Saturday, March 28, 2009

Felicem festum diem anniversarium, Strunk and White!

Gaudeamus, Grammar Geeks! (Let's party, Word Nerds!) This April marks the 50th anniversary of the college classic Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boston Latin Faces Drastic Budget Cuts!

Boston Latin School, founded in 1635 and the oldest public school in America, is facing drastic budget cuts. While the required study of Latin is not in danger, other courses (including Chinese, calculus and music) may be dropped. Read more in Boston Latin School Budge Puts Squeeze on Harvard-Bound Pupils (Bloomberg, March 25, 2009).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Who Invented Spring Break? The Romans, of course!

As it turns out, students in Ancient Rome went on school holiday in March too! The Quinquatrus was a festival celebrated on the 19th of March, five days after the Ides. The Quinquatrus started out as a one day celebration, but as William Smith points out in his Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd edition, Revised and Enlarged, 1891), "a false etymology led to its being afterwards regarded as a five-days festival."

Therefore, the Quinquatria (now pluralized) became a five day long spring festival, lasting from March 19th to the 23rd. At some point, the Quinquatria became associated with Minerva, as the Romans chose this time to dedicate the temple of Minerva on the Aventine. The Quinquatria became a time to celebrate trades and arts. As a five day holiday, schools were in recess. The first day was reserved for making offerings at the Temple of Minerva, and the other four days were marked by gladiator shows and "a season of general merrymaking." The fifth day of the Quinquatria was called the Tubilustrium, or the sounding of the trumpets.

If the Romans in Britain had 31 Flavors of Ice Cream...

In fact, if the Romans in Britain had ice cream at all, they would have enjoyed apple and cinnamon, cherry and honey flavors. Modern day Britons who live near Vindolanda and Hadrian's Wall can now enjoy Roman Britain Ice Cream from the Doddington Dairy in Northumberland, UK. You can read all about it in A Taste of Roman Times (The Berwick Advertiser newspaper, 18 March 2009) as well as checking out the official Doddington Dairy Roman Britain Ice Cream webpage.

Thanks to the Association for Latin Teaching's outstanding weblog for pointing this one out!

Visit Hadrian's Wall Country to find out even more about Roman Vindolanda. Also see Oxford University's Vindolanda Tablets Online site to view images of the actual Vindolanda Tablets, which were excavated from the Romano-British fort and are referenced in the Berwick article. (Those of you who teach using Minimus will definitely find these pages interesting, as the course is set in Vindolanda.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New York State Latin Teachers in the News

Latin Roots Take Hold for Students (Albany Times Union, March 19, 2009) in Upstate New York. Read about the growing enrollments in Latin courses in the Capital region of New York State, where Todd Hutson and Barbara Sugarman teach.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Hodie est dies festus sancti Patricii!

Today is the feast day of St. Patrick!

Kelly Henry writes to let us know that University College Cork has a nice collection of online Irish Latin manuscripts including St. Patrick's Confession. Enjoy! (The Classical Christian Ethereal Library has an English translation.)

Another Irish saint who has left us a written legacy is Brendan, whose story recounts the seven year Atlantic voyage of a band of sixth-century Irish monks. This work is considered one of the most important Irish contributions to the literature of the middle ages. CANEPress has recently published a selection of passages from Navigatio Sancti Brendani, in a book suitable for second year students and intermediate readers of Latin. This collection includes vocabulary hints and comprehension questions.

English readers can find a translation of the Voyage of St. Brendan online at the University of Lampeter's Celtic Christianity site.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ides of the Rest of the Months

National Public Radio ( is very good about remembering the Ides of March. This year, they ask the question why we never hear about the Ides of any other month...though listeners wondered if the question was answered sufficiently as the expert consulted mistakenly identifies the Ides as occuring on the 15th day of each month. (Edited to add: As it turns out, the expert did discuss how the Ides can be on either the 13th or 15th, but that part ended up "on the cutting room floor" and not in the portion that was broadcast on air.)

The Romans expressed their dates using the Kalends, Nones and Ides. The first day of each month was called the Kalend. In March, July, October and May, the seventh day was called the Nonae and the fifteenth, the Idus. In other months, the Nonae fell on the fifth day, the Idus on the thirteenth. To give dates, the Romans would count backward from these dates. Most Latin grammars (George Lane; Gildersleeve and Lodge; Charles Bennett) include a section on Roman calendar dating. To find out how the Romans would express a date that didn't fall on a Kalend, Nonae or Idus, consult one of these aforementioned reference grammars for more information. It's a bit complex, but not impossible to understand, and these grammars often include quick reference charts for determining dates. The point here is, however, that the Ides don't always fall on the fifteenth.

According to this rhyme from the 19th century grammarians Basil L. Gildersleeve and Gonzalez Lodge:

"In March, July, October, May,

The Ides are on the fifteenth day,
The Nones the seventh; but all besides
Have two days less for Nones and Ides."

Listen to Beware: It's the Ides of March on to see what you think.

Since it's the Ides of March, and we're still thinking about Caesar and calendars, it's also worth mentioning that Caesar reformed the Roman calendar, by fixing the number of days in a year at 365, adding a leap day every four years. The Julian Calendar (named, of course, for Julius Caesar) was eventually itself reformed by Pope Gregory XIII in the 15th century. The calendar we use today is called the Gregorian Calendar.

Click here for links to previous NPR radio presentations referencing the Ides of March.

If you have a blog, you can add a Roman calendar to it. Visit Laura Gibb's Schoolhouse Widgets for details.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day!

The Ides of March are coming tomorrow, but today is Pi Day! The Greek letter π is of course the symbol for the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, equivalent to 3.1415926535...

We can't let the mathematicians have all the fun. Classicists love the number π because it's also a Greek consonant letter!

Pi day is celebrated every March 14, the fourteenth day of the third month, or 3/14.

To find out more about Pi Day, visit the Official Pi Day website, where you can find out all about the history of pi, discuss the number pi, send an e-card, buy pi stuff, get ideas for your own pi party, and much more! There are also some great lesson ideas at the Teach Pi website.

You can also listen to
a wonderful BBC Radio 4 program all about Pi.

A lesser known, and less-often celebrated mathematical holiday is Square Root Day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The First Illustrated Latin-English Encyclopedia Can Now Be Yours

Project Gutenberg has just released a public domain HTML version of the Orbis Pictus ("The Visible World, or a Nomenclature, and Pictures of All the Chief Things That Are in the World, and of Mens Employments Therein") by John Amos Comenius. Today we have the Kingfisher illustrated children's encyclopedias, but this "was for a century the most popular text-book in Europe," first published in 1658. This 1887 reprint includes black and white woodcut illustrations and facing Latin-English text. It was originally written for young Latin students.

The Gutenberg Project edition includes an appended clickable index.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Recreate Caesar's Legion in Your Classroom!

T.J. Howell has some imaginative suggestions for teaching Caesar, including setting up seating charts to resemble Roman battle lines! There are also suggestions for bulletin boards and props, as well as a bibliography. T.J. has also written two lesson plans, based upon Caesar's Gallic Wars: Decision at Alesia, which explores Caesar's perspectives of the motivations of the Gauls; and Roman Heroics, which is based upon Caesar's only campaign in Gaul that fails.

Remember, the Ides of March are approaching! See past blog entries keyed to Caesar for some interesting resources.

Stephen Colbert, Latin Scholar

Stephen Colbert interviewed Carl Wilson, author of the book Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste last week, about the concept of "good" and "bad" taste in popular culture. Stephen manages to work in an apt Latin proverb!

You can also listen to Stephen sing Felicem Natalem Diem (Happy Birthday, in Latin) to Pope Benedict XVI in a clip from a previous show.

Minimus is Coming to America!

Barbara Bell, creator and author of Minimus, "the mouse who made Latin cool," will be spending two weeks in the United States (New York, Pittsburgh, and the Baltimore-Washington area) participating in children's events, teacher-training meetings, book-signings, events in conjunction with the Excellence Through Classics organization, and an online webinar!

Minimus: Starting Out in Latin is a popular course for elementary-age students (ages 7-10), which introduces the Latin language, Roman culture and Classical mythology using stories, dialogues and comic strips. The second volume, Minimus Secundus, continues the course through the middle school level (up to age 13). The Minimus series is published by Cambridge University Press. The author resides in the United Kingdom.

Minimus in the U.S.A.: July 12-26, 2009

New York City: The main event will be an “Online Webinar” from the US offices of Cambridge University Press on Tuesday, July 14. From 2-2:30pm Eastern, Barbara will do a Powerpoint presentation on the story of Minimus, followed by a question and answer session. Anyone who wants to take part in the webinar should sign up by contacting Jim Harmon, the Classics specialist at CUP in New York. The webinar makes it possible for teachers nation-wide to participate without having to leave home.

Baltimore-Washington, DC: On Friday, July 17, Barbara will be holding another teacher-training event at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel from 9:30 am-1:00 pm. Plans are also being firmed up for two activities for families: the first one will be held in Takoma Park from 10-11:30 am on Saturday and the second is on Sunday at the Laurel library from 1-3 pm. On both of these days, Barbara will be participating in a children’s celebration of Latin, Roman mythology, and Roman history. For more information, to volunteer or register, contact

Pittsburgh: In the summer of 2009, the Excellence Through Classics Committee of the American Classical League will celebrate its 20th anniversary for promoting the study of Classics at the elementary and middle school levels. In conjunction with Barbara Bell's visit to the USA, several events are being planned in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Please mark your calendars for Wednesday, July 22 - Saturday, July 25th. Highlights include a Welcome TEA Party on Wednesday, a teacher training workshop on Thursday at St. Louise de Marillac Parish Center, a book signing on Friday at Barnes & Noble at South Hills Village Mall, and an event at the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh on Saturday. Details will follow in the next two months. These events will be a collaboration of local, state, national, and international Classics organizations. For more information, contact Zee Ann Poerio,, Immediate Past Chair of ETC.

You can find out even more about Minimus by visiting the Official Minimus blog.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Cambridge Latin As Viewed from Space!

Latin teachers who would like to teach across the curriculum and make connections between science and the ancient world during this International Year of Astronomy 2009 may wish to take a look at David Parson's compilation of NASA Photos for Classics Lessons. David has listed links to a number of space shuttle photographs of particular interest to Cambridge Latin Course students.

Be sure to check out the rest of Classics Teaching Resources, as you'll find a treasure trove of teaching aids here, plus excerpts from the still relevant writings of W.H.D. Rouse, founder of the Association foR Latin Teaching (including sample chapters from Latin on the Direct Method and a terrific collection of Latin Chanties to sing in your classroom!)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Latin Immersion Summer Program at Christendom College

Christendom College is offering two one-week, intensive, active-Latin immersion courses for high school aged students designed to introduce aspiring Latinists to the beauty and power of the ancient language of the Church. Classes will be conducted primarily in Latin. The magistri are Dr. Mark Clark, Christendom's Associate Professor of Classical and Early Christian Studies and Dr. David Morgan of Furman University.

National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week

Zee Ann Poerio's third grade students celebrated National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week this week!

Zee Ann writes: It's National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week (NLTRW) and I am answering the call from Sherwin Little, President of the American Classical League, to celebrate the week with my third grade students! Yesterday coincided with a national reading event called Read Across America which marks Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2th.

My third graders were amazed to learn that there was a Latin translation of The Cat In the Hat – Cattus Petasatus, (Dr. Seuss' classic was translated by Jennifer Morrish Tunberg, Ph.D. and Terence O. Tunberg, Ph.D. and published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers,Inc.)

Each year, I encourage my students to memorize the first page in Latin and some of them challenge their parents to do the same.

You can download an animated ENGLISH version of The Cat In the Hat FREE through KID THING, a program on the NEA website.

My students viewed the English version on a screen and listened to parts of it in Latin from a podcast made possible by Bolchazy –Carducci Publishers, Inc., read by Rose Williams and produced by Andrew Reinhard. Thanks to everyone for your help!

Today we practiced Latin greetings from Chapter 1 of Dr. Traupman's Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency. Dr. Traupman is a familiar name in my class since students who join the Latin Club use his dictionary. Thanks for all of your help too, Dr. Traupman!

Tomorrow...more fun!

For more information on National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week, visit the National Committee for Latin and Greek's official website.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Remembering the Present Subjunctive

In a recent Latinteach discussion, teachers shared the following memory tricks for remember the signature vowels used for the present subjunctive (E, EA, A, and IA):

  • shE wEArs A dIAmond...
  • hE hEArs A pIAno...
  • wE fEAr All lIArs...
  • wE fEAr A lIAr... (used in Wheelock's Latin)
  • lEt's bEAt thAt gIAnt... (used in Latin for Americans)
  • lEt's EAt cAvIAr...
  • wE EAt cAvIAr...
  • wE fEAr A trIAl...
  • wE bEAt All lIArs...
  • hE chEAts A lIAr...
  • wE bEAt A frIAr...
  • shE rEAds A dIAry
  • shE wEArs A tIAra...
  • clEm StEAms ClAms in SIAm ...
  • wE bEAt A gIAnt lIAr...(All the rest take into account the 3rd-io conjugation.)
  • shE wEArs A dIAmond tIAra...
  • shE wEArs A gIAnt dIAmond...
  • lEt's bEAt thAt gIAnt gIAnt... (And these two are hortatory subjunctive sentences.)
  • lEt's bEAt A lIAr, frIAr...

Felicem natalem diem, Dr. Seuss!

Susan Larson, a columnist in the Gwinnett Daily Post, writes a birthday tribute to the creator of the Cat in the Hat (March 1, 2009, There's No Excuse Not to Know Dr. Seuss) which leads her into the classroom of Latin teacher, Robert Patrick, who teaches the ancient language as a living, spoken tongue.