ARLT nostalgia

The ARLT motto is ‘respice, prospice’, and we spend most of our time looking forward, finding ways to meet the new challenges thrown at us by our students, by our school authorities, by governments, by exam boards and universities.

Those who chose the motto were thinking, no doubt, more philosophically, of the riches of the Classical past and what they can do for us and our students as we live our lives now and in the future.

But there may be a place also for a little nostalgia about ARLT itself, as it marches on towards its centenary in 2011.

With this is mind, I’ve begun a section on the ARLT website to make available some of the raw materials for a history of the Association.

At present it’s just a list of where the Summer Schools have been held, from 1933 to the present.

I have been entrusted, temporarily, with the photograph albums which have been lovingly compiled year by year, showing the people who came, the places they visited, and some of the serious and daft things they got up to. (The daft things are what attract photographers, so the impression given by the photos is somewhat unbalanced!)

When I get back to broadband (I’ve got dial-up at the moment – how did we ever put up with its limitations?) I’ll add the photos that I’m busy scanning from those precious albums.

My impression is, having spent some time with the albums, that we work a lot harder at Summer School now, and there are more of us. I haven’t found a single group photo from the past that shows as many people as were at this year’s Summer School.

So we latter day ARLT members must be doing something right!

What the Romans did for us

Quite a long article on the BBC website which you might enjoy.

Roads, obviously. Sanitation. But no great buildings from their time in
Britain. But the greatest legacy is how we use language to persuade,
says Lisa Jardine.

In a rapidly changing
world, I am intrigued to find that the ability to use Latin with
confidence continues to provoke widespread wonder and admiration.

Last week, at the opening of the exhibition on the
Roman Emperor Hadrian at the British Museum, the Mayor of London
addressed the assembled company in Latin, to general acclaim.

Read the rest on the BBC website

Romans in historical fiction

August is a good time to relax with an historical novel set in Roman times.

I’m at present enjoying The Eagle’s Conquest by Simon Scarrow, part of a series with Macro and Cato as joint heroes. They are at present taking part in the Roman advance on Camulodunum, and I am looking forward to taking up the book again. Bernard Cornwell commends the series, and indeed Simon Scarrow has taken many leaves out of Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ books, and good for him for doing it. It makes for a painless way of learning about the Roman invasion of Britain from someone with just the right background – as a leader of parties of students to ruins and museums across Britain.

The book has been out since 2001, so you may well have read it, but if you haven’t, and you don’t mind reading some pretty gory passages, then go for it. You should start (as I didn’t) with Under the Eagle. The series is published by Headline.

While on the subject, here’s a blurb about another book that I haven’t read, from the Holland Sentinel.

Holland, MI —

sleuths Pliny the Younger and Tacitus are back to work after a six-year
break in Albert Bell’s “The Blood of Caesar,” published on July 1. Now
they’re potential pawns in an emperor’s assassination scheme.
“They sort of looked like a Sherlock Holmes combination when I started
to look at it,” said Bell, a Hope College history professor.

“The Blood of Caesar” is a sequel to 2002’s “All Roads Lead to Murder.”

Roman emperor Domitian invites Pliny and Tacitus for dinner, where a
dead body is discovered. Meanwhile, Domitian is uneasy Caesar’s
descendants may still exist and have a claim to the throne.

“So are they just the hunting dogs for finding someone Domitian wants to kill?” Bell said.
Bell’s latest work is historical mystery. Historical characters, places
and events are accurate. Bell’s poetic license included some fictional
characters and encounters to ease the plot along.

Pliny was, in fact, friends with Roman historian Tacitus in the first
century. Pliny wrote 250 letters, including an eye-witness account of
the Vesuvius eruption at Pompeii.
“When I write historical fiction, I want people to be in the places we know they were in history,” Bell said.

The facts were Bell’s compass. He wrote the story next to a wall-sized
map of ancient Rome, making sure the routes the pair plied were

“When you’re writing historical novels, you just have to go where the facts take you,” Bell said.

Bill Reynolds, Hope College dean for arts and sciences, is a mystery specialist and read Bell’s mysteries.

“His novels hold up really well compared to other novels of the same kind,” Reynolds said. “It’s a well-done history puzzle.”

Bell said he hopes he can bring Roman history and culture alive for readers.

“Sometimes, I feel people think Romans were just like us today but just
wearing togas,” Bell said. “In some ways they are right, but at the
same time, they were different.”

Find Bell’s biography and book ordering information at