Bona Fortuna on the AP Latin Exam

For all those students taking AP Latin Exams, Vergil speaks:

Aeneid, 1.238–241

“Now this same fortune still pursues these men driven by dangers
What end do you permit for their labors, great king?”

nunc eadem fortuna viros tot casibus actos
insequitur. Quem das finem, rex magne, laborum?


“Don’t yield to evils, but go boldly forward
Where your fortune bids you. The first path of safety
Which you might imagine the least, leads through a city of Greeks.”

tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito,
qua tua te Fortuna sinet. via prima salutis
(quod minime reris) Graia pandetur ab urbe.’


“….Let’s charge to the other side across the wave
While they take their first steps in fear.
Fortune favors the brave.”

…ultro occurramus ad undam
dum trepidi egressisque labant vestigia prima.
audentis Fortuna iuvat.'[….]

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Bavarian State Library, Munich, Codex Buranus (Carmina Burana) Clm 4660; fol. 1r with the Wheel of Fortune

AP Latin Week: Pious Aeneas… The Priest?

Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading:

“A plain sailor man took a notion to study Latin, and his teacher tried him with Virgil; after many lessons he asked him something about the hero.

-Said the sailor: ‘What hero?’

-Said the teacher: ‘What hero, why, Aeneas, the hero.’

-Said the sailor: ‘Ach, a hero, him a hero? Bigob, I t’ought he waz a priest.’ ”

[According to Pound, this was W.B. Yeats’ favorite anecdote.]

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AP Latin Week: Fate, Flight, and Falsehood

Servius, Commentary on Vergil’s Aeneid (1.2)

“The phrase ‘by fate’ (fato profugus) pertains both to the fact that Aeneas is fleeing, and to the fact that he comes to Italy. Vergil was right to add ‘by fate,’ lest Aeneas seem to have deserted his fatherland on account either of some crime, or of desire for a new country to command. The word ‘fugitive’ (profugus) is properly used of one who wanders from his own land, as if driven far away. Many, however, define ‘fugitives’ as those who wander from their own land after being driven away by necessity; as soon as they have found new lands, they are no longer called ‘fugitives,’ but ‘exiles.’ But both of these are false. For the word ‘fugitive’ has even been read of one who has established himself in a new country, as in Lucan’s ‘Fugitives from the ancient race of the Gauls, the Celts mixing their name with the Iberians.’ And the term ‘exile’ is used even of one who is still wandering, as in Sallust’s ‘those who wander in no certain exile.’ To be sure, Vergil does not just idly call Aeneas ‘fato profugus’- he derives this from the learning of the Etruscans. Indeed, there is a book about the letter of Etruscan law written in the speech of Tages, in which is written ‘he who descends from perjurers should be banished by fate, and should be a fugitive (profugus)’. Further, Aeneas derives his lineage from the perjurer Laomedon, and indeed says in another passage ‘long ago we paid with our blood for the perjury of Laomedon’s Troy.'”

fato profugus ‘fato’ ad utrumque pertinet, et quod fugit, et quod ad Italiam venit. et bene addidit ‘fato’, ne videatur aut causa criminis patriam deseruisse, aut novi imperii cupiditate. profugus autem proprie dicitur qui procul a sedibus suis vagatur, quasi porro fugatus. multi tamen ita definiunt, ut profugos eos dicant qui exclusi necessitate de suis sedibus adhuc vagantur, et simul atque invenerint sedes, non dicantur profugi, sed exules. sed utrumque falsum est. nam et profugus lectus est qui iam sedes locavit, ut in Lucano “profugique a gente vetusta Gallorum Celtae miscentes nomen Hiberis” (4.9), et exul qui adhuc vagatur, ut in Sallustio “qui nullo certo exilio vagabantur” : adeo exilium est ipsa vagatio. quidam hic ‘profugus’ participium volunt. sane non otiose fato profugum dicit Aeneam, verum ex disciplina Etruscorum. est enim in libro qui inscribitur litterae iuris Etruriae scriptum vocibus Tagae, “eum qui genus a periuris duceret, fato extorrem et profugum esse debere” . porro a Laomedonte periuro genus ducit Aeneas, siquidem alibi ait “satis iam pridem sanguine nostro Laomedonteae luimus periuria Troiae” .

Each of us a Narcissus

Herman Melville, Moby Dick:

“But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd’s head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd’s eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.”

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Caravaggio, ‘Narcissus’

AP Latin Week: F**k Caesar! (And Cicero Too!)

Alston Hurd Chase, Time Remembered 2.1:

“Another change which I introduced was a widening of the number of authors read in the second and third years of Latin. In Greek there is a perfect text for beginning consecutive reading after the basics have been learned. This is the Anabasis of Xenophon which is at once easy and lively. In the third year, students read some of the very greatest Greek in Homer. But in Latin II, the traditional curriculum presented the boring, repetitious military annals of Caesar which, I am sure, were in part responsible for the very large number who bade Latin farewell after the second year. The third year was almost as bad with the windy, egotistic orations of Cicero which had no appeal to a generation who were talked to death and distrusted all rhetoric.”

Don’t lump me in with him!

AP Latin Week: F**k The Aeneid!

Augustine, Confessions 1.13:

“Even now I have not yet sufficiently explored why I then hated the Greek literature on which with which I was glutted as a little boy. Indeed, I loved Latin literature – not the stuff which our elementary teachers taught us, but the stuff that we learned from the philologists. To tell the truth, I considered those first readings, where one learns to read and write and count, almost as burdensome and punishing as all of Greek literature. But what caused this, except the sinfulness and vanity of life, which made me nothing but flesh, a passing wind which never returned. Surely those first readings were better, because they were more certain; by their aid it was happening – has happened – that I am able to read if I come across some writing and I myself am able to write if I please. They were better, I say, than those in which I was compelled to remember the wanderings of some Aeneas, while forgetting of my own wanderings, and to bewail Dido’s death because she committed suicide, while in the midst of these trifles I, wretched as could be, allowed myself to die away from you with dry eyes.

For what could be more wretched than a wretch not pitying himself as he cries about the death of Dido, which came about from loving Aeneas, all the while not crying over his own death, which happens from not loving you, God, the light of my heart and the bread of the internal mouth of my soul and the virtue marrying together my mind and the breast of my thoughts? I did not love you, and I was fornicating away from you, and as I fornicated everyone shouted, ‘Great job, great job!’ The friendship of this world is a kind of fornication away from you, and the phrase ‘Great job, great job!’ is spoken so that one might feel shame if he does not conform. I did not weep over all of these things. Instead, I wept over Dido, now dead after seeking her end with the sword, while I myself followed the lowest things which you created as I, no more than dirt, hastened to the dirt myself. Were I prevented from reading those things, I would have grieved, because I had no reading material to grieve over. With such madness did I think that literature more noble and fruitful than the things which taught me to read and write.”

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Sandro Botticelli, St. Augustine in His Study

quid autem erat causae cur graecas litteras oderam, quibus puerulus imbuebar? ne nunc quidem mihi satis exploratum est. adamaveram enim latinas, non quas primi magistri sed quas docent qui grammatici vocantur. nam illas primas, ubi legere et scribere et numerare discitur, non minus onerosas poenalesque habebam quam omnes graecas. unde tamen et hoc nisi de peccato et vanitate vitae, qua caro eram et spiritus ambulans et non revertens? nam utique meliores, quia certiores, erant primae illae litterae quibus fiebat in me et factum est et habeo illud ut et legam, si quid scriptum invenio, et scribam ipse, si quid volo, quam illae quibus tenere cogebar Aeneae nescio cuius errores, oblitus errorum meorum, et plorare Didonem mortuam, quia se occidit ab amore, cum interea me ipsum in his a te morientem, deus, vita mea, siccis oculis ferrem miserrimus.
quid enim miserius misero non miserante se ipsum et flente Didonis mortem, quae fiebat amando Aenean, non flente autem mortem suam, quae fiebat non amando te, deus, lumen cordis mei et panis oris intus animae meae et virtus maritans mentem meam et sinum cogitationis meae? non te amabam, et fornicabar abs te, et fornicanti sonabat undique: ‘euge! euge!’ amicitia enim mundi huius fornicatio est abs te et ‘euge! euge!’ dicitur ut pudeat, si non ita homo sit. et haec non flebam, et flebam Didonem extinctam ferroque extrema secutam, sequens ipse extrema condita tua relicto te et terra iens in terram. et si prohiberer ea legere, dolerem, quia non legerem quod dolerem. tali dementia honestiores et uberiores litterae putantur quam illae quibus legere et scribere didici.

Books–Loyal, Forgiving Friends

Cicero, Letters to Friends 175 to Varro

“Know that since I got back to the city, I have renewed my relationships with my old friends—by which I mean my books. It is not as if I avoided their presence because I was judging them, but because they filled me with shame. For I believe that since I submitted myself to events with the most turbulent and faithless companions, I had insufficiently obeyed my books’ commands.

But they have pardoned me. They welcome me back into that ancient communion and they tell me that you were wiser than I was because you persisted in this practice. But this is how I have achieved an understanding with them and why I think I am right to hope that should I see you again it will be easy for me to manage whatever is happening and whatever threatens in the future.”

scito enim me, postea quam in urbem venerim, redisse cum veteribus amicis, id est cum libris nostris, in gratiam. etsi non idcirco eorum usum dimiseram quod iis suscenserem sed quod eorum me suppudebat; videbar enim mihi, cum me in res turbulentissimas infidelissimis sociis demi<si>ssem, praeceptis illorum non satis paruisse. ignoscunt mihi, revocant in consuetudinem pristinam teque, quod in ea permanseris, sapientiorem quam me dicunt fuisse. quam ob rem, quoniam placatis iis utor, videor sperare debere, si te viderim, et ea quae premant et ea quae impendeant me facile laturum.

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Why, Salvete Amici!

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