 🙂 And, in that case, you might enjoy the character development anyway.  By the end of this story, we know a lot more about the Caelius family.

So picture the illustrations, and imagine the audio:

āctōrēs in theātrō fābulam Plautī agere parant. spectātōrēs in theātrō sedent et fābulam exspectant. in orchēstrā Caelius, vir maximae pecūniae, sedet et rīdet. iuxtā Caelium Valerius cum Lūciō et Cāiō sedet. Fabius, magister puerōrum, quoque adest, quod Caelius eī dōnum optimum nūper dedit. iuxtā Fabium Cnaeus trīstis et īrātus scaenam spectat. Flavius Caesō quoque adest; Sabīna tamen mustēla domī manet.

“ubi sunt istī āctōrēs?” rogat Cnaeus īnsolēns. “cūr fābulam nōn agunt? cūr nōs ita impediunt?”

nēmō Cnaeum audit, quod Valerius et Fabius cum Flaviō Caesōne contentiōnem habent. “nōnne, mī amīce,” rogat Valerius, “haec Plautī fābula est optima? nōnne Plautus ipse optimus poētārum erat?”

Flavius Caesō tamen, “quid? Plautus?” attonitus rogat. “nōnne antīquissimus omnium poētārum, sed haudquāquam optimus est ille? fortasse, mī amīcī, urbem Romam numquam vīsitāvistis. fortasse tragoediās illīus Annaeī Senecae numquam spectāvistis. certē Seneca est optimus poētārum. etiam istum Imperātorem Nērōnem īnsānum tragoediae Senecae valdē dēlectāvērunt!”

Fabius “quid? Seneca? īnsānīs, mī amīce!” incipit. Cnaeus tamen īnsolentissimus interpellat, “heu! vae! mē taedet fābulārum et contentiōnum!”

Caelius attonitus fīlium neque castīgat neque verberat. “ō mī fīlī,” respondet, “nōnne rēs gestae tuae sunt fābulae optimae? nōnne tū semper contentiōnēs habēs? cūr tē taedet tālium rērum?”

Cnaeus attonitus tacet. tum Lūcius, “ō mī avuncule,” inquit, “fortasse hanc rem explicāre potes. nōnne, ubi ad urbem prīmā lūdī diē advēnerat Cnaeus, togam sordidam gerēbat? nōnne lacrimābat et paedagōgum vituperābat? quid eī acciderat?” “tē crūciāre possum, Lūcī,” susurrat Cnaeus īrātissimus. “nōlī istam diem commemorāre!”

Caelius tamen, “ō mī Lūcī, fābulam optimam quaeris. iste consōbrīnus tuus in lectō manēbat, quamquam māter nūrusque eum identidem vocāverant. tandem uxor mihi rem nārrāvit. ego, quod vir benignus sum, fīlium verberāre, nōn necāre volēbam. māter tamen poenās multō meliōrēs in animō habēbat.”

Cnaeus īrātissimus et miserrimus, “ō pater, quaesō, istam rem nē commemorēs! quaesō, amābō tē!”  exclāmat. Caelius tamen, fīliī verbōrum neglegēns, haec addit rīdēns.

“Maccia mea cum nurū Planesiō ad stabulum contendit ubi Fortūnāta, bōs nostra, contenta et tacita stābat. nōnne illae sorōrēs Cnaeī iam ad iānuam cubiculī contenderant, rem tōtam spectātum? Maccia et Planesium, quandō Fortūnātam ē stabulō per tōtam vīllam duxerant, tandem ad cubiculum Cnaeī pervēnērunt. mūgīvit Fortūnāta, quod ē stabulō exīre nōlēbat. tōtam per vīllam Fortūnāta mūgiēbat et resistēbat.

“tum Maccia, ‘mī fīlī,’ rogāvit, ‘nōnne surgere dēbēs? nōnne etiam nunc surgis et vestīmenta induis?’

“Cnaeus tamen īnsolenter respondit et in lectō etiam tum manēbat. Maccia igitur Fortūnātam in cubiculum impulit. Fortūnāta, quod ē stabulō exīre nōluerat, identidem mūgiēbat! nōnne pavimentum erat sordidissimum, quod –

Cnaeus tandem interpellat, “hercle! num optima est fābula? nōnne pessima et foeda? sed nōnne fābulam ipse nārrāre dēbeō? ista bōs in cubiculum irrūperat et lectum meum ēverterat. ego attonitus et fessissimus in lutum cecidī. vehementer exclāmāvī quod perterritus eram. nōnne fīnis est fābulae?”

Caelius autem, “ō mī fīlī, haudquāquam fīnis est. num lutum erat in pavimentō? num lutum est nōmen vērum? vōs tamen plānē intellegitis! Cnaeus tamen, postquam surrēxit, bovem identidem percussit. subitō lacrimāvit et ad pavimentum iterum cecidit. bōs enim attonita et īrāta Cnaeō pedem trūserat.”

“et tū, pater crūdēlissime,” susurrat Cnaeus, “postquam mē verberāvistī, coēgistī mē pavimentum lavāre. nōnne lutum in tunicā et togā haeserat? nōnne ista bōs mē miserrimum reddiderat? nīmīrum lacrimābam et paedagōgum vituperābam! num mē reprehenditis? nōnne mātrem, nūrum, sorōrēs pūnīre dēbēbās?”

Lūcius tamen iterum iterumque rīdet. Cāius quoque cachinnat. tum Cnaeus, “sed cūr rīdētis?” inquit. “nōnne haec fābula est optima tragoediārum? nōnne multō melior quam Senecae?”

Valerius et Fabius adeō rīdent ut vix respondēre possint. tandem Fabius, “ō Cnaeum miserrimum! nihil intellegis! nōnne haec fabula est cōmoedia optima? nōnne pater tuus est cōmoedus optimus?”

et Valerius, “minimē, mī Fabī,” respondet, “nōnne mulier nūrusque bōsque sunt cōmoedae optimae!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • It seems that the “Big Three” reading-method textbooks have memorable stories … ones that, once read, their students never forget! And they often involve comic violence or accidents … broken statues, wrecked carts, and angry teachers with large sticks, for example! How have we done in comparison with them?
  • Of course, if you hate the story, you have a lot more power than the user of a traditional textbook.  As a Tres Columnae subscriber, if you hate a story, you can always choose to
    • rewrite it in a way that you like better;
    • write something completely different;
    • omit it;
    • write nasty comments about it; or even
    • urge us to remove it completely, and start a petition to do so, if you’d like.
  • Regardless of how you feel about the story, what do you think of its use of verb tenses? Do they “work” for you, and do they illustrate the aspectual points we made earlier this week?
  • And if you do like the story, do you want to try to illustrate it … or to make an audio version … or to film it? As a Tres Columnae participant, you’ll have that right; in fact, we’ll expect and encourage you to do so.

But how will the illustrations, audio, video, and additional stories become part of the project? And is it really true that anyone will be able to contribute? If so, how can we possibly ensure the accuracy and quality of submissions? Tune in next time, when we’ll look at these issues and the various types of subscriptions that will be available for the Tres Columnae project. And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

A Complete Lectio, III

salvēte, sodālēs! When we left off yesterday, we’d just explored the “new grammar” in Lectiō Secunda of Cursus Primus. As Tres Columnae participants, we’ve discovered that

  • Latin nouns have different forms that do different things in a sentence;
  • Two of these are called nōmen cāsūs nōminātīvī and nōmen cāsūs genitīvī;
  • cāsus nōminātīvus is used when the person is the subject or focus of a sentence;
  • cāsus genitīvus is used when you talk about something (or someone) that belongs to the person, or is the person‘s, or is of the person.

We also observed the ways that the Tres Columnae system integrates story-telling (or direct comprehension, or communication) with the development of grammatical awareness (or analysis), and we noticed that “chunks” of learning in the Tres Columnae system are rather small.  Today we’ll see the same patterns.  We’ll follow our learners as they discover declension patterns, practice their new understanding, and then read some longer, more interesting stories.  Then, in future posts, we’ll watch them use their new understandings to create their own stories.  So, to the Paideia framework, we’ll witness the integration of Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding, or in terms of the Trivium, we’ll see the integration of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.  Here’s how it works:

From where we stopped yesterday, almost all learners will continue with this explanation:

quid novī?

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a predictable relationship between cāsus nōminātīvus and cāsus genitīvus. See if you can sort these words so that their two forms are next to each other.

(There are 3-4 examples of each declension pattern, then a self-correcting question where participants physically move the words next to each other.)  Then we ask:

  • When cāsus nōminātīvus ends with -a, cāsus genitīvus ends with __
  • When cāsus nōminātīvus ends with -us, cāsus genitīvus ends with __.
  • When cāsus nōminātīvus ends with something else, cāsus genitīvus ends with __.

This, of course, might be a free-response question, or we might have radio-buttons or pull-down choices – what do you think?  Or should there be a choice of response formats, perhaps starting with the free-response, then moving to the others if “you” the learner are incorrect the first time?  Anyway, the explanation continues:

We have now seen three out of five groups of Latin nouns; they’re actually classified by the ending of cāsus genitīvus. English speakers usually call the groups declensions or declension patterns; the Romans called them dēclīnātiōnēs.

  • The –ae group are called prīma dēclīnātiō, or “first declension pattern.”
  • The –ī group are called secunda dēclīnātiō, or “second declension pattern.”
  • The –is group are called tertia dēclīnātiō, or “third declension pattern.”
  • (Just so you know, there’s also the –ūs group called quārta dēclīnātiō (including our friend cāsus, cāsūs!), and the –ēī group called quīnta dēclīnātiō. We’ll see some examples of these words in future Lectiōnēs)

There probably ought to be a self-assessment: on our scale from 1-5, how comfortable do you feel with this concept?  And then, of course, some additional practice for those who score themselves at 3 or less.  And then, for those who were comfortable, we continue:

When Roman teachers asked questions about words, they usually said:

  • cuius cāsūs est ….?
  • cuius dēclīnātiōnis est …?

Notice that they use the cāsus genitīvus form: if you “translated it literally” into English, you’d say “Of what case is …?” But , of course, in English we don’t say that, we say “What case is …?”

Then comes this set of exercises:

cuius cāsūs est nōmen?

(An exercise where you sort: nōminātīvī and genitīvī of familiar nouns)

And then this one:

cuius dēclīnātiōnis est nōmen?

(Another exercise where you sort prīmae, secundae, tertiae: nouns listed in their “dictionary” form with nominative, genitive, and gender.)

Note, again, how the Tres Columnae system tackles one idea at a time.  It’s so common (and not just in our field!) for teachers to “throw everything at them all at once” – common, but ultimately futile, I’m afraid!  Only so much can “stick” … and I prefer to err on the side of fewer, smaller “chunks” of learning.  Anyway, after another self-assessment opportunity (and a branch for more practice if needed), we continue with this explanation:

In a “big” Latin dictionary, and in the online dictionaries like Glossa ( that we can use in the Tres Columnae project, the listing for a noun usually looks like this:

urbs, urbis, f. city

  • urbs is cāsus nōminātīvus
  • urbis is cāsus genitīvus – from which you can determine the dēclīnātiō and make all the other possible forms.
  • f. is what’s called the genus or “grammatical gender” of a word. If you’re curious, this Wikipedia article has a very detailed explanation of grammatical gender. If not, please don’t worry about it yet.
  • And, of course, city is an English definition or meaning for the word.

And now another self-assessment:

  • On a scale from 1-5, my current ability to classify nouns by cāsus (nōminātīvus or genitīvus) is
  • On the same scale, my current ability to classify nouns by dēclīnātiō (prīma, secunda, or tertia) is

As usual, we’ll provide some branches for further practice for those who rate themselves as 1, 2, or 3.  For those who feel proficient, though, we now proceed to use and apply our new knowledge of dēclīnātiōnēs and cāsūs in this exercise:

rem exercē:  Picture a family tree that shows

  • Caelius – Maccia (but I’m not satisfied with her name, for reasons I’ll mention another day)
  • and, below them, as children, Prīma Secunda Cnaeus
  • and, with a dotted line to indicate ownership, Ūtilis – Planesium
  • and, below them, Pertināx īnfāns

Now we’ll use the family tree to complete the story.  I suppose there should be a free-response versions and one where you choose the person’s name for the blank?

  • in vīllā Caeliī, ___ est dominus. ____ est marītus _____, et _____ est uxor ______.
  • in vīllā Caeliī, Prīma est fīlia _____ et _____. Secunda quoque est fīlia _____ et _____.
  • Cnaeus est fīlius _____ et ______.
  • Prīma est soror ______ et ______. Secunda est soror _____ et _______. Cnaeus est frāter ______ et _____.
  • in vīllā Caeliī Ūtilis est servus, et Planesium est ancilla.
  • Caelius est dominus Ūtilis et Planesiī.
  • Ūtilis est vīlicus Caeliī, et Planesium est nūrus Prīmae et Secundae et Cnaeī.
  • Pertināx est īnfāns. Ūtilis est pater Pertinācis, et Planesium est māter Pertinācis.
  • Caelius est dominus Pertinācis, et Pertināx est servus Caeliī.
  • Pertināx est verna Caeliī.

After a self-assessment, and some additional practice if you need it, we read a longer story.

First, with pictures, we’ll be introduced to some new vocabulary:

  • cavus, cavī, m. cave or hole
  • nōmine: named or “by name”
  • parvus or parva: small
  • laetus or laeta: happy

And, as usual, there will be audio and illustrations for every paragraph or so.

in domō Valeriī est cavus parvus. in cavō habitat mūs callidus, Rīdiculus nōmine. in cavō quoque habitat secunda mūs, Impigra nōmine. Rīdiculus est marītus Impigrae, et Impigra est uxor Rīdiculī.

Impigra est laeta, quod cavus est optimus. Rīdiculus tamen nōn est laetus. “uxor!” exclāmat Rīdiculus mūs, “hoc cēnāculum est, nōn cavus! hoc est cēnāculum optimum! cavus enim est parvus et sordidus! in cavō habitat ursus vel leō! in cavo habitat serpēns vel aper! in cavō habitat mustēla vel formica! hoc est cēnāculum optimum, nōn cavus! hoc est cēnaculum Rīdiculī mūris!”

Impigra est mūs callida. Impigra rīdet, sed nihil respondet.

in cavō habitat tertius mūs, Rapidus nōmine. Rapidus est fīlius Rīdiculī, et Rīdiculus est pater Rapidī. Rapidus est fīlius Impigrae, et Impigra est māter Rapidī. “mī Rapide,” exclāmat Rīdiculus, “hoc est cēnāculum Rapidī! hoc est cēnāculum Rīdiculī et Impigrae – nōn cavus.” Rapidus est mūs callidus. Rapidus rīdet, sed nihil respondet.

in cavō quoque habitat quārta mūs, Rapida nōmine. Rapida est fīlia Rīdiculī, et Rīdiculus est pater Rapidae. Rapida est fīlia Impigrae, et Impigra est māter Rapidae. Rapidus est frāter Rapidae, et Rapida est soror Rapidī.

“mea Rapida,” exclāmat Rīdiculus, “hoc est cēnāculum Rapidae! hoc est cēnāculum Rīdiculī et Impigrae – nōn cavus.” Rapida quoque est mūs callida. Rapida rīdet, sed nihil respondet. Rīdiculus ē cavō laetus exit.

Impigra clam rīdet. Impigra est mūs callida. Impigra susurrat, “minimē! hoc nōn est cēnāculum – est cavus Rīdiculī et Impigrae! est cavus Rapidī et Rapidae! Rapidus marītus optimus, nōn mūs callidus est. hoc tamen est vērum: Impigra est uxor Rīdicuī, et Rīdiculus est rīdiculus mūs!”

As my self-imposed 1000-word-or-so limit went by some time ago, I’ll save the comprehension and extension exercises for tomorrow. 🙂

quid tamen respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the dēclīnātiō exercises and explanations?
    • In a reading-only world, I think it makes sense to de-emphasize declension patterns (after all, what you’d really need to do there is to be able to recognize the case form!)
    • But Tres Columnae isn’t a reading-only world.
    • Soon enough, right after this story in fact, participants will have the opportunity to write their own stories.
    • And of course, to write Latin, you do need to know something about how word forms are made.
  • What do you think of the Latin dictionary explanation?
    • In a reading-only world, I think you could get away without it.
    • After all, the textbook would have a glossary, and you could wait as long as you wanted to introduce genitive case forms.
    • That, in fact, is the route that the “big three” reading method textbooks take … and it makes sense for them to take it.
    • But Tres Columnae isn’t a reading-only world.
      • Our participants will be doing content creation from the very beginning.
      • If they want to use a “new” word, I’d like them to be able to use it correctly.
      • I’d also like them to have ownership of that new word – to know how to use it and form it, without having to “get help from the teacher.”
    • So, to me, it makes sense to teach learners early how to use the information in a Latin dictionary, whether it’s a paper version or an online one like Whitaker’s Words or Glossa.
  • What do you think of the exercises?
    • Is there too much or not enough practice here?
    • Are we trying to do too much at once, or not enough?
    • Do they achieve the objective of measuring – and practicing – distinctions by declension pattern and case?
  • And finally, what do you think of the story?
    • It’s short and simple, and it re-uses a lot of vocabulary (and even whole sentences) from previous stories. Is that a good or a bad feature in your book? And why do you think so?
    • How do you like the balance of old and new?
    • What would you do with the important, but previously unknown vocabulary?
    • And do you think I’ve beaten genitives to death in this story? 🙂

Tune in next time for what comes after this story. And even though I may not be able to respond right away, please keep those comments and emails coming.

Examining the Story: culture and Culture, IV

salvēte iterum, amīcī fidēlēs! As promised, in this post we’ll look at the most recent story from a Cultural prespective.

We’ll begin with a focus on characters, but this time we’ll compare them with characters in literature, folktale, and fable; consider their social class more carefully; and see their conduct in the light of core Roman values.  Actually, most of this post will have to do with Roman humor: what we know about it from literary sources, and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the characters’ actions in this story.

First, though, the characters, as compared with literary characters.  The obvious comparison (for Classicists anyway) for the human characters would be with Petronius‘ characters, especially in the cēna Trimalchiōnis, and with the characters of Plautine and Terentian comedy.  Of course, the animals would benefit from a comparison with animals in folklore and fable.

Thinking about Petronius for a moment, there’s clearly no one like Trimalchio (or Encolpius or Giton or the other major characters in the Satyrica) in this story!  Could there actually be a character like any of them … anywhere? 🙂

  • From the previous story about Valerius, Lollius, and the salūtātiō, it’s apparent that Valerius is wealthy (and socially prominent) enough to have a client like Lollius.
  • He also treats Lollius reasonably well, unlike Trimalchio.
  • We might assume that he is of higher status – or, at least, older money – than Trimalchio was, at least by birth.  (Of course, it would be hard to be of lower birth status or newer money than Trimalchio; and that’s the whole point of his character!  But what does that say about Roman values, or at least those of Petronius and his circle?)
  • He’s also not a figure of satire in the way that Trimalchio is.
  • As for Flavius Caeso, he is a bit of a buffoon – I wasn’t thinking of Trimalchio consciously when I developed him, but I can certainly see the resemblance.
  • As for the women, they bear some notable resemblances to the women in Plautine comedy, in particular.  That’s not an accident: I love Plautus, and the servants’ names are an homage to him. 🙂
  • On the other hand, there’s not a servus callidus in this story – Milphio certainly doesn’t qualify, poor fellow! 🙂 – nor are there direct examples of the other stock characters of New Comedy.  No senex īrātus, no mīles glōriōsus (though perhaps Flavius Caeso was in the army in his younger years …?), and, of course, no love story … at least not in this episode!

We’ve already alluded to social class and class relationships a bit, but here I just want to note some ambiguities:

  • We don’t yet know exactly what Valerius‘ social standing is.
  • Nor do we know about Flavius Caeso.  He’s clearly wealthier than Valerius, who treats him with deference (but not exactly as a cliēns might treat his patrōnus).  But is he, in fact, a relative of the Emperor – which would make him an object of great deference for everyone in town – or is he a lībertus Augustī, which would make him an object of derision and contempt (at least in private) to prominent citizens.  We don’t know … and that’s deliberate! 🙂
  • Lollius doesn’t play an important role in this story, but we do know he’s a cliēns of Valerius.  We also know, from his nōmen, that he’s not a lībertus of Valerius … nor of Valerius’ wife’s family the Caeliī.  His wife’s name is Maccia; does that mean she’s related to Maccius Plautus?  If so, does that confer status on her (since her ancestor was a famous and still-popular author) or disfavor (since he was, according to many scholars, a low-status actor)?

Finally, before we leave our characters, we should consider their relationship to core Roman values.  As I wrote the preliminary outline for Cursus Primus, one big consideration was to include – not only in stories, but in background-information work and in the “continuing virtual seminars” we’ll address in a few days – a range of these values; they actually have a column to themselves in the outline.

I think the authors of the “Big Three” reading-method textbooks do a commendable job of creating characters who exemplify pietās, dignitās, gravitās, etc. – and their opposites.  But they don’t really draw attention to these values … except, on occasion, in notes in those “Teacher’s Editions” that bother me, as I’ve mentioned before.   So I wanted to bring these values to the forefront, giving our participants (and us!) the opportunity to learn about them explicitly.  In this case, I’d want participants to think about questions like

  • whether Valeria displayed pietās when she interrupted Flavius Caeso, defending her brother and sister;
  • to what extent Flavius Caeso was motivated by concern for his dignitās and gravitās;
  • to what extent Valerius‘ conduct was motivated by pietās, dignitās, and gravitās;
  • to what extent Ridiculusridiculous dash was motivated by pietās (in caring for his family) … or by a quest for personal glory, which might be an example of dignitās – or of its opposite.

In the end, though, what most participants will remember about this story is the humor.  Yes, it’s intended to be funny! 🙂  And it’s OK to laugh … out loud, if you’d like!  Just speaking as the author, I found myself laughing as I wrote, and I still laugh as I read.

But is this a kind of humor that Romans would find funny? I’m not sure, but I think so!

  • Horace’s country and city mice aren’t directly relevant to the theme of the story, but they’re a small part of the inspiration for Ridiculus.  (And, of course, his name is an allusion to the Ars Poetica … but you all knew that!)  And they appear in the Sermōnēs, which are part of the verse-satire tradition.
  • Not only Petronius, but the verse satirists would, I think, have loved a dinner disaster like this one.  Think of how Juvenal – or Lucilius, for that matter – would have depicted such a party!
  • I also think about the limited amount of information we have about Atellan farce (which I’ve always spelled with a final -e, but Wikipedia doesn’t) and other types of slapstick humor the Romans enjoyed, and the rather more information we have about Plautine and Terentian comedy.
    • How does the action in this story compare with what we know the Romans found funny?
    • And why did they find master-slave reversals and kidnapped-daughters-saved-at-the-last-moment funny and appealing, anyway?
    • Some say that humor is a way of dealing with secret fears … if so, what might the Romans of Plautus’ and Terence’s day have been afraid of?
    • Or should we be asking that question about the Greeks of Menander’s day?
    • Or should we be asking about the many, many later days in Greco-Roman history … and down to our own time … when New Comedy and genres influenced by it have been popular?
  • Do the animals behave as Roman animals should? Or as fable-tradition animals should? I’ll have to defer to Laura G on that issue, since she knows far more about fables than I do.  But I thought of the Aesop’s fables I loved (in English paraphrase) as a child, and I tried to model both Ridiculus and Sabina after their counterparts in that tradition.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • To what extent have I identified appropriate big-C Cultural issues inherent in the story?
  • Have I asked reasonable questions?
  • What are some possible answers other than the ones I’ve suggested – and, for that matter, what do you think of my attempted answers?
  • Is the culture-and-Culture distinction appropriate, or should we look at cultural issues in a different way?
  • Are there changes we need to make to the story to make it more big-c Culturally authentic?

I can’t wait to hear from you, so please keep those comments and emails coming! 🙂

Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll change our perspective a bit and talk about Connections and Comparisons.  First we’ll define them, and then we’ll begin to explore them.  Then, on Friday or possibly Saturday, we’ll look at the “continuing virtual seminar” aspect of Tres Columnae.  What are these things, how will they work logistically, and why are they such an important part of Tres Columnae?

Examining the Story: culture and Culture, III

salvēte iterum, sodālēs. As promised, we’ll look at cultural elements of the recent story in this post, beginning with characters (and their relationships with each other), then moving on to food and geography. In the next post we’ll look at the characters again, but this time through a Cultural lens as we compare them with characters in literature, folktale, and fable; consider their social class more carefully; and see their conduct in the light of core Roman values.

One big cultural issue, of course, is related to gender – not just the genders of the characters in isolation (and how they individually conform, or don’t conform, to gender stereotypes), which we’ve already addressed to some degree, but the relationships between the genders. How authentic are the gender relationships in this story? Or, in other words, to what extent does this story “fit” with what we know – or think we know – about the relationships between men and women in the Roman world?

  • Flavius Caeso, for example, seems like a typical, domineering Roman man. Is it credible for him to be so easily silenced by his wife?
  • Ridiculus, in turn, seems to enjoy the paterfamiliās and chief-provider role in his household. Is it credible for him to be so easily ruled – and made rueful – by his wife?
  • Do you find young Valeria’s response to Flavius Caeso credible? Would a young Roman girl (she’s about 10 in this story, so “almost a woman” in Roman terms) really be so assertive in response to a senator? There are issues of age as well as gender here!
  • On a related note, do you find Flavius Caeso’s anger at Valeria believable in cultural terms? His dignitās has certainly taken a beating – or at least a large dose of pureed lentils 🙂 – today. But is it culturally authentic for a Roman to get so angry that he threatens a friend’s daughter this way? Especially when she just saved his life! After all, Flavius Caeso has no manus over Valeria! Or is something else going on with him … something mysterious, perhaps related to his mysterious and ambiguous relationship to the Imperial household (or perhaps to a lībertus Augustī)? We’ll find out more about Flavius Caeso in later stories, so I don’t want to give his secret away … actually, all I know right now is that he has a secret of some kind. 🙂

Another huge cultural issue in regard to these characters is social class, and the relationships among people from different classes in the Roman world. How well have we done here? I’m particularly interested in

  • Flavius Caeso’s treatment of Milphio when he drops the bread on the floor
  • Flavius Caeso’s lack of outrage when Milphio spills stuff on him
  • Flavius Caeso’s greater concern for the life of his mustēla than for the enormous mess she directly caused.
  • Falvius Caeso’s deference to his wife (partly a gender issue, of course, but partly not – might she be of higher status than he is? That would explain a lot … and it might be a big part of his secret!)
  • Valerius’ lack of response when Flavius Caeso threatens his daughter. Is that how a proper paterfamiliās behaves? Or is it that Flavius Caeso is so much more powerful that Valerius automatically (or perhaps deliberately) takes on the client role?

Still another cultural issue regarding characters is the treatments of slaves, especially Milphio by Valerius his dominus. At the end of the story, his fate is unclear to say the least! 🙂

  • In cultural terms, what should happen to Milphio after he caused such a mess?  Even Valerius, who seems to be a kind master, will probably beat him
    • for not noticing a weasel … and a mouse … running across the floor.
    • And for spilling lentil puree, pickled vegetables, wine, snail shells, etc., all over the guest of honor.
    • And, of course, for almost killing the guest of honor’s wife with a pointy snail-spoon!
  • How do Romans treat their slaves in such cases, anyway?
  • And is Valerius a kind master? We don’t really know! We’ve barely met the man! 🙂
  • Besides, how do Romans define “kind” or “good” in terms of master-slave relationships, anyway?

Finally, as we prepare to leave the subject of characters and culture, what about cultural attitudes towards pets and pests?

  • After this mouse-caused disaster, should Valerius get his own weasel to try to get rid of Ridiculus?
  • Or should he perhaps borrow Sabina from Flavius Caeso? (Well, maybe not Sabina – especially if she did succeed at biting Caeliola!)
    • But then, how would a Roman respond to a biting animal?
    • They’re closer to nature than we are, so they probably don’t mind as much as we would.
    • And how do they view children, anyway?
      • Are they “expendable” since they tend to die in childhood anyway?
      • Or do you mourn for them even so?)
    • Do mice and other pests bother Romans the way they would bother a modern American?
    • Or are they part of the expected fabric of life, like child mortality, early marriage, and death in childbirth – the expected fabric of life in Roman culture, but not in ours?
  • If mice are objectionable, should we expect Valerius have some words with Ferox the canis?
    • Should Ferox be allowing mice … or, for that matter, foreign weasels … in the house in any case?
    • And what breed of dog is Ferox, anyway?
    • And how do Roman dogs compare with modern breeds? My own Jasper, part Border collie, part Jack Russell terrier, would never allow a foreign weasel in the house … or even on the property! Or within a half-mile! And he’d have the same reaction to a mouse.
  • Besides, why don’t the Romans have pet cats? The Egyptians certainly did! And there are plenty of cats in Italy today. So why would you want a pet weasel?

Moving away from characters and culture, Another big cultural issue is that of food and food service:

  • Is the meal authentic? What other dishes, if any, should be included to make it even more so? (Obviously the snails and the lentils are required for purposes of the plot, but the pickled onions could be replaced with something else if necessary)
  • How about Flavius Caeso’s response when he drops the bread? Is it “normal” or “authentic” for a wealthy, powerful Roman like him to be so unconcerned? Or to laugh at his own clumsiness? Might he, at some subconscious level, be worried about his own dignitās when he dropped the bread on the floor?
  • Under such circumstances, would a Roman expect the servants to go get more bread from the kitchen? Or should there be more bread in place already? If there should be more bread – and there isn’t – does that mean that Milphio (or, for that matter, Gallicus the coquus) has already been negligent and already deserves to be punished? Or do Romans, without the benefits of microwaves and fast-food drive-through lanes, have more tolerance when things aren’t immediately available than “we” would?

And still another big cultural issue relates to geography:

  • Where exactly in Herculaneum do the Valerii live? In the excavated part, or in the part that’s forever buried under the modern town? Or in some fictional part?
  • How is their house laid out? Could Sabina easily get to the dining room from the angiportus and postīcum, or would she have to pass through a number of rooms in the process?
  • Does it really make a difference, in the end, where they live? Or do we just want to suspend disbelief for the sake of the story?
  • Are there angiportūs in Herculaneum, as there are in Pompeii and Rome? If not, what would we need to change to make Sabina’s trek possible?
  • Should we be specific, or should the characters live in a generalized, fictional part of Herculaneum?
  • What if they visit parts of town that we do know about?

quid respondētis, amīcissimī?

  • To what extent have I identified the cultural issues in this text?
  • Are there others that I’ve overlooked … even though I wrote them into the story?
  • Have I asked good questions?
  • What answers would you suggest?
  • How might we need to change the story as a result of your answers?

Tune in shortly for more about the Cultural issues in this story. And please keep those emails and comments coming.