Calder Classics: Reading Latin + Ancient History takes on its first day in Rome, complete with history, Livy, and gelato!
by Macy Kwon and Sophia Kottman
- You can drink from all the fountains, and stick your head under them too!
- There are lots of big squares where you can have water fights.
- Granita. Trust us
by Blue Smiley
Michelangelo’s David, while a celebrated masterwork with nuanced political history within Florence, has acquired a flattened image as a mere aesthetic token or icon for the city. No one in the city center could travel more than a couple of blocks without seeing David’s image reproduced somewhere on a poster, on a postcard, in plaster, or even perhaps in cheese. (I’m sure it's been done.) This begs a curious observer to question the role of David in the minds of his visitors. When tourists visit Florence to see David, are they here for a more profound understanding of the statue's artistic and cultural merits or to check off another box on their bucket lists? Whatever the ultimate answer to this question, images of David’s complex expression, internalized yet powerful, are strewn about the city just as abundantly as cigarette butts.
Upon entering the Galleria dell’Accademia and seeing his face for the first time in person, I was dramatically underwhelmed. It was him, but it was only that man who walks the streets of Florence with as much ease and nonchalance as any living resident. Here he was, at the same angle at which most photos are taken, his life sapped by this resemblance to his tiny, distorted reproductions. I had not come for this token appearance. I was there for the man whose dynamic form could escape the dull prisons of postcards and magnets. I eagerly stepped around the tourists blinded by their cameras to look at his face from the side. All the features heretofore flattened came suddenly into glorious relief. His furrowed brow jutted down over his smooth cheekbones, failing to restrain the intensity of his eyes which threatened to tear straight through the gallery walls. His veiny hands surged with blood, ready for the action to come. Even from behind, the contrapposto showed the division in his spirit, apprehension giving way to resolve, exemplifying Michelangelo's mastery of even that which, in the originally intended location of the work, would not necessarily have been seen.
I love my David socks, adorned with that classically frozen image, but I would encourage anyone visiting to go have a peek at his butt. An individual response to art is more profound than what is prescribed.
All artwork and photography by Blue Smiley
Daniel Paul, PhD student at Fordham University and graduate of Cambridge and Oxford, recently gave another talk in his engaging lecture series, “Controversial Leaders of Antiquity.” He began his talk by playing a short clip from the popular television program Game of Thrones and asking the audience to remark on her leadership strategies. Daniel then went on to say that Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, shared many leadership traits with The Mother of Dragons. So what do Daenerys Stormborn and Augustus have in common?
We are proud of our continued partnership with Prep for Prep, a highly successful organization that identifies promising students from diverse New York City neighborhoods and places them in leading independent day and boarding schools.
Had to re-post this thoughtful piece by Cambridge Coaching on how studying Latin in high school provides benefits throughout your education!
Excellent reasons for studying Latin have been given elsewhere on this blog: knowledge of the ancient language can boost your standardized test scores, enrich your understanding of European culture, and make you stand out in college admissions. As a long time Latin tutor in Boston, I’d like to add to these reasons two of my own.
Reason #1: Latin will make any language easier to learn
You’ve probably heard that Latin helps you acquire its modern descendents, the Romance languages. In fact, by enriching your understanding of grammar, Latin will help you learn any foreign language, not just those of the Romance family. Let me explain.It’s only reasonable that teachers give scant attention to Latin as a spoken language (although doing so can be fun and instructive), and instead, their assignments explicitly focus on Latin grammatical structures, or on translation. Latin students have no choice but to become well acquainted with hairy grammar topics like contrary to fact conditions, participial phrases, tense sequence, and the subjunctive mood.These concepts are often difficult at first, although if explained by a skilled teacher or Latin tutor they shouldn’t be overwhelming. Because many students now don’t study grammar at all in their middle and high school English curricula, and because modern language teachers emphasize the use of language in context, the Latin classroom is where students are most likely to get a rigorous introduction to grammar.
When you learn any language, even one unrelated to Latin, you encounter concepts like imperative and conditional verb forms, pronoun reference, subordinate clauses, and gerunds. (While unrelated languages show large differences in their grammatical structures, the same vocabulary, or at least a similar one, is used to describe those structures.) If you’re armed with an understanding of these terms through the study of Latin, then your language of choice will be less intimidating. (If you are having trouble, Cambridge Coaching offers Latin tutoring services in New York, Boston, and online that can help.)
For an English speaker who has never heard of grammatical case, the eighteen cases of Hungarian nouns would be a dizzying challenge and might even be reason enough to give up; a student with a solid grasp of Latin, used to declining nouns in six cases, would be less distressed. One approaching modern Hebrew would be less likely to agonize over the need to memorize the gender of nouns, and Latin’s flexible word order is an excellent preparation for the syntactic peculiarities of, say, German or Spanish.
It’s unsurprising that so many great polyglots have been superb Latinists. Leo Spitzer, one of the great humanistic scholars of the twentieth century, studied literature in over a dozen languages and published scholarship in five. But he claimed to know, aside from his native German, only one of them well: Latin.
Leo Spitzer in 1952
Reason #2: Knowledge of Latin grammar can improve your writing in English.
From middle school through freshman comp, phrases like “vague pronoun,” “dangling modifier,” and “mixed verb tense” refer to defects in expository writing. Students with grounding in Latin grasp these slips immediately, and are more likely to avoid them thereafter, because they’re familiar with the underlying grammatical issue. On the other hand, their peers with less knowledge of grammar struggle to identify the same pitfalls. In order to see why vague pronouns are a problem, you have to know what a pronoun is. Students who are used to making their Latin participles agree with their nouns perceive more quickly the error in sentences like “I saw my neighbor’s dog riding my bike yesterday.”
If you'd like support in making sense of your Latin assignments, we're here to help. Cambridge Coaching offers Latin tutoring services in New York and Boston in person, and anywhere else through Skype. We're happy to provide one-on-one Latin mentoring, and can help students at any level, from beginners to college students taking courses on Latin literature. The study of the classical world and its languages should be nothing less than exhilarating, but it’s important to recall that the benefits can be quite practical.
Calder Classics suggests 10 words with Latin origins to impress your teachers.
Salvete parentes comitesque!
On Thursday, we went to Nimes, a city that is often called the “French Rome.” Nimes was the capital of the Roman Gallic province and was formed around the sacred spring of Nemausus, a Celtic god. When the Caesar tried to conquer Northern Gaul, their allies in southern Gaul assisted them by providing auxiliary troops. Their leader, the Gaul Adgenix, who fought in many battles with the Romans for 25 years, built the city of “Nemausus,” modern-day Nimes, with the funds he received from Augustus in his war chest upon his decommission. Nimes became the regional capital and was a center of Roman culture, art, and commerce.
When we arrived in Nimes we were met at the train-station by Lana’s uncle Laurent, who set up a citywide scavenger hunt for us. We began the hunt with clues leading to the Arena, where we listened to the audioguide to find the next hint. We followed the clues to the Place d’Horloge where we decoded a secret message hidden in the placard explaining the tower. We used our French skills to ask for directions to the Fountain d’Assas where we measured the cubic volume of the water in the fountain using the different materials we had (a 10-cm ruler, Gigi’s leg, and eyeliner). We discovered that it was 30 m3, which corresponded with the clue telling us to go to the Temple of Diana. We then climbed the tower and stopped for lunch. After our quick break, we read some poems by Martial. To continue the scavenger hunt, we put together a puzzle and proceeded to the Musée Carrée. We went to the terrace where we spotted our next clue, which led us to a church. Then we went to the port of Augustus, near another church, where we followed three successive clues, including one that had us use the direction Augustus was pointing (southeast towards Carthage) to determine that the final stop was the Maison Carrée. We watched a reenactment movie about the founding of Nimes (see above) and took the train home at the end of a fun day!
Avete atque vale!
Read the first update on our Gallic adventures in and around Avignon!
“I’m gonna spare the defeated, boys, I’m going to speak to the crowd,
I am goin’ to teach peace to the conquered
I’m gonna tame the proud…”
So goes Bob Dylan’s song “Lonesome Day Blues.” As many have noted, these lines of Dylan’s bear a striking resemblance to those of another poet, one who lived roughly two thousand years ago in ancient Rome: Vergil.
Publius Vergilius Maro, or Vergil, as he is better known, is famous for many works including the Eclogues and the Georgics, but is known best for his epic poem the Aeneid, which he modeled after Homer’s renowned Iliad and Odyssey. It was Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, who commissioned Vergil to write the Aeneid, which tells the story of the hero Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome.
Dylan seems to be drawing from Allen Mandelbaum’s 1971 translation of Vergil’s magnum opus, which renders the Latin as follows:
“But yours will be the rulership of nations,
Remember Roman, these will be your arts:
To teach the ways of peace to those you conquer,
To spare defeated peoples, tame the proud…”
This particular scene takes place in Book VI in the underworld, where Aeneas finds the ghost of his father, Anchises, who tells him (in the lines above) what his purpose and role will be. And, as Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas puts it, “What does it mean that Dylan incorporated these lines from a 2,000-year old poem into his 2001 song [“Lonesome Day Blues”]?” Thomas suggests that if we take a look at what was happening in the early 70s when this translation was published, we may find our answer.
The Vietnam War had been raging for fifteen years. Opposition to the war was at an all-time high. As Muhammad Ali famously said, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” Americans were horrified by events such as the My Lai Massacre in 1968, where some 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians were murdered and mutilated by U.S. soldiers. The time was ripe with questioning the cost of American power and domination in the world.
Watch a video of Dylan playing "Lonesome Day Blues" in New York City in 2001 here.
Vergil also knew a thing or two about questioning power and domination in the world. Many scholars believe that the Aeneid exemplifies Vergil’s own interrogation of the cost of empire. When he began writing the Aeneid, Rome had just emerged from over fifty years of nearly continuous civil wars. Just two years earlier, in 31 BCE, Octavian (soon to be named Augustus) had defeated fellow Roman and rival Mark Antony to become sole ruler of Rome. The idea of Rome had been so lofty and virtuous, as the ghost of Anchises reminds us: “To teach the ways of peace to those you conquer, / To spare defeated peoples, tame the proud…” And yet, as Professor Thomas reminds us, Aeneas does not succeed in this in the end. Instead of showing clemency to the army and people he has defeated, Aeneas massacres them. I, for one, am convinced that Dylan found the same dissonance between the ideals and realities of empire in the Aeneid that he found in the United States during the Vietnam War leading up to 9/11 (incidentally, the release date of his Love and Theft album).
Dylan’s ability to understand, digest, and draw inspiration from classical authors such as Vergil and also Homer, Catullus and Ovid, among others, helped place him among the ranks of the Nobel Prize winners in Literature.
Bibliography & Further Reading:
Allen Mandelbaum, The Aeneid of Virgil. A Verse Translation by Allen Mandelbaum, Berkeley: University of California Press (1971).
Jennifer Schuessler and Dina Kraft, “Bob Dylan 101: A Harvard Professor Has the Coolest Class on Campus,” The New York Times, Oct. 14, 2016.
Richard F. Thomas, “The Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan”, Oral Tradition, 22/1 (2007): 30-56.
Thomas E. Strunk, “Achilles in the Alleyway: Bob Dylan and Classical Poetry and Myth,” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Third Series, Vol. 17, No. 1 (2009): 119-136.
 Richard F. Thomas, “The Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan”, Oral Tradition, 22/1 (2007): 30-31.
 Richard F. Thomas, “The Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan”, Oral Tradition, 22/1 (2007): 31-32.
 Allen Mandelbaum, The Aeneid of Virgil. A Verse Translation by Allen Mandelbaum, Berkeley: University of California Press (1971).
 Richard F. Thomas, “The Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan”, Oral Tradition, 22/1 (2007): 32.
by Morgan Yang
It was with slight trepidation that I embarked on my study of Ancient Greek, for unlike my fellow students, I’ve never studied any ancient language before, not even Latin, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that my fears were misplaced.
Within the warm embrace of the JV team, I started from my alpha beta gammas and slowly moved up to face the many faces of the complex beast, also known as GRAMMAR. It was surprising to see how much progress we had made, from the illiterate ‘this is all Greek to me’ phase to the ‘this is still Greek but I can translate everything I know about it’ phase. Certainly, it would be foolish to think that three weeks and seven units of Hansen and Quinn are sufficient for a beginner to fully grasp a language, but I think the vital thing that we’re learning here is how a language works and how to study it, and that in itself is singularly precious experience.
One thing I really loved was how our activities and studies were scheduled intermittently so that every day we had something to look forward to. Whether it was a shopping trip near Aristotelous Square (with grumpy Aris sulking in his chair), a class on Greek cooking, a visit to an archaeological museum or even just an afternoon hanging out by the seaside, listening to the waves lapping and feeling the sea breeze against your cheek, everything was new and exciting and quite marvelous.
So, in the end, I’d like to thank the Calder family, for making all this possible; I’d like to thank my teachers, Sarah and Collomia, for being amazing people and dealing out their wisdom and insights by the bucketful; I’d like to thank my classmates on this trip who were all awesome friends; and I’d like to thank Victoria, Stamatis and Tryfon, for looking after us and guiding us on our trip. I didn’t know what to expect when I came; I certainly did not expect these three weeks to be some of the best in my life when I left. I will definitely be back someday, Calder Classics; you sure haven’t heard the last from me yet (unsubtle wink).
Before going to Thessaloniki I had taken one year of Greek, so for me the purpose of this trip was really to reinforce the existing foundations in grammar. But unexpectedly, with all due credit to our professors, Calder Classics has given me so much more: it has given me the tools to be able to read Greek fluently, just as you could read today's newspaper without hesitation. And I say "tools" instead of "ability" because no, nobody can immediately attain fluency in three weeks. But what the professors have gifted me with is a brilliant rod with which I could, after more training, catch the big fish in the ocean.
So thanks to Collomia and Sarah, I'm sure some day in the future I will achieve this goal. You will both prove to be influential in my progress as a student and a classicist, and my words do no justice to the gratitude welling from the bottom of my heart. I love this program, and will definitely come back someday!
Andre C., student
Last Saturday, we awoke to one of the greatest things we could have asked for in a Roman summer: neither a tourist-free Coliseum nor free gelato, but clouds. This made our walk past the Tempio di Ercole Vincitore (Temple of Hercules), through the Theater of Marcellus, and into the Ghetto of Rome much less scorching – that is, the day went from a blazing hot 96 to a slightly less sunny 93 degrees.
To get to the temple, which was our first stop with Crispin (our archeological guide), we walked past the Bocca Della Verità (the Mouth of Truth). The man’s face depicted on the sculpture is said to bite off the hand of anyone who dares to put his or her hand in its mouth and lie, basically making it a spotty ancient Roman polygraph. Once we were sitting down, Crispin taught us about architecture and Roman vs. Greek styles of temples, using the Tempio di Ercole Vincitore and the nearby Tempio di Portuno (Temple of Fortune) as contrasting examples.
We learned that the cella, or the main inner chamber, is in the center of the Greek temple, usually surrounded by a single layer of columns. Meanwhile, the Roman cella was flush against the back wall of the temple, offset in the front by a porch, which was one or more rows of columns – not unlike the porches we have today in the fronts of our houses (sidenote: our class has come to learn that many aspects of Roman culture are appropriated from their conquered nations. The temple is not exempt; the Etruscans, an ancient Italian civilization, are thought to have made temples shockingly similar to those of the Romans). In addition, the Greek podium (i.e. the rectangular or circular base of the temple) had three rows of steps all around the temples. The Romans had tall podiums, only accessible by one set of stairs at the front of the temple. And thanks to our new knowledge of ancient architecture, we discovered that the Herculean Temple was Greek and the Tempio di Portuno was Roman.
Next, at the Theater of Marcellus, which Augustus completed after Caesar’s death, we learned and saw more classic architectural motifs. The theater is built mainly of tufa (lovingly called “ugly tufa” by Crispin due to its brown, crumbly appearance) in a pattern called opus reticulatum. One of the several patterns we learned about, opus reticulatum consists of, essentially, square based pyramids whose sharp ends are stuck into the core (note: the Latin reticulatum = net-like. Look up a picture of opus reticulatum to see why). But the theater was not left covered in ugly tufa; it was covered in a much prettier, cleaner common stone called travertine. The theater is also one of the earliest examples of Roman brick, a brick that would become very useful to the ancient Romans.
Finally, we arrived for lunch/break time in the “Ghetto,” or the Jewish quarter. Although our restaurant ran out of the much hyped-up fried artichokes, we still had a nice time eating mozzarella and walking around (still shaded from the sun!). On our way home, we four girls walked up stairs (not steep but still numerous) to the Piazza del Campidoglio, or the Capitoline Hill. Continuing our walk, we then huffed up some more stairs to what we now call the “White Building:” i.e. the Altare Della Patria, a beautiful monument built for Victor Emmanuel II (and my favorite monument I’ve seen so far).
After our daily Latin translation, the day finished on the Tiber river, shopping for jewelry and eating chocolate-covered strawberries. Besides learning a great deal and seeing beautiful sites, I also found many Pokémon that day.
So far, our time in Thessaloniki and Samothraki has been an epic immersion into the classical world. Whether it is the joy of reading and translating our first Ancient Greek sentence or the thrill of exploring the sacred tomb of Philip II of Macedon, we are constantly enthralled by what Greece has to offer. Thessaloniki has it all - art, history, and vibrant culture. We visited Thessaloniki’s archeological museum, toured the city’s ancient ruins, and even cooked our very own traditional Greek meals at the American Farm School.
Over the weekend we had the opportunity to wander through the ruins of Dion, a small village dedicated to Zeus in the foothills of Mount Olympus. We hiked up a trail on Mount Olympus and explored its beautiful waterfalls and natural lagoons. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any nymphs, but we definitely felt their presence.
Next, the group set sail for the island of Samothraki for four days. When we arrived we were immediately introduced to the island’s exotic scenery and beautiful beaches. Our local guide Stamatis even took us on a pick-up truck ride to Kremniotissa church, which sits on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. We also had the opportunity to have a Greek lesson on the island’s archeological site - Paleopolis, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. Learning the Attic Greek passive voice in the company of ancient ruins is truly a unique and marvelous experience.
Rome, the Eternal City. It never gets old. Or, at least, all the old things in it never change. What is perhaps most impressive about the city is the casual air with which it operates—Romans nonchalantly walk amongst bits and pieces of marble columns, stroll along giant buildings erected during the time of Fascism, ride their little Vespas past churches built in the 1500’s, eat dinner at a restaurant whose walls are 1,920 years old, and then end their nights going to concerts staged on top of the Roman Forum. Not too shabby.
During our time, we ate gelato while ambling by the Coliseum and sipped our coffees with a view to the Circus Maximus. We stepped on Rome’s old, original roads and took photos next to structures dating back to 500 B.C. with our phones from 2016 A.D.. We inhaled ancient air and exhaled it into modernity. (Okay, perhaps I’m getting a bit poetic, but Rome inspires me with such a spirit I can hardly help it!). In short, when we were in Rome, we did as the Romans do.
It is a privilege, for those who study the Classics, to be able to occupy the same space as senators and emperors, to be standing on the hill where two brothers of legend once laid the first walls of Rome’s foundation. It is a further privilege to be able to glimpse ancient life through the eyes of the literature of the period and then to learn in great detail about the architectural structures throughout the city mentioned in those same literary pages.
All of our students have written a reflection on their time in Rome, and we hope you’ll enjoy getting to read about our experience through the eyes of those who lived it first-hand.
What we have been up to this past week!
On Wednesday we left the beauty and wonder of Florence for a different kind of beauty and wonder in Rome. While Florence was originally an Etruscan settlement, most of what remains is Medieval and Renaissance; in Rome we focused on the ancient! After a short rest at the St. Stephen's School, we began our tour of the Forum. Crispin Corrado, one of Calder Classics' teachers based in Rome, gave a wonderful and in depth tour of the Forum and the Palatine Hill. The Forum and Rome's ancient remains gave the students a great opportunity to experience the physical manifestations of some of the stories and myths they have been studying in Latin.
After the Forum we dashed off to see a contemporary art installation by the South African artist, William Kentridge, on the banks of the Tiber. Kentridge created enormous cut-outs and cleaned around them to leave vast, reverse images behind. Ida Panicelli, a friend of Meg's and a well-known art critic, gave us a wonderful presentation of the work. Ida explained the ways in which Kentridge had entwined the ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and modern aspects of Rome and Roman culture into a complex commentary on present-day social and political issues.
Afterwards it was time to return to Florence: hot, tired and sated :)
Recent adventures of the Florence Reading Latin Session 1 Program
The recent adventures of Florence Reading Latin Session 1.
On Thursday we went to Nîmes, where Laurent had prepared a scavenger hunt for us throughout the city. We split up into 3 teams – Sofie, Olivia, Thomas versus Chloe, Charlotte versus the teachers. Throughout the day we faced many challenges and enigmas that forced us to explore and learn about every landmark in the city. Our scavenger hunt led us to a fountain where we had to measure the volume of the water within it. This proved more difficult than we expected when we realized that the depth of the fountain was longer than an arm’s length! Different teams went about this in different ways. For example, Charlotte sacrificed her leg to the murky waters in order to measure how high the water reached on her leg. While the team of teachers and Chloe and Charlotte forged onwards in their quest fearlessly, the other team was hopelessly lost. When everyone had reached the lunch area they were still wandering and had to be rescued by Laurent.
Having completed the scavenger hunt (Chloe and Charlotte won the first half and tied the second) we all went to watch a movie about Roman life and the building of the city. Exhausted after having walked 7 miles, we took the train home ready for a good night’s sleep.
On Saturday, Lana’s birthday (!!), we went to Sommières to visit Laurent and explore his town. We started at a huge market and walked through the different stands, each one filled with delicious produce. Having collected certain items for lunch and after Laurent picked up a roasted chicken, we made our way to his home. His house was so nice; we ate outside surrounded by foliage with his pool in the background. After we ate we quickly changed and went swimming! It was very refreshing given the extremely hot day. Afterwards we sang Lana happy birthday and she was presented with a large bowl of Laurent’s famous tiramisu. After continued exploration of the town we took the train back to Avignon.
Today we went to Orange, the site of the most well preserved Roman theatre in the world. It was extraordinary to see. We listened to the entire audio tour and then went across the street to a related museum. We split off into groups for lunch and ran into Olivia’s friends (for the third time)! We then went home and had our last Latin lesson (holding back our tears of sorrow), having completed 2 books of Caesar, translated many poems and learned a lot about their culture.