Some Cool Projects from Greek Classes

Zenobius 1.89

“The doors of the muses are open”: a proverb applied to those readily acquiring the best things in their education.”

᾿Ανεῳγμέναι Μουσῶν θύραι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξ ἑτοίμου λαμβανόντων τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν ἐν παιδείᾳ.

I have shared some of my successes and failures from Greek Classes before on this site–I like to celebrate student achievements where I can and also share the little bit I learn about trying to get out of their way while they are in the business of actually learning. Two of my colleagues at other universities have shared some of their student projects this semester, and I think both projects deserve wider notice.

Podcasting the Iliad

Dr. Deborah Beck at the University of Texas had her students produce podcasts on specific passages from Homer’s Iliad. (Deborah has created a great list of instructions she is happy to share with anyone who contacts her.) Each podcast lasts about 12 minutes and can be listened to in sequence or as a standalone piece. The podcasts started as class presentations and were be expanded with reflections on the process of preparing a class as well as the content. The podcasts are produced by the students and they are of a fine quality–they are listenable, personable and enjoyable. The discussions are deep and indicative of sustained and meaningful engagements with the text. After just a few minutes of listening, I became convinced that this is a project worth repeating.

Dr. Beck starts the project off herself with a nice introduction and a discussion of Iliad 22.199-213. In looking at Hektor’s flight from Achilles provides her an opportunity to think about divine engagement in the war “helps to …make the Iliad a universal story of loss and war rather than a more simplistic and less interesting victory song of the Greeks.”

The first student presentation by Ethan Russo looks at Achilles’ reflection on Hektor and his treatment of the body. Ethan emphasizes the emotive experience of reading the passage out-loud as a method in re-embodying the text. The third episode turns to Andromache’s laments for Hektor and how the narrator characterizes her ignorance (“evoking the distance between Andromache’s expectations and reality”). Sam Ross’s reflections on presenting this text in class are a personal and useful reminder of what it is like for anyone to plan a class.

Altogether the podcasts provide an intimate view of the tools and assumptions that shape the way we read Homer together. Claudia Cockerell brings us to the beginning of book 23 in the 4th episode and asks us to think about the catharsis of the coming funeral. She starts with a reading of the appearance of Patroklos at the beginning of the book and “the fact that Patroklos thinks they will be able to embrace one more time further underlines how little he knows of the current situation”. Claudia communicates her own deep conflict in witnessing the dream sequence and being unsure of which character deserves our pity.

In Episode 5, Austin McDow  expands on the simile which precedes Priam’s supplication of Achilles in the middle of book 24 (24.424-506). Austin does a great job of invoking the basic themes of Priam’s katabasis before turning to the simile–he summarizes how his fellow students responded to his simile and the potentially ungovernable range of responses to such a charged moment.

In Episode 6, Rachel Pritchett focuses on Achilles’ response to Priam’s request–she surveys each of Achilles’ speeches in book 24 to show how each one of them emphasizes “important insights into the character’s worldview, emotions, and sympathies.” Staying with this movement, Trey Timson uses Episode 7 to talk about Achilles’ myth of Niobe in book 24. This paradeigma (a hero’s telling of a previous myth for a specific purpose) is one of the more hotly debated topics in Homeric scholarship.  Trey brings together multiple interpretations and the conventional tale to bear on the strangeness and power of this moment. He notes smartly that ancient audiences might not be troubled by contradictions–he sees a blend of different traditions operative at the same time. (He spends an extra bit of time focusing on the importance of sitos (“grain”) in this passage.)

Episode 8 (which comes a bit out of order) looks at the final 100 lines of the Iliad. Lauryn Hanely  provides a proud overview of the poem’s end, starting with a tangent about the importance of a three-act structure for works of art, separating the poem into three parts. For her, books 23 and 24 present the denouement of the three-part movement. Lauren goes through the powerful laments that close the epic’s final book

One of the neatest things about this project is that it is clear that the students have listened to each other both inside and outside of class and that their interpretation of the poem is a both a product of and producer of a community, the very thing the Homeric poems are too.

Gnomologium Vaticanum, 469

 [Plato] used to say that someone being educated needs three things: ability, practice and time.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔλεγεν ὅτι ὁ παιδευόμενος τριῶν τούτων χρῄζει· φύσεως, μελέτης, χρόνου.

Lysias Puppet Show

Dr. Suzanne Lye’s Greek class at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill did a puppet show based on Lysias’ “Murder of Eratosthenes”.

Ok, this is awesome. Puppets? Murder? There is something for everyone! In all seriousness, it is a great exercise for teamwork, pronunciation, and a deeper understanding of the speech. The show replays part of the case–this is some Law and Order stuff here–which means students have to investigate material culture and the legal background more extensively than one might in a typical class.

If you have any great projects with an online presence, let me know. I would be happy to share them.

Image result for homer's iliad

Stob. 2.31.38

“Noble Socrates reproached fathers who did not teach their sons and then, when they were destitute, took their sons to court and sued them as ungrateful because they did not support their parents. He said that the fathers were expecting something impossible: those who have not learned just actions are incapable of performing them”

Σωκράτης ὁ γενναῖος ᾐτιᾶτο τῶν πατέρων ἐκείνους, ὅσοι <μὴ> παιδεύσαντες αὑτῶν τοὺς υἱεῖς, εἶτα ἀπορούμενοι ἦγον ἐπὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς τοὺς νεανίσκους καὶ ἔκρινον αὐτοὺς ἀχαριστίας, ὅτι οὐ τρέφονται ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν. εἶπε γὰρ ἀδύνατον ἀξιοῦν τοὺς πατέρας· μὴ γὰρ οἵους τε εἶναι τοὺς μὴ μαθόντας τὰ δίκαια ποιεῖν αὐτά.

On an Idiot, a Philosopher, and the Signs of Progress

Epictetus, Encheiridion, 48

“The state and character of an ‘idiot’ is this: he never expects harm or help from himself, but he always looks elsewhere. This is the state and character of a philosopher: he expects all help and harm to come from himself

These are signs of someone making progress: he blames no one; praises no one; criticizes no one; impugns no one; and says nothing about himself as if he were someone or knew something. Whenever he meets an obstacle or is held back, he takes the blame. Whenever anyone praises him, he chuckles to himself while they praise. If someone criticizes him, he offers no defense. He proceeds just like the feeble, taking care not to disturb anything he is developing before it grows firm.

He has banished every desire from himself and he has admitted to disinclination only those aspects of nature which are under our control, He applies a disinterested impulse toward all things. Should he seem to be simple or unlearned, he doesn’t care. In sum, he guards against himself as if he were an enemy conspirator.”

48. Ἰδιώτου στάσις καὶ χαρακτήρ· οὐδέποτε ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ προσδοκᾷ ὠφέλειαν ἢ βλάβην, ἀλλ᾿ ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξω. φιλοσόφου στάσις καὶ χαρακτήρ· πᾶσαν ὠφέλειαν καὶ βλάβην ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ προσδοκᾷ.

Σημεῖα προκόπτοντος· οὐδένα ψέγει, οὐδένα ἐπαινεῖ, οὐδένα μέμφεται, οὐδενὶ ἐγκαλεῖ, οὐδὲν περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λέγει ὡς ὄντος τινὸς ἢ εἰδότος τι. ὅταν ἐμποδισθῇ τι ἢ κωλυθῇ, ἑαυτῷ ἐγκαλεῖ. κἄν τις αὐτὸν ἐπαινῇ, καταγελᾷ τοῦ ἐπαινοῦντος αὐτὸς παρ᾿ ἑαυτῷ· κἂν ψέγῃ, οὐκ ἀπολογεῖται. περίεισι δὲ καθάπερ οἱ ἄρρωστοι, εὐλαβούμενός τι κινῆσαι τῶν καθισταμένων, πρὶν πῆξιν λαβεῖν.

ὄρεξιν ἅπασαν ἦρκεν ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ· τὴν δ᾿ ἔκκλισιν εἰς μόνα τὰ παρὰ φύσιν τῶν ἐφ᾿ ἡμῖν μετατέθεικεν. ὁρμῇ πρὸς ἅπαντα ἀνειμένῃ χρῆται. ἂν ἠλίθιος ἢ ἀμαθὴς δοκῇ, οὐ πεφρόντικεν. ἑνί τε λόγῳ, ὡς ἐχθρὸν ἑαυτὸν παραφυλάσσει καὶ ἐπίβουλον.

Image result for medieval manuscript idiot

Horas de Leonor de la Vega. BNE Vitr/24/2 Fol. 185v (my daughter likes this image)

From the Suda

Idiôtai: Private individuals, used in place of citizens [politai]. This is how Thucydides uses it. But in the Frogs, Aristophanes calls idiots the people who are your own—“regarding strangers and idiots. It is derived from the word idios. And so idiôtês is what they call someone who is related to you by clan; but it is also an unlearned person. And in his Wealth, Aristophanes also uses idiôtikon as that which belongs to a person privately or idion as one’s own.

᾿Ιδιῶται: ἀντὶ τοῦ πολῖται. οὕτως Θουκυδίδης. ᾿Αριστοφάνης δὲ ἐν Βατράχοις ἰδιώτας τοὺς ἰδίους λέγει· περὶ τοὺς ξένους καὶ τοὺς ἰδιώτας· κατὰ παραγωγὴν ἴδιος, ἰδιώτης. ἰδιώτης δὲ λέγεται, ὁ πρὸς γένος ἴδιος, καὶ ὁ ἀμαθής. καὶ ἐν Πλούτῳ ἴδιον τὸ ἰδιωτικόν φησιν.

Some Words

ἰδιάζω: “to live as a private person”

ἰδιασμός: “peculiarity”

ἰδιόβιος: “living by or for oneself”

ἰδιόγλωσσος: “of distinct, peculiar tongue”

ἰδιογνώμων: “private opinion”

ἰδιοθανέω: “to die in a peculiar way”

ἰδιολογία: “private conversation”

ἰδιοξενία: “private friendship”

ἰδιοπάθεια: “feeling for oneself alone”

Also from the Suda

Idiôtês: someone who is illiterate. Damaskios writes about Isidore: “of all the idiots and all the philosophers of his time he was equally tight-lipped generally and he hid his thoughts. But he poured his mind out into the shared increase of virtue and the limit of vice.”

᾿Ιδιώτης: ὁ ἀγράμματος. Δαμάσκιος περὶ ᾿Ισιδώρου φησί·  πάντων τῶν καθ’ αὑτὸν ἰδιωτῶν ὁμοίως καὶ φιλοσόφων ἐχέμυθος ἐς τὰ μάλιστα καὶ κρυψίνους ἦν, ἀλλ’ εἴς γε συναύξησιν τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ τῆς κακίας μείωσιν ὅλην ἐξεκέχυτο τὴν ψυχήν.

A Most Important Foundation For Thought: Student Proverbs

Literary Papyri 115 (LCL360 Collart, Les Papyrus Bouriant, Paris, 1926, no. 1, p. 17) This is from a list of proverbs copied over in a student’s hand.

“Letters are the most important foundation for thought.”
(1) ἀρχὴ μεγίστη τοῦ φρονεῖν τὰ γράμματα.

“Respect the elder, an image of a god.”
(2) γέροντα τίμα τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν εἰκόνα.

“Lust is the most ancient of all the gods.”
(3) ἔρως ἁπάντων τῶν θεῶν παλαίτατος.

“I say that possessions are the most beautiful of all things.”
(4) κάλλιστά φημι χρημάτων τὰ κτήματα.

“Give in return when you have received so that you may take whenever you want.”
(5) λαβὼν πάλιν δός, ἵνα λάβηις ὅταν θέληις.

“The mind in us is the most prophetic god.”
(6) ὁ νοῦς ἐν ἡμῖν μαντικώτατος θεός.

“Your father is the one who raised you not the one who gave you life.”
(7) πατὴρ ὁ θρέψας κοὐχ ὁ γεννήσας πατήρ.

“Rescue yourself from wicked affairs.”
(8) σῶσον σεαυτὸν ἐκ πονηρῶν πραγμάτω(ν).

“Return a favor to friends in a timely fashion.”
(9) χάριν φίλοις εὔκαιρον ἀπόδος ἐν μέρει.

“Gratitude, you are the greatest of all riches!”
(10) ὦ τῶν ἁπάντων χρημάτων πλείστη χάρις.

“The Last Sign of Nobility”: How to Flatter Your Favorite Classicists

Sidonius, Letters 7.2

“Most learned man, I believe that I might commit a sin against learning if I procrastinate at all in offering you praise for fending off the end of all literature. When it has already been buried, you are celebrated as its reviver, its agent, and its guardian. Throughout Gaul in this tempest of wars, Latin works have gained safe harbor because you are their teacher even as Latin arms have endured disaster.

For this reason our peers and posterity should unanimously and with enthusiasm claim you as a second Demosthenes, a second Cicero, here with statues—if it is allowed—and there with portraits because your teaching has so shaped them and trained them that, even though they remain surrounded by an unconquerable and still foreign people, they safeguard the signs of their ancient birthright. For as the signs of dignity—the ways in which every noble person used to be separated from the base—become more distant the only remaining sign of nobility after this will be a literary education.

But the advantages from your teaching demand thanks from me beyond others because I am trying to compose something which people in the future might read. For a crowd of competent readers will always come from your school and your lectures. Farewell.”

  1. Credidi me, vir peritissime, nefas in studia committere, si distulissem prosequi laudibus quod aboleri tu litteras distulisti, quarum quodammodo iam sepultarum suscitator fautor assertor concelebraris, teque per Gallias uno magistro sub hac tempestate bellorum Latina tenuerunt ora portum, cum pertulerint arma naufragium. 2. debent igitur vel aequaevi vel posteri nostri universatim ferventibus votis alterum te ut Demosthenen, alterum ut Tullium nunc statuis, si liceat, consecrare, nunc imaginibus, qui te docente formati institutique iam sinu in medio sic gentis invictae, quod tamen alienae, natalium1vetustorum signa retinebunt: nam iam remotis gradibus dignitatum, per quas solebat ultimo a quoque summus quisque discerni, solum erit posthac nobilitatis indicium litteras nosse. 3. nos vero ceteros supra doctrinae tuae beneficia constringunt, quibus aliquid scribere assuetis quodque venturi legere possint elaborantibus saltim de tua schola seu magisterio competens lectorum turba proveniet. vale.

Need A New Memory Strategy for the School Year? Here’s Cicero on Simonides’ Good Fortune

Ancient memory techniques go back to oratorical training in theory, but in practice probably much further back in human history. PPhilostratus records the reputation of Dionysius of Miletus and his “memory-men”. But one of the most easily abused and likely misunderstood method from the ancient world is the “memory palace” (or “method of loci“), made famous by Cicero, but credited to the lyric poet Simonides.

Cicero De Oratore 2.352–355

“But, so I may return to the matter”, he said, “I am not as smart as Themistocles was as to prefer the art of forgetting to the art of memory. And So I am thankful to that Simonides of Ceos who, as they say, first produced an art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining at the home of a wealthy aristocrat named Scopas in Thessaly and had performed that song which he wrote in his honor—in which there were many segments composed for Castor and Pollux elaborated in the way of poets. Then Scopas told him cruelly that he would pay him half as much as he had promised he would give for the song; if it seemed right to him, he could ask Tyndareus’ sons for the other half since he had praised them equally.

A little while later, as they tell the tale, it was announced that Simonides should go outside—there were two young men at the door who had been calling him insistently. He rose, exited, and so no one. Meanwhile, in the same space of time, the ceiling under which Scopas was having his feast collapsed: the man was crushed by the ruins a d died with his relatives. When people wanted to bury them they could not recognize who was where because they were crushed. Simonides is said to have shown the place in which each man died from his memory for their individual burials.

From this experience, Simonides is said to have learned that it is order most of all that brings light to memory. And thus those who wish to practice this aspect of the skill must select specific places and shape in their mind the matters they wish to hold in their memory and locate these facts in those places. It will so turn out that the order of the places will safeguard the order of the matters, the reflections of the facts will remind of the facts themselves, and we may use the places like wax and the ideas like letters written upon it.”

Sed, ut ad rem redeam, non sum tanto ego, inquit, ingenio quanto Themistocles fuit, ut oblivionis artem quam memoriae malim; gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse.  Dicunt enim cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei quod pactus esset pro illo carmine daturum: reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. Paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret: iuvenes stare ad ianuam duos quosdam qui eum magnopere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem; hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interiisse; quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset demonstrator uniuscuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime qui memoriae lumen afferret. Itaque eis qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent locos esse capiendos et ea quae memoria tenere vellent effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda: sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret, atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.

thanks to S. Raudnitz for reminding me of this passage too!

 

Image result for ancient greek memory palace medieval giulio camillo

This stuff is still popular: The Memory Theater of Guilio Camillo

As a bonus, here’s Plato for the mind and wax:

 

Plato, Theaetetus 191a

Soc. “For the sake of argument, imagine that there is a single chunk of wax in our minds, for some it is bigger, for some smaller, and for one the wax is clearer, while for another it is more contaminated and rather inflexible;  for others, in turn, the wax more pliable and even.”

Th. Ok….

Soc. Let us say that this is the gift of the Muses’ mother, Mnemosunê, and when we wish to recall something we have seen or heard or thought ourselves, we show this wax to our perceptions or thoughts and find the imprint, just as we find meaning in seal rings. Whatever is printed can be remembered and understood as long as its image persists. Whenever it is softened or cannot be recorded is forgotten and not understood.”

Soc. Θὲς δή μοι λόγου ἕνεκα ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἡμῶν ἐνὸν κήρινον ἐκμαγεῖον, τῷ μὲν μεῖζον, τῷ δ᾿ ἔλαττον, καὶ τῷ μὲν καθαρωτέρου κηροῦ, τῷ δὲ κοπρωδεστέρου, καὶ σκληροτέρου, ἐνίοις δὲ ὑγροτέρου, ἔστι δ᾿ οἷς μετρίως ἔχοντος.

ΘΕΑΙ.Τίθημι.

Soc. Δῶρον τοίνυν αὐτὸ φῶμεν εἶναι τῆς τῶν Μουσῶν μητρὸς Μνημοσύνης, καὶ ἐς τοῦτο, ὅ τι ἂν βουληθῶμεν μνημονεῦσαι ὧν ἂν ἴδωμεν ἢ ἀκούσωμεν ἢ αὐτοὶ ἐννοήσωμεν, ὑπέχοντας αὐτὸ ταῖς αἰσθήσεσι καὶ ἐννοίαις, ἀποτυποῦσθαι, ὥσπερ δακτυλίων σημεῖα ἐνσημαινομένους· καὶ ὃ μὲν ἂν ἐκμαγῇ, μνημονεύειν τε καὶ ἐπίστασθαι ἕως ἂν ἐνῇ τὸ εἴδωλον αὐτοῦ· ὃ δ᾿ ἂν ἐξαλειφθῇ ἢ μὴ οἷόν τε γένηται ἐκμαγῆναι, ἐπιλελῆσθαί τε καὶ μὴ ἐπίστασθαι.

And Quintilian trying to turn our ability to fantasize into something more ‘productive’:

Quintilian’s Inst. Orat. 6.2

“The fictions I have been talking about pursue us when our minds are at rest as empty hopes or certain daydreams so that we imagine we are on a journey, sailing, fighting, talking to new people, or distributing wealth we do not have—and we seem not to be considering but to be doing these things. Couldn’t we transfer this vice of the mind to something useful?”

quod quidem nobis volentibus facile continget; nisi vero inter otia animorum et spes inanes et velut somnia quaedam vigilantium ita nos hae de quibus loquor imagines prosecuntur ut peregrinari navigare proeliari, populos adloqui, divitiarum quas non habemus usum videamur disponere, nec cogitare sed facere, hoc animi vitium ad utilitatem non transferemus [ad hominem]

And Plutarch on the importance of memory for education

Plutarch, The Education of Children (Moralia 9)

It is especially important to train and practice children’s memory: for memory is the warehouse of learning. This is why we used to mythologize Memory as the mother of the Muses, making it clear through allegory that nothing creates and nourishes the way memory does. This should be trained in both cases, whether children have a good memory from the beginning or are naturally forgetful. For we may strengthen the inborn ability and supplement the deficiency. The first group will be better than others; but the second will be better than themselves. This is why the Hesiodic line rings true: “If you add a little by little, and you keep doing it, soon you can have something great.”

Parents should also not forget that a skill of memory contributes its great worth not only to education but to life’s actions in general. For the memory of past events becomes an example of good planning for future actions.”

Πάντων δὲ μάλιστα τὴν μνήμην τῶν παίδων ἀσκεῖν καὶ συνεθίζειν· αὕτη γὰρ ὥσπερ τῆς παιδείας ἐστὶ ταμιεῖον, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο μητέρα τῶν Μουσῶν ἐμυθολόγησαν εἶναι τὴν Μνημοσύνην, αἰνιττόμενοι καὶ παραδηλοῦντες ὅτι οὕτως οὐδὲν γεννᾶν καὶ τρέφειν ὡς ἡ μνήμη πέφυκε. καὶ τοίνυν ταύτην κατ᾿ ἀμφότερ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀσκητέον, εἴτ᾿ ἐκ φύσεως μνήμονες εἶεν οἱ παῖδες, εἴτε καὶ τοὐναντίον ἐπιλήσμονες. τὴν γὰρ πλεονεξίαν τῆς φύσεως ἐπιρρώσομεν, τὴν δ᾿ ἔλλειψιν ἀναπληρώσομεν· καὶ οἱ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἔσονται βελτίους, οἱ δ᾿ ἑαυτῶν. τὸ γὰρ Ἡσιόδειον καλῶς εἴρηται

εἰ γάρ κεν καὶ σμικρὸν ἐπὶ σμικρῷ καταθεῖο
καὶ θαμὰ τοῦτ᾿ ἔρδοις, τάχα κεν μέγα καὶ τὸ γένοιτο. (=Works and Days, 361-2)

μὴ λανθανέτω τοίνυν μηδὲ τοῦτο τοὺς πατέρας, ὅτι τὸ μνημονικὸν τῆς μαθήσεως μέρος οὐ μόνον πρὸς τὴν παιδείαν ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς τὰς τοῦ βίου πράξεις οὐκ ἐλαχίστην συμβάλλεται μοῖραν. ἡ γὰρ τῶν γεγενημένων πράξεων μνήμη τῆς περὶ τῶν μελλόντων εὐβουλίας γίγνεται παράδειγμα.

Virtue and the Arts: Some Aristotle to Start Your Day

Some Aristotle for this morning. I don’t think I actually believe the third point–because I suspect that insisting that human character is constant and consistent is actually (1) wrong and (2) impacts mental health negatively. But I like the beginning and the emphasis on that Aristotelian notion that doing something makes you something...

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 2.2-4

“Or is this also true in the arts? For spelling a word accidentally or with someone else guiding you is possible. Then, one will be a scholar if he spells something the way a scholar does, by which I mean according to the scholarly art itself. In addition, there is no real similarity between the arts and virtue. For the products of art are good in themselves—it suffices if they develop while having their own quality.

But acts of virtue don’t have their own intrinsic quality and are performed wisely or justly, but if the person who does them acts in a certain way. First, he must understand what he does. Second, he must choose to do it and for its own nature. And, third, he must act from a fixed and constant character. None of these conditions are necessary for the other arts apart from understanding the act. But knowledge is of little or no importance for the virtues while the other conditions are not minor but rather everything, if truly [virtue] emerges from repeatedly doing just and wise things.”

ἢ οὐδ᾿ ἐπὶ τῶν τεχνῶν οὕτως ἔχει; ἐνδέχεται γὰρ γραμματικόν τι ποιῆσαι καὶ ἀπὸ τύχης καὶ ἄλλου ὑποθεμένου· τότε οὖν ἔσται γραμματικός, ἐὰν καὶ γραμματικόν τι ποιήσῃ καὶ γραμματικῶς, τοῦτο δ᾿ ἐστὶ [τὸ] κατὰ τὴν ἐν αὑτῷ γραμματικήν. ἔτι οὐδ᾿ ὅμοιόν ἐστιν ἐπὶ τῶν τεχνῶν καὶ τῶν ἀρετῶν· τὰ μὲν γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν τεχνῶν γινόμενα τὸ εὖ ἔχει ἐν αὑτοῖς, ἀρκεῖ οὖν αὐτά πως ἔχοντα γενέσθαι· τὰ δὲ κατὰ τὰς ἀρετὰς γινόμενα οὐκ ἐὰν αὐτά πως ἔχῃ, δικαίως ἢ σωφρόνως πράττεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ὁ πράττων πως ἔχων πράττῃ, πρῶτον μὲν ἐὰν εἰδώς, ἔπειτ᾿ ἐὰν προαιρούμενος, καὶ προαιρούμενος δι᾿ αὐτά, τὸ δὲ τρίτον καὶ ἐὰν βεβαίως καὶ ἀμετακινήτως ἔχων πράττῃ. ταῦτα δὲ πρὸς μὲν τὸ τὰς ἄλλας τέχνας ἔχειν οὐ συναριθμεῖται, πλὴν αὐτὸ τὸ εἰδέναι· πρὸς δὲ τὸ τὰς ἀρετὰς τὸ μὲν εἰδέναι μικρὸν ἢ οὐδὲν ἰσχύει, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα οὐ μικρὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ πᾶν δύναται, εἴπερ ἐκ τοῦ πολλάκις πράττειν τὰ δίκαια καὶ σώφρονα περιγίνεται.

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Brtitish Library, Constitution of the Athenians

Growing Old In The Classroom

Some passages after graduation weekend….

Solon, fr. 18

“I grow old, always learning many things.”

γηράσκω δ’ αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος·

Kim Stanley Robinson The Years of Rice and Salt (2003: 758)

“Over time, Bao came to understand that teaching too was a kind of reincarnation, in that years passed and students came and went, new young people all the time, but always the same age, taking the same class; the class under the oak trees, reincarnated. He began to enjoy that aspect of it. He would start the first class by saying, “Look, here we are again.” They never knew what to make of it; same response, every time.

He learned, among other things, that teaching was the most rigorous form of learning. He learned to learn more from his students than they did from him; like so many other things, it was the reverse from what it seemed to be, and colleges existed to bring together groups of young people to teach some chosen few of their elders the things that they knew about life, that the old teachers had been in danger of forgetting.”

Seneca, Moral Epistles 76.3-5

“People of every age enter this classroom. “Do we grow old only to follow the young?” When I go into the theater as an old man and I am drawn to the racetrack and no fight is finished without me, shall I be embarrassed to go to a philosopher?

You must learn as long as you are ignorant—if we may trust the proverb, as long as you live. And nothing is more fit to the present than this: as long as you live you must learn how to live. Nevertheless, there is still something which I teach there. You ask, what may I teach? That an old man must learn too.”

Omnis aetatis homines haec schola admittit. “In hoc senescamus, ut iuvenes sequamur?” In theatrum senex ibo et in circum deferar et nullum par sine me depugnabit ad philosophum ire erubescam?

Tamdiu discendum est, quamdiu nescias; si proverbio credimus, quamdiu vivas. Nec ulli hoc rei magis convenit quam huic: tamdiu discendum est, quemadmodum vivas, quamdiu vivas. Ego tamen illic aliquid et doceo. Quaeris, quid doceam? Etiam seni esse discendum.

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Some Student Projects from Ancient Greek Class

When I was a sophomore in high school my Latin teacher assigned us each some new part of grammar to teach to the class. For most teachers now, this probably seems like a rather simple exercise, but for me then it was the first time I had encountered such an assignment. I got the double dative construction. I have never forgotten it.

Even though I had this important experience, I never really thought about its impact until years later. Like many of us, I started to teach Latin and Greek because I love the literature–this means my whole focus in teaching has been to shove as much grammar and vocabulary into young minds as possible so that they can get to the ‘important’ work as soon as possible.

But as I taught–or more often, failed to teach–Greek over the years and learned more about pedagogy and assessment, I kept returning to that exercise in Latin class. Over the years I have tried to integrate active learning and experiential learning into daily language instruction. I have also moved away from conventional grading–I have long made it a rule that if you mess up all semester but can read Greek to the level needed at the end of the course, whatever percentages are on the syllabus really don’t matter.

(From experience and theory, I don’t think grades do what we want them to do in general. But when it comes to learning something as incredibly complex as a language over multiple semesters, grading the wrong way is a serious impediment to learning.)

Over the years I have tried many alternative types of assessments in lieu of heavily graded exams: I tried self reflection sheets and questions for each chapter; I tried small group work with portfolios and self-assessments. I tried these in concert with regular quizzes (especially on vocabulary and morphology). I’ll basically do anything to get better results in class. But I am really skeptical that my methodological changes make that much difference.

One thing that does seem to help are student projects. I always have these too close to the end of the semester to be truly impactful (ideally they should be spread throughout the semester). I leave things really open: students have to pick something they don’t understand or want to learn about and design some sort of ‘teaching tool’ to  help either introduce the topic or practice using the material.

Invariably the students design activities that are more creative and more fun than anything I do in class. Here’s a selection of what some of my students designed this semester

  1. Principal Part Connect the Dots: One student decided to design a connect-the-dot that required you to know principal parts, Bonus points for Greek-Themed Images.

2. Word Puzzle: Another student took sentences from Plato and broke them up into words. We had to put the sentences back together based on our understanding of Greek Grammar. This and the last would work great in digital form as well

 

3. Irregular Verb Jeopardy: Like Jeopardy, but with Irregular verbs. This is harder than you think.

4. Imperative Menu and Fortune Cookies: Another student made an elaborate restaurant menu of imperative types and, as part of dessert, made a bunch of Greek fortunes (she even tried to make the cookies for the fortunes–the cookies didn’t happen, but the Greek prose comp did.

 

5. Lego Participles! Another student submitted a set of Legos modified for the construction of Greek participles. How cool is that?

Other projects: Songs to remember conditionals (with written music); a form of twister adapted to the use and generation of imperatives; and songs/chants to remember prepositions with multiple meanings.

Plutarch’s Advice On What To Look At

Plutarch’s prepared guidelines for choosing what to watch on Netflix.

Plutarch, Pericles 1.1

“When Caesar saw that many wealthy foreigners in Rome were carrying around and caring for puppies and monkey babies, he asked whether or not their wives bore children—he was warning in a masterly way that they were wasting our innate love and affection on beasts when it is owed to human beings.

Therefore, when our soul naturally possesses a certain love of learning and love of observation, isn’t it logical to rebuke people who fail to use it for anything worthy of hearing or seeing, people who neglect what is noble or useful?

Perhaps it is necessary for our perception—which apprehends the things it meets through the experience of their force—to examine everything which appears for whether it is useful or not. But each person, if he wishes to use his mind, can naturally turn himself away and change most easily to gaze upon something which seems right—with the result that it is necessary to pursue what is best, not only to look at it, but to be enriched by doing so.”

 Ξένους τινὰς ἐν Ῥώμῃ πλουσίους κυνῶν τέκνα καὶ πιθήκων ἐν τοῖς κόλποις περιφέροντας καὶ ἀγαπῶντας ἰδὼν ὁ Καῖσαρ, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἠρώτησεν εἰ παιδία παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὐ τίκτουσιν αἱ γυναῖκες, ἡγεμονικῶς σφόδρα νουθετήσας τοὺς τὸ φύσει φιλητικὸν ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ φιλόστοργον εἰς θηρία καταναλίσκοντας ἀνθρώποις ὀφειλόμενον.  ἆρ᾿ οὖν, ἐπεὶ φιλομαθές τι κέκτηται καὶ φιλοθέαμον ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ φύσει, λόγον ἔχει ψέγειν τοὺς καταχρωμένους τούτῳ πρὸς τὰ μηδεμιᾶς ἄξια σπουδῆς ἀκούσματα καὶ θεάματα, τῶν δὲ καλῶν καὶ ὠφελίμων παραμελοῦντας; τῇ μὲν γὰρ αἰσθήσει κατὰ πάθος τῆς πληγῆς ἀντιλαμβανομένῃ τῶν προστυγχανόντων ἴσως ἀνάγκη πᾶν τὸ φαινόμενον, ἄν τε χρήσιμον ἄν τ᾿ ἄχρηστον ᾖ,  θεωρεῖν, τῷ νῷ δ᾿ ἕκαστος εἰ βούλοιτο χρῆσθαι, καὶ τρέπειν ἑαυτὸν ἀεὶ καὶ μεταβάλλειν ῥᾷστα πρὸς τὸ δοκοῦν πέφυκεν, ὥστε χρὴ διώκειν τὸ βέλτιστον, ἵνα μὴ θεωρῇ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τρέφηται τῷ θεωρεῖν.

 

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The Content of a True Education

Isocrates, Panathenaicus 30-32

“Which people do I call educated when I set aside the arts, sciences, and specialties? First, I prize those who handle well the events they meet each day and who have an appropriate judgment for each and the ability to plot the most advantageous path through them.

Then, I esteem those who always treat the people they are near appropriately and justly and who bear the unpleasantness and meanness of others with ease and good temper, and comport themselves towards their associates as lightly and measuredly as possible.

Then, I value those who always control their desires, who are not overcome by their misfortunes, but manage them bravely in a fashion worthy of the nature which we all happen to share.

Fourth—and most important—I consider people educated who are not ruined by their successes, who do not rebel against themselves and become arrogant, but instead remain positioned to be reflective and do not delight more in the goods they have received by chance than those which were theirs from the beginning by nature or thought. Those who have a mind well-fit not just to one of these qualities but to all of them are the men I say are prudent, complete people exhibiting all the virtues.”

Τίνας οὖν καλῶ πεπαιδευμένους, ἐπειδὴ τὰς τέχνας καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας καὶ τὰς δυνάμεις ἀποδοκιμάζω; Πρῶτον μὲν τοὺς καλῶς χρωμένους τοῖς πράγμασι τοῖς κατὰ τὴν ἡμέραν ἑκάστην προσπίπτουσι, καὶ τὴν δόξαν ἐπιτυχῆ τῶν καιρῶν ἔχοντας καὶ δυναμένην ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ στοχάζεσθαι τοῦ συμφέροντος·

ἔπειτα τοὺς πρεπόντως καὶ δικαίως ὁμιλοῦντας τοῖς ἀεὶ πλησιάζουσι, καὶ τὰς μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἀηδίας καὶ βαρύτητας εὐκόλως καὶ ῥᾳδίως φέροντας, σφᾶς δ’ αὐτοὺς ὡς δυνατὸν ἐλαφροτάτους καὶ μετριωτάτους τοῖς συνοῦσι παρέχοντας· ἔτι τοὺς τῶν μὲν ἡδονῶν ἀεὶ κρατοῦντας, τῶν δὲ συμφορῶν μὴ λίαν ἡττωμένους, ἀλλ’ ἀνδρωδῶς ἐν αὐταῖς διακειμένους καὶ τῆς φύσεως ἀξίως ἧς μετέχοντες τυγχάνομεν·

τέταρτον, ὅπερ μέγιστον, τοὺς μὴ διαφθειρομένους ὑπὸ τῶν εὐπραγιῶν μηδ’ ἐξισταμένους αὑτῶν μηδ’ ὑπερηφάνους γιγνομένους, ἀλλ’ ἐμμένοντας τῇ τάξει τῇ τῶν εὖ φρονούντων καὶ μὴ μᾶλλον χαίροντας τοῖς διὰ τύχην ὑπάρξασιν ἀγαθοῖς ἢ τοῖς διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν φύσιν καὶ φρόνησιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς γιγνομένοις. Τοὺς δὲ μὴ μόνον πρὸς ἓν τούτων, ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς ἅπαντα ταῦτα τὴν ἕξιν τῆς ψυχῆς εὐάρμοστον ἔχοντας, τούτους φημὶ καὶ φρονίμους εἶναι καὶ τελέους ἄνδρας καὶ πάσας ἔχειν τὰς ἀρετάς.

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