One Perpetual Sleep for A Week of Love

Catullus, Carm. 5

“My Lesbia, let’s live and let’s love,
Let all the rumors of harsh old men
count for only a penny.
Suns can set and rise again:
but when our brief light sets
we must sleep a lonely endless night.
Give me a thousand kisses and then a hundred,
then another thousand and a second hundred,
And even then another thousand, a hundred more.
When we’ve had so many thousands,
we will mix them together so we don’t know,
so that no wicked man can feel envy
when he knows what a number of kisses there’ve been.”

Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Image result for medieval manuscript love
From here

Continue reading “One Perpetual Sleep for A Week of Love”

Someone Moved My Chair! Seneca Wants You to Focus

Seneca, Moral Epistle 2.1-3

“Based on what you are writing to me and from what I hear, I am developing a positive opinion about you. You don’t run around in every direction or disrupt yourself by moving all the time–that kind of distraction is the mark of a sickly spirit. I guess I think that the first indication of a well-put together mind is the ability to stand still and spend time with one’s self.

But beware! Don’t let that reading of a wide number of authors and every kind of text make you absent-minded and flighty. It is best to tarry among a set number of generational talents and soak up their work, if you want to get ideas that will take firm root in your mind.

What is everywhere is nowhere. When someone spends their life travelling all over the place, it turns out that they know many people but have no friends. It works the same way for people who try to get deeply familiar with no individual author but rush around them all in a hurry.

Food is useless if the body can’t absorb it and it exits the stomach as soon as as it is consumed; nothing undermines health as much as changing medicine constantly; no wound heals if different salves are applied one after another. A plant moved too frequently never grows strong.

There is nothing so useful that it is helpful in motion. Too many books are a distraction.”

Ex iis quae mihi scribis, et ex iis quae audio, bonam spem de te concipio; non discurris nec locorum mutationibus inquietaris. Aegri animi ista iactatio est. Primum argumentum conpositae mentis existimo posse consistere et secum morari.

Illud autem vide, ne ista lectio auctorum multorum et omnis generis voluminum habeat aliquid vagum et instabile. Certis ingeniis inmorari et innutriri oportet, si velis aliquid trahere, quod in animo fideliter sedeat.

Nusquam est, qui ubique est. Vitam in peregrinatione exigentibus hoc evenit, ut multa hospitia habeant, nullas amicitias. Idem accidat necesse est iis, qui nullius se ingenio familiariter applicant, sed omnia cursim et properantes transmittunt.

Non prodest cibus nec corpori accedit, qui statim sumptus emittitur; nihil aeque sanitatem impedit quam remediorum crebra mutatio; non venit vulnus ad cicatricem, in quo medicamenta temptantur; non convalescit planta, quae saepe transfertur. Nihil tam utile est, ut in transitu prosit. Distringit librorum multitudo.

istoric works in a Bookshelf in the Prunksaal (State Hall) of the Imperial Library of the Austrian National Library in Vienna.
istoric works in a Bookshelf in the Prunksaal (State Hall) of the Imperial Library of the Austrian National Library in Vienna.

A Prayer for Caesar

Martial, Epigrams 7.60.

Reverend sovereign of the Tarpeian palace
Whom we recognize as the Thunderer
By our leader’s safekeeping:
Everyone importunes you with prayers for himself,
And asks that you do what you gods can do.
But don’t be vexed with me, Jupiter,
As if I too were impertinent:
I ask nothing for myself.
It’s for Caesar I must petition you.
Then for myself, it’s Caesar I must petition.

Tarpeiae venerande rector aulae,
Quem salvo duce credimus Tonantem,
Cum votis sibi quisque te fatiget
Et poscat dare, quae dei potestis:
Nil pro me mihi, Iuppiter, petenti
Ne suscensueris velut superbo.
Te pro Caesare debeo rogare:
Pro me debeo Caesarem rogare.

color photography of a small bronze statue of Jupiter. He is raising his left hand as if holding a thunderbolt. He is nude with a cloak draped over his upraised arm
Bronze statuette of Jupiter
with a thunderbolt in the left hand.
Late 1st century CE.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

A Boy and a Girl

Ovid. Metamorphosis. Book IV. 373-388 (Salmacis and Hermaphroditus).

The gods answered Salmacis’s prayers,
for their intertwined bodies meld
and their faces resolve into one.
When you graft a branch to a tree’s bark
the two things fuse, and grow that way, before your eyes.
Just so, where their limbs meet in tight embrace
there aren’t two bodies now, but one with two natures:
boy/girl, neither/both–so they appear.

Where a man dove into the flowing waters
there you see him made a weak-limbed half-man.
And in his no-longer-male voice, his arms raised,
Hermaphroditus cries: “My father and mother,
do your son who bears both your names this service:
whoever should enter this pool a man
may he emerge half-man, enervated at once
by the waters’ touch.”

The parents of the two-natured child were moved
and agreed to drug the stream with filth.

vota suos habuere deos; nam mixta duorum
corpora iunguntur, faciesque inducitur illis
una. velut, si quis conducat cortice ramos,
crescendo iungi pariterque adolescere cernit,
sic, ubi complexu coierunt membra tenaci,
nec duo sunt sed forma duplex, nec femina dici
nec puer ut possit, neutrumque et utrumque videntur.

ergo ubi se liquidas, quo vir descenderat, undas
semimarem fecisse videt mollitaque in illis
membra, manus tendens, sed non iam voce virili
Hermaphroditus ait: “Nato date munera vestro,
et pater et genetrix, amborum nomen habenti:
quisquis in hos fontes vir venerit, exeat inde
semivir et tactis subito mollescat in undis.”
Motus uterque parens nati rata verba biformis
fecit et incesto fontem medicamine tinxit.

promotional image from the spice girls with the five mebmers vamping for the camera and the title "2 become 1: official music video"
Res ipsa loquitur

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

This World Was Not Made for Us

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 174-181

“When people pretend that gods made everything
For them, they appear to have wandered off
From true reason in every possible way.

For while I might be ignorant of the first beginnings,
I would still dare to assert from heaven’s basic traits
–And to show as well from many other things–
That the nature of the universe was not divinely made
For us, because its faults are just too great.”

…. quorum omnia causa
constituisse deos cum fingunt, omnibu’ rebus
magno opere a vera lapsi ratione videntur.
nam quamvis rerum ignorem primordia quae sint,
hoc tamen ex ipsis caeli rationibus ausim
confirmare aliisque ex rebus reddere multis,
nequaquam nobis divinitus esse creatam
naturam mundi: tanta stat praedita culpa

Map of the observable universe. From left to right the known celestial bodies are arranged according to their proximity to the Earth. In the right border we find the most distant objects observed that are GRBs, quasars, galaxies and the cosmic microwave background radiation.
Pablo Carlos Budassi, “Map of the Observable Universe”

Happy Halloween: Werewolves in Greek and Roman Culture

full speed down a lykanthropic rabbit-hole in the annual tradition.

Did the Wolf Win or Lose this FIght?
Did the Wolf Win or Lose this Fight?

Here are the sources I’ve gathered in rough chronological order. Most of the material is mentioned in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, although the entry says nothing about the medical texts.

  1. Herodotus’ Histories: A Description of the Neuri, a tribe near the Skythians who could turn into wolves and back.
  2. Plato’s Republic: Lycanthropy is used as a metaphor for the compulsive behavior of tyrants.
  3. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: Pliny describes the origins of ideas about lycanthropy and blames the traditions on the credulity of the Greeks!
  4. Petronius’ Satyricon: A character tells the story of a companion transforming into a wolf at night and back at day.
  5. Pausanias’ Geography of Greece: Like Pliny, Pausanias tells the story of the human sacrifice performed by Lykaon as an origin of lycanthropic narratives.
  6. Greek Medical Treatises on the Treatment of Lycanthropy: Medical authors from the time of Marcus Aurelius to the fall of Byzantium treat lycanthropy as a mental illness.
  7. Augustine of Hippo, City of God:  St. Augustine (5th Century CE) gives an account similar to Pliny’s, but attributes it to Varro.
  8. Michael Psellus, Poemata 9.841:An 11th century CE monk wrote a book of didactic poems about medicine. His description of lycanthropy is clearly influenced by the Greek medical treatises.

What I have learned from these texts:

  1. The early Greek tradition is harmonious with some structural aspects of Greek myth.  Lycanthropy is related to sacrilegious eating–in a system where what you eat communicates who you are, human flesh is taboo (monsters eat it).  In the Greek lycanthropic tradition, this is non mono-directional. Werewolves who abstain from human flesh can turn back again.
  2. The later ‘folkloric’ tradition (e.g. Petronius) is separate from this structural logic. in the earlier tradition, men transform for 9-10 years (in something of a purificatory period). The other tradition has shorter periods (nightly) that don’t correlate with sacrilege: Petronius’ werewolf doesn’t eat human flesh (that we know of).
  3. The moon-association may be a later accretion on the tradition. All of the medical texts associate werewolves with the night; the Roman texts agree. The lunar cycle may be implied in the Petronius tale (where the transformation happens when the light is almost as bright as day) or in the later medical texts vis a vis the connection with menstrual cycles.
  4. There is one hint of a dog-bite being associated with lycanthropy, but no foundational notion that you contract lycanthropy from a werewolf.  In addition, there are no specific suggestions or methods for how to kill a werewolf.

Continue reading “Happy Halloween: Werewolves in Greek and Roman Culture”

Don’t Make a Fuss, Quote Seneca Like Truss!

Steal Quotes from Other people

“Whatever someone else says well, that’s mine.”

quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est, Seneca, EM 16

From Earlier in the Same Epistle? Seneca, Moral Epistle 104.12

“You will consider losing any of the people you love the worst evil , even though it is as inappropriate as crying because the leaves of the charming trees that decorate your home have fallen. Treat everything that pleases you like those growing plants: while they live, use them, since different plants wilt and die on different days. Just as the the fall of some leaves is a minor affair because they grow back again, so it is with those come you love and you believe are your life’s happiness–they can be replaced even though they are not reborn. 

‘New friends won’t be the same!” one objects. Nope, and you won’t be the same either. Every day, every hour changes you. What time takes is easier to see in others, it is hidden in yourself because it doesn’t happen obviously. Others disappear, but we are stolen from ourselves secretly. You will not consider these problems or find any treatment for the wounds. But you will raise up reasons for anxiety by hoping some days, despairing others. If you are smart, you will mix these two. Don’t hope without despairing or despair without hope.”

Gravissimum iudicabis malum, aliquem ex his, quos amabis, amittere, cum interim hoc tam ineptum erit quam flere, quod arboribus amoenis et domum tuam ornantibus decidant folia. Quicquid te delectat, aeque vide ut flores virides; dum virent, utere; alium alio die casus excutiet. Sed quemadmodum frondium iactura facilis est, quia renascuntur, sic istorum, quos amas quosque oblectamenta vitae putas esse, damnum, quia reparantur, etiam si non renascuntur. 

“Sed non erunt idem.” Ne tu quidem idem eris. Omnis dies, omnis hora te mutat; sed in aliis rapina facilius apparet, hic latet, quia non ex aperto fiet. Alii auferuntur, at ipsi nobis furto subducimur. Horum nihil cogitabis nec remedia vulneribus oppones, sed ipse tibi seres sollicitudinum causas alia sperando, alia desperando. Si sapis, alterum alteri misce: nec speraveris sine desperatione nec desperaveris sine spe.

Are you even alive? Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 7

“Therefore, it is not right to think that anyone has lived long because of grey hair or wrinkles. They have not lived a while, but they have existed for a time. Certainly, what if you thought that the person had traveled far whom a terrible storm grabbed in the harbor and dragged here and there in turns of winds raging from different directions  over the same space in a circle? They did not travel far, but were tossed around a lot.”

Non est itaque quod quemquam propter canos aut rugas putes diu vixisse; non ille diu vixit, sed diu fuit. Quid enim si illum multum putes navigasse, quem saeva tempestas a portu exceptum huc et illuc tulit ac vicibus ventorum ex diverso furentium per eadem spatia in orbem egit? Non ille multum navigavit, sed multum iactatus est.

Are you even awake? Seneca Moral Epistle 83. 5-7

“Not much of my strength remains for a bath. Then, after I do bathe, I have some dry bread, breakfast without a table. Hands don’t need to be washed after such a meal. After that, I nap for a bit. You are familiar with my custom: I take the shortest bit of sleep, as if just releasing myself from the yoke. It is enough for me to stop staying awake. At times, I know I have slept; at others, I only suspect it.”

 Non multum mihi  balneum superest. Panis deinde siccus et sine mensa prandium, post quod non sunt lavandae manus. Dormio minimum. Consuetudinem meam nosti: brevissimo somno utor et quasi interiungo. Satis est mihi vigilare desisse. Aliquando dormisse me scio, aliquando suspicor.

Let’s Talk about Death, baby: Seneca, Moral Epistle 30.17-18

“If we want to clarify the causes of our fear, we will discover that some are there and others only seem to exist. We do not fear death, but the thought of death. For we are always distant by some degree from death. Thus, if death must be feared, it should always be feared. For what portion of our time is free from death?

But I ought to fear that you fear the length of this letter more than death. So, I will bring it to an end. Nevertheless, think about death always so that you may not fear it. Farewell.

Si distinguere voluerimus causas metus nostri, inveniemus alias esse, alias videri. Non mortem timemus, sed cogitationem mortis. Ab ipsa enim semper tantundem absumus. Ita si timenda mors est, semper timenda est. Quod enim morti tempus exemptum est?

Sed vereri debeo, ne tam longas epistulas peius quam mortem oderis. Itaque finem faciam. Tu tamen mortem ut numquam timeas, semper cogita. Vale.

Better Off Dead? Seneca, Moral Epistle 22.12-13

“And look, here is something that comes to my mind which I don’t know if it is truer or more well-put. “Whose saying?” you ask? It is Epicurus, for I am still sewing my quilt from other people’s fragments. “Everyone leaves from life just as if they just had entered it”.

Grab anyone suddenly—a youth, an old man, someone in the middle—and you will find them equally afraid of death and without understanding of life. No one has finished anything, because we keep postponing everything we do to tomorrow. Nothing makes me happier in that quotation than the fact that it calls old men out for being babies.

“No one”, he says, “leaves the world differently from the way in which they were born.” This is false! We are worse when we die than when we are born. This is our fault, not nature’s. Nature ought to criticize us, saying, “What is this? I produced you without desires, without fear, without superstition, without treachery and these diseases! Leave as you were when you got here!”

 et occurrit mihi ecce nescio utrum verior an eloquentior. “Cuius?” inquis; Epicuri, adhuc enim alienas sarcinas adsero; “Nemo non ita exit e vita, tamquam modo intraverit.” Quemcumque vis occupa, adulescentem senem medium; invenies aeque timidum mortis, aeque inscium vitae. Nemo quicquam habet facti, in futurum enim nostra distulimus. Nihil me magis in ista voce delectat quam quod exprobratur senibus infantia. “Nemo,” inquit, “aliter quam qui modo natus est exit e vita.” Falsum est; peiores morimur quam nascimur. Nostrum istud, non naturae vitium est. Illa nobiscum queri debet et dicere: “Quid hoc est? Sine cupiditatibus vos genui, sine timoribus, sine superstitione, sine perfidia ceterisque pestibus; quales intrastis exite.”

You’re faking it, I’m Faking It. Hurray: Seneca, Moral Epistles 120, 21-22

“Those people I describe are like this, that kind of man Horace talks about, someone who is never the same or even really like himself. That’s how far he walks in the opposite direction. Did I mention that many are like this? It is the same way with most people. Everyone changes their plans and prayers daily. Someone wants a spouse, then only a bit of fun on the side. Someone wants to rule, then they act more officious than an enslaved person. One day, someone flexes to the point of derision, only to withdraw and shrink into more humility than those who are truly without pretense. They throw money about and then hoard it!

This is how a silly mind exposes itself. It takes this form and then another and then never looks like itself. This is, for me, the worst way to be. I do understand, it is hard to take the shape of one person alone. No one can truly be singular except for the wise person, so the rest of us try on different masks in turn. We seem sober and serious one moment and then wasteful and silly the next. We often change our roles and play a part against where we started.

For this reason, try to play the same character to the end of life’s game that you started at the beginning. Try to make people praise you. If you can’t, at least let them recognize you. Otherwise, when it comes to someone you saw yesterday, they can ask, “who is this person?” That’s how much change you allow. Goodbye!”

Homines isti tales sunt, qualem hunc describit Horatius Flaccus, numquam eundem, ne similem quidem sibi; adeo in diversum aberrat. Multos dixi? Prope est, ut omnes sint. Nemo non cotidie et consilium mutat et votum. Modo uxorem vult habere, modo amicam, modo regnare vult, modo id agit, ne quis sit officiosior servus, modo dilatat se usque ad invidiam, modo subsidit et contrahitur infra humilitatem vere iacentium, nunc pecuniam spargit, nunc rapit. 

Sic maxime coarguitur animus inprudens; alius prodit atque alius et, quo turpius nihil iudico, impar sibi est. Magnam rem puta unum hominem agere. Praeter sapientem autem nemo unum agit, ceteri multiformes sumus. Modo frugi tibi videbimur et graves, modo prodigi et vani. Mutamus subinde personam et contrariam ei sumimus, quam exuimus. Hoc ergo a te exige, ut, qualem institueris praestare te, talem usque ad exitum serves. Effice ut possis laudari, si minus, ut adgnosci. De aliquo, quem here vidisti, merito dici potest: “hic qui est?” Tanta mutatio est. Vale.

We’re All CraZy aNYwaY: Seneca, Moral Epistles 94.17

“This part of precepts should be tossed away because it can’t give to everyone what it guarantees to a small few. Wisdom, however, welcomes all. There’s no difference, really, between the popular madness in general and the kind that requires medical treatment except that the individual suffers from a disease and the masses are afflicted by false opinions. For one, the symptoms of insanity develop from poor health, the other arises from sick minds.

If one offers maxims to a madman about how to speak, or walk, or how to act in public and private, they’d prove to be crazier than the one they’re advising. Someone really needs to treat their black bile and remove the initial cause of the affliction. This is what is required for a diseased mind too. The madness needs to be shed first, otherwise all your words of warning are useless.”

“Ergo ista praeceptiva pars summovenda est, quia quod paucis promittit, praestare omnibus non potest; sapientia autem omnes tenet. Inter insaniam publicamet hanc, quae medicis traditur, nihil interest nisi quod haec morbo laborat, illa opinionibus falsis. Altera causas furoris traxit ex valitudine, altera animi mala valitudo est. Si quis furioso praecepta det, quomodo loqui debeat, quomodo procedere, quomodo in publico se gerere, quomodo in privato, erit ipso, quem monebit, insanior. Ei bilis1 nigra curanda est et ipsa furoris causa removenda. Idem in hoc alio animi furore faciendum est. Ipse discuti debet; alioqui abibunt in vanum monentium verba.”

IDK, Maybe Seneca Sucks: Fronto to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (“On Speeches”, Ambr. 382)

“…I am not ignorant that Seneca is a person fully stuffed and overflowing with ideas, but to be honest I see his sentences as trotting around, announcing their course with a full gallop, but stopping to fight nowhere and never striking the sublime. Like Laberius, he plays at wit-darts, or really just assembling sounds, rather than composing words worth repeating.

Do you believe that you would uncover graver sentiments on the same ideas in your Annaeus than in Sergius*? Ah, Sergius’ words don’t have the same rhythm or the same speed as Seneca’s, I admit. The sounds don’t sing the same, I won’t deny it.

But what if the same meal is offered to two people and the first picks up the olives on the table with his fingers, brings them to his mouth, puts them between his teeth to chew them in the right and proper way, while the other throws them up high and catches them with his mouth open and then shows them off once caught with his lips like a juggler? Really, children at school would applaud at what was done and the guest would be entertained, but one will have eaten lunch properly while the other did tricks with his lips.

So you say that some things are expressed cleverly and some with weight. But sometimes little silver coins are found in the sewer. Should we take over the job of cleaning the sewers too?”

Neque ignoro copiosum sententiis et redundantem hominem esse: verum sententias eius tolutares video nusquam quadripedo concitas cursu ten<d>ere, nusquam pugnare, nusquam maiestatem studere; ut Laberius dictabolaria, immo dicteria, potius eum quam dicta confingere.

Itane existimas graviores sententias et eadem de re apud Annaeum istum reperturum te quam apud Sergium? Sed non modulatas aeque: fateor;  neque ita| cordaces: ita est; neque ita tinnulas: non nego. Quid vero, si prandium utrique adponatur, adpositas oleas alter digitis prendat, ad os adferat, ut manducandi ius fasque est ita dentibus subiciat, alter autem oleas suas in altum iaciat, ore aperto excipiat, ut calculos praestigiator, primoribus labris ostentet? Ea re profecto pueri laudent, convivae delectentur; sed alter pudice pranderit, alter labellis gesticulatus erit.

At enim sunt quaedam in libris eius scite dicta, graviter quoque nonnulla. Etiam laminae interdum argentiolae cloacis inveniuntur; eane re cloacas purgandas redimemus?

drawing of seneca'ssuicide. A man is held by a group of enslaved people in a columned hall .
Jean Guillaume Moitte, The Death of Seneca, Unknown Date. MET

Disagreements and Words

Cicero, de Amicitia 23-24

“The fact is that if you remove the ties of goodwill from our world, no house or city can stand tall nor can even agriculture persist! If this is less intelligible, one can perceive how powerful friendship and harmony are from the impact of disagreements and disharmony. What house is so stable or what state is so strong that it cannot be upended by hatred and division?”

Quod si exemeris ex rerum natura benevolentiae coniunctionem, nec domus ulla nec urbs stare poterit, ne agri quidem cultus permanebit. Id si minus intellegitur, quanta vis amicitiae concordiaeque sit, ex dissensionibus atque discordiis percipi potest. Quae enim domus tam stabilis, quae tam firma civitas est, quae non odiis et discidiis funditus possit everti?


Plato, Euthyphro 7c

“So if we were disagreeing about whether something was bigger or smaller, we’d turn to actual measurement to resolve our disagreement?”

 Οὐκοῦν καὶ περὶ τοῦ μείζονος καὶ ἐλάττονος εἰ διαφεροίμεθα, ἐπὶ τὸ μετρεῖν ἐλθόντες ταχὺ παυσαίμεθ’ ἂν τῆς | διαφορᾶς;

Cicero, de Finibus 4. 22

“If we dispute about a fact, Cato, you and I can have no disagreement! There’s no difference between what you believe and I do when we compare the facts themselves once the words have been changed.”

Si de re disceptari oportet, nulla mihi tecum, Cato, potest esse dissensio; nihil est enim de quo aliter tu sentias atque ego, modo commutatis verbis ipsas res conferamus

Pheasants with a disagreement

A Response to AP Latin: A Student Perspective

I’m obviously not the first one to say this, but the AP Latin curriculum isn’t good.

In several different ways, it seems like the content of the course is slowly deteriorating over time. I’m sure some here can recall the days of four different tests, each covering a different Roman author. That’s right, four. Nowadays, it seems as if the College Board has really limited the curriculum as a result of the lessening number of students taking the exam (4,899 in 2021).

The effect of this lack of students? A curriculum that awkwardly shoves together two authors in a way that isn’t conducive to educating modern high school students. It hops back and forth between Caesar and Vergil for each unit—in such a way that your average juniors and seniors can struggle to gain a truly strong footing in the material. It’s a little strange.

There’s also an absurd amount of vocabulary. Based on the research of other teachers, there are nearly 11,700 words that a student must understand over the course of the syllabus. This amount of new vocabulary is much more than what the beginner Latin reader is used to dealing with in their first few years of the subject. It’s not to say that it’s impossible, but it is difficult if you’re in your third or fourth year of the subject.

The other aspect of this current AP curriculum that doesn’t exactly appeal to your average teenage high school student is in the subject matter inherent to these pieces. Commentarii de Bello Gallico is dry and does a tremendous job detailing the frequently boring military exploits of the Roman army in Gaul. For every chapter explaining the specifics of a battle, there are five more examining how Caesar sent a dull letter to a commander that one time.

On the other hand, Vergil’s Aeneid is much more interesting. There are lots of references throughout the text and its narrative serves as a nice introduction to the wider world of literature for newer Latin students. In fact, it inspired me to read other works of Roman poetry that I enjoy.

(Personally, my passion for authors like Catullus and Ovid was directly inspired by my work with Vergil this last year. It was the first time I had been exposed to this kind of poetic literature in my education, and now it’s my main interest in the subject. My favorite genre of these works are the semi-autobiographical elegies.)

However, there is one massive flaw with both the Aeneid and Commentarii Bello Gallico that each AP Latin student has to contend with. There is a total lack of variety in the material provided.

I don’t think I’m asking for too much here. This last year, I completed the course with five of my peers, and we were all shocked by something as simple as the lack of a relatable female voice. I can’t remember a single named female character in De Bello Gallico and the non-male characters of the Aeneid don’t exactly get much, either.

You have Juno and Dido, who are both characterized as “crazy” in their opposition to Aeneas.  From the opening lines of the epic, it is established that Juno is defined in the story by her conflict against Aeneas’ journey to founding Rome. Similarly, Dido is at first portrayed as the strong female ruler of Carthage, but after Aeneas departs at the request of Mercury, she becomes a crazed lunatic who commits suicide in a famously elaborate fashion.

The other prominent female characters don’t exactly have much to offer. Venus exists entirely as a mother figure in respect to Aeneas, and Lavinia acts as nothing more than a prize to be won at the end of the narrative.

The response to this shouldn’t be “well that’s how it is,” because there are countless examples of prominent, more defined characters throughout Latin literature.

And so, my peers and I, inspired by this notion and a friend’s passion for typesetting, decided to pursue our own educational resources for newer Latin students that featured these uncommon figures. The process for us consists of taking texts from books like Sarah Pomeroy’s Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves and resources like Tufts’ Perseus Digital Library and Oxford Scholarly Editions and adapting them to lower reading levels. It’s tedious and not exactly entertaining, but it’s been insightful to go through all these different resources and pick certain texts to adapt. Hopefully, this can become a resource useful for high school and lower-level teachers. Based off of the formatting of other educational texts, here’s a section I adapted:

Luke is a rising high school senior from outside Philadelphia, PA. He was new to the subject entering his freshman year, but has since fallen in love with Classical languages and culture to the point where he hopes to study it in college. His personal interest is specific to Roman poetry, but he has experience with traditional Greek authors as well. Outside of his academics, Luke enjoys theatrical performance and filmmaking.


Advice on Social Media Use from Ancient Rome

Ovid, Amores 14.1-8

“I don’t beg you not to mess around because you’re pretty,
But to spare miserable me the need of knowing about it.
I am not some censor who orders you to be a prude,
But only someone who asks you to try to be discreet.
Whoever can deny her mistakes, hasn’t messed up at all.
Only the admitted fault brings dishonor.
What madness it is to confess in light things done at night?
And to report openly deeds performed in secret?”

Non ego, ne pecces, cum sis formosa, recuso,
sed ne sit misero scire necesse mihi;
nec te nostra iubet fieri censura pudicam,
sed tamen, ut temptes dissimulare, rogat.
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
quis furor est, quae nocte latent, in luce fateri,
et quae clam facias facta referre palam?

‘Social Media’ can last forever…