Read the first update on our Gallic adventures in and around Avignon!
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.
Two recent studies show how study abroad experiences help students in the global marketplace.
A recent study by the British Council discovered that employers around the world value intercultural skills as highly as (and often more than) technical skills.
Today was a jam-packed day of sight-seeing, adventuring, and learning in the city of Siena, about an hour's drive from Florence. We were accompanied by a friend of Cindy's, Leonardo. Leonardo is from Florence and has taught as a teaching assistant at Middlebury College in Italian and currently is a graduate student at the University of Michigan. His mother is from Siena, so he knows the city well and led us as we adventured throughout the city. In the morning, when we arrived in Siena, we curiously meandered about town, finally arriving in the main piazza of the city, where we saw the preparations for the Palio all around us. The Palio is the horse race of Siena between different regions of the city that takes place twice a year: once in early July and once in August. The competition is a huge event, drawing crowds from the entire city, and is taken very seriously by locals devoted to their region of the city. After learning about this, we toured the Town Hall of Siena, a magnificent building on the main piazza of the city. On the walls of the Town Hall are beautiful paintings of the important figures of Siena and depictions of the values of the city. In one room, the walls are made of frescoes contrasting good and bad governments: on one side is a peaceful city surrounding by thriving farms, and on the other side is a city plagued by corrupt leaders and murder. Many of the inscriptions on these frescoes are written in Latin and could be read by our students! We took a few minutes to appreciate the views from the top of the Town Hall, where we had nearly panoramic views of an incredible green countryside. After visiting the Town Hall, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant recommended by our knowledgeable guide Leonardo. Having devoured our delicious meals of pasta, we headed to the Duomo of Siena, one of the most beautiful and well-known Cathedrals in all of Italy. The floor is decorated with immaculately preserved marble depictions of sybils, or seers, giving their varied predictions. These predictions come directly from ancient Latin texts, including Virgil's Eclogues, and with the help of Mrs. Calder and our trip's chaperone Sadie, our students were able to recognize Latin words and read phrases. In addition to the main Cathedral, there is an attached Libreria Piccolomini, containing old Latin scriptures preserved by the Monks of the Middle Ages and also beautifully decorated with painted scenes from the Bible. Once we had taken in all the Duomo's splendor, we headed back to the station to return to Florence. While we waited for the bus, some students enjoyed gelato and others played with a soccer ball bought at a nearby store. On the way back to Florence, some napped happily and others enjoyed the views of the lush Tuscan countryside and Chianti vineyards. Either way, it was a full day of exploring and learning, as our students appreciated the art, the Latin, and the history of Siena that lives on today.
This day we took a bus to see the Pont du Gard, which is the tallest and best preserved Roman aqueduct in the world. It was scorching as we got off the bus but it was definitely worth it. We first entered and crossed a pathway directly under the aqueduct. The view was beautiful. Then Laurent suggested we hike up to the top of it, and we complied. When we got up there it was stunning and we were able to see where the water would have gone. We explored under that tunnel and Laurent and Thomas found a small section of a cave. Intrigued by the mystery they climbed up and then suddenly Thomas jumped onto Chloe because a bat flew into him. He said it was the most frightening thing he had ever endured. We then took a short loop and went back down. We proceeded to eat our picnic lunch by the shore and after Olivia, Thomas, and Charlotte took a nap. We could not wake Olivia up from this nap. We read Caesar, which was very interesting, and then went to the Roman Aqueduct & House museum. This was a very cool museum and we got yelled at twice! (Once for walking through lowered sand in the exhibit and second for taking pictures. We then took the bus back and went to bed, exhausted but enlightened.
The next day, we visited the Palais des Papes in Avignon and sang the famous song one must sing while on the Pont d'Avignon. We closed out the day wandering through the streets of Avignon all together for the city's annual summer solstice music festival. See photos below.
Written by Charlotte, Chloe, Sofie & Olivia
Description of the Gallic Latin group's day in Arles, France.
Calder Classics brings to life the multi-layered nature of history. The students’ excitement at being able to see, touch, smell, hear, and feel the influence the Latin texts they were studying had on modern-day Florence was obvious in the way they bounded out of bed each morning.
On Wednesday, the squad hit the metro to the ancient city of Ostia Antica. As always, our lord and savior Crispin was leading the way, first through the necropolis outside the city gates along the Decumanus Maximus, as well as through the archeological site itself.
Ostia Antica is located at a bend in the Tiber River and allowed the Romans to have a strong and stable control of the river’s transportation abilities, which was essential for the empire’s grain distribution. Today, the river strokes the city only slightly on the far-west side, but in ancient times, the whole northern side of the city touched the river. The change in proximity, as Crispin told us, is because the Tiber actually changed its course suddenly after a thunderstorm.
Once inside the city gates, we explored apartment buildings, shops, and the mosaic-sprawled Baths of Neptune.
Crispin taught us how, like today, many apartments were located directly above shops. I found it really interesting that the Roman shopkeepers were actually able to “close up shop” by pulling out wooden planks that acted similarly to modern day store shutters. You can still see the grooves in the marble where these planks were placed.
We were also able to see an ancient firefighter station, located behind the Baths of Neptune, strategically placed to reuse the water from the baths. The station also had many pedestals where the statues of emperors were placed. Among them, we were able to see the damnatio memoriae of Emperor Commodus, as his name was scratched out of the text.
After making our way through the theater and the forum, we approached our final stop. Crispin drew our attention to an empty structure with benches lining the walls. The benches, however, had holes in them. They were toilets! Ancient Roman toilets!
They were surprisingly very easily recognizable, and it was great to think about Romans handling their business in this room 2000 years ago. To our disappointment, however, we weren’t able to try it out for ourselves.
Written by Tommy Lee
On July 26th, the Calder Classics Florence students braved the stormy weather to venture to the Bargello museum in the heart of Florence. Amongst many paintings and sculptures and artifacts, there were a few that really stood out. Donatello’s David particularly caught our eye because it was such a contrast to Michelangelo’s David which we saw the day before. Donatello depicts a more youthful and weak David while Michelangelo glorifies David’s strength, masculinity, and size.
We also looked at two separate small bronze panels, one made by Filippo Brunelleschi and the other by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The two panels are both called the Sacrifico di Isacco and both depict the same scene—the sacrifice of Isaac. These panels were created for a competition, and the winner, Ghiberti, went on to finish more panels for the door to The Baptistry, which stands in front of The Duomo. Later in the day we translated de rerum natura by Lucretius. Lucretius tells the story of Iphigenia and how her father sacrificed her to the gods so that the Greeks could set sail for Troy. In some versions of the story, Diana swoops down from the Heavens and saves Iphigenia at the last minute—just like the story of Isaac that we saw in the panels at the Bargello.
After such a memorable day, we stopped for dinner and gelato and strolled home via a stunning view at Piazzale Michelangelo.
By Kaylee Capruso
During our first free day, seven of us visited the San Sebastiano Catacombs. The catacombs were a short bus ride away on the Via Appia Antica. We had a thirty-minute tour of the catacombs and were able to go underground to see the tombs. There were two different types of tombs: Christian rectangular wall tombs (loculi), as well as smaller tombs (colombari) used to house urns. We are not able to see any of bones in the catacombs today because people began to steal the bones, and around thirty years ago, the bones were placed in areas of the catacombs not accessible to the public. Three mausoleums were later built on top of these catacombs and we were also able to see these. Inside the mausoleums there were beautiful frescos. After exiting the catacombs and mausoleums, we saw a sculpture only recently discovered to be the last Bernini sculpture. Next to the sculpture there was an inscription in Latin that we all translated together.
In the evening we saw a British comedy group called The Miracle Players perform in front of the Roman Forum. They performed a short play about the history of Rome from the founding with Romulus and Remus, the Kings period, the Republic, the Empire, until the fall of the Empire. It was called “Rome in a Nutshell.” They have been performing for 15 years, changing the play every year. The play we saw was well put together and funny. We all had a great dinner together after the play and finished the day by watching a movie.
Written by Lily Dillon.