Refute that!

Rogueclassicism put me on to a review of a book advocating a particularly American way of viewing the Classics, Lee T. Pearcy, The Grammar of Our Civility: Classical Education in America. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005. Pp. xii, 184. ISBN 1-932792-16-3. $24.95.

In the course of his review, David M. Pollio summarises the third chapter, and provides Classics teachers with some pretty tough criticisms to answer. How would you reply?

In Chapter 3, “Finis: Four Arguments Against Classics,” P. relates four arguments that demonstrate why Latin is in danger of being taught as frequently as Akkadian or ancient Sumerian or even of disappearing from formal higher education, “as ancient Greek nearly has already” (86).

The first, simply put, asserts that, “because the study of Greek and Latin no longer serves any social function, Latin should no longer be studied” (86). This argument takes two forms. The first (weaker version) suggests that Latin has no practical value, but is refutable on the grounds that “the value of many subjects. . .lies in what they do to students' minds, not in their content” (87). The second (stronger version) suggests that Latin and Classics, in general, have become alienated from their socio-economic base: “the self-conscious governing class whose tastes, values, and attitudes classical education was intended to form has vanished, and with it the social function of that education” (87).

The second argument regards the study of Latin and Greek as an elitist activity that acts as a barrier to understanding antiquity for all but the best students. In addition, the argument continues, “Latin. . .presents an especially clear and enduring case of the unbreakable link between language and the oppression of elitist patriarchy” (99).

The third argument against (the curricular subject called) Latin holds that because grammar cannot describe the world studying grammar is actually harmful to the intellect: “grammar and metaphysics, in fact, are equally suspect. Both represent doomed totalizing attempts to master and understand a world whose diversity forever resists all mastery and all understanding. If grammar is to be taught at all, it must be taught as one among many fictions” (103).

Finally, the fourth argument asserts that classical education is a cultural practice that began in the Renaissance and “developed in response to historical, social, and cultural needs and pressures,” but now that it is possible to be considered “educated” without much of a knowledge of antiquity, Classics “may be on the verge of becoming extinct” (105).

Possibly useful for teaching CLC

I came across details of a booklet on understanding Pompeii election graffiti which one teacher says everyone teaching Cambridge Latin Course should own (for Stage 11).

Author: Lorraine A. Strasheim
Publisher: American Classical League
ISBN: 0-939507-32-3
Format: Spiralbound
Pages: 7
Cost: $1.95
Categories: · Books on Teaching Latin

Description: A mini-lesson which presents samples of electioneering graffiti found in Pompeii, transliteration into Roman type, and directions on how to read the graffiti. The graffiti have been set up in such a way that they can be used by all Latin students except rank beginners. While this mini-lesson can be used at any time of the year, it is especially apropos at a political or school election.

The web page is here.

The teacher, web name ginlindzey, tells about her teaching technique here.

Best in Wales – the Romans

They are asking people to choose the Seven Wonders of Wales. I had not known about the Roman road called Sarn Helen. This is from icWales:

March back with the Romans

Apr 29 2006

As you continue to vote in your droves for the definitive Seven Wonders of Wales, we present the latest profile of one of the 30 contenders. Here Samantha Games , of the Brecon Beacons National Park, champions the Roman road of Sarn Helen, which has linked North and South Wales for centuries

Samantha Games writes for the Western Mail

WALES is alive with breathtaking scenery and few locations, if any, can match the Brecon Beacons National Park. Alive with hidden limestone caverns, achingly beautiful waterfalls, wild unsheltered landscapes and legends of ladies in lakes, it boasts some of the most precious jewels in Wales' crown.

The park's haunting beauty is still one of Wales' best-kept secrets – and none more so than the magnificent Roman road of Sarn Helen that runs through it as it wends its way from Conwy to Carmarthenshire.

Sarn Helen is unique. When you first approach the road you can appreciate why some claim they can almost hear the echo of the Roman boots that would have trudged this ancient route long ago.

Originally built to fortify links between Roman forts, Sarn Helen is one of the most remarkably well-preserved Roman roads in Wales, and areas of cobbled stone still remain exposed after many centuries of wear.

The ancient road was built nearly 2,000 years ago and is attributed to Celtic princess Elen Lwy-ddawg, the wife of Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus, who arrived in Britain in about 368AD. Incidentally, according to legend, Elen bizarrely also appears to have been married to the magician Merlin.

Situated on a windswept hill, which would once have been covered in woodland, the fine stretch of the road within the Park is scattered with burial cairns and isolated standing stones – some more than 13ft high.

Its eerie historic beauty makes Sarn Helen well worthy of inclusion on a list of Wales' wonders.

Mystery still surrounds the true meaning of the standing stones found along this enigmatic Roman site.

Lying adjacent to Sarn Helen the Maen Madoc stone still bears the ancient inscription “Dervacus, son of Justus. Here he lies”.

It stands nearly 11ft and is perfectly aligned with the largest standing stone in the National Park, Maen Llia, which is located at the head of the Llia Valley.

Were it not for forestry standing between the two stones, you could clearly see one from the other even though they are some two miles apart.

Read the whole article.

Latin Mass returns in Arlington diocese and Charleston.

Two more revivals of the Latin mass. This is from the Arlington Catholic Herald:
Alexandria Church Prepares for First Latin Mass

HERALD Staff Writer
(From the Issue of 4/27/06)

Preparations are underway for the first 1962 Latin Mass (also called the Tridentine Mass) to be celebrated in the diocese. The pamphlets have been ordered, the ladies are shaking out their veils and the priests are brushing up on their Latin.

In late March, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde announced that St. Lawrence Parish and St. John the Baptist Parish in Front Royal would be allowed to offer a weekly Tridentine Mass.

Father Christopher Mould, pastor of St. Lawrence Parish, plans to have a practice session before the first Mass this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. He has been studying and practicing the old Mass as he prepares.

“I’ve been reviewing my Latin and studying and practicing the rubrics,” he said. There are many different rituals involved in the Tridentine Mass.

“It’s a little more complicated,” Father Mould said.

Read more.

And this is from The Charleston Gazette:

April 22, 2006
Latin Mass returns Sunday to Sacred Heart

By Bob Schwarz
Staff writer

The old Latin Mass will return to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for the first time since 1970 when Monsignor Edward Sadie leads a special service at 2 p.m. Sunday at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral. The church choir will sing in Latin as well.

Sadie thought it was a good idea when the Catholic Church dropped the Tridentine Mass — Catholics know it as the Latin Mass — in 1970. It had been many centuries since Latin was the language of the people, and that was never the case in America.

Now Sadie thinks it’s a good idea to bring the Tridentine Mass back to his church, where two priests celebrate Mass six times a weekend, but generally not at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Read more.

The Romans in Lancashire this weekend

This is from Preston

Boredom busting at museum
By Citizen reporter

Beat the bank holiday boredom this weekend when the Museum of Lancashire in Preston throws open its doors for free.

The place will be a hive of activity with a Roman legionnaire cooking ancient recipes and mechanical monsters thundering through the halls in celebration of the start of Museums and Galleries Month.

The museum, located on Stanley Street, is offering free entry on Saturday and Sunday to give people a flavour of the wealth of interest it has to offer them.

As well as three superb exhibitions, visitors will be able to take part in a host of family friendly crafts and activities.

A real draw is the Manic Mechanics exhibition, an intriguing, hands-on collection of moving metal sculptures including an interactive 6 metre long submarine and an awe inspiring half man-half bull Centaur.

A wide range of events are also on offer. On Saturday families can take on the challenge of building a toy from k'nex.

Keeping with the mechanical theme of Manic Mechanics, visitors can have a go at making their own motor-powered mechanical wire monsters.

Anyone who's ever wondered what the Romans had for lunch can find out with the museum's resident Roman legionnaire who will be making authentic recipes including pear and wine custard.

While he's busy in the kitchen, visitors can try on his armour.

For those in search of a change of pace, the museum features three fascinating galleries on Lancashire's military history as well as archaeology and local history displays.

County Councillor Chris Cheetham, Cabinet member for Adult and Community Services, said: “There's more to the Museum of Lancashire than artefacts in glass cases and this weekend offers a great chance to get involved in some of the fun and educational activities on offer.”

The Museum of Lancashire is offering free entry from 10.30am to 5.00pm on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April. There is a charge for some events.

Donald Rumsfeld as Marius?

Opinion carries (carry?) today a defence of Donald Rumsfeld by one Mike Burleson:

Change undertaken in the Defense Department is similar to that carried out by the ancient Roman general Marius. Around 100 B.C., the consul Marius began a series of badly needed reforms to the old Republican Army, victors over the Carthaginians and Greeks, but now less effective against a renewed influx of barbarians. Once an all militia force, newly acquired territories was also instigating a need for recruits on a more permanent basis. This was accomplished by opening the ranks to poorer Romans, rather than the landed gentry, and greatly improving tactics and training. By the time of the great reformer’s death, the Legions had become a truly professional Army, ready to face the challenges of the new Imperial Era.

Secretary Rumsfeld has also improved on the success of America’s professional, all-volunteer military. Resisting calls for a major influx of ground troops in Iraq, he has kept causalities low and given greater impetus for the natives’ control over their long-suffering country’s future. Instead of becoming an occupying Army, our troops in Iraq have become a force for rebuilding and renewal.

The Romans built one of the new icons of Englishness

According to the BBC, Hadrian's Wall is an icon of Englishness:

New icons of Englishness unveiled

The Notting Hill Carnival, Hadrian's Wall, the mini-skirt, cricket, Morris dancing and the pub have all been added to a list celebrating icons of England.

Read the rest.

A nice point or two for grammarians

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an amusing piece, or collection of pieces, by Peter Leo, arising from a report about the ability of some birds to learn grammar. Allegedly.

Among several quotations (or 'quotes', as the author calls them, is this:

English grammar is so complex and confusing for the one very simple reason that its rules and terminology are based on Latin — a language with which it has precious little in common. In Latin, to take one example, it is not possible to split an infinitive. So in English, the early authorities decided, it should not be possible to split an infinitive either. But there is no reason why we shouldn't, any more than we should forsake instant coffee and air travel because they weren't available to the Romans. Making English grammar conform to Latin rules is like asking people to play baseball using the rules of football. It is a patent absurdity. But once this insane notion became established, grammarians found themselves having to draw up ever more complicated and circular arguments to accommodate the inconsistencies.

Bill Bryson, “The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way”

Preparations for the London Olympics keep archaeologists busy

The Independent yesterday reported excavations in the Lea Valley, in advance of the Olympic building spree. It says:

Now, in advance of the arrival of the world's athletes for the London Olympics in 2012, the Lower Lea Valley will finally give up the secrets of its history as it becomes the largest archaeological site ever excavated in Britain.

Classics teachers may be particularly interested in the Roman layers:

But the story really takes off with the arrival of the Romans, who established Londinium within a decade of reaching Britain but who quickly needed to link the emerging port with their capital at Camulodunum in modern Colchester.

The Roman Road crossed the Lea at Old Ford, and some archaeologists believe it was the route taken by Boudica and her rebel armies in AD 60 as she burnt and sacked her way westwards.

<a href=”“>More here.

Panem et circenses, American style carries a comparison between the Roman emperors' way of keeping the populace content and the powers that be in the USA. See what you think. I could not possibly comment …

It seems the Romans and Michael Moore are right

By Alex Browne
Apr 27 2006

Several years ago, when Michael Moore referred in his Oscar acceptance speech to “weapons of miss distraction” there were as many jeers as cheers.

Time has proven he correctly identified the methodology of corporate/military America, of which Canada – with U.S. ownership of our companies at a staggering high – is now, clearly, a branch plant.

The old Roman idea of distracting a fickle populace with “bread and circuses” has been genetically modified. Our rumblings of discontent are now assuaged with trans-fat foods and video circuses. Less is more? No, more is better.

The result is an electorate that soothes its hungers and boosts its waistlines with super-sized foods, living in monster homes, driving safety-impairing super-sized vehicles, and being buried in super-sized coffins.