Cena Latina

On Tuesday 19th November 2013, we held a Cena Latina at Bristol Grammar School.
It was the ‘brain-child’ of Kurt Lampe, at Bristol University, and 24 people gathered to have a great Roman feast as prepared by the wonderful catering department at Bristol Grammar School. We ate a variety of Roman-inspired dishes, and finished up by singing all four verses of Carmen Bristoliense, the BGS School Song.

Here are some pictures of the evening.

 

Tables

The tables are laid out ready

 

The diners!

The diners!

 

cucurbitae cum holeribus (gourds with vegetables)

cucurbitae cum holeribus (gourds with vegetables)

 

The tables ready for diners

The tables ready for diners

 

The pig's head and apples

The pig’s head and apples

 

The serving area with labels

The serving area with labels

 

Some sauces, including 'garum' and olives

Some sauces, including ‘garum’ and olives

 

More diners!

More diners!

 

even more diners

even more diners

 

AGNINAM EXCALDATAM

AGNINAM EXCALDATAM

 

PULLUM FRONTONIANUM

PULLUM FRONTONIANUM

 

Honey cake

Honey cake

 

Homer’s Iliad, glory and pity

Homer’s Iliad isn’t all about glorifying the noble heroes and the war the Greeks fought in Troy, or indeed war as a whole, or even Greek wars. There are many examples of Homer highlighting the pain and misery of war, and sympathising not only with the Greek dead but also the Trojans. It might be used as an example of how it is possible eloquently to remember the sacrifice of the warriors who fight for their comrades and for noble ideals, but at the same time to focus on the awful nature of war. After all, as Herodotus said…

“No-one is foolish enough to choose war over peace”

Here are some passages from the Iliad which might spark thought about the pity of war, and the possibility of expressing the reasons for conflict and the spectacular nature of the soldiers’ bravery, without glorifying the experience… (Lattimore translation)

“Now the sun of a new day struck on the ploughlands, rising out of the quiet water and the deep stream of the ocean to climb the sky. The Trojans assembled together. They found it hard to recognize each individual dead man; but with water they washed away the blood that was on them and as they wept warm tears they lifted them on to the wagons. But great Priam would not let them cry out; and in silence they piled the bodies upon the pyre, with their hearts in sorrow, and burned them upon the fire, and went back to sacred Ilion. In the same way on the other side the strong-greaved Achaians piled their own slain upon the pyre, with their hearts in sorrow, and burned them upon the fire, and went-back to their hollow vessels.” (7.421-432)

“He who among you finds by spear thrown or spear thrust his death and destiny, let him die. He has no dishonour when he dies defending  his country, for then his wife shall be saved and his children afterwards, and his house and property shall not be damaged, if the Achaians must go away with their ships to the beloved land of their fathers.” (Hector) (15.486-488, 494-499)

“Friends and fighting men of the Danaans, henchmen of Ares, be men now, dear friends, remember your furious valour. Do we think there are others who stand behind us to help us? Have we some stronger wall that can rescue men from perdition? We have no city built strong with towers lying near us, within which we could defend ourselves and hold off this host that matches us. We hold position in this plain of the close-armoured Trojans, bent back against the sea, and far from the land of our fathers. Salvation’s light is in our hands’ work, not the mercy of battle.” (Aias) (15.733-741)

And, perhaps most tellingly, and on Remembrance Sunday, most evocatively,

“My husband, you were lost young from life, and have left me a widow in your house, and the boy is only a baby who was born to you and me, the unhappy. I think he will never come of age, for before then head to heel this city will be sacked, for you, its defender, are gone, you who guarded the city, and the grave wives, and the innocent children, wives who before long must go away in the hollow ships, and among them I shall also go, and you, my child, follow where I go, and there do much hard work that is unworthy of you, drudgery for a hard master; or else some Achaian will take you by hand and hurl you from the tower into horrible death, in anger because Hektor once killed his brother, or his father, or his son; there were so many Achaians whose teeth bit the vast earth, beaten down by the hands of Hektor. Your father was no merciful man in the horror of battle.” (Andromache) (24.725-739)

A dead language

For the first time in ages, I’m not teaching Year 7 (‘first year’) Latin this year. Not deliberately – through the vagaries of the timetable.
I love teaching students when they first meet Latin; they are normally scared of it just before they start it, and find it surprisingly enjoyable (a parent at a conference a couple of years ago said to me “I can’t understand it – he actually seems to ENJOY it…”)

This reaction from parents normally stems from either their own negative experiences at school as children or a prejudice against it as elitist because they went to a school which didn’t offer it, and the children from the school down the road that did offer it all seemed a bit uppity. It’s almost always entirely justified, and it’s nice that when their children do seem to enjoy it, they quickly become some of its best advocates.

Right at the start, however, children often come into Latin with prejudices which have rubbed off from the odd remark here and there from friends and parents, and I always enjoy challenging these prejudices. The best way of doing this is by letting the subject, its stories, people and language do the talking. It really is genuinely a fascinating subject, let’s be honest.

A few years ago, however, when I asked children in one of their first lessons to write down 10 things they know about Latin, one precocious, not to say overconfident boy put his hand up when I gave them the opportunity to read out their favourite things about the subject, and said “It’s a dead language, sir, and all the people who spoke it are dead.”

In my memory, he had a smug smirk on his face, but memories are strange things. Anyway, I smiled, as the class started to giggle and shift restlessly in their seats, and I tried to think of what to say. My first instinct was to say something about how it’s not really dead – we’re speaking bits of it all the time, and it’s really useful, and it trains your mind, and… sound rather desperate…!

Suddenly it came to me, and I said, to the class and the particular child’s surprise, “Yes, you’re right, they are all dead.” Again, my memory is not necessarily reliable, but it recalls the boy being somewhat wrongfooted. I continued, “But isn’t that a great opportunity? How boring to spend your time just learning about people who are alive. Living people speak languages like English, French and Spanish, and that’s great. But wouldn’t it be brilliant to be able to talk to dead people? I mean, not just people who have recently died, but people who lived in a completely different world? It’s like talking to aliens. And if you concentrate well in your Latin lessons, that is just what you can do. You can talk to dead people.”

My memory is clearly overdoing it now, because I’m sure I wasn’t quite as coherent as that, and in fact, I seem to recall the class breaking into a spontaneous round of applause, and I think it is very unlikely that that really happened. Nevertheless, I have come back to that idea several times, not just in explaining the value of the subject to others, but in reinvigorating my own love for it when work gets on top of me!

I love talking to dead people. And to Year 7s.

The meanings of ‘logos’

By my count, the Liddell and Scott Greek lexicon gives the following 109 meanings of the word logos… Number 55 is the one that normally appears on vocab lists!

(let me know if you think I have missed any out!)

  1. Computation
  2. Reckoning
  3. Account
  4. Measure
  5. Tale
  6. Point
  7. Way
  8. Expenditure
  9. Esteem
  10. Consideration
  11. Value
  12. Repute
  13. Regard
  14. Relation
  15. Correspondence
  16. Proportion
  17. Ratio
  18. Analogy
  19. Rule
  20. Explanation
  21. Plea
  22. Pretext
  23. Ground
  24. Argument
  25. Statement
  26. Theory
  27. Discourse
  28. Proposition
  29. Principle
  30. Law
  31. Conscience
  32. Thesis
  33. Hypothesis
  34. Reason
  35. Formula
  36. Definition
  37. Term
  38. Process
  39. Force
  40. Debate
  41. Thinking
  42. Reasoning
  43. Reflection
  44. Deliberation
  45. Idea
  46. Whim
  47. Thought
  48. Narrative
  49. Fable
  50. Legend
  51. Story
  52. History
  53. Section
  54. Speech
  55. Word
  56. Utterance
  57. Phrase
  58. Talk
  59. Expression
  60. Message
  61. Rigmarole
  62. Pretence
  63. Instance
  64. Supposition
  65. Report
  66. Tradition
  67. Rumour
  68. Tidings
  69. Hearsay
  70. Mention
  71. Notice
  72. Description
  73. Praise
  74. Honour
  75. Fame
  76. Slander
  77. Credit
  78. Discussion
  79. Parley
  80. Dialogue
  81. Division
  82. Treatise
  83. Branch
  84. Department
  85. Literature
  86. Letters
  87. Oracle
  88. Proverb
  89. Maxim
  90. Saying
  91. Assertion
  92. Resolution
  93. Consent
  94. Proposal
  95. Condition
  96. Command
  97. Behest
  98. Subject
  99. Matter
  100. Question
  101. Secret
  102. Case
  103. Plot
  104. Event
  105. Eloquence
  106. Language
  107. Prose
  108. Sentence
  109. Wisdom