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.

Rites of Passage, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue our series of posts exploring the preparations for Valeria and Vipsanius’ wedding in Lectiōnēs XIV-XV of the Tres Columnae project … and the actual wedding in Lectiō XXIV, shortly before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. You may recall that we started out on Friday with this fabella, in which Vipsanius’ father apparently has sent a much-expected letter, and this story, in which Valeria’s parents are celebrating the good news. We took the day off on Saturday and Sunday, and then on Monday we looked at this story, in which Valeria, not unlike a young teenager today, was sitting in her room … but not, of course, multitasking as they would!

Speaking of multitasking, I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment, Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn by Dr. Larry D. Rosen. He has a lot to say about the good side – and the simple reality – of our media-saturated, constantly-plugged-in students … and everything I’ve read so far has only increased my determination to make the Tres Columnae Project happen for them. Just a quick sample: Chapter 1 is called “Why Tweens and Teens Hate School,” and based on his research, it’s because factory-model schools (though he doesn’t use the term) expect a kind of lockstep, technology-free approach to learning that’s utterly different from what they’ve been wired to do. My own children are academic achievers, and they’re too polite to complain to their teachers for the most part – but I compare the “academic” tasks they’re asked to do for homework with the engaging, interactive stuff they do online for fun, and I weep – for them, but especially for their friends and classmates, and for my own students who come to me bored and turned off from school because it’s such an alien environment for them. And yet, like Procrustes, we school people keep trying to make the children fit our model, rather than fitting the school to the learner! As our friend Cnaeus would say (and he will say, in a story later this week), “vae! heu!” I think you’ll enjoy that story, which hasn’t yet appeared on the blog or on the Version Alpha Wiki site.

Today, though, we’ll look at the story in which Valerius and his daughter have The Talk about her upcoming marriage. You’ll be able to find it at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site, too, if you’d like. Here we go:

Valerius in tablīnō sedet et fīliam exspectat. Valeria tablīnum ingreditur et patrem salūtat. Valerius fīliae ōsculum dat et, “quaesō, mea fīlia,” inquit, “hoc mihi explicā: quālem marītum tibi invenīre dēbeō?”

Valeria ērubēscit et, “cūr hoc mē rogās, pater?” tandem rogat.

Valerius “hoc tē rogō, quod pater sum tuus, et quod trēdecim annōs es nāta, et …”

et Valeria, “et quod iuvenem in animō habēs? quis est, mī pater, et quālis?”

tum Valerius, “puella mea, quam sapiēns es! num māter tibi rem iam patefacit?”

sed Valeria, “mī pater, nōnne fīlia sum tua? nōnne tē hōs trēdecim annōs cognōscō? haud difficile est mihi hoc intellegere … praesertim cum servus mihi ignōtus in tablīnō etiam nunc stat. dīc ergō mihi: quis est iuvenis et quālis?”

et Valerius attonitus et rīdēns, “heus! num dēlātōrēs Imperātōris tam callidī sunt quam fēminae meae? rem tōtam intellegis. et Vipsānius, consōbrīnus matris tuae, iuvenis ingeniī optimī magnaeque pecūniae est.”

Valeria ērubēscit et “num Vipsānius ille quī in urbe Mediolānō habitat?”

et Valerius, “Vipsānius ipse!”

Valeria patrem amplectitur et “dea Fortūna nōbīs favet!” exclāmat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Obviously not all Roman girls were as happy as Valeria about their father’s choice of husband. In fact, we’ll have a less-positive story of another marriage before too long. But what do you think of Valeria’s reaction?
  • How about Valerius’ attempts to tiptoe around the situation? As the father of an almost-teenage daugher, I found it rather funny … but not dissimilar to some conversations I’ve attempted to have with her.
  • And what about Valerius’ reference to dēlātōrēs Imperātōris? Keep in mind that we’ve set these stories during the Flavian era, when dēlātōrēs were very much in people’s minds … and when the memory of Julio-Claudian emperors’ behavior would have been pretty fresh.
  • And I have to ask – how do you suppose Lucius and Caeliola will respond to the news of their big, “bossy” sister’s impending wedding … and her impending departure from the domus?

Tune in next time, when we’ll follow the Valeriī – and the Caeliī – on their trip from Herculaneum to Milan for the negotiations and betrothal. Of course you know this means that young Cnaeus will either be in the carpentum, and bitter about it as in this story from Lectiō XIII, or on an equus … which might be a true disaster. You’ll find out soon! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Rites of Passage, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll return to our sequence of “Rites of Passage” stories as we continue to feature the ones about preparations for the wedding of Valeria to her distant cousin Vipsānius. We started out on Friday with this fabella, in which Valeria’s father Valerius had received a letter from Vipsānius’ father, and this story, in which he informs his wife, Caelia. (You may recall that Caelia’s brother Caelius, father of Prima, Secunda, and annoying little Cnaeus, is married to Vipsania, so this is evidently a cousin on the maternal side. Perhaps Vipsānia and Vipsānius are brother and sister, but I think they’re actually cousins themselves, most likely patruēlēs since they share the same nōmen. It’s funny: even though I’m responsible for these people, I still don’t know everything about them! 🙂 Sometimes I feel the same way about my own, actual children….)

Of course, we don’t exactly know what’s in the letter, but we can make a pretty good assumption based on Valerius’ and Caelia’s joyful expressions of grātia to dea Fortūna. It would seem that the Valeriī, unlike some Roman families, hadn’t made arrangements for their daughters’ marriage far in advance … perhaps they want Valeria and Caeliola to have a bit of a say, or perhaps they’re just holding out for a good offer. In any case, they’re delighted now that one has come.

After I shared the story on Friday, I spent a bit of time speculating about the thoughts and feelings a Roman father – or his daughter – might have during the conversation when he announced her impending marriage. I have a few acquaintances from cultures where arranged marriage is still the rule, and a small number of former students (most of whom are sufficiently Americanized that it’s not an issue for them, but most of their parents did have arranged marriages.) When we’ve discussed the idea in class, as we’re reading about Roman arrangements for marriage, my “typically American” students are usually appalled, but the ones who come from arranged-marriage cultures are often able to give them some valuable insight. I remember one in particular, a few years ago now, who said it would be sort of comforting to know in advance who your spouse would be. That way, there’s none of the dating and relationship pressure that most American teenagers “have to” go through, she said, and you also know you need to get to know the person, get along with them, and become friends with them. It was really interesting to me, as mostly an observer in the discussion – I had thought my student would be very opposed to arranged marriages, given some of her feelings about other issues. I don’t think her parents were planning to arrange one for her, but she was a bit wistful about that.

Anyway, it’s always dangerous to make cultural generalizations, especially across so much time and space. We know so little, of course, about Roman family relationships. But I think of Cicero’s letters to (and about) his own daughter, and I make certain assumptions about “universal” human nature as I’m planning and writing the stories. It turns out that Valeria (who is, after all, That Age) has started thinking about the kind of potential husband she might want if the choice was up to her. As of today, you’ll find the story at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site.

Valeria in cubiculō sedet et librum legit. “nōnne Ovidius poēta optimus erat?” sēcum putat. “utinam marītus meus ōlim tālēs versūs mihi recitet. et quem marītōrum pater in animō iam habet?”

Caelia in līmine stat et Valeriam legentem audit. Caelia sēcum rīdet et, “fīlia mea Valeriōla, pater tē in tablīnō exspectat,” Valeriae dīcit. Valeria “ēhem! māter, quaesō, ignōsce mihi! tē nōn salūtō, quod intenta librum iam legō.”

et Caelia, “nōnne librum Ovidiī poētae? nōnne Amōrēs Ovidiī?”

Valeria ērubēscit et, “num tū versūs Ovidiī legis?” inquit. “nōnne matrōna es?”

Caelia, “matrōna certē nunc, ōlim puella et, ut Ovidius, iuvenca. tē tamen oportet festīnāre, quod pater tē exspectat.”

Valeria mātrī pāret et ad tablīnum contendit. “adveniō, mī pater,” clāmat. liber in pavimentō apertus iacet. Caelia librum manibus sūmit et “eugepae! quam mihi placet hoc carmen!” sibi susurrat. Caelia in lectō sedet et versūs tacitā vōce legere incipit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I’ve really tried to put the focus on the women in this story – and, thereby, to raise some issues about Roman women’s experiences. What do you think?
  • What do you think of Valeria’s surprise that her mom (of all people!) has read Ovid? (As the father of an almost-teenager myself, I’ve had versions of that conversation from time to time.)
  • What about Caelia’s reading of the poem?
  • And aren’t you dying to know which one of the Amōrēs they were reading? Just don’t ask me; I certainly don’t know! 🙂 Perhaps we’ll ask our participants to take a look at the Amōrēs (in translation, if necessary; in a Latin paraphrase, if we can get some more advanced learners to make these; or even in the original, if we can) and choose ones they think are likely.

Tune in next time for the actual conversation between father and daughter; then we’ll continue with the sequence and with stories about the actual wedding, a few months later. We may interrupt the series for a bit on Wednesday or Thursday, though, since I may have some important news about the Exercise and Quiz component of the Tres Columnae Project by then. And for those of you who will be attending the 2010 American Classical League Institute in Winston-Salem, NC, later this month as I write, please look for my presentation about the project and come if you can; it’s currently scheduled as Session 3E, right after dinner on the first evening of the Institute.

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

Rites of Passage, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, a transitional day in my face-to-face world, we’ll start looking at stories in which our younger characters make transitions. Specifically today, we’ll begin to address the wedding of Valeria, young Lucius Valerius’ big sister, to their distant cousin Quartus Vipsānius. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog, you may recall some another story from this sequence, now available through this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site … this is the story where Valeria and her family have gone to visit the Vipsanii in Mediolānum. They attend a chariot race, and Vipsānius’ father has an unfortunate encounter with two drunk race fans and a bōtulus! In this series of posts, we’ll look at some other stories from this sequence, as well as some from the actual wedding ceremony.

The sequence actually begins in Lectiō XIV with this fabella, which introduces what Romans called the modus optātīvus, and what most English speakers would call a “volitive” use of the subjunctive mood. The spectāculum to which it refers comes in Lectiō XIII and also features some unruly spectators; you can find it at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested.

paucīs mēnsibus post spectāculum, Valeria diem nātālem celebrat. Valeria iam trēdecim annōs nāta est. “mea fīlia, nōn puella, sed fēmina est,” inquit Caelia. “utinam marītum Valeriae aptum inveniam!” Valerius sēcum putat.

servus iānuam domūs pulsat et clāmat. Milphiō servō iānuam aperit et “quid hīc petis?” rogat. servus Milphiōnī epistulam trādit et in ātriō morātur. Valerius in tablīnō sedet et epistulam legit. “heus!” exclāmat, “utinam ille servus dominō responsum referat!”

Valerius Milphiōnī epistulam dictat. Milphiō Valeriō epistulam scrībit. Valerius servum vocat et “heus! puer! Fortūna tibi favet! utinam ad dominum suum celeriter reveniās!”

As you probably expect, there’s a quid novī explanation about the new verbs and the word utinam, followed by some interactive exercises with which our participants gain comfort with the forms of the optātīvus. They then see this story:

Valerius per tablīnum ambulat. “ēhem!” sibi dīcit. Caelia Valerium audit et tablīnum intrat. “heus! mī marīte!” inquit, “cūr continuō ambulās? cūr ēhem continuō dīcis? num quid tibi cūrae est?”

Valerius “heus! Caelia ades!” clāmat, “num diū in tablīnō stās? multa enim in animō volvō. nōnne Valeria nostra iam fēmina est? nōnne iuvenī optimō nūbere dēbet?”

Caelia, “certē, mī Valerī,” respondet, “et nōnne diem nūptiārum nostrārum memōriā tenēs? nōnne vōcēs patrum et mātrum? nōnne –”

Valerius, “certē, Caelia mea,” respondet, “et dea Fortūna nōbīs favet. nōnne consōbrīnus tuus, ille Quartus Vipsānius, in urbe Mediolānō habitat? nōnne Vipsānius vir magnae dignitātis magnārumque dīvitiārum est?”

Caelia, “vērum dīcis, mī marīte,” respondet, “Vipsānius autem –”

et Valerius, “nunc iam in ātriō morātur servus Vipsāniī. servus enim hūc pervenit epistulam mihi portātum. et … epistulam quaesō lege!”

Caelia epistulam legit et, “prō dī immortālēs! dea Fortūna nōbīs certē favet!” exclāmat.

Valerius cum uxōre cōnsentit et, “Caelia mea, fīliam nostram hūc vocā! mē enim oportet cum Valeriā colloquium habēre.”

You can probably imagine what the colloquium is about! I’m not sure, though, that any of us, whether scrīptor or lectōrēs, can imagine Valeria’s thoughts or feelings. As a Roman girl of a fairly wealthy family, she certainly would have grown up expecting an arranged marriage, and she’d certainly be aware that she’d reached marriageable age. Would she be shocked, nervous, excited, relieved, or some combination when her father finally summoned her and told her who the man would be? And in Valeria’s case (of course, I know her better than you do … there are stories about her that you haven’t seen yet!), was she hoping for a local boy? Or was she expecting a distant relative like Vipsānius? Has she ever met him, and (whether she has or not) what does she know about him? How did Roman girls and women feel about the reality of arranged marriage anyway? And how did Roman fathers feel when they were actually making the arrangements – and actually informing their daughters about the arrangements? I think of my own daughter, who’s a bit younger than Valeria … as I write the draft of this post, she’s not-exactly-celebrating the end of school at her last dance class before this weekend’s big recital. I can’t imagine sitting down with her and announcing the name of her new husband – but then, as we know, I’m not a Roman!

I suppose I should tell you, though, that a former student once asked me if I was a native speaker of Latin … and was surprised to find out that I wasn’t! The conversation went something like this:

Her: Really? You’re not a native speaker?

Rest of class: (desperate attempts not to snicker)

Me (in my mid-twenties at the time): Just how old do you think I am?

Her: I don’t know, you’re a teacher, you must be like fifty or something.

Me: Are your parents fifty?

Her: No.

Me: Do I look older than your parents?

Her: I don’t know. You’ve got to be pretty old.

I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or terrified at the time … and many years later, I’m still not sure. Ironically, my current students tend to underestimate my age and are surprised that I’m in my early forties – “You don’t look that old!” they say. Again, should I be flattered or terrified? And no, I don’t ask how old their parents are anymore … I don’t want to know! 🙂

Returning to the two stories for a moment, though, quid respondētis?

  • In a previous post, I’ve mentioned our reasons for introducing the optātīvus rather earlier than a “conventional” Latin course would do. What do you think, having now actually seen the fabella?
  • What do you think of the characterization of Valeria … and of her father and mother?
  • And how would you have responded if you were Valeria?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at more stories from the sequence and share some of your comments and questions. I’ll describe the exercises next week … and I may be able to send you to a live demonstration! More on that soon … we’re inspecting some different possible software platforms for the exercises and quizzes of the Tres Columnae project, and we may have some good news in the next week or so. 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.

Another New Story, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll begin to wrap up our sequence of posts about the stories from Lectiō XVI of the Tres Columnae project by focusing on our characters’ application of the virtūtēs Rōmānae, and specifically of

  1. pietās,
  2. dignitās,
  3. gravitās,
  4. auctōritās,
  5. clementia,
  6. industria,
  7. iustitia,
  8. sevēritās, and
  9. vēritās

The Wikipedia article on Roman virtues also lists comitās, constantia, firmitās, frugalitās, honestās, hūmānitās, prūdentia, and salūbritās as primary virtūtēs, and the list from NovaRoma.org is (as you might expect) even longer.  But I don’t want our list to be overwhelming, and I do want to focus on virtūtēs that a domestic animal (at least, a fable-tradition talking and somewhat anthropomorphic animal) might reasonably possess. So hūmānitās was fairly easy to eliminate :-), and the others, while important to Romans in general, seemed less significant for these particular stories … except, perhaps, for prūdentia. Had Sabīna displayed a bit more of that (for example, by considering how Ferox and Medusa might respond to her presence, uninvited, in their house), there wouldn’t be a story, would there?

I struggled a bit with the organization of this post; I wasn’t sure whether to go “virtue by virtue” or “character by character” in my own thoughts. Finally I decided on “character by character,” with the first few today and the rest tomorrow and possibly Thursday. That way, either on the last day of school in my face-to-face teaching world (Thursday, June 10, if you’re reading these posts “live”) or on the first day after that, we’ll be able to celebrate the arrival of summer by starting something new on the blog, just as my face-to-face seniors, who graduate on June 9, will be doing on their “first day of freedom.”

I want to save the really important characters like Sabīna and Ferōx for later, so we’ll be looking primarily at Rīdiculus mūs today. In the process, we’ll also look at Impigra, their older children, the obstētrīx, and the human characters from this story and this one.

Let’s start, then, with poor Rīdiculus. If you’ve been trying to picture him, please take a look at the beautiful portraits of him and Impigra by our amazingly talented artist, Lucy M, and see what you think.  On the same page, you’ll find a picture of the “cēnāculum” – one that makes it clear, of course, that Impigra and the obstētrīx are right to call it by its proper name of cavus! Anyway, here are my thoughts about him in terms of each of the virtūtēs:

  1. pietās: Other than his comical obsession with the cēnāculum idea, it seems to me that Rīdiculus, in general, is in the proper relationship with all the other animals (and even humans, for the most part) in his life, at least in this sequence of stories. (I don’t think we can say the same for his foolish decision to pursue the bread during the dinner party in this story, but at least he realizes he was wrong!) He is solicitous of his wife when she’s in labor; he makes sure the children don’t pester her; he welcomes the obstētrīx (I suppose we can forgive both of them for their little exchange about the cēnāculum issue!); and he protects the whole family from Sabīna and other predators as much as he can.
  2. dignitās: Wikipedia defines this as “a sense of self-worth; personal pride,” which, meā quidem sententiā, is true enough, but hardly adequate. If I had to define dignitās in English, I’d say it was “an awareness of one’s personal and social standing, and the desire to increase one’s standing as much as possible without violating the dictates of pietās or some other virtūs.” In that light, I think we can understand Rīdiculus’ obsession with the cēnāculum terminology; to call his home a cavus, for him, would be to associate himself with common field mice. He certainly doesn’t want to call it a domus or vīlla or aula, though, since it’s clear that he’s dependent on the good-will of a patrōnus – indirectly, on the kindness (or inattention) of Valerius and his familia, and more directly on his “friends” Ferōx and Medūsa. It’s clearly closely connected with honestās, which Wikipedia defines as “The image that one presents as a respectable member of society,” but I think dignitās is more internally focused, while honestās is more external. quid respondētis? And isn’t it amazing how far English derivatives like dignity and honesty have developed from their roots?
  3. gravitās: Here’s another loaded term, especially when it’s used, unchanged, in English! Wikipedia calls it a “sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.” Rīdiculus, in general, is quite earnest and responsible – sometimes to comic excess, as with the cēnāculum issue!
  4. auctōritās: This is almost completely untranslatable – Wikipedia’s attempt, which is about as good as any I’ve seen, is “The sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.” So it’s closely connected, as well, to honestās and dignitās. But you have to be at a certain level of social standing to have auctōritās, while any Roman (even a slave or a child) might reasonably be asked to display dignitās. I’m not sure Rīdiculus really has any auctōritās, though he is the paterfamiliās … or is he? Is his father still alive? We don’t actually know!
  5. clementia: Rīdiculus isn’t normally in the position to show generosity, kindness, or gentleness to an inferior or an enemy. By his nature, he’s dependent on the clementia of others – especially of Ferōx and Medusa! You may recall this story, where Sabīna tries to turn Medūsa, and indirectly Ferōx, against the mice by appealing to other virtūtēs.
  6. industria: Rīdiculus is definitely a hard worker, though not always a smart worker! I think he’s OK in this area! 🙂
  7. iustitia: Wikipedia defines this nicely as “Sense of moral worth to an action.” I don’t think it really applies to Ridiculus’ conduct in most of these stories, except perhaps for his interactions with his wife, the children, and of course the obstētrīx.
  8. sevēritās: Rīdiculus, by nature and by his very name, is not prone to either “gravity” or “self-control,” the two synonyms Wikipedia offers. But he does control himself when first Impigra, then the obstētrīx fusses at him over the word cēnāculum.
  9. vēritās: Other than his self-deception about his home – and his lack of knowledge of animal habitats, as witnessed in this story – Rīdiculus seems to be a truthful little mouse.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of our list of virtūtēs?  Are there any we should add, and are there any that (tuā quidem sententiā) are less important than the others?
  • What do you think of our definitions of the virtūtēs?
  • For that matter, what do you think of any attempts to define them “globally” – as opposed to the (much easier and safer) prospect of defining them contextually, as they appear in a particular passage or literary work?  In other words, it’s a lot simpler to define “pietās in the Aeneid” than “pietās in general” – so should we avoid general definitions?
  • What do you think of our analysis of Rīdiculus through the lens of the virtūtēs?
  • And what do you think of the other characters’ use – or non-use – of the virtūtēs?

Tune in next time, when we’ll respond to your comments and look at the other characters – especially Ferōx and Medūsa – through the lens of the virtūtēs. 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.

What about Vocabulary? V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I left you on Monday with this thought, which I addressed just a bit on Tuesday:

Oddly, I find myself very opposed to adult authority figures‘ “paying students for grades” as this retired teacher in California is planning to do … but I’m very much in favor of learners’ paying each other for the use of learning materials they create. What’s up with that? Am I an utter hypocrite? Or is there a real difference between the two situations?

Today I’ll try to answer these questions, and I’ll try to connect the answers to the core values of Tres Columnae and to the larger issues about vocabulary – and learning – that we’ve been addressing in this series of posts.

I actually have a lot of sympathy with the motivations of the retired teacher, who (according to the article), had noticed that students at the highest-achieving school in the district did have a sense of ownership of their academic achievement, while those at the school he’s targeting did not. Unfortunately, all the research about effects of extrinsic motivators predicts that his effort will produce the exact opposite of what he hopes. Study after study shows that when learners are offered extrinsic rewards (coupons, food, money, you name it), their academic performance actually declines over time. Yes, they initially do (or at least act as if they’re doing) the behaviors that earn the rewards, but over time, their focus on the rewards causes them to lose interest in the task. It’s a humbling body of research for teachers and school administrators, to say the least!

I found it serendipitous that this article showed up as we were considering both Vocabulary, broadly defined, and Roman Slavery, broadly defined, in our series of blog posts. Why? Because I think “paying for grades” has some remarkable connections with both of these big ideas. In terms of Vocabulary, it seems to me that, in the end, “paying for grades” is just a nice word for “bribery” – the immediate reward (of learning something new and useful) isn’t enough, and neither is the long-term reward (of graduating from high school, or getting into college, or getting a good job), so we “sweeten the pot” with another reward. As for Roman Slavery, dominī were always giving their servī some pecūlium, or renting them out to others and splitting the proceeds with them. The pecūlium, in this case, is the “extra reward” that’s needed when even the immediate reward (of not being killed or beaten for disobedience) or the longer-term reward (of being praised by the master as a “good” servant) isn’t enough to get the task done.

The problem with pecūlium, of course, is that the need for it doesn’t go away over time.  How likely is it that a servus, having received pecūlium in exchange for some horrible task, will suddenly tell his dominus that there’s no longer a need to pay him?  In the same way, once you start down the slippery slope of “paying for A’s,” it’s very unlikely that a student will suddenly refuse the money!  Far from increasing the motivation of the servus – or of the student – the monetary “reward” actually decreases his or her motivation!

I really don’t think we want to create an even greater power imbalance between teacher and student by bringing pecūlium into it … especially when the pecūlium comes, as it inevitably must, from an outside source who is thereby asserting power over both the teacher and the students! And yet, I can certainly empathize with Mr. Warren, the teacher mentioned in the article. I’m sure he has no sinister intent at all! In fact, I’m sure he sincerely wants to help the students he’s offering money to, and I’m also sure he thinks that paying them would be the best possible way.  It’s sadly typical, I think, for us adult authority figures (especially those of us who work in schools) to design “rewards” or “incentives” without actually consulting the people we’re attempting to reward.  Then, of course, we complain when they don’t find our “rewards” very rewarding! 😦

So, given that I’m deeply suspicious of adult-imposed extrinsic rewards, why would I design the Tres Columnae system so that learners (and teachers) could benefit financially from high-quality work they contribute? Isn’t that just the same as Mr. Warren’s $100 and $500 checks for straight-A report cards?  Obviously I don’t think so, or we wouldn’t have included royalties and credits as part of the system … but what’s the difference?

quid respondētis, amīcī?  Is there a difference or not???

Tune in next time, when I’ll try to outline some ways that (nostrā quidem sententiā) Tres Columnae’s reward system is completely different from a “pay for A’s” plan.  Then we’ll switch gears and look at another new story … focusing on an entirely different aspect of the Tres Columnae system.  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Servi et Ancillae, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we turn from the horrible fate of Dulcissima, Fēlīcissima, Ūtilis, Planēsium, and their children to the even more horrible fate of slaves working in a fullonica. As bad as the life of a servus was in a Roman familia, imagine how much worse it would be to be a servus in an industrial or agricultural operation! Your master, if present at all, need not even know your name, and he’s even more likely to see you as “equipment with voices” (to quote a memorable translation of a bit from Cato the Elder’s dē agrī cultūrā). Yes, it would be horrible to work in the fields on a huge estate, and yes, dying in a Roman mine would be horrible. But for some reason, the idea of standing all day in, um, Roman bleach, treading on people’s clothes, seems particularly horrible to me … and I know it does to my face-to-face students as well.

I had a real struggle with this story because Gellius fullō, a new character, tried to take over as I was writing it. In the first version, no one else came into the shop, and the poor slave … but I’m getting ahead of myself. Check out the story and see what you think of this version:

in īnsulā Valeriī habitat Gellius fullō cum uxōre et quattuor līberīs. Gellius fullonicam parvam prope Forum urbis Herculāneī tenet. in fullonicā labōrant octō servī. necesse est illīs miserrimīs per tōtam diem in ūrīnā et aquā stāre. “quandō vestēs sunt sordidae, nihil melius est quam ūrīna,” Gellius dīcere solet. “ūrīna enim sōla vestēs pūrās et candidās reddit.” Gellius servōs saepe castīgat, quod lentē labōrāre et saepe vomere solent. “heus! servī ignāvissimī! cūr vomitis?” exclāmat et servōs vehementer verberat. “vōbīs labōrandum, nōn vomendum est! nōnne servīs ignāvissimīs pereundum est, sī in urīnā ipsā vomunt et vestēs sordidās reddunt?”

hodiē Casina, ancilla Valeriī, ad fullonicam contendit trēs togās purgātum. Casina prope fullonicam consistit et “heus! odōrem horribilem!” exclāmat. “dīs gratiās maximās agō, quod in vīllā, nōn fullonicā mihi labōrandum est. vīta servōrum est dūra, dūrissima tamen servōrum quī in fullonicā labōrant!”

Casina fullonicam intrat et, “domine Gellī,” clāmat, “Valerius, dominus meus, trēs togās tibi mittit. nōnne togās sordidās purgāre potes?” Gellius per fullonicam contendit et, “heus! nōnne Casina Valeriī ancilla? certē, certē, mihi facile est togās dominī pūrās reddere. tē oportet proximō diē cum tribus dēnāriīs revenīre.”

Casina, “trēs denāriōs quaeris?” exclāmat. “num Imperātor ipse est dominus meus? nōnne ūnum tantum dēnārium quaerere solēs? nōnne ūnum sestertium? num dominum oportet alium fullōnem quaerere?”

et Gellius, “ancillam impudentem!” respondet. “nōnne quattuor līberī, nōnne uxor aegra mihi est? nōnne octō servī optimī? ūnus dēnārius haud satis est! num īnsānīs?”

et Casina, “domine Gellī,” impavida respondet, “nōnne quoque cēnāculum optimum in īnsulā Valeriī ipsīus? num vīs alium cēnāculum invenīre? num dominum meum contemptum habēs?”

tum Gellius “heus!” exclāmat, “vērum est quod dīcis. nōnne ūnum dēnārium ūnumque sestertium mihi dare dominus tuus potest? nōnne amīcus veterrimus sum, et cliēns fidēlissimus?”

et Casina, “cōnsentiō,” respondet, et togās Gelliō trādit. tum Casina ē fullonicā ēgredī incipit. subitō tamen cōnsistit et, “heus!” sibi putat, “quis est ille servus miserrimus, quī in fullonicā labōrat? num illum cognōscō?” Casina servum dīligenter spectat et, “fātum horrendum!” sēcum putat. “nōnne enim frātrem meum videō?” Gellius per fullonicam ambulat servōs pūnītum. iuxtā frātrem Casinae stat et “servum impudentem!” exclāmat, “num vomis? num labōrāre cessās? tibi moriendum est, quod inūtilis es!” et servum miserrimum in ūrīnam impellit. servus dominō resistere cōnātur, sed frustrā. Gellius enim pedem in collō pōnit et nāsum sub urīnā tenet. cēterī servī perterritī tacent.

Casina perterrita et immōta stat et rem tōtam spectat. subitō vōcem ignōtam audit. aliquis enim fullonicam intrat et, “heus! Gellī! quid facis?” exclāmat. Gellius attonitus pedem tollit; servus surgit et urīnam sanguinemque identidem vomit. in fullonicā stat Flavius Caesō, vir maximae dignitātis. “Gellī! cūr istum servum pūnīs? quid facit ille?” rogat Flavius Caesō. “num tē decet urīnam tuam sordidam facere? num togae meae nunc sordidae et sanguineae sunt?”

et Gellius “heus! mī Caesō! inopīnātus advenīs!” susurrat. “cūr poenās istīus servī commemorās? nōnne togae tuae–”

Caesō tamen, “Gellī, mē summā cum dīligentiā audī!” interpellat. “nōnne fullō es? nōnne tē oportet vestēs pūrās reddere?”

et Gellius, “certē, mī Caesō, et–”

sed Caesō, “tē igitur oportet verba mea dīligenter audīre, mandātīs dīligenter pārēre. sī enim servus in urīnā perit, nōnne umbra in fullonicā manēre solet? nōnne umbra vestēs sordidās reddere vult? et nōnne perīculōsissimum est umbram īrātam reddere?”

Gellius attonitus, “vae mihi!” sēcum susurrat. “mē oportet multa sacrificia hodiē facere!” et Caesō, “nōlī umquam,” susurrat, “servum mortuum in urīnā reddere!” Caesō maximā cum dignitāte ē fullonicā ēgreditur.

Casina rem tōtam attonita spectat. servus tandem vomere cessat et ad urīnam regreditur. Casina servum intentē spectat et “heus!” sēcum putat, “vae illī! sed quam fēlīx sum, quod iste servus haud frāter meus est!”

Casina nihil dīcit, sed ē fullonicā celeriter contendit. ad domum Valeriī celerrimē regreditur, ubi lacrimīs ūlūlātibus sē trādit. “vae mihi! vae vītae! vae istī servō miserrimō! et vae fratrī meō!” iterum iterumque exclāmat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • In the first draft of the story, no one else came into the shop, and Gellius did drown the servus. But I just couldn’t stand it! I also thought it would be too much for our younger, more tender-hearted subscribers.
  • I actually talked about the story with some of my face-to-face Latin II students, and they all agreed that the servus needed to live. That’s when I had the idea of Flavius Caeso ironically saving the day. Do you think he’s right for the part, or should someone else do it?
  • What do you think of Casina’s response … both before and after she realizes it’s not her brother?
  • And do you suppose she could share her concerns about Gellius with her dominus … or that, if she did, he’d care?

As I was writing this story, I was aiming not just to horrify (though it’s certainly horrifying enough!) but also to show our participants that, to a Roman, a servus – especially one like the one who isn’t actually Casina’s frāter – seems much more like a car, a lawnmower, or a washing machine than a person. We’ve all read stories of guys who shoot their lawnmower when it won’t start in the spring … stupid, but they don’t go to jail for murder, do they? And we’ve all replaced defective or worn-out cars, washing machines, or other equipment … without any regard for the feelings of the appliances, or of their fellow appliances that remain in the house, for that matter! Of course, our appliances don’t actually have feelings … unlike a servus or ancilla. But to a Roman, the feelings of the servus or ancilla are as irrelevant as our appliances’ feelings would be … even if we did think they had feelings.

As for Flavius Caeso, if you’ve read this previous story, you probably now have a pretty good suspicion about why he’s so conflicted about the treatment of servī.

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin to shift our attention to what I’m going to call Vocabulary With Minimal Translation. In other words, how can the Tres Columnae system help our learners acquire a deep understanding of the Latin words they learn, as well as knowledge and skill at using them, without resorting to the typical “vocabulary list” with all its perils? And what perils, exactly, am I referring to? We’ll find out more next time. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Servi et Ancillae, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’ll begin our exploration of the lives of Roman servī et ancillae with household servants in town, but we won’t confine ourselves to them. In today’s post, we’ll venture away from domus Valeriī, traveling up the slopes of Mount Vesuvius to vīlla Caeliī, where we’ll interact a bit with Caelius’ servī et ancillae. If you’ve been a very faithful reader of both the blog and the Version Alpha Wiki site, you’ve met a number of Caelius’ servants, including:

Ūtilis vīlicus, introduced here and featured in today’s story;

Planēsium nūtrīx, also introduced here and featured in the famous story of Cnaeus and the cow and its sequel; and

Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae Vipsāniae, featured in our recent story of Vipsānia’s trip to Pompeii.

Ūtilis and Planēsium have a child named Pertināx, who will be important later … in fact, he begins to be important in today’s story. And it turns out that Caelius, a practical man, has a special (and rather horrible) plan for his vīlicus today … even though he presents it as a great reward or opportunity.

My face-to-face students are always intrigued at the difficult position of a vīlicus. After all, he is still a servus, so he can still be beaten by his master (and, in fact, he might be beaten not only for his own failures but for those of the servī he supervises). Yet he also has the right to beat the other servī … and the obligation, if his master orders him to. I think this difficult position resonates for some of my students, especially when they feel their loyalties are divided between the “adult world” and the “peer world.” Anyway, today is not a good day to be Ūtilis, as we’ll see in today’s story from Lectiō XVIII:

Caelius in tablīnō vīllae sedet et ratiōnēs īnspicit. subitō “heus!” exclāmat. “Ūtilis! ubi es? tibi hūc festīnandum est!”

Ūtilis in agrō proximō servōs īnspicit. vīlicus vōcem dominī audit et “heus! servī! vōs oportet strēnuē labōrāre!” exclāmat. Ūtilis per vīllam festīnat dominum salūtātum.

Caelius, “mī Ūtilis,” inquit, “quid agis?” et vīlicus attonitus, “bene valeō, domine,” Caeliō respondet. tum dominus, “mī Ūtilis,” inquit, “quid agit servulus meus, ille verna Pertināx?”

“Pertināx, domine, fīlius meus?” rogat Ūtilis. “nōnne trēs annōs nātus est ille? nōn iam labōrāre potest, sed mox–”

“certē, trēs nātus annōs, et fīlius … tuus,” respondet Caelius. “nōnne tē oportet mandātīs meīs pārēre?”

“mī domine,” exclāmat Ūtilis perterritus, “num aliquid –?”

“ō Ūtilis, Ūtilis, cūr dominum benignum timēs?” Caelius rīdet. “tibi nōn poenās, sed praemium offerō. nōnne Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae meae, sunt pulcherrimae?”

“certē pulcherrimae, domine, sed quid –?”

“tacē, Ūtilis, et audī! Dulcissimam hodiē ad tē mittō cubitātum, tum Fēlīcissimam, tum Dulcissimam, tum Fēlīcissimam – nōnne rem intellegis? mihi enim opus est multōrum servulōrum fortium et fidēlium, et tū es fortissimus et fidēlissimus omnium servōrum meōrum. nunc abī, et mitte hūc Fēlīcissimam! vernās fortēs et fidēlēs mihi praebē!”

Ūtilis attonitus et sollicitus ē tablīnō ēgreditur. Planēsium suum arcessit, cui rem tōtam nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • This is obviously a delicate issue … especially in places (like my own face-to-face location) where the legacy of slavery (and slave-owners’, um, “use” of their “property”) is still highly charged.
  • But to give a full picture of the Roman experience, I think we certainly need to address it to some degree, at some point.
  • Is this the right time and place to address it … approximately 2/3 of the way through a fast-paced Latin I course, or near the end of a slower one?
  • Or should we wait until later?
  • And do we get the point of Caelius’ plan across without too many horrible details?
  • And if you were Planesium, how would you react?  You can actually find out her reaction … and the connection with poor little Pertinax … in this story on the Version Alpha Wiki site.

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider stories of even more unfortunate servī et ancillae … nameless, faceless ones who toil in truly horrible circumstances. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.