Most recent update:7/1/2004; 5:37:11 AM

 Tuesday, June 15, 2004

ante diem xvii kalendas quinctilias

Quinquatrus minusculae (day 3 of a five-day festival honouring the birthday (maybe) of Minerva )

Quando stercus delatus fas ("When the 'trash' is taken out") and the Temple of Vesta is closed to the public

302 A.D. -- martyrdom of Hesychius

303 A.D. -- martyrdom of Vitus (and companions)

5:55:47 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

BLOGWATCH: @ Ancient Biographies

Robert Greaves has written the first part of a biography of Themistocles ...
5:36:44 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Medea Palestina

A forthcoming production of the Medea looks interesting:

A new adaptation of Euripides' tragedy Medea will derive its tension from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The work, titled Medea in Jerusalem, is penned by Roger Kirby, according to a recent casting notice. Dates are Aug. 4 to Sept. 4. The venue will be the Rattlestick Theatre in Greenwich Village.

The casting call asks for an Israeli Jason and a Medea who "should pass for Palestinian." [Playbill]

It will be interesting to see if it's possible to sympathize with either Medea or Jason in this one ...

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CHATTER: Great Poets

Check this out ... it's an excerpt from a column at waxing on the columnist's favourite poets. Inter alia:

But in my eyes all these poets are somewhat lost in the winds of time. John Masefield wrote, "A Tale of Troy," the best written book siege of Troy I've ever read, which includes the Odysseus - plan and building of the Horse, of the entrance into Troy. It was a shame to see the recent movie Hollywood produced called, "Troy," almost everything was out of place. They did an injustice to the Poet Laureates of the past. I will mention only a few reasons: Hektor ran around Troy trying to escape Achilles, he did not fight like a man. And they portrayed Paris as a famine weakling, he was not at all. He is the one, who kills Achilles, and Achilles never did make it through the gates of Troy, plus his son, after hearing of his Fathers death, joined the great battle at Troy. And Agamemnon the King was not killed at Troy, but when he got home, his wife and her lover did him in. By-George, let's get this right if were going to take one of the greatest poetic epics humankind has ever produced, right? Helen went back to Sparta and married again; but before that, when Paris is killed, she gets married to his brother Peiphobus. Matter of fact I've been to Troy, in Asia Minor, Turkey, what a thrill.

Is it just me, or does this give the impression that the Troy movie was somehow 'inspired by' a poem about Troy by some guy named Masefield?

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CHATTER: EuroCup Classics

The sports folk at the BBC offer Horace as a balm to soothe England's soccer/football fans after that (ahem) somewhat boneheaded final couple of minutes:

As the great Roman poet Horace once wrote, "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant."

We'll see if it turns out to be wishful thinking ... (watch out for Sweden).

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NUNTII: Betty Merrill Retires

The Free Lance Star has a huge article about Latin teacher Betty Merrill, who has retired after 35 years of teaching the subject:

She's the queen of conjugation, the doyenne of declension, the goddess of grammar.

She's the lady of Latin.

She's Betty Merrill.

With her yardstick scepter and assistance from The Fates, she has been ruling the roost in Latin classes for 35 years now, bestowing gifts from the ancient world on hundreds of adoring high school students.

Some say she's the reason the Roman poet Horace coined the phrase "carpe diem."

Seize the day she does, every single day, for she believes every minute, every second, every verb, every noun, every lanky boy and every giggly girl count in the magnum opus of her life--drilling Latin into the brains of teenagers.

"They don't know it, but Latin's gonna save the world," she declares.

Alas, even queens must retire, and so it is with Betty Merrill. Last week at the city's James Monroe High School, she gave her last exam to weary fifth-years reading Catullus, to bleary-eyed translators of Cicero, and to shell-shocked grammarians of Latin II.

She transformed her final class of fresh-faced first-years into budding scholars with a new appreciation for a foreign language and a better understanding of the language they speak every day.

It's been a bittersweet year in Room 111 at James Monroe High School, where Merrill has reigned supreme for the past 17 years. Come September, one of her former students at JM will take up Merrill's yardstick scepter to become the new Latin teacher.

David Blosser says he's honored--but awed--to be following in her path.

"She inspired me with her enthusiasm, and I majored in classics and became a Latin teacher because of her. Those are pretty big shoes to fill."

Indeed they are. Merrill's students consistently rank at or near the top on state and national Latin exams, and this year marked the 11th out of the past 13 years that the program was awarded the plaque for being first place in the state by the Classical Association of Virginia.

On the National Latin Exam this year, 77 of her 85 students received scores placing them in the top two categories: summa cum laude and maxima cum laude. On the state exam, 10 students won first-, second-, or third-place awards.

Students, colleagues, and parents say the success stems from Merrill's high expectations and rigorous--even relentless--approach.

She starts teaching before the bell rings, teaches through announcements over the loudspeaker, teaches into the sound of the ringing bell between classes.

"Keep your seats," she says if she isn't quite finished when the bell rings.

She gives daily quizzes--yes, daily quizzes, the thought of which sends Latin I students into fits of anxiety till they get used to them and realize the quizzes simply reinforce what they learned the day before.

She thinks nothing of assigning third-year Cicero students 20 or 30 lines of translation a night, consigning them to two or three hours of homework in her class alone.

She gives homework on weekends and holidays, and you'd better get it done before class because she might call on you for an oral translation. And nobody wants to flub a translation and disappoint Mrs. Merrill.

Latin is anything but dead in Merrill's classes. She's a serious taskmistress, but she also makes learning fun.

"The Fates" actually choose students to perform orally in class, she says.

They're her index cards, one for each student in class, which she shuffles in preparation for random selection of students to translate a sentence or line or two of poetry.

But as the ruler of Room 111, she has been known to intervene with The Fates, causing The Fates to require the perpetrator of some act of mischief to translate an entire passage, while his fellow students giggle in the background.

As her students have come to know, Merrill doesn't leave anything to chance. She gladly chose a windowless classroom at JM to minimize distractions.

Inside Room 111, it never rains, it never snows, and nothing ever happens to draw students' eyes away from her performance at the head of the room.

But she knows that sometimes kids tune out, and she's ready for that, too.

She's covered the walls with artwork and calligraphy, there's a timeline of Roman history around the ceiling, a mural of Olympic gods on the back wall, Latin expressions all over the place.

"They might as well have something they can look at and learn from when they tune me out," she says. [more]

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Margherita Bergamini (ed.), La collezione numismatica di Emilio Bonci Casuccini.

Ernestine S. Elster, Colin Renfrew, Prehistoric Sitagroi: Excavations in Northeast Greece, 1968-1970. Volume 2: The Final Report.

Elio Lo Cascio, Il Princeps e il suo Impero. Studi di storia amministriva e finanziaria romana.

4:40:20 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

11.00 p.m. |HISTU| Terry Jones' Medieval Lives: The Monk
From France, Terry Jones investigates the Monk. A peaceful life of
prayer in service to God? Not for many medieval monks, who devoted
their lives to making lots and lots of money. Religion was big
business in those days and the merchandising opportunities were
endless. Filmed on location at Citeaux, France, headquarters of the
Cistercian Order, Terry discovers that monks were also pioneers in
architecture, technology, and business. (Half-hour version)

HISTU = History Channel (US)

4:37:42 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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