For your next visit, Pompeii will be virtually brought to life

On the last evening of a school trip to Greece I was presented with a stone, in memory of all the stones that I had showed the students that week. Now, a visit to Pompeii may not be just stones, according to this SwissInfo piece. It's worth visiting the site, to
see the video illustrating the virtual reality process.

Swiss help bring Roman Pompeii back to life

November 21, 2004 7:50 PM

Visitors to Pompeii will now be able to see and hear life as it unfolded in Roman times, thanks to a computer project spearheaded by Geneva University.

The LifePlus programme takes real images of the ruined Italian city and adds the life that is missing, including simulated animals, plants, and humans.

The ruins of a bar come to life as visitors wearing 3D glasses watch the waiter pouring out spiced wine for customers. In a nearby room, a beautiful woman reclines on a couch as she is wooed by a handsome centurion. Meanwhile, two women in Roman garb have a heated discussion as they wander through a leafy arbour.

With the prototype, images are supplied by a computer carried in visitors’ rucksacks, but eventually they could be sent from a tiny computational device fitted to the headset.

How it works

MIRALab developed the life simulation part of the software, taking advice from historians on what sort of clothes the Romans wore, how the material flowed, and how people behaved.

Doctorate research projects were set up to develop software for simulating the hair, clothes, facial expressions and speech.

Three dimensional images were created using new algorithms, allowing computing to be done in milliseconds. The idea was to make the virtual life viewed through the 3D glasses seem to happen in real time.

A key partner in the project was Oxford-based 2D3, which sells camera tracking software to film companies around the world. Their product, Boujou, helps filmmakers insert computer-generated material into real footage.

What is it with Hecuba? Suddenly she's everywhere!

I don't know if you've discovered our ARLT calendar yet. It's on the right of the screen, looking a bit like an advertisement:

The 'View my Calendar' logo leads to – – – a calendar (surprise!). Anyway, when you visit this calendar you'll find that not only was there a fine production of Hecuba at the Donmar Warehouse, which I reviewed on this blog, but there's been a Foursight Theatre version touring the country, and next February 17th a version by Tony Harrison with Vanessa Redgrave in the title role begins in Stratford and later transfers to London.

Now I see the play is getting an outing in the United States, in San Diego, and I thought you'd like to see the review.

Whether in Troy or Iraq, it's not only soldiers who suffer
By Jennifer de Poyen

November 22, 2004

JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune

Amy Beidel as Polyxena and Robin Christ as Hecuba in a Greek story that still resonates.

Euripides, perhaps the greatest of all anti-war playwrights, has never been popular with the powers that be. Unlike his fellow Greek tragedians Aeschylus and Sophocles, who tend to lionize warriors as heroes, Euripides observes the suffering of war's victims – the women and children doomed to enslavement, sacrifice and murder.

It's hard to feel good about the killing done for god and country when you hear a woman tell the story of a daughter's rape, or a son's murder, or when a child, cut down by fear or greed, speaks with blunt force from beyond the grave.

In “Hecuba,” now in a harrowing, haunting production at 6th @ Penn Theatre, Euripides' subject is the fallen Trojan queen, a pitiable victim of the war that Greece famously waged against Troy.

Written in the early years of the later Peloponnesian War, yet another revenge-fuelled foreign adventure of the Greeks, it was intended as a cautionary tale. No one listened, of course – then as now, no one listens to the poets – but Euripides' words proved prophetic. The Peloponnesian War not only brutalized those who fought it, it also brought down the empire. It was the end of the world as the Greeks knew it.

When the play opens, the Greeks have defeated Troy; Hecuba is a slave. She has witnessed the slaughter of her husband and all but one of her sons. One of her daughters, the soothsayer Cassandra, is a concubine. As events unfold, Hecuba endures the sacrifice of her other daughter, the noble Polyxena; learns of the murder of her one remaining son, Polydorus; and avenges Polydorus' slaying by killing his murderer's children.

The first words come from Polydorus' ghost, who yearns for a proper mourning and burial. Under Esther Emery's lyrical direction, Polydorus' disembodied monologue, spoken with heart-rending innocence by young Sam Creely, is given ethereal life by the butoh dancer Charlene Penner.

As Creely speaks of his body lying “on this shore, tossed back and forth/ by the swells of the sea, washed in its ebb and flow, /unwept, unburied,” Penner, painted and dressed in white, dangles from a rope over the ash-white moonscape of a Trojan slave camp. She is at once a child on a swing and a soul without a place to rest.

Penner remains onstage throughout the play, first a spectral presence behind a bone-white, leafless tree, then later the limp corpse of Polydorus, cradled by a grief-stricken Hecuba (the captivating Robin Christ), as she decries his murderer, Polymestor (Jesse MacKinnon). In the final scene, as Hecuba seeks to justify her own murderous deeds, Penner lingers on the fringes, a rebuke to the fallen queen's conscience. Her presence enhances the play's poetry and imbues the production with a sense of the supernatural.

Marianne McDonald's perceptive, moving translation never betrays the distinctive meter of Euripides' centuries-old verse, especially in the purposefully stylized choral speeches, yet makes the playwright sing in the present tense.

Likewise, the production is grounded in Euripides' time, yet feels contemporary. Nick Fouch's set has the timeless aspect of a burned-out theater of war; it could be a prison camp in Troy or Iraq. And Emery's direction feels fresh even as it retains a sense of ritual – members of the chorus (Jen Meyer, Erin McKown, Jolene Hui) move like dancers, and characters like the Greek herald Talthybius (the excellent Edward Eigner) and the fearsome Agamemnon (Walter Ritter) tend to step forward to deliver their speeches in the classical style. Rather than updating the old story, its interpreters have chosen to reveal its ageless appeal.

Euripides was a master observer of human psychology and behavior; Hecuba's primal emotions are as familiar to us as they were to the Greeks. His plays delve into darkness, yet they also contain kernels of beauty and hope. As Hecuba's daughter Polyxena reminds us, we can better ourselves, and the world, if only we choose to be good.

8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 19
6th @ Penn Theatre, 3704 6th Ave., Hillcrest
$20, with discounts for seniors, actors and students
(619) 688-9210 or

Playwright: Euripides. Translator: Marianne McDonald. Director: Esther Emery. Scenic design: Nick Fouch. Lighting: Danielle Hill. Costumes: Jennifer Brawn Gittings. Sound: Rachel Le Vine. Cast: Charlene Penner, Robin Christ, Jen Meyer, Erin McKown, Jolene Hui, Amy Beidel, David Cohen, Edward Eigner, Walter Ritter, Jesse MacKinnon, Nate August, Aymee Fenwick.

Latin, "the World’s Most Successful Language."

“Explorator” (whamblog, passim) draws my attention to a review in yesterday's Times of a book with a promising title: A Natural History of Latin:The Story of the World’s Most Successful Language. But after reading the review I'm not sure I'm going to shell out £16.99 after all. See what you think:

A Natural History of Latin by Tore Janson
reviewed by PETER
Nihil by mouth
A NATURAL HISTORY OF LATIN: The Story of the World’s Most Successful Language
By Tore Janson
OUP; £16.99; 352pp
ISBN 0 199 26309 4

Once upon a time it was normal to learn Latin without taking a view of whether its earliest speakers were good or bad people. We could say amo, amas, amat without wondering whether I had been faithful, you had been a good wife or he, she or it had run off with the femina next door. Julius Caesar could divide Gaul into three parts without us worrying about the Gallic men and women who had been carved into three parts by his legionaries. An agricola produced food from his land and, if he had help from XII or so servi or captivi, that was nihil to us.

Latin is not so simple today. Tore Janson is a Swedish professor who represents the fashionable “terrific language, pity about the speakers” school of thought. He gives vocabulary lists that would satisfy the most traditional master. He adds a useful list of common phrases, ranging from “amicus certus in re incerta cernitur” (Ennius: 239- 169BC: “a friend in need is a friend indeed”) to “odium numquam potest esse bonum (Spinoza: 1632-77: “ hatred can never be good”. But his sensibility to the shortcomings of ancient life makes him an awkward companion through this section of linguistic history.

Janson’s aim is to write “A Natural History” that is “a suitable blend of useful information and entertaining anecdote”. His stated model is the pioneering writer of science in Latin, Pliny the Elder, the man whose commitment to his own “Natural History” during the eruption of Vesuvius made him the world’s first victim of the science of vulcanology.

Janson makes no claims to skill in literary criticism, so his readers will struggle to grasp why the Latin arts are important in the first place — the allusive ironies; the glancing lines of Horace, Persius or Martial. Neither, however, does he match Pliny’s enthusiasm or wry restraint. Indeed, in the opening pages it is a surprise that the sensitive professor can keep writing at all.

“Repulsive” is his word for the Roman farmers of the 2nd century BC as he introduces us to Marcus Porcius Cato whose work De Agricultura is one of the oldest extended pieces in the language. According to Cato, it is a mark of the highest praise to call someone a “bonum agricolam”. According to Janson, the slave-owning farmer Cato is “a heartless and inhuman profitmonger”. Next we meet the legendary Roman hero Mucius Scaevola, who, in a scene much loved by later European painters, is said to have held out his sword-hand into a fire as penance for his failure to finish off the Etruscan king Porsenna; then Titus Manlius Torquatus, the consul who sentenced his son to death for engaging the enemy contrary to orders. “Personally,” says the professor, this all “makes me feel sick”.

By the time we find Julius Caesar in Gaul it is no surprise to be told that his rampages through Gaul would today merit the charge of “genocide”. Alexander the Great, by contrast, is credited merely “with an extraordinary series of conquests”. But then he is part of that superior Greek civilisation that had made such “unique progress while Rome was still just a small town”.

There is nothing very original in such views — even if the fate of Persepolis under Alexander was hardly less sickening or repulsive that that of the Gallic towns from Caesar. They do, however, seem somewhat odd in the context of a book about a language. What have the low morals of farmers or the small mercies of generals to do with Latin itself? What is the garotte to do with grammar?

Did the sins of the language’s first speakers, camped around the Tiber some 2,700 years ago, pass down to those later great Latinists, Charlemagne, in 8th-century France, or to Janson’s own distinguished countryman, Linnaeus, in 18th-century Sweden? Was there something in the vowel sounds? It is a tricky question how the transmission of language might transmit or reinforce patterns of behaviour. But it is not asked or answered here. As for those civilising speakers of Greek, the genocided Gauls and those quickly squashed Italic-speaking rivals to Rome, the Oscans and the Umbrians, they were not less keen to fight and exploit others. They were simply less good at it at the time.

The ten most beautiful words

So these are the ten most beautiful words in English – scroll down to see the news item – and half of them are virtually unchanged Latin words. Only two, smile and freedom, have no Latin connection. The list could be worth enlarging and putting up on your classroom wall:

1.  mother        Old English: moder;  c.f. Latin: mater
2.  passion        Latin: passio, passionis
3.  smile           Middle English: smilen. Swedish: smila, to smile
4.  love             Old English: lufu, love; c.f. Latin: lubet, it pleases
5.  eternity       Latin: aeternitas, aeternitatis , eternity
6.  fantastic     Greek: phantastikos, able to show (to English through Latin)
7.  destiny        Latin: destino, I make fast
8.  freedom        Old English: freo
9.  liberty        Latin: libertas, libertatis, freedom
10. tranquility   Latin: tranquilitas, tranquilitatis, tranquility

LONDON (AFP) – Mother is the most beautiful word in the English language, followed by passion, smile, love and eternity, according to a worldwide survey.

The British Council, the government agency that promotes British culture around the globe, quizzed more than 40,000 people in 102 non-English speaking countries on their favourite words.

Fantastic, destiny, freedom, liberty and tranquility filled out the top 10 ranking of most beautiful English words, out of a list of 70 words — a number deliberately chosen to mark the British Council's 70th anniversary.

A new resource for AQA GCSE Latin – and A level OCR Latin

A line-for-line translation of the AQA Aeneid 2 prescription, kindly contributed by David Swift, is here. David says: “It's the sort of translation which will help the student identify and fix a context and, importantly, particular words and phrases.”

My notes on Livy 30 have reached the end of Chapter 13. The parallel Latin-English version is complete.

state requirement that students study Latin and Greek root words

No, alas, not in the UK – in Minnesota. But it's interesting, nonetheless. Here's some of the article.

New standards open new books in Minnesota schools

Norman Draper, Star Tribune
November 15, 2004 STANDARDS1115
Read the whole article.

The state's new rules for what students need to know in language arts, math and arts — plus new course credit requirements — have brought a host of changes to many schools. More kids will have to take more math and science. More will be reciting poetry and studying Latin and Greek root words.

The new requirements are the first wave of fact-based state academic standards meant to ensure that students statewide are learning the same things. Part of the national swerve toward more knowledge-based, testable education, they are replacing the old performance-based standards that were trashed by critics as too fuzzy. At the same time, the Legislature set specific numbers of credits students must have in various subject areas before they can graduate.

A year and a half after their adoption, the new standards are introducing fresh subject matter into many Twin Cities classrooms and making schools adapt to changing graduation requirements.

These aren't revolutionary changes. Few parents have complained about the new rules. While there are costs involved, they won't be busting any school budgets. Teachers say the new standards mostly involve moving the existing pieces around, not throwing them away and making new ones.

The state requirement that students study Latin and Greek root words means many teachers have to bone up.

“I think we have some very young teachers who didn't have anything like that in their education,” said Ellen Delaney, curriculum and staff development coordinator for North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale schools.

And how do teachers who are caught on the merry-go-round of changing state education requirements react?

Said North High School English department co-chair Bob Hackney:

“Whenever you have new standards come in, you make a few adjustments to satisfy people and basically teach the way you have in the past.”

Norman Draper is at