A Latin teaching position, which has been posted by the East Aurora School District since last fall, has yet to be filled.

East Aurora is in New York state, apparently, and they are trying to introduce a Latin program. Good for them:

A Latin teaching position, which has been posted by the East Aurora School District since last fall, has yet to be filled.

East Aurora planned to collaborate with the Clarence Central School District to bring Latin to area students. However, there were simply not enough students in Clarence for this plan to work. In the meantime, School Superintendent James C. Bodziak mentioned at the School Board meeting last week a plan involving distance learning that would bring together students from East Aurora, Springville, and Franklinville, with a teacher from the Franklinville district.

The course would allow eight students from each district to take Latin 1, and the East Aurora School Board hopes the offering will springboard a larger Latin program. Despite the challenge of finding a teacher, the board seems committed to some form of a Latin program.

“We need to keep at it,” said School Board President Daniel Brunson.

From the East Aurora Advertiser

Parishioners seek to save church, keep Latin Mass

Two news items about the Latin Mass in the USA:


By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff | July 25, 2005

As parishioners struggle to save the Holy Trinity Church in the South End from closing, they say they are both fighting the loss of their spiritual home and resisting the possible demise of a tradition found nowhere else in the Archdiocese of Boston — the Latin Mass.

Read the whole article.


Our Lady of the Snows, a former township Grange hall in a past life, now a small intimate Catholic church in Livingston Township, was born from the need of a small group of individuals to join together and again celebrate the traditional Latin Mass which, until the late 1960s, was how all Roman Catholic churches celebrated Mass around the globe.

Read the whole article.

Bring back grammar schools, urge teachers

Press Association
Wednesday July 27, 2005

Teachers demanded that ministers bring back grammar schools today, reigniting the debate over selection in England's education system.

Bright children are being denied the education they deserve by “one-size-fits-all” comprehensive schools, members of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) said.

One delegate at the PAT annual conference in Buxton, Derbyshire, accused the prime minister, Tony Blair, of being “dishonest” by refusing to send his own son to the local comprehensive.

Grammars, which select children based on their academic ability at the age of 11, are the “most successful” type of schools the country has ever had, said association member Peter Morris, a teacher from Swansea.

The conference passed Mr Morris's motion calling on the government “to reintroduce grammar schools”.

Read the whole article.


Why I am not writing up the most surprising lecture

Both the most unpromising title of the Summer School and the most innovative and gripping lecture belonged to Professor Jonathan Powell.

The title was: New perspectives on Latin word order.

Er, yes.

The lecture was the fruit of twenty years of work, inspired by a remark overheard in a senior common room in Oxford: “I saw a good yesterday programme on television.”

The results of the twenty years of study were almost as simple as e=mc squared. And I'm blowed if I'm going to spoil Jonathan's achievement, which he explained so simply and clearly, with humorous and illuminating examples, by making an amateurish attempt to pass on his explanations.

It will be great if he himself commits his findings to print in as simple and lively a way as he delivered them last week.

Meanwhile, silence from me! And thanks, Jonathan.

Stephen Harrison on Aeneid 10

These are almost entirely my jottings taken during the lecture. They should really be read in conjunction with the handout which gives many quotations. It is not on line, I'm afraid. Still, these jottings give some flavour of the lively and humorous nature of the lecture.

Stephen Harrison's commentary on Book 10 is likely to be required reading for those teaching the book over the next two years.


Vergil regarded the last books as the more important half of the Aeneid – maior ordo. Why?

It was the traditional view that war is the most important subject:

  • War is important in Roman culture, in the earlier poets Naevius and Ennius.
  • The theme of (civil) war was central to Vergil's own time. Vergil was a young man when Caesar crossed Rubicon, and lived through to the peace brought by Augustus.

Aeneid 7-12 has resonances with recent Roman history. It tells of a Civil War where one of the leaders claimed divine parentage.

But by the middle of book 9 the reader is wanting his money back! There has been little warfare. The reader is in suspense.


(See the extracts about arms cut off, hands lopped.)

Vergil has a number of things in common with Quentin Tarentino, and this is one of them.

“Even my kids would regard this as an acceptable level of violence (boys aged 10 and 12)!”

Someone should make a film of the Aeneid.

Note the importance of gladiators in Roman life. What did the Romans do on a Saturday afternoon? Let's go down to the amphitheatre. A contemporary Roman reader would think of gladiators when reading Aeneid 10. The film Gladiator is good, in showing the horror and butchery that was part of Roman life, and the conditions in which gladiators lived. Gladiatorial shows were a universal cultural fact, like the Simpsons.

Vergil and Homer

If you read the Iliad from cover to cover you find some tedious patches, where A kills B, C kills D. Vergil is concerned to avoid such tedium.

In the opening words of the Aeneid, Arma virumque cano, Vergil claims to imitate the Iliad (arma) and the Odyssey (virum).

Vergil is saying he can 'do Homer' without the length. What matters is quality, not length. His variations on Homer are an implicit literary criticism of Homer.

Aeneas is the Pompey figure! This would be clear to the first audience. It is like a short film where a man stands in a car and is shot from top of tall building – everyone would think of Kennedy's assassination.

Vergil makes Homer more like Greek tragedy, with Turnus the tragic hero.

Aeneid 10.

Quinn divides each book of the Aeneid into 3 parts.

Homer had lots of divine councils; Vergil had only one (criticism again?).

How do you keep up the interest in a list of killings?

  • ii epiphany – of nymph
  • iii all locations, heaven, earth, sea, except underworld.
  • iv focus on an individual for some time. Allows cinematic switch of location, Meanwhile back at the ranch (interea).
  • vi Also concentration on victims, not just heroes. Like Homer, but V does it better!

Some key episodes.

  1. The gods don't come out of the assembly section very well. Some say that the other gods are insincere, Jupiter is different. But he has predicted the war in Book 1. Jupiter plays a double game, keeping family peace with put-upon wife, uppity daughter, apple of eye. Dealing with a household of women!

    The gods are like George Bush, human with finger on the button, powerful but not morally superior.

  2. Vergil came from Mantua, as did Maecenas. Vergil avoids mentioning Maecenas. Vergil is not an expert in Etruscan culture. (Macaulay Lays of Ancient Rome adds an ancestor of Maecenas).

  3. meeting with the nymphs, who were once Aeneas' ships.
  4. death of Pallas. Turnus is not wrong to kill Pallas. Killing the enemy is what you do in war. What was wrong was wearing the belt. Aeneas hangs up spoils on bushes. Remember Turnus as tragic hero, led astray not by vice but by error.
  5. The guys are not actually killed 'on camera'. Human sacrifice is too gross to show on camera. Does he do it or not?
  6. Aegaeon is impious, so Aeneas is impious too? It's the enemy's view, not the narrator's.
  7. Mezentius. Flawed hero. (Dirty Harry standing over the body is very Homeric – Do you feel lucky, punk? Euchos)
  8. Lausus a nice handsome young man, killed by Aeneas. V makes Aeneas do the killing in as acceptable a way as possible. Warns him to flee. Returns the arms to his father.
  9. Mezentius has lost his kingdom because he was a bad ruler. Now he loses his son. C.f. Creon lamanting death of Haemon. Also c.f. Would God I had died for thee! – David laments for worthless Absolom. Vergil always has sympathy for the victim, whoever he is.

Buch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ending – freeze-frame of their death, is like end of Book 10.


4 Death of Pallas – quote – is there hubris here too? Carpet scenes in Agamemnon and Persae.

Aeneid is not a conspiracy theory poem on the evils of Augustus, but shows that leadership implies being ruthless. Augustus dedicates spoils of Parthia at the time of writing of the Aeneid. He knew the limits.

You can't make omelettes …. In the Aeneid many broken eggs, a pretty impressive omelette!

Gladiators like premier league footballers, very glamorous but not the people you would like to go out to dinner with. Ordinary Romans knew killing only from gladiators. Gladiators were slaves, not real Romans.

Let the Roman stock be tough with Italian … ?? find quotation ?? Mezentius represents toughness.

Mezentius' address to his horse – Raebus, bandylegs. C.f. Achilles' horses talking to him, and Cyclops talking to his favourite ram. Sad that his best friend is a sheep! Mezentius has lost kingdom and son, now has only an animal to talk to. Mez is like the Cyclops, outcast from society, does unspeakable things to bodies.

Is Mezentius a parallel with Antony? Needs convincing about that.

Jenny tidied up

I have worked over my notes on Dr Jenny March's lecture now, so they are worth a second visit! It was an excellent lecture, and I have got more from it by having to expand the notes into complete sentences and arrange them into sections and subsections.

Wells Minidorm a success, I hear

Dr Helen Forte has just emailed me the link to the Minimus web site account of the first sleep-over run by Barbara Bell in Wells Cathedral School under the title Minidorm (what else?!). It's here.

Very lively report, with comments from children and lots of pictures, including one of Roger Davies, who came on from Wells to the Royal Holloway teachers' Summer School and told us a bit about Minidorm.

vivat minimus, I say.

(Just in case there is someone fresh from Mars who doesn't know about Minimus, Barbara Bell's brilliant primary Latin venture, do go and explore the whole Minimus site.)


Summer School 2005: Jenny March on unseen drama

Dr Jenny March

Unseen drama in Greek Tragedy.

A lecture delivered to the Association for Latin Teaching Summer School
in Royal Holloway College, July 2005

The subject under discussion

Greek tragedy is full of 'dramatic' events, including violence, revenge, murder, suicide and blinding. Some of the violence happens on stage, but how do tragedians convey off-stage events?

The stage setting

Imagine what the audience in fifth century Athens would see: a bare scene, simple and spare. The skene building with its central door usually represents a house or a palace. There are exceptions. Euripides in his Electra has a cottage, and Sophocles has Ajax's hut and Philoctetes' cave.


Masked actors made for simplicity. There was no possibility of nuances of meaning as in our theatre, and more than ever in film and TV, where much can be conveyed by the lift of an eyebrow. Remember the size of a Greek theatre, where the audience might number 15,000. With many spectators many metres away from the actors, there was no opportunity for visual subtlety.

Occasionally an actor might change his character's mask – In Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus must have a 'blinded' mask for his final appearance, with the cheeks and beard dripping with blood. Sometimes the mask may not change, but the meaning that the audience reads into its expression may alter. In Euripides Bacchae, the smiling mask of the god Dionysus seems at first to convey friendliness. By the time King Pentheus is dressed for his fatal walk up to Mount Cithaeron, where he will find death at the hands of the women and particularly his own mother, the god's smile is seen as menacing.


Props were few but significant. They usually relate to a past or future event, probably one that takes place offstage. They are implicit with hidden meaning. Aeschylus and Euripides used props effectively, e.g.

  • Agamemnon – the crimson carpet is blood-red, looking back to the blood shed at Troy and the blood of Iphigenia whom he sacrificed, and looking forward to his own blood which will be shed very soon.
  • Medea – the casket containing the poisoned robe. It had magic in it. It is a reminder of Medea's other murders, e.g. of her brother.
  • Bacchae – Pentheus' head carried by Agave. A powerful prop.

But Sophocles was master of the prop.

  • Electra – the urn, believed to contain the ashes of Orestes. Electra mourns over it, while Orestes is by her side. It is a moving moment when she turns from the (supposed) dead Orestes in urn and takes the living Orestes in her arms.
  • Ajax – the sword given by Agamemnon is a reminder of Ajax's heroic past.
  • Philoctetes – the great bow, once belonging to Heracles. Whoever holds the bow holds the power.
  • Nessos' shirt, sign of his ancient hatred.

Exits and entrances

There were two particular places: The central doorway in skene, and the eisodoi at either end of the skene.

  1. The doorway:

    • Exits:
      When characters go out through this, it is often the gateway to an offstage death. In OT Jocasta goes in; Oedipus thinks she is proud, but she knows the truth, and goes in to kill herself.
      In Antigone, Creon's wife Eurydice also goes silently through the door to kill herself.
    • Entrances:
      In OT, Oedipus makes two contrasting entrances, first as the confident successful king, secondly as a blinded failure.
    • Control of the doors:
      Who controls the doors? In Agamemnon, Cassandra sees Clytemnestra as guardian of doors (of Hades!). Oedipus walks through the door into Clytemnestra's clutches. (Lovely stuff!)
  2. The Eisodoi: the audience see characters coming long before they arrive on stage. Who is it? Suspense. What is the bad news? (As it often was)

How do we learn about what happens off stage?

  1. Plain reporting

    (excluding messenger speeches). A character tells of off-stage events, e.g.:

    • Creon in OT reports on his visit to Delphi and what the oracle said.
    • The Guard in Antigone reports on Antigone coming to scatter earth on her brother's corpse.
    • Agamemnon does not have messenger speech, but much is reported, e.g. Clytemnestra tells of the chain of beacons announcing the fall of Troy, a soldier tells the chorus the details of the war and the fall of Troy, and when Agamemnon arrives he tells more.
    • Choral songs: Euripides in Electra has a chorus telling about Helle and Phrixus and the golden ram; but in Aeschylus the chorus fills in vast amounts of off-stage background. It is the simplest way, but the least dramatic.
  2. The Ekkuklema (a wheeled platform to show bodies killed off-stage), and similar dramatic devices.

    We hear, and then see, what has happened. e.g.

    • Agamemnon: We hear Agamemnon's screams – the chorus discuss what is to be done – then we see Clytemnestra with axe (or sword – both are in the Greek text). She tells what she has done, as we see the bodies and the net in which Agamemnon was entrapped.
    • Oedipus Tyrannus: We hear of Oedipus' self-blinding from a messenger, and then see him.
    • Sometimes character stands at the doorway and tells us what is happening within. This is a sophisticated variation on the usual report. E.g.

      • Euripides' Hippolytus: Phaedra overhears Hippolytus telling off-stage what he feels about her.
      • Sophocles' Electra: Electra is outside the palace keeping guard against the arrival of Aegisthus, while Orestes is killing Clytemnestra. She tells us what is happening. Clytemnestra cries “Where is Aegistheus?” The audience looks at the eisodoi. But then Orestes enters with dripping sword and tells the story. Then Aegisthus does enter, and Electra fools him with double meanings, making him think that the shrouded body (really of Clytemnestra) which has been brought out onto the stage is that of Orestes: Electra tells Aegisthus that ” the strangers have 'fallen upon' their hostess.” The moment at the end of the play when Aegisthus lifts the shroud and sees the truth has been called 'the most glorious moment of pure theatre in all Greek tragedy'.
      • Euripides' Medea: The audience hears the death cries of Medea's two children, and expects the doors to open and the ekkuklema to show the bodies. All eyes are on the doors. Then comes surprise at hearing Medea on the mechane (crane) in her dragon chariot with the slaughtered boys.
      • Euripides' Hippolytus – after the account of his chariot crash, his mangled body is brought in, and he dies on stage.
      • Sophocles' Antigone – Eurydice's death is reported, and then her body is brought in for Creon to mourn.
      • Euripides' Bacchae – Cadmus brings in bits of the torn body of Pentheus.
  3. Messenger speeches:

    These are a trade-mark of Sophocles and Euripides, but particular of Euripides, the master of the messenger speech.

    The messenger is usually anonymous (except in Sophocles' Electra, where the lying speech is spoken by the tutor). It often comes at turning point:

    • Meanads on Cithaeron
    • Haemon's death
    • Oedipus' blinding.

    Audiences must have looked forward to the Messenger Speech. There was always time for it. Medea, for example, should flee for her life after arranging the deaths of Creon and the proncess, but stays and insists on hearing the whole messenger speech recounting the grisly murders.

    Sophocles plays with our expectation of the messenger speech in Ajax. In Ajax's 'deception speech', using beautiful language, he talks of going down to the sea to fix his sword in the sand. He goes out. The Chorus sings. Then a messenger enters, and we expect to hear of the suicide. But the report is that Ajax is safe. Finally Ajax comes on stage and commits suicide in full view of all.

    So, audiences enjoyed messenger speeches. But do they make more effective theatre than showing the action? Dr March argued that, given the limitations of the ancient theatre, they do. In our own day, film can show wonderful action, e.g. the battles in Lord of the Rings. On the simple Greek stage, however, the messenger speech was more effective. How?

    1. It gave fluidity of time and space.
      Lot of events, taking place anywhere, could be compressed into the single speech. E.g.

      • Sophocles' Electra: the tutor's (lying) speech recounted several days of the Games, culminating in Orestes' death.
      • Euripides' Bacchae: the messenger's speech included Pentheus' long walk to the mountain, and his long stay on top of a pine tree, before his violent end.
      • Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus: the events reported took place just inside the palace
      • Aeschylus' Persae: the battle of Salamis took place far away from Persia.
    2. The events recounted were not limited to only three actors.
      In the Persae, there were ships and men galore; in Sophocles' Electra there was the whole audience at the games.
    3. Supernatural events were possible
      Within the conventions of Greek theatre Sophocles could have shown Haemon attacking Creon and killing himself. Talthybius' account of death of Polyxena in Hecuba could instead have been staged. Sophocles could have shown the death of Aegisthus.

      Euripides could have shown the poisonings in Medea, but not in the way the messenger describes them. The Princess puts on robe and admires herself in a mirror. That would be easily staged. But to show the robe melting her flesh, and then her father's, would need cinema special effects.

      So the messenger speech makes in possible for the dramatist to make us 'see' much worse events.
      Dr March's favourite messenger speech is that in Euripides' Bacchae. The moment of Pentheus appealing to his mother would be stageable, but the rest? Possibly the chorus could surround Pentheus and limbs could be thrown out of the melee, but appealing to the imagination is more effective.

    4. The messenger speech means that we know everything clearly, and focus on what the playwright wants us to see.
      E.g. in Oedipus Tyrannus Sophocles turns our attention away from Jocasta to Oedipus. We understand why it is happening. The description of Oedipus' self-blinding is so much effective than the blinding of ?? in King Lear, when we are likely to turn our eyes away from the horror.

      The dramatist controls the amount of horror he wishes us to experience. Compare Hippolytus' suffering in his chariot accident, when the bull from the sea panics his horses, in Euripides (4 lines) with Seneca's gory details. A film would show the whole terrible scene, as Seneca does. But Euripides didn't want that effect. Euripides can make us see and feel just what he wants us to see and feel.