Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:07:37 AM

 Sunday, March 21, 2004


ante diem xii kalendas apriles

  • Festival of Mars (day 21)
  • Quinquatrus (day 3) -- the gladiator fest continues

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NUNTII: Akropolis World News

The latest headlines from Akropolis World News in Classical Greek:

Burned libraries along History (2nd part)
Burned libraries along History (1st part)
Neil Armstrong: "Support Bush's space plan" - Great Wall myth excised from textbooks

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NUNTII: Nuntii Latini

The latest headlines from YLE's Nuntii Latini:

Magna strages Matriti facta (19.3.2004)

Comitia Hispaniae parlamentaria (19.3.2004)

Putin praesidens iterum creatus (19.3.2004)

Generalis Adolf Ehrnrooth sepultus (19.3.2004)

De foramine in Outokumpu altissimo (19.3.2004)

Audi ...

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BLOGWATCH: Nephelokokkygia

Classics in Contemporary Culture pointed me to this new blog (with a great name) -- Nephelokokkygia --  devoted to Classical philology. Worth a look!

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NUNTII: Latin in Scotland Again

This will be the last one (I promise!) ... from the Scotsman:

EHEU! O me miserum! And all that sort of thing. The announcement that Strathclyde University is to abolish its vocational course for classics teachers has been greeted with an outbreak of lamentations of the kind that the Scottish establishment does so well, whenever some cultural asset that it has sedulously neglected for decades is finally pronounced to be in a terminal condition. For centuries, Latin and Greek were the mainstays of Scottish education; if they are lost to the schools curriculum (NB Latin noun, neuter, second declension), that will not be a sign of modernisation, but of grave intellectual decline.

This crisis is hardly unexpected. Greek became a fatality in Scottish state schools decades ago; now Latin is on the danger list. Yet the complacency with which the educational establishment has watched this decline is matched only by the fatuity of the comments with which it has responded to the announcement by Strathclyde. While rightly deploring the demise of classics, Judith Gillespie, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, claimed: "These subjects are not seen as having market value. This is the market economy in action."

La Gillespie is talking nonsense (so, no change there). There is no free market in Scottish state education, which is where the collapse in classics is taking place. It is in the free-market sector of the independent schools that Latin and Greek are relatively flourishing. In the academic year 2000- 2001, official figures show that, of pupils presenting for examinations at SCQF Levels 3, 4 and 5, although only 3.8% came from independent schools, they supplied 37.2% of entries for Latin. The market is no enemy of the classics; it is in the state school sector, manipulated by social engineers, Utopians and fanatics for ‘inclusion’, that rigorous disciplines such as Latin and Greek are sidelined as ‘élitist’.

The decline is serious and potentially terminal. In 1997, a total of 382 pupils sat Higher Latin and 1,049 sat Standard Grade; by 2002 these figures had fallen to 257 and 700 respectively. That represents a 50% decline at Higher level in just five years. This is not sustainable. If Latin follows classical Greek into the dustbin of Scottish academic history, we shall have presided over the most shameful cultural reverse in a millennium - alongside the elimination of Gaelic, about which we have displayed similar complacency.

There are parts of Scotland, eg Galloway, where the classical languages have been unavailable to state school pupils for a long time past, and this desert is expanding. Yet nothing could be more at variance with our educational heritage. In the cosmopolitan ambience of pre-Reformation Scotland, the young scholar had a good grounding in Latin, perhaps beginning by learning to translate prayers. Among classical texts, Ovid and Terence were fashionable in those days. Yet even the cultural convulsion of the Reformation, which replaced the Mass in Latin with a vernacular service, did not displace the classics, any more than was the case in religiously-divided Germany, the doyen of academic classicism.

The Scottish Education Act, 1696 has been credited with introducing the first national education system since ancient Sparta. Within that system, Latin and Greek towered pre-eminently. After the 1707 Treaty of Union, one of the three surviving pillars of Scottish identity - Scots Law - was rooted in Roman jurisprudence. Scottish lawyers pursuing their studies at Leyden and other European universities shared a common juridical culture. Even in modern times, the Institutes of Justinian, with their Latin ‘performative utterances’, chronicling the endless conflict between Aulus Agerius (the goodie) and Numerius Negidius (the most wanted man in the Roman Empire), have been standard fare for law students at Scottish universities. 

Scots law is peppered with Latin phrases ("Mihi adduc Beltrami"?), rather than the Norman-French familiar in English legal proceedings. Yet the cultural imperative requiring us to preserve the classics goes beyond inherited tradition. Latin and Greek were long coupled together, because of the contiguous history, mythology and culture from which they descended. In certain respects, however, the two languages are strikingly dissimilar. They do not even share the same alphabet. Latin is economic, terse and clinical; Greek is lyrical, expansive and punctuated with untranslatable particles of nuance. Realism dictates that a fight-back on behalf of the classics must be led by Latin.

It is a mental discipline: it trains us to think clearly - a skill largely lost in today’s emotive, touchy-feely (tangere-sentire?) age. Often, for those who have studied Latin, the meaning and correct spelling of an English word will be supplied by that schooldays insight.

On first introduction to Latin, schoolboys were understandably out of sympathy with a society that conversed with tables and a landscape exclusively populated by sailors, daughters, arrows and farmers. With an expanded vocabulary came the discovery that the whole of Gaul was divided in three parts, as, beginning with Cæsar’s memoirs of Gallic war, a rewarding world of literature gradually opened up.

The poetry of Virgil; the onomatopeia that allowed us to hear the hoofbeats in the dust ("quadrupedante putrem sonitu"); the urbane odes of Horace; the rhetoric of Cicero, many of whose literary devices could be discovered in the works of later writers such as Macaulay - is this mind-enlarging experience to be restricted to public-school pupils and withdrawn from the reach of Scotland’s less privileged youth? Is that the ultimate destination of the lad o’ pairts, in an ‘inclusive’ age?

The international institution that formerly sustained Latin - the Catholic Church - has largely sold out that great intellectual heritage. In 1962, at the first session of the Second Vatican Catastrophe, the American bishops complained that they could not understand the debates being conducted in Latin. So they installed, at their own expense, simultaneous translation facilities. Instead, they should each have been handed a copy of North and Hillard and been told to come back when they had attained the level of literacy appropriate to any bishop of the Holy Roman Church.

Today, millions are flocking to see Mel Gibson’s Passion, whose dialogue is in Latin and Aramaic. Perhaps that will help. At the most trivial level, it is alleged that the Harry Potter phenomenon, with its many Latin allusions, has caused the 80% increase in American school pupils taking Latin for college credits over the past six years. The publication, in Latin, of Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis may intensify this trend. In Scotland, however, the growing lack of provision makes pupils’ interest irrelevant. O tempora, O mores!

*For those who didn’t study Latin: ‘Sad path to the point of absurdity’

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NUNTII: Latin in Scotland Update

A few days ago we reprinted a Scotsman piece referring to a letter to the editor on the subject of axing Classics instruction ... I couldn't find same, but an Explorator reader had already sent it to me (or rather, a link to two letters) ... thanks CmN! Here they are:

In his article "There must be a place for classics in our modern education system" (Opinion, 15 March), Duncan Hamilton makes an eloquent case for the place of classical subjects in the school curriculum.

A classics presence enhances schools of many different types, not just in the linguistic rigour of traditional Latin and Greek language courses, but in the access offered by non-linguistic courses to the origins of our civilisation in all its diversity, from art and architecture to law, philosophy and politics.

Courses in classical studies are booming in universities and in schools south of the Border; the appetite of students in state schools in Scotland is no less; it is simply not being satisfied. We are, therefore, deeply concerned at the threat to classics posed by the suspension of teacher-training courses in classical studies, Latin and Greek at the University of Strathclyde. This course is the only means of entry to the profession for those who wish to teach in state schools in Scotland; if it disappears, classics will disappear from the state sector as its current practitioners retire.

This is not a simple matter of axing a single department in a single institution; if classics teacher training disappears from Strathclyde, classics teaching disappears from state schools in Scotland.

We ought to be ensuring that more students, in schools of every type, have the chance to see what classics can do for them; we must not limit our children’s access to the sources of their own culture.

The demand for the continued funding in a single Scottish university of a lecturer to train classics teachers is both a modest one and the very minimum that is necessary to avoid a sad reduction in opportunities for our school children.

The Scottish Executive needs to take appropriate and speedy action on this.

DOUGLAS CAIRNS (professor of classics-elect, University of Edinburgh); ROBERT CRAWFORD (professor of modern Scottish literature and head of school of English, University of St Andrews); ROGER GREEN (professor of humanity, University of Glasgow); RONALD KNOX (senior teacher, Greek and Greek history, University of Glasgow); ELIZABETH MOIGNARD (chair, Classical Association of Scotland)
c/o Department of Classics
University of Glasgow

I agree with Duncan Hamilton and Susan Milligan (Letters, 17 March) about the need to preserve the classics in state schools. Latin and Greek survive in the private sector, and I don’t hear parents who pay for their children’s education complaining that their money is being wasted.

Traditionally, languages were taught to the ablest students, irrespective of their family background or potential career choices.

Just before I started secondary school in my east Fife village in 1958, my father, a fisherman turned manual labourer, astonished me by telling me I would be coming home on my first day saying "amo, amas, amat" and "fermez la porte".

As a pupil in the 1920s, he, and other fisher children like him, had been bright enough to join the academic stream, and had had the opportunity to study French and Latin. No-one thought to patronise them by forcing "relevant" subjects on them.

Braehead Grove

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NUNTII: Latin in Scotland

The Sunday Herald gets a word in:

Shame on those who would condemn Latin from Scottish education sine die. There was a time, and it does not seem too long ago, when no self-respecting Scottish school (state or private) would fail to provide a solid grounding in the classics.
Partly it was tradition, partly it was the way education was ordered. But it was also practical, as a qualification in Latin was often required for entry to a Scottish university.

Besides, well taught, Latin opened a window on the Roman world. Through histories written by writers as different as Julius Caesar, Livy, Tacitus or Plutarch it was possible to gain insights denied to the plodders who ploughed through the texts in translation.

Take Caesar’s Commentaries, which were usually the first exercises for fledgling Latinists and as a result proved to be the first insurmountable obstacle. Bogged down by the mysteries of the ablative absolute, the text could be a nightmare, especially if it was taught by a teacher who believed the learning of Latin was all to do with inculcating discipline and nothing to do with inspiring enjoyment. [more]

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REVIEW: From Scholia

Elizabeth Ivory Tylawsky, Saturio's Inheritance: The Greek Ancestry of the Roman Comic Parasite.

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Posted this week to the bulletin board:

On the jobs page:

UWaterloo: Generalist (tenure track)
UChicago: Latinist (two year +)
McMaster: Generalist (one year)
UChicago: Hellenist (one year)
Skidmore: Generalist (one year)

... see also the APA's job listings for March

On the events page:

CFP: CROSSING CULTURES: Identities in the Material World
CFP: CACW-CAPN Joint Conference 2005
CFP: Orality and Representation in the Ancient Novel.

On the miscellaneous page:

The University of Edinburgh's LEMBA ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH CENTRE, CYPRUS: Lithics Field School

Use the Calendars at the bottom of the respective pages to see earlier offerings.

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 The latest issue of The Ancient World on Television listings   have been posted
  Issue 6.47 of Explorator has also been posted.

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AWOTV: On TV Today

10.00 p.m.|HISTU| History of Prostitution
Once upon a time, being a prostitute carried no stigma--in ancient
Sumeria and Babylon, that is. And in certain cities in ancient
Greece, harlots were associated with sacred activities at temples.
Even in the American Wild West, there was a degree of tolerance. So
what happened through the years? We'll investigate innumerable
stories about the changing social position of the "ladies of the
night" throughout history, and find out why prostitution is called
the oldest profession!

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