Making Contributions, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” today is the first “real” day of school in my face-to-face teaching world … our first day with students. Even though it’s the nineteenth “first real day” for me as a teacher, it feels like a new beginning. I suppose there are several reasons for this:

Of course, I always feel as though the first day of school is a new beginning! If I ever stop feeling that way, I’ll know it’s time for me to go and do something else. After all, it’s the first day of Latin for my Latin I students, and the first day of their new level of Latin for my returning students … and it’s the first day of their current grade for everybody. If I lose touch with that excitement (and the apprehension that often accompanies it), I won’t be giving my students what they need and deserve from me.

This first day is the first one on which my Latin I students will (most likely) be using Tres Columnae Project materials as well as a conventional textbook. That’s obviously exciting for me! I keep hearing from lectōrēs fidēlissimī who are planning to use the project materials in different ways with their classes this year, and that’s very exciting. I also keep hearing from folks who would like to use the material (for example, Elizabeth, who commented on yesterday’s post) but don’t think their schools are quite ready. Of course, you could always ask … or I suppose you could “ask forgiveness later” if that’s your personality type. But perhaps you want to offer the TC materials to your students as an option for outside work – it’s unlikely that anyone would object to an option, after all, and once your students and their families get a feel for the materials, they might have more influence on your “unready” schools than you ever could. Of course that’s completely up to you; after all, you know your situation, your school, and your community much better than an outsider like me!

This first day also feels like a watershed for me. When I started teaching, I spent nine years at one school before making the move to my current school in the fall of 2001 – I wasn’t sure whether the timing was auspicious or not in mid-September of that year! So last school year was my ninth at the current school, and I’ve now spent more of my teaching career there than anywhere else. I’m very fond of the school and the community, and I treasure the opportunities I’ve had to work with siblings, family friends, cousins, and all the other connections that happen when you spend a long time in a place. It’s a bit disturbing, though, to realize that my (senior) homeroom students were second-graders when I started teaching at the current school! At least I’ve moved from one classroom to another a few times!

Anyway, in the spirit of new beginnings and watersheds, I want to return to the idea of Contributing Editors that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, and I also want to revisit the idea of Ownership as it applies to the Tres Columnae Project. One of our lectōrēs fidēlissimī recently sent me some great suggestions for simple supplementary stories to accompany the first few Lectiōnēs – for example, one would introduce the idea of adjectives with sentences that described the various characters: Caelius obēsus est, Vipsānia pulchra est, etc. When I suggested the Contributing Editor idea to her, she was interested but felt she didn’t have time to do that properly; in fact, she said she’d be glad to create the stories and give them to the project without retaining any Ownership of them.

And that made me realize that my commitment to Ownership isn’t as universal as I’d thought. It’s funny, because over the course of those 19 years, I’ve given away a whole lot of materials: supplemental worksheets, project ideas, “extra” stories, tests and quizzes – all the things that desperate young teachers request on the Latinteach, Latin-BestPractices, and other listservs that many of you read regularly. And yet, despite all this giving, I had the idea that folks would be more willing to share their materials if they did retain some Ownership of their creations … even though I freely share things myself and don’t have any concerns about Ownership issues.

So I suppose I should ask you all this: How important is Ownership to you? To be more specific, imagine a system in which you, the Tres Columnae participant, had a choice when creating stories and other Submissions for the site. You could pay an editing fee and retain Ownership of the content, or you could submit for free, but grant “TC” Ownership (i.e., the intellectual property rights) to the content you created. And you could make that decision on a submission-by-submission basis. Would that appeal to you?

And, perhaps more important, would it appeal to your students? I know the iGeneration pretty well – after all, my favorite-and-only daughter is a member of it – but I don’t think I’ve ever really asked them how they feel about intellectual property issues. I’ll do that with my face-to-face students this week or next, but I’d love to know what your students think – or what you yourself think if you’re a member of that exciting and innovative generation.

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore more implications of these ideas and consider some places where supplemental stories might be a good fit with the existing project. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! While there haven’t been many blog comments recently, I’ve really enjoyed the private email conversations I’ve been having with some of our long-time lectōrēs fidēlissimī. It’s particularly exciting when people make great suggestions about additional stories they’d like to see, or backstory about characters they’d like to know, or additional ways to practice and reinforce grammatical concepts or vocabulary. Of course, you should know that if you want to do something like this, you can! You be able to make formal Submissions as soon as Version Beta of the project is ready, but even before then, please feel free to work on stories, exercises, explanations, or other things you’d like to Submit one day.

And for those of us who are concerned about financial issues, I’d like to announce a possible solution. You’re probably familiar with our proposed financial structure for access to the project materials:

  • Free subscriptions allow you to read stories, listen to audio, see images, watch videos, and make comments.
  • Basic subscriptions allow you to use the exercises and quizzes.
  • Standard and Premium subscriptions allow you to make Submissions to the project.
  • Single Submissions allow you to make Submissions on a pay-as-you-go basis.

In addition, we’ll also be inviting some subscribers (and potential subscribers) to become what we’ll call Contributing Editors to the project. Someday, we may have a vast staff of well-paid editors 🙂 … but pretty soon, as our Submission rate goes up, we’ll be in the awkward position of needing additional Editors but not being able to afford them. As a Contributing Editor, you’ll be able to make a certain number of Submissions to the project for free in exchange for editing and commenting on other contributors’ Submissions. We haven’t worked out all the details yet, but if you’d be interested, please let me know – either leave a comment here, leave one on the Version Alpha Wiki site, or send me an email if you have that address. As you may remember if you’re a long-time reader, Jeff Howe’s book about Crowdsourcing was a major influence on the Tres Columnae model; if you’re familiar with crowdsourced editing projects, you’ll probably see the influence even more clearly. Some crowdsourced projects allow everybody to make edits, but we’ll be a bit selective; we want to see your best Latin writing before we invite you to edit other people’s writings! You will, of course, retain almost all rights to what you write, though you’ll grant us a limited right to publish it … and you’ll grant other participants certain rights to use and remix it. But if anyone wants a physically published version of your writings or illustrations – or if they want a physical product with your writings, illustrations, audio, or video – you’ll be entitled to royalties as part of our commitment to Ownership.

So if you’d like to be considered as a potential Contributing Editor for the project, please get in touch! I’ll send you a private message with the details of what we’re looking for.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the Contributing Editor model?
  • Do you think crowdsourced editing is a great idea or a terrible one?
  • Where are some places that you think we need supplementary stories? And what would you want those to focus on?

Tune in next time for more. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 9:02 am  Comments (2)  
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More Renovations and Communications

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I do apologize that there wasn’t a post on Saturday. I had expected to be able to write one … and then life intervened with some sort of brief, but intensely exhausting illness Friday evening and early Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon brought that long-awaited trip to the Apple Store that I mentioned earlier in the week. It turned out that the needed part hadn’t arrived, but they were miraculously able to resuscitate the iPod for a few days; it’s been working pretty well and we were able to perform a full backup. Everyone was also very apologetic about the confusion, and we got a further discount on the repair, and my favorite-and-only little boy got to spend some time at the brand-new Lego Store in the mall. So it was a good day, but a very full one … not one that could be spent writing blog posts!

Of course, since the themes of our recent stories have revolved around construction, I suppose that delays should probably be expected! Have you ever known of a construction project that was finished on time and on budget? 🙂

On Thursday and Friday, I had promised the next story in the sequence about the possible renovation of Caelius and Vipsania’s house. You may recall that we started out with this story, in which Frontō the architect was asked to prepare a plan for the renovations. Then we saw this story, in which he invites his brother the contractor to be involved with the project. Last Monday brought this story, in which Fronto’s brother was not exactly eager to be involved. Tuesday we saw this one, in which Fronto and his brother had a rather awkward conversation about the project. Then on Wednesday, we looked at this one, in which Caelius and Vipsania saw the plans for the first time – and did not react with the overwhelming approval Fronto had been hoping for, to put it mildly! In today’s featured story, which you can now find here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like, we find out some of their objections:

Caelius Frontōnī “ō mī Frontō!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō iocus optimus est hic liber! ecce turrēs maximī! ecce fenestrae! ecce tria ātria et vīgintī cubicula! num urbs antīquissima Troia tanta et tam mīrābilis erat?”

Frontō attonitus, “mī domine,” respondet, “quid dīcis? nōnne parva et sordida est vīlla tua? nōnne antīquae et vīlēs pictūrae, quās pictor minimae artis ōlim in hīs mūrīs pīnxit? nōnne tē, senātōrem maximae dignitātis, decet in vīllā splendidā habitāre?”

tum Caelius, “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne māior est vīlla splendida tua quam urbs Herculāneum tōtum?”

et Frontō, “fortasse, mī domine, sī–”

Caelius tamen haec interpellat: “haud mē decet vīllam māiōrem quam urbem aedificāre! num īnsānīs?mē decet pietātem et dignitātem, nōn īnsāniam praestāre!”

Frontō attonitus, “sed domine,” respondet, “quid dīcis? sine dubiō haec vīlla mea–”

Caelius tamen īrātus, “num Imperātor ipse tālem vīllam habet? haud mē decet vīllam māiōrem quam Imperātōris ipsīus exstruere! praetereā, sī quis tālem vīllam purgāre vult, nōnne mīlle servōrum, mīlle ancillārum opus est?”

Caelius paulīsper tacet, et “fortasse mīlle ancillārum pulchrārum?” sēcum susurrat. Vipsānia tamen haec addit: “mī architecte, fortasse verba marītī meī nōn intellegēbās. tē enim arcessīvit vīllam renovātum, nōn dēlētum. hanc vīllam reficere in animō habēbat; novam exstruere nōlēbat. paulō enim minor est vīlla; parva sunt cubicula; antīquae sunt pictūrae. nōn tamen opus est vīgintī cubiculōrum, vel trium ātriōrum, vel quattuor porticuum. ecce thermae quās pīnxistī! ecce hippodrōmē! et hoc quid est? num amphitheātrum? marītus enim meus senātor est, nōn Imperātor. nēmō, nē deus Iuppiter quidem, in tantā vīllā habitāre dēbet.”

Frontō attonitus, “mea domina Vipsānia,” incipit. Caelius tamen haec interpellat: “mī Frontō, quaesō, ignōsce mihi – sine dubiō et ego et tū in hāc rē errāvimus. hoc tamen certum est: tālem vīllam exstruere nec volō nec possum. tē igitur decet librōs tuōs tollere et ēgredī. fortasse vel Imperātorī ipsī vel dīs omnibus vīlla tālis placet; mihi tamen valdē displicet. tē igitur librōs tuōs tollere et ēgredī iubeō.”

Frontō cum frātre tacitus ē vīllā Caeliī ēgreditur. in viā Marcus Iūlius Frontō librum prēnsat et frātrem suum identidem verberat. “siste! siste!” clāmat architectus, “siste, mī frāter! cūr librō meō vapulō?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I hope you’ve come to expect some unexpected twists in Tres Columnae Project stories by now … and I hope you enjoyed this one!
  • Wouldn’t you love to see Fronto’s drawings?!
  • Which of the many over-the-top details is your favorite?
  • And what do you think of Fronto’s brother’s response at the end?

Tune in next time, when we’ll go in a somewhat different direction and look at other aspects of the Tres Columnae Project. School, in my face-to-face teaching world, starts on Wednesday, so our next few posts may be a bit short and sketchy. If all goes well, though, I hope to have some significant good news about the progress of Version Beta in the next couple of weeks.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Floors and Ceilings, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” I’m probably on a brief trip to the nearest Apple Store to see about a battery-charging issue with my favorite-and-only daughter’s iPod. As I made my appointment (so painlessly! so quickly!) online yesterday, I was reminded of a lot of things I’ve read recently about enduringly great companies and the unique ways they find to retain and energize their customers. Even if, by some chance, the repair is more expensive than the simple battery replacement we expect, I’ll probably leave the store impressed and pleased with the service and support. In the same way, I look forward to seeing the genuinely happy server at a local restaurant who always wishes me a blessed day. It’s so important for businesses – and all other organizations that deal with people, including schools – to make customers feel valued and appreciated.

And yet so many organizations don’t even bother! We recently had an issue with our Internet service; it suddenly disappeared one evening last week, and no amount of restarting the modem would help. Next morning, it equally mysteriously had reappeared, and everything was fine. During the outage, I tried to call the company and see what was going on; after 15-20 minutes on hold each time, I had to do other things. Evidently they knew about the problem and were working on it – but they never told me. Earlier this year, I’d gone through a similar issue involving bad service by a professional firm I had used for years; that one seems to have ended much more happily, but it required a direct appeal to one of the managing partners, an appeal that many people probably wouldn’t have bothered to make.

And speaking of value … check out this remarkable blog post at Education Week, by a master music teacher in Michigan! And check out this blog from Edutopia for some low-cost suggestions to add technology to your classroom. (In all fairness to her, I must say that my face-to-face school district is utterly opposed to using donated computers in class, for reasons of security, but they do a great job of distributing donated computers to students who need one, but don’t have one at home.)

As the Joyful Learning Community of the Tres Columnae Project continues to grow, I want to make sure that we preserve that feeling of community – that sense that each member is important, valuable, even precious. We’ve been thinking about ways to enhance our community, and someone suggested a more private online space where Tres Columnae subscribers and supporters could interact with each other. Suggestions included

  • a private Ning, now that affordable, ad-free ones are available;
  • a Yahoo! group like the one that hosts Latin-BestPractices;
  • a special forum on the Version Alpha Wiki site, which would migrate over to Version Beta when that’s ready in a few weeks.

What would work best for you?

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I re-read a number of things I’ve written, here and elsewhere, about the uses and abuses of translation in our field. That got me thinking about the different things that the word “translation” can mean. Perhaps some of the conflicts about the practice of translation are actually conflicts (or disagreements) about the semantics – different, but unresolved, definitions of what the word “translation” means. As I think of my own life as a learner and teacher of Latin, I realize it’s meant very different things at different times:

  1. When I was a beginning student, it meant “a hand-written assignment in which I am to restate a Latin passage in something that approximates English, with “more literal” approximations in parentheses.”
  2. When I was an undergraduate, it meant “an oral restatement in English, for which you prepare by repeated reading of the Latin and by writing down dictionary listings of unknown words.”
  3. When I started teaching, it meant “I will never, ever have my students think or do #1, but we might do something like #2 chorally or individually.”
  4. For TPRS teachers, as David noted in the Latin-BestPractices post I referred to yesterday, it means “single-word L1 definitions of new L2 terms” and “choral L1 restatements of L2 passages that have been repeatedly heard or read.”
  5. On the AP® Examinations, it means “a rather artificial and formulaic use of English words that attempts to restate not only the thoughts, but the actual syntax of a Latin passage, scored by phrase groupings, which is an excellent predictor of students’ overall success on the exam.”

You can see why people fight about “translation!” There’s an obvious common core (restating things from one language in another language), but beyond that, the term can have vastly different meanings. When we don’t take time to clarify – or to try to understand how others are using the term – we open ourselves up to all kinds of unnecessary conflicts.

Speaking of unnecessary conflicts, poor Caelius and Vipsania will end up in an unfortunate one with Frontō, the architectus they’ve hired to design and supervise the renovation of their vīlla in Lectiō XXI. You probably saw that coming in yesterday’s featured story! For one thing, Caelius and Vipsania have agreed (or at least he’s decided to accept her complaints) about certain features of the house:

nōnne vīlis et parva est ista vīlla? nōnne pauca cubicula? nōnne antīquae turpēsque pictūrae, quās pictor patrī meō in mūrīs multōs ante annōs pīnxit?

But they haven’t necessarily agreed on how to correct the problem features. How pretiōsa et magna does the house need to be? quanta cubicula would be enough? Obviously they want novae et pulchrae pictūrae, and novae won’t be hard, but what exactly constitutes pulchrae in this context? Given their rather unsuccessful child-rearing and their disagreements about servī et ancillae, Caelius and Vipsania aren’t very likely to take the time and effort to communicate successfully with Frontō … and, as we’ll see, he might not be all that eager to listen in any case. See what you think of today’s featured story, which you can now find here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like:

Caelius cum architectō Frontōne per tōtam vīllam ambulat. ātrium, cubicula, tablīnum, triclīnium architectō ostendit. Frontō attonitus vīllam īnspicit. “sine dubiō,” sēcum colloquitur, “iste Caelius avārissimus est! quis enim vīllam tam sordidam, tam parvam, tam antīquam tenēre vult? sine dubiō istae pictūrae sunt centum annōrum!” Frontō manūs Caeliō prēnsat et, “mī domine, mī amīce,” inquit, “quam fortūnātus es, quod mē nunc iam vocās! sine dubiō vīlla tua nōn modo sordida et parva, sed perīculōsa est! nōnne enim rīma per tōtum mūrum prōcēdit? nōnne, cum pluit, aqua per tegulās usque ad pavimentum cadit? nōnne tōta vīlla in cumulum dēcidere potest?”

Caelius attonitus et perterritus, “heus!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō vīlla antīqua est … sed perīculōsa? nōnne iussū avī meī servī hanc vīllam exstrūxērunt. perīculōsa? in cumulum lāpsūra? heu! quid facere dēbeō?”

Frontō sēcum rīdet. tandem “mī Caelī,” respondet, “cōnfīde mihi! vīllam tuam renovāre et reficere possum. dea Fortūna tibi favet, quod redēmptōrem perītissimum, quī vīllās tālēs saepe reficit, bene nōvī. ille redēmptor, M. Iūlius Frontō nōmine, frāter meus ipse est! tibi vīllam reficere perītissimē et celerrimē potest. nōlī tē vexāre; mihi ad urbem reveniendum est frātrem meum cōnsultum. paucīs diēbus reventum nostrum exspectā!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’ve ever embarked on a home-renovation project, you know how important it is to choose a good, ethical contractor. What do you think about Fronto? Would you hire him?
  • Whether you’d hire Fronto or not, what do you think of Caelius’ response? After all, he has been living in the house for quite some time; you’d think he would have noticed serious structural flaws if they were really there!
  • What do you think of Fronto’s, um, “unbiased” recommendation of his frāter the redēmptor?
  • And on another level, what do you think of the use of various verb tenses in this story?

Tune in on Monday, when we’ll meet Fronto’s frāter and discover a few things about the relationship between these two. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Floors and Ceilings, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I was working on a draft of this post, I found this fascinating link from eSchool News about “Empowering the iGeneration!” It’s too good not to share! (If you’re not an eSchool News subscriber, you’ll only be able to see the first page of the article … but subscriptions are free and the content is usually quite interesting.) The article talks about a number of initiatives that involve today’s learners in online collaborative tasks with peers around the world … and their teachers rave about the positive effects on the students’ engagement and performance. I’ve always believed and known that Joyful Learning Communities are the way to go, but it’s nice to have some “official” validation of the concept! It’s also nice to see some public-private partnerships and to read about social entrepreneurs who are, as the old saying goes, “doing well by doing good.”

Today, as promised, we’ll be looking at a story that brings together our building metaphor of floors and ceilings with our discussion of alignment, connections, and core purposes. It’s been a while since I shared a new Tres Columnae Project story with you; I know that a lot of lectōrēs fidēlissimī look forward to those, and I do apologize. For some reason, I just hadn’t felt inspired to write much Latīnē for a while. Maybe it was the baking heat that’s afflicted my face-to-face world for the past few months!

Oddly, until I started working on the Tres Columnae Project in earnest last year, I had never subjected myself to the discipline of writing something on a regular basis. Many of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī are probably faithful journal writers, but that never appealed to me. Occasionally a family member would give me a journal as a Christmas present, and I’d make a real effort to write each day, but all too soon I abandoned the effort. One year I tried a more free-form journal, a notebook that didn’t have a set amount of space for each day; again, I quickly abandoned it. For some reason, writing about my own life – and writing in English – wasn’t very appealing to me. It was only when I discovered that I could write about the lives of characters I’d created – and that I could do so in Latin, and for an audience – that I found the blend of motivation, inspiration, and perspiration 🙂 that has enabled me to produce the core stories for the Tres Columnae Project. And only after writing in Latin for quite some time did I discover that I could enjoy the discipline of writing regularly in English, both here on this blog and in other places.

I suppose the problem was that writing had come to feel like work rather than art, to borrow terms from Seth Godin’s amazing new book Linchpin. But writing about Valeria, Lucius, Caeliola, and their family and friends doesn’t feel like “work” at all – it’s a joy and a privilege instead. In the same way, our conversation here has been both a privilege and a joy; I’m so grateful to all of you for the time you spend reading and responding. As our subscriber base grows, and as more and more lectōrēs become scrīptōrēs, I hope you’ll discover that same sense of joy in your Submissions to the project.

As I mentioned yesterday, we’ll be looking at a story that wraps up the themes of this week’s posts: floors, ceilings, alignment, connection, and core purposes. It comes from Lectiō XXI … a part of the project that I deliberately haven’t featured until now except in a few posts, like this one from February and this one from early March, about the grammatical elements. As I mentioned then, I deliberately postponed the introduction of non-present tense verbs for several reasons. First, I really wanted our subscribers to be able to use Tres Columnae stories as supplemental or “extensive” reading material. Even when you “know about” lots of other tenses, you can still understand and appreciate a present-tense narrative. Second, it’s culturally authentic: the Romans themselves frequently employed a “historical” or “narrative” present tense when telling stories. Third, I think the Latin tense system is endlessly fascinating and beautiful, and I want our subscribers to appreciate and relish its beauty. I don’t think that’s quite as easy to do when you, the learner, are rushed into learning the forms and asked to produce a formulaic English translation as proof of your “understanding” – or, to be more precise, your recognition of a given verb form.

As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, including this post, I really don’t object to translation as a strategy for language teaching and learning; I just think it’s been significantly overused, and sometimes even misused, in our profession for the last 150 years or so – especially when written translation becomes the primary tool for summative assessments. As a formative assessment tool, and as a way to assist with comprehension, oral translation can be quite helpful. For example check out this amazing Latin-BestPractices post, in which David shows how translation can be used in a TPRS classroom.

I’ve always been interested in the taxonomies of educational objectives developed by theorists like Benjamin Bloom and Robert Marzano. As you probably know, they both present a six-level scheme, beginning with Knowledge (Bloom) or Remembering (Marzano) and proceeding to Synthesis and Evaluation (Bloom) or Justifying and Creating (Marzano). In the middle, in both cases, you find things like Comprehension, Application, and Analysis. As with the goals I listed earlier this week, the higher levels presuppose proficiency with the lower ones.

The problems I see with written translation happen when we employ it too soon in the instructional cycle. Formal, polished translations are definitely a work of evaluation and creation, and so, I would argue, are the highly artificial things that we Classicists call “literal” translations. When we take the time to use some other tools to help our students comprehend, apply, and analyze, translation is a lot less difficult and a lot less painful – especially when it’s not the only way that our learners can demonstrate evaluation and synthesis. But when we rush to high-level tasks for which we haven’t adequately prepared our students, it’s like building the roof of a house before the walls and foundation are done.

And that brings us to today’s story, which is about building and rebuilding. It occurs right after the lengthy trip to Rome to seek a remedium for the morbus novissimus that afflicted Casina, ancilla Valeriī. Everyone has safely returned, and Caelius’ wife Vipsānia – who has her own reasons to be suspicious of a dominus who takes good care of his ancillae – has decided she wants Caelius to remodel their farmhouse. If you’ve seen Lucy M’s amazing pictures of vīlla Caeliī, you may be wondering why! Perhaps she’s just jealous of the even fancier house of their friend Claudius Pulcher in Rome; perhaps she’s looking for assurance that Caelius really does care her; or perhaps she has other reasons yet to be revealed. See what you think as you read this story, now available here at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested:

dum Lūcius cum Marcō in urbe colloquitur, Q. Iūlius Frontō architectus ad vīllam Caeliī equitat. Caelius enim Frontōnem paucīs ante diēbus arcessīvit, quod vīllam suam renovāre in animō habēbat. nam Vipsānia, postquam tōta familia urbe Rōmā domum revēnit, īrātissima erat quod tam parva erat vīlla, tam pauca cubicula, tam antīquae pictūrae. cotīdiē igitur marītum suum quaerēbat castīgātum. “nōnne miserrima sum?” cotīdiē inquit. “num ille Claudius Pulcher, amīcus tuus, uxōrem tam contemptam habet? fortasse ille, ut tū, sibi ancillās pulchrās praebet – sed uxor Claudiī in domō splendidā habitat. num mē decet hunc dolōrem, hanc trīstitiam frātrī meō epistulā patefacere?”

Caelius, quī tālēs uxōris minās neglegere multōs annōs solēbat, Vipsāniae respondēre paucōs diēs nōlēbat. cum tamen Vipsānia Ūtilem iussit cērās stilōsque ad ātrium ferre, ille, “haud tē oportet,” inquit, “frātrem tuum epistulīs vexāre. praetereā Ūtilis tibi pārēre haud potest, quod eum nunc iam arcessīvī. Ūtilī enim necesse est epistulās mihi scrībere, quod architectum arcessere in animō habeō. nōnne vīlis et parva est ista vīlla? nōnne pauca cubicula? nōnne antīquae turpēsque pictūrae, quās pictor patrī meō in mūrīs multōs ante annōs pīnxit? quam mē taedet huius vīllae!”

Vipsānia sēcum clam rīdēbat, sed nihil respondēbat. Frontō architectus, cum epistulam Caeliī accēpit, maximē gaudēbat quod Caelius vir maximae pecūniae erat. servum suum statim arcessīvit et epistulam dictāvit. tum epistulam servō Caeliī trādidit et “tibi festīnandum est, puer!” inquit. servus ad vīllam Caeliī celeriter revēnit et dominō epistulam trādidit. Caelius, cum epistulam lēgit, quoque gaudēbat. Vipsāniam vocāvit et epistulam Frontōnis tōtam lēgit. Vipsānia, cum epistulam audīvit, clam rīdēbat.

hodiē māne Frontō in vīllae āream equitat et ex equō dēscendit. lōra servō trādit et “heus! puer!” clāmat, “Quīntus Iūlius Frontō architectus adsum! adventum meum dominō tuō nūntiā!” servus Frontōnem salūtat et mandātīs architectī celeriter pāret. vīllam ingreditur dominum quaesītum. Caelius, quī adventum Frontōnis avidus exspectat, per vīllam festīnat architectum salūtātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think about the cum-clauses with indicative verbs? Those are awfully common in “real” Latin even though our textbooks often claim otherwise. Check out this link, for example, and the relevant part of Allen and Greenough on GoogleBooks.
  • What do you think of the interactions between Caelius and Vipsania?
  • What’s your initial impression of Frontō architectus?
  • What do you think will happen once the renovations actually begin?
  • And how well does this story relate to our themes for the week?

Tune in next time, when we’ll witness the negotiations between Caelius and Frontō – and the beginnings of the actual construction. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Missing Character?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

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

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Before we get to the next story about Casina ancilla and her morbus novissimus, I want to pause for a moment to think about some of the issues raised by yesterday’s featured story, which you can find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you don’t want to do a lot of scrolling and clicking around the blog. You may have noticed that it falls into several natural sections:

  1. Casina, Valeria, and Caelia in the lectīca (and the crowds’ reactions – I was inspired by some “latest celebrity gossip” links that showed up on a website I was using for an entirely different purpose);
  2. Valerius and Lucius at Claudius Pulcher’s house (with a bit of Roman history and a few literary references thrown in for good measure);
  3. interactions between the women and the sacerdōs Bonae Deae (did you notice the rather ironic allusion to Catullus?); and
  4. the very short conclusion, where Casina consumes the herbās and everyone returns home.

As I wrote and edited the story, and much more as I re-read it while writing yesterday’s blog post, I noticed several interesting themes that one might pursue in conversations with a group of learners that focused on Understanding rather than just Knowledge or Skill. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • You may have noticed that I deliberately didn’t identify the gender of the sacerdōs Bonae Deae. How might our understanding of the story change if we knew for sure that the sacerdōs was a Roman man addressing a group of women? Or if we knew the sacerdōs was a non-Roman man? Or if we knew the sacerdōs was a woman, Roman or otherwise? Why do you suppose I kept you, the reader, in suspense about his/her gender (and, in fact, went back to edit the story to remove any gender references)?
  • Depending on your training and reading in Roman history and literature, you also may have noticed that this story “sneaks in” a number of references to “classical” Roman literature. Cicero and Catullus, in particular, play important parts – and so does the famous scandal of Clodius’ dressing up as a woman for the rites of Bona Dea at Julius Caesar’s house. If you recognized those references, did you find that they deepened your appreciation of the story, or that they annoyed you? For comparison, think of the “sneaky” references to pop culture that often appear in movies marketed for children, or the jokes for adult watchers that show up in Sesame Street segments from time to time. How do you feel about those? And if you respond differently in the two cases, why might that be?
  • What about the social-class dynamics, particularly the ways that the sacerdōs does – and does not – interact directly with Casina?
  • And what about Casina’s own emotional reactions, both to the sacerdōs him/herself and to the advice?

Many of these issues continue to be prominent in today’s story, now available from this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site. As poor, exhausted Casina is on the way home, she falls asleep and has another dream – but does it complicate or simplify our understanding of what’s “really” going on?

lectīcāriī lentē per viās urbis Rōmae prōgrediuntur. in lectīcā, quam lectīcāriī umerīs ferunt, Caelia et Valeria cum Casinā anxiae colloquuntur. “Casina mea,” inquit Caelia, “quid agis? utrum herbae remedium tibi ferunt annōn?” Casina paulīsper tacet, quod fessissima est. tandem “ō domina,” respondet, “nesciō. corpus meum nōn dolet; febrem nunc iam nōn habeō; sed fessissima sum. fortasse mē oportet in hāc lectīcā quiēscere.” Valeria et Caelia cum Casinā celeriter cōnsentiunt. mox ancilla oculōs clausit et somnō sē trādit. longum est iter, quod multitūdinēs maximae viās urbis complent. difficile igitur est lectīcāriīs per multitūdinēs prōgredī. perītī sunt lectīcāriī; iter tamen cum longum tum difficile est. saepe enim lectīcāriōs oportet cōnsistere, quod cīvēs servīque eīs obstant. Valeria et Caelia, quamquam fessae sunt, dormīre haud possunt; dormit tamen Casina.

subitō tamen in somniīs Casina lemurem īnfantis cōnspicātur. lemur manūs Casinae prēnsat et, “ō māter, māter mea,” inquit, “tē haud decet dormīre! nōnne enim dormīre est paulātim morī? tibi surgendum est, māter mea!” Casina in somniīs, “ō mī īnfāns,” respondet, “tē valdē amō, tēcum esse valdē dēsīderō. nōnne mē quoque decet morī et tēcum semper esse?”

lemur tamen, “ō māter,” respondet, “mihi decōrum est quiēscere. nōnne ille Vergilius, poēta nōtissimus, hōs versūs rēctē scrībit:

vīxī et quem dederat cursum Fortūna perēgī,
et nunc magna meī sub terrās ībit imāgō.

tibi tamen multī annī, multa gaudia parāta nunc iam manent. nōlī mortem dēsīderāre! quī enim ante diem nec fātō nec meritā morte pereunt, deōs īrātōs reddunt! nōlī perīre, sed convālēsce!”

subitō lemur abest, et vir ingēns in somniīs adest. flagellum tenet et servum aegrum identidem verberat. servus perterritus lacrimat et “cūr vapulō, domine?” rogat. “vapulās, quod ignāvus morbum fingis et mortem igitur merēs!” respondet dominus īrātissimus. Casina perterrita exclāmat et clāmōribus suīs sē ē somniīs excitat. Casina valdē timet et somnium tōtum Valeriae Caeliaeque statim nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • My first thought – even as the writer of this piece – it that the lemur is one awfully well-read and articulate īnfāns mortuus! Of course, he’s been down there in the Underworld for some time … but do Roman ghosts age, or do they stay the age they were when they died?
  • My second thought was that this dream is very different in character from the others. Casina is not terrified of the lemur, but actually engages in a two-way conversation with him … and receives some very sensible advice. I wonder if perhaps the herbae and the contents of the pōculum contributed to the different feeling of this dream!
  • And then I wonder about the end of the dream … the part with the dominus and the servus perterritus. You may recall, if you’ve been a longtime lector fidēlissimus, that the sequence of stories with Casina’s morbus novissimus comes right after this story from Lectiō XVIII, in which Casina witnessed the near-death of a servus while she was (innocently enough) at the fullonica picking up Valerius’ clean laundry. Some details – that I myself didn’t notice at the time – might be intriguing now:
    • The servus looks like (but turns out not to be) Casina’s own frāter;
    • The servus genuinely is sick – from exposure to the fumes of the ūrīna;
    • The dominus refuses to acknowledge this illness, instead punishing and almost killing the servus in a truly horrible way;
    • The servus is – barely – rescued by the intervention of a most unlikely rescuer.
  • Casina says nothing about the situation to her dominus. Perhaps she’s afraid he won’t believe her, or perhaps she fears he will take the side of his cliēns (and tenant), even though she has had ample experience with Valerius as dominus benignus. (Of course, even if a dominus is benignus, he’s still dominus and still has manus over you – so how benignus can he actually be? Or do you want to find out when he kills you, beats you, or sells you because you’ve exceeded his limits? I don’t think we can forget about the horrible side of Roman slavery – of slavery wherever it’s practiced – even when we’re dealing with supposedly “kind” and “enlightened” masters who “treat their slaves well.”)
  • Could it be that Casina’s trauma causes the suppressed memory of her īnfāns mortuus to rise to the surface, and that this combination of psychological factors causes – or at least contributes to – the morbus novissimus and the visions?
  • Or is it even appropriate to apply our twenty-first-century diagnostic terms and understandings to Casina’s situation? Would we do so if she were a character in an “authentic” Roman text from the time period?

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider how questions like these are related to a Joyful Learning Community where Choice and Ownership are important. We’ll also find out how Valerius reacts to the news of Casina’s latest somnium. What are the limits of his benignitās? And how will he react to the details of the end of the dream? Will he see himself as the cruel dominus, and if so, how will he react to his ancilla aegra? You’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Casina ancilla, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! For our readers in the United States, I hope your Fourth of July weekend was wonderful, meaningful, and very relaxing. For readers elsewhere, I hope we didn’t overwhelm you with Saturday’s reflections about Freedom and Opportunity. I realize they’re very American concepts, but they’re also at the heart of the Joyful Learning Community that the Tres Columnae Project will be. Anyway, I appreciate your patience, and I promise we’ll be returning to the real core of the project – the stories, characters, vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and cultural ideas on which we focus. Today, as I mentioned in Saturday’s post, we’ll begin a series of posts about a series of stories – stories of a morbus novissimus that afflicts Casina, the sometimes-grumpy ancilla of Valerius and Caelia. If you haven’t read all of the stories in Lectiōnēs I-XX on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, all the background you really need to know is

  • Casina has evidently belonged to familia Valeria for some time, but is not a verna;
  • She’s sometimes a bit grumpy, especially when Gallicus the coquus gets flustered (as in this story from Lectiō XI) or when Milphiō, her fellow servus, seems to express a bit of romantic interest in her; and
  • As we discovered in this story from Lectiō XIII, she has good reason to hate the city of Pompeii, where she was once sold (perhaps to Valerius?) and where her īnfāns died and (as far as she knows) still lies unburied.
  • Just before the sequence of events in this post, she’s had a very unpleasant and painful reminder of the way some servī are treated in this story from Lectiō XIX, in which a servus who looks like (but turns out not to be) her own brother is almost killed by his master.

Imagine, if you can, what it must be like to be Casina! We’ll find out how she came to be sold in Pompeii later on (actually, we’ll have several possible explanations; I’m not sure whether we’ll ever find out the whole story). But imagine the pain of losing a child – and then compound that unimaginable pain with an inability to say goodbye properly, and with the lack of a grave, or even the freedom to visit a grave if there had been one! Of all the Tres Columnae Project stories I’ve written, the one about Casina’s īnfāns was, without a doubt, the hardest – not because of the grammatical constructions, but because of the subject matter. As a parent myself, I don’t want to imagine Casina’s pain, but as I wrote the story, I could feel it … and I really didn’t want to! I did want poor Casina to find some peace, though, which is probably why this set of stories came to me. I originally had a different idea in mind for the stories in this Lectiō, but then I realized I could

  • give Casina some resolution;
  • get our characters to Rome for a brief visit;
  • explore some of the interesting Roman holidays from the spring months;
  • explore issues of healing (both medical and, um, non-medical) in the Roman world; and even
  • get our characters to some fascinating places in Rome.

And I also thought the etiology of Casina’s illness might be interesting for our participants to consider … but I’m getting ahead of myself!

I deliberately avoided uploading the stories in this sequence to the Version Alpha Wiki Site until now … and I’ll only be uploading them as we look at them. If you get impatient, you’ll Just Have To Wait … or, if you’d prefer, you can create your own suggestions about possible endings or Next Steps. For a couple of weeks, as I mentioned on Friday, you won’t be able to make official contributions to the site; we hope you’ll use that time to develop some really exciting multimedia versions, either of existing stories like these or of stories that you create. Anyway, here we go with the first story in the sequence, now available at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site:

Casina, ancilla Valeriī, in cubiculō parvō prope culīnam dormīre solet. hodiē māne Gallicus coquus cubiculum intrat et, “heus! Casina! num dormīs?” exclāmat. “tibi surgendum est, quod hōra prīma adest. tē oportet aquam ē fonte publicō trahere.”

Casina tamen neque surgit neque respondet. Gallicus sollicitus, “Casina! quid agis?” clāmat. “num aegrōtās? tibi surgendum est!” clāmat. Casina tamen nihil respondet. Gallicus anxius Milphiōnem quaerit.

Milphiō in ātriō pavīmentum verrit. Gallicus ātrium ingreditur et “vae! heu! Milphiō!” exclāmat. Milphiō attonitus verrere dēsinit et “mī Gallice, quid est? cūr clāmās?” respondet. Gallicus trīstis “ō Milphiō, mī Milphiō, Casina moritūra in cubiculō iacet! quid facere dēbeō? quid facere dēbeō?”

Milphiō sē colligit et, “mī Gallice,” respondet, “nōnne saepe tē ita vexās? num Casina rē vērā moritūra est?”

Gallicus tamen lacrimāns, “ō Milphiō, Milphiō, sine dubiō moritūra est Casina. nōnne prīma hōra diēī iam adest? Casina tamen in cubiculō nunc iam manet. neque surgit neque mihi quid respondet. vae! heu! nōnne necesse est nōbīs dominum arcessere? nōnne vespillōnem quoque?”

Milphiō, “ō Gallice, mī Gallice,” respondet. “nōs oportet ad cubiculum regredī. sine dubiō Casina nunc iam surgit tē dērīsum!” Milphiō tamen sollicitus cum Gallicō ad cubiculum regreditur Casinam excitātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll find out whether there was, in fact, a good reason for Milphiō and Gallicus to be worried or whether, as so often, Gallicus has been overreacting “just a bit.” intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

A Turning Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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

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

Wedding Stories, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it? I had feared that my day of waiting for the car repair wouldn’t be very productive … and so it was hugely productive. I even had Wi-Fi access for much of the day! So I was able not only to draft stories, but to use online resources like GoogleBooks and Glossa to do some editing and fact-checking. (I’m eternally grateful to GoogleBooks for scanning Harold Johnston’s Private Life of the Romans, which is available at this link. At almost 110 years old, it’s a bit outdated in places, but it has a huge amount of useful information – including specialized Latin terminology for things related to Roman marriage that you’ll find in our current series of stories. Grātiās maximās tibi, Professor Johnston, et vōbīs, GoogleBooks team!)

Anyway, today we’ll look at the next story in the sequence about Valeria’s wedding to Vipsānius. I realized yesterday morning, while driving to drop off the car for service, that some of you lectōrēs cārissimī, who are familiar with the Big Three reading-method Latin textbooks, might be a bit concerned about a wedding-themed story. I’m thinking of one particular book, quem nōmināre nōlō, in which the wedding turns into a disaster because the bride is secretly in love with someone else … a really exciting and gripping story-line, and one of my students’ traditional favorites. But that’s not what will happen in the Tres Columnae stories.

I’m very fond of the Pyramus and Thisbe motif, but I must say I enjoy the ironic way that Ovid treats the story far more than I would a “straight-up” treatment. So no one will die horribly in Lectiō XXIV, I promise! Or I guess I should say, to be fair, that no one will die in our primary stories! If participants and subscribers want to create stories like that, they’re certainly welcome to do so … though, of course, we also reserve the right to edit and approve. In the primary story-line, though, I really don’t want any Teenage Relationship Drama; I get plenty of that whenever I talk with my face-to-face students and my almost-teenage daughter. 🙂

Anyway, in today’s story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, Caelia is dressing her daughter for the Big Day. I’m grateful, once again, to

  • Professor Johnston, quite posthumously, for reminding me about the tunica rēgilla and the nōdus Herculāneus, and that Hercules watches over married life (which, when you think of his problematic relationships with women, is rather ironic, isn’t it?)
  • Professors Lewis and Short, also quite posthumously, and via Glossa, for cofirming that cōmere is the verb you use for arranging hair in this context, that involvere is what you do with a flammeum, and that vīncīre applies to the nodus Herculāneus as it does to ordinary knots.

Here we go:

in ātriō domūs, Valeria togam suam praetextam exuit et tunicam rēgillam induit. Caelia crīnēs Valeriae in sex partēs hastā cōmit et vittīs retinet. tum Caelia, fīliam suam amplexa, “mihi laetandum est, Valeriōla mea, quod hodiē vespere iuvenī optimī nūbēs!” māterfamiliās, haec verba locūta, flammeō caput Caeliae involvit. tum, fīliam iterum amplexa, lacrimīs iterum sē trādit. Valeria, mātrem quoque amplexa, “ō mater mea,” inquit, “quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimēs! nōnne ego ipsa gaudeō? nōnne iuvenis optimus mē uxorem vespere dūcet? quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimās ita effundās!”

Caelia tandem lacrimās retinēre potest. Valeriam iterum amplexa, “ō fīlia,” inquit, “nōnne lacrimō quod laetissima sum? rēctē tamen dīcis: mihi haud lacrimandum est! haud decet mātrem diē nūptiārum fīliae lacrimāre! ōmina enim optima tibi praebēre dēbeō.” Caelia sē colligit et haec addit: “siste nunc, mea fīlia, et nōlī ita tē movēre! mē enim oportet nōdum Herculis vīncīre. difficile tamen est nōdum rīte vīncīre, cum sponsae nōn cōnsistunt!”

Valeria “ignōsce mihi, māter,” respondet, et statim cōnsistit. Caelia cingulum sūmit et nōdum Herculāneum perītē circum īlia fīliae vīncit. “heus,” sēcum putat, “nōnne tempus fugit? nōnne paucōs ante diēs māter mea nōdum Herculis mihi ita vīnxit?”

Valeria tamen, “māter mea,” subitō inquit, “cūr nodum vīncīre haesitās?” et Caelia “ignōsce mihi, fīlia mea,” respondet. “haestiābam enim, quod diem nūptiārum meārum in animō volvēbam.” Caelia nōdum cōnficit et “nunc iam,” inquit, “nōnne nōs decet precēs Herculī ipsī, quī mātrimōnia omnia custōdit, iam adhibēre?”

Valeria manum Caeliae prēnsat. tum māter fīliaque verba sollemnia prōnuntiant. haec verba locūtae, ambae ex ātriō ēgrediuntur rēs nūptiālēs parātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you happen to be a specialist in Roman wedding ceremonies, please let me know if there are any factual errors here! I think I’ve accurately depicted what we do know, but I’m always open to corrections. And, of course, the beauty of an online “text” like the Tres Columnae Project is that it’s easy to make such corrections – no expensive reprints, lists of errata and corrigenda, or economic decisions about new editions!
  • You can probably see that I was trying to strike a balance between “universal” emotional issues and culturally specific details in this story. And, of course, I’ve never been a bride myself, nor have I ever been the mother of a bride! So, how well does this story depict the “universal” emotions of Valeria and Caelia? That is, if you’ve been a bride (or the mother of one), can you see yourself in Valeria, Caelia, or both? And if not, what do we need to change?
  • How well does it depict the specific cultural details of Roman wedding preparations?
  • How is the balance? Is there too much of one or the other, or did we manage to get the balance “just right”?
  • And, most of all, does this story grab your attention and make you want to keep reading?

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore some other stories in the sequence. By the end of Lectiō XXIV, not only will we follow Valeria through her wedding day, but we’ll also witness

  • the servī et ancillae who are preparing for the wedding feast;
  • the nervous bridegroom, with his father and servants;
  • the recent wedding of Caius’ sister Lollia, in a flashback;
  • our friend Lucius’ response to Lollia’s wedding; and even
  • preparations for the weddings of two of your favorite mouse-children.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments and emails coming, and I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend in Winston-Salem, NC, for the 2010 American Classical League Institute.