From the Herald-Leader:

[Which of the] following words was not derived from Latin: legal, eagle, beagle, regal.

If you answered beagle — which is correct — you would have been right at home at the state convention of the Kentucky Junior Classical League in Lexington this weekend.

The event brought together about 260 teenagers, representing 10 high schools scattered across Kentucky, who spent the better part of three days learning about and celebrating the wonders and mysteries of antiquity and classical studies.

The convention, at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa, was the only place in town where you could dress up for a real Roman banquet; learn to make Roman wax tablets; put yourself up for sale at a Roman slave auction; or try your Latin skills at a quick-recall competition called "Certamen." (The beagle question came from the competition.)

You could even hear Robert Rabel, professor and director of the University of Kentucky's Gaines Center for the Humanities, compare Homer's Iliad, written around the 7th century B.C., with The Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood's 1992 western.

Indeed, Rabel thinks The Unforgiven really is the Iliad set in the Old West, and that Eastwood's character, Will Munny, is cut from the same rough cloth as Achilles, the central figure in Homer's epic.

All of that seems to fit in nicely with the motto for this year's Junior Classical League convention: "Fortuna noblis vi animi tantum frenabitur." Or, in other words: "The level of our success is limited only by our imagination."

By now, you should be getting the idea that there's nothing dull or uninteresting about the ancient world or the study of antiquities.

Which is what the Kentucky Junior Classical League is all about. It's part of a national organization for junior high and high school students that encourages appreciation for the language, literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.

Bari Clements, one of several high school Latin teachers who helped put on the conference, reflects the enthusiasm of the organization. She has taught English and humanities, but always comes back to Latin, which she now teaches at Madison Central High School in Richmond.

"I just love the language and culture," she said.

Maddie Kusch-Kavanagh, the outgoing student president of the Kentucky Junior Classical League, is one teenager who thinks ancient civilization is anything but dull.

Maddie is a senior at Covington Latin School, though only 15 years old (she skipped two grades), and she has studied Latin for four years.

"Latin is work, but it really pays off," she said. "Latin will always be useful; 65 percent of the words in the English language are derived from Latin. It helped me so much on the SAT, and the skills you learn in Latin will stay with you forever."