Speech and Its Corresponding Meaning

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 36-38

“Next, let’s consider the way we learn, since learning happens wither through experience or through speech. But of these two approaches, experience comes from this which are demonstrable, the demonstrable is clear, and the clear—because it is obvious—is available to all in common. Such perception which is available to all in common is unteachable. Hence, anything apprehended through experience is not teachable.

Speech either corresponds to some meaning or it does not. If it corresponds to no meaning at all, then it teaches nothing. When it does correspond to some meaning it does it either by intrinsic nature or by established convention. It cannot, in truth correspond to meaning by intrinsic nature since not all people understand the same meaning when they hear it (as when the Greeks listen to barbarians or the barbarians listen to Greeks).

If speech signals meaning by convention, it is clear that people who have absorbed before the meanings to which these words correspond will also comprehend them now, and not because they have learned from them something which was not known—it is more like they are resuscitating what they knew before, while those who lack learning of what they don’t know will not do the same.”

τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο ἀπαιτῶμεν τὸν τρόπον τῆς μαθήσεως. ἢ γὰρ ἐναργείᾳ γίνεται ἢ λόγῳ τὰ τῆς διδασκαλίας. ἀλλὰ τούτων ἡ μὲν ἐνάργεια τῶν δεικτῶν ἐστί, τὸ δὲ δεικτὸν φαινόμενον, τὸ δὲ φαινόμενον, ᾗ φαίνεται, κοινῶς πᾶσι ληπτόν, τὸ δὲ κοινῶς πᾶσι ληπτὸν ἀδίδακτον· οὐκ ἄρα τὸ ἐναργείᾳ δεικτὸν διδακτόν. ὁ δὲ λόγος ἤτοι σημαίνει τι ἢ οὐ σημαίνει. καὶ μηδὲν μὲν σημαίνων οὐδὲ διδάσκαλός τινὸς ἐστι, σημαίνων δὲ ἤτοι φύσει σημαίνει τι ἢ θέσει. καὶ φύσει μὲν οὐ σημαίνει διὰ τὸ μὴ πάντας πάντων ἀκούειν, Ἕλληνας βαρβάρων καὶ βαρβάρους Ἑλλήνων ἢ Ἕλληνας Ἑλλήνων ἢ βαρβάρους βαρβάρων· θέσει δὲ εἴπερ σημαίνει, δῆλον ὡς οἱ μὲν προκατειληφότες τὰ καθ᾿ ὧν αἱ λέξεις κεῖνται καὶ ἀντιλήψονται τούτων, οὐ τὸ ἀγνοούμενον ἐξ αὐτῶν διδασκόμενοι, τὸ δ᾿ ὅπερ ᾔδεισαν ἀνανεούμενοι, οἱ δὲ χρῄζοντες τῆς τῶν ἀγνοουμένων μαθήσεως οὐκέτι.

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The New Sappho Poem: a Student Commentary

As part of an in-class, group assignment, I had my Greek Lyric class collaborate on writing a commentary on the new Sappho Poem. The students had to read Obbink 2014 (below), scan the poem, translate it, and then we went through and marked the sections which needed to be commented upon. The students worked in groups to create a commentary geared towards students who primarily know attic Greek. The translation below the commentary is mine. We welcome suggestions and additions.

The New Sappho (Aka “Brothers Poem”)

ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύληϲθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ ϲὺµ πλέαι· τὰ µέν̣, οἴο̣µα̣ι, Ζεῦϲ
οἶδε ϲύµπαντέϲ τε θέοι· ϲὲ δ’ ̣οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόειϲθαι

ἀλλὰ καὶ πέµπην ἔµε καὶ κέλ{η}`ε΄ϲθαι
πόλλα λί̣ϲϲεϲθαι̣ βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν
ἐξίκεϲθαι τυίδε ϲάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον,

κἄµµ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτ̣έ̣µεαϲ· τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιµόνεϲϲ̣ιν ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωµεν·
εὐδίαι̣ γ̣ὰρ̣ ἐκ µεγάλαν ἀήτα̣ν̣
αἶψα πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται·

τῶν κε βόλληται βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύµπω
δαίµον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρ{η}`ω΄γον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι µ̣άκαρεϲ πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι.

κ̣ἄµµεϲ, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλα̣ν ἀέρρη
Λάρι̣χοϲ καὶ δήποτ’ ἄνη̣ρ γένηται,
καὶ µάλ’ ἐκ πόλλ{η}`αν΄ βαρ̣υθύ̣µιάν̣ κεν
αἶψα λύθειµεν.

h/t to Armand D’Angour for some improvements to the commentary

Commentary

1. Ἄϊ: take as ἀεί, “always”, while scanning the meter is
read as short-long

Θρύληϲθα: θρυλεω- to blabber or chat incessantly. 2nd, singular, preset, middle,
indicative  of θρύλημι, the Aeolic form of θρυλέω.

Χάραξον: Sappho’s brother, referenced by both Herodotus and Posidippus, inclusion
of this name aided in the identification of this poem

ἔλθην: Aeolic aorist infinitive of ἒρχομαι

2. Ϲὺµ: Aeolic form of συν, compare with Latin cum

Πλέαι: adjective, ship full, to not be confused with πλέω (“to sail”)

τὰ µέν̣…ϲὲ δ’: correlative structure; τὰ µέν pronomial use

οἶδε: 3rd singularindicative active of the verb οἶδα, to know

5. Πέµπην: infinitive used as imperative
Κέλ{η}`ε΄ϲθαι: from κέλομαι ; infinitive used as imperative

7. Τυίδε: Aeolic for τῇδε
Ϲάαν: alternative form of adjective “σως”; contract for σόος, σοῦς

8. Νᾶα: aeolic form for accusative singular of ship “ναῦς”

9. κἄµµ’:και + ἄμμε, Aeolic form of Attic ἣμιν
ἐπεύρην: Aeolic aorist infinitive of ἐφευρίσκω

10. Ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωµεν: hortatory subjunctive

11. µεγάλαν ἀήτα̣ν̣: Aeolic genitive plural form, large gales (of wind). Final syllables
should be scanned as a long

12. πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται: 3rd, plural, present, middle, indicative from πέ̣λ̣ω, an Aeolic equivalent
to εἰμί and γίγνομαι

13. Τῶν κε: genitive used substantively, i.e. “of whomever”; correlative with the κῆνοι in line 15. Obbink (2014) takes it as a relative pronoun used as a genitive of possession.

Βόλληται- Aeolic form of the Attic Βούληται

Ὀλύμπω: genitive, singular, masculine; alternate genitive ending where the -οιο
ending in the uncontracted Ὀλύμποιο is shorted to -ω instead of -ου.

14. Ἐπάρ{η}’ω’γον: a later correction of the manuscript reading of “ἐπάρηγον,” an
unaugmented 1st singular or 3rd plural imperfect form from ἐπάρηγω, to “ἐπάρωγον,”a noun in this context used as a predicate accusative meaning “as a helper.”

17. Κ̣ἄµµεϲ: Aeolic for Attic ἡμεῖς. κἄµµεϲ: Aeolic for καὶ ἡμεῖς (with crasis i.e. stuck together like κἄµµ’ in line 9).

17. αἴ κε: general clause; the protasis is a future more vivid, while the apodosis is a
future less vivid, resulting in a “future more or less vivid”; modal particle in the
apodosis denotes a hyper-unreal situation

17-20. Ἀέργη corrected to ἀέρρη as the former is not attested. ἀέρρη = αἴρῃ ‘raises’ (pres. subj. of the Aeolic equivalent)  third person singular, present subjunctive active. Double-rho form appears in Sappho,
fr. 111.3: ἀέρρετε τέκτονες ἄνδρες·

Translation

“But you are always saying that Kharaksos

Is coming with a full ship. These things, I think,

Zeus knows along with the rest of the gods. But it is not right

That you consider them.

 

Instead, both send me and order me

To plead much with queen Hera

That Kharaksos comes here

Leading a safe ship

 

And finds us all safe. Let’s entrust the rest of it

To the gods. For days of fair weather

Come quickly from

Great gales.

 

For whomever the king of Olympos

Wishes to set a god as a helper from toils,

Those people are blessed

And very wealthy.

 

And we, if Larikos should ever raise his head

And then in some way become a man,

We would be quickly relieved of our

Great heaviness of heart.”

 

Bibliography 

Allan, William, and Laura Swift. “Introduction to “Moralizing Strategies in Early Greek Poetry”.” (2018): 3-6.

Bettenworth, Anja. “Sapphos Amme: ein Beitrag zum neuen Sapphofragment (Brothers Poem).” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 191 (2014): 15-19.

Bierl, Anton, and André Lardinois. The newest Sappho. P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, frs. 1-4. Vol. 392. Brill, 2016.

Burris, Simon Peter, Fish, Jeffrey and Obbink, Dirk D.. “New fragments of Book 1 of Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 189 (2014): 1-28.

Danielewicz, Jerzy. “Early Greek lyric and Hellenistic epigram: new evidence from recently published papyri.” The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 43 (2013): 263-275.

Gribble, David. “Getting ready to pray: Sappho’s new « brothers » song.” Greece and Rome Ser. 2 63, no. 1 (2016): 29-68. Doi: 10.1017/S0017383515000248

Lardinois, André. “Sappho’s Brothers Song and the Fictionality of Early Greek Lyric Poetry.” BIERL, A. y LARDINOIS, A.(Eds.) (2016): 167-187.

LIBERMAN, GL. “Reflections on a New Poem by Sappho concerning her Anguish and her Brothers Charaxos and Larichos.” Reception of Greek Literature 300 BC-AD 800: Traditions of the Fragment (2015).

Martin, Richard P. “Sappho, Iambist: abusing the brother.” Bierl, A. y Lardinois, A.(Eds.) (2016): 110-126.

Mueller, Melissa, “Re-Centering Epic Nostos: Gender and Genre in Sappho’s Brothers
Poem,” Arethusa 49 (2016) 25-46.

Nagy, Gregory. “A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho.” Bierl, A. y Lardinois, A (2016): 449-492.

Neri, Camillo. “Il « Brothers Poem » e l’edizione alessandrina: (in margine a « P. Sapph. Obbink »).” Eikasmos 26 (2015): 53-76

Obbink, Dirk. “Interim notes on « Two new poems of Sappho ».” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 194 (2015): 1-8

Obbink, Dirk. “Provenance, Authenticity, and Text of the New Sappho Papyri.” Society for (2015).

Obbink, Dirk D.. “Two new poems by Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 189 (2014): 32-49.

Velasco López, María del Henar. “La súplica a Hera en el « Poema de los Hermanos » de Safo.” Emerita 84, no. 2 (2016): 343-351. Doi: 10.3989/emerita.2016.17.1520

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On The Importance of Resting and Games in Education

Quintilian  1.3

“Everyone still needs some kind of break, not only because there is no material which can endure endless labor—and even those things which lack perception or life must be guarded in turns of rest in order to protect their strength—but also because studying requires a desire to learn which cannot be compelled.

Once renewed and made fresh, students who often bristle at what is compulsory bring a greater intensity and a sharper mind to learning. Games do not bother me in young students—for this is also a sign of an excited mind—and I do not hope that a sad and always downcast child will come to studies with a sharp mind when the natural energy customary to that age is missing.

But, still, there should be a reasonable balance to breaks so students might not hate their studies when breaks are denied nor get too accustomed to leisure. There are even some games which are helpful for sharpening the wits of students—such as when they compete by asking each other little questions of any kind. Characters also unveil themselves more simply during games. But, no age seems to be so infirm that it cannot learn immediately what is right and wrong and the age especially good for shaping a character is before children know how to dissimulate and still yield to their teachers most easily. For it is faster to break things that have hardened into evil than it is to correct them.”

Danda est tamen omnibus aliqua remissio, non solum quia nulla res est quae perferre possit continuum laborem, atque ea quoque quae sensu et anima carent ut servare vim suam possint velut quiete alterna retenduntur, sed quod studium discendi voluntate, quae cogi non potest, constat. Itaque et virium plus adferunt ad discendum renovati ac recentes et acriorem animum, qui fere necessitatibus repugnat. Nec me offenderit lusus in pueris (est et hoc signum alacritatis), neque illum tristem semperque demissum sperare possim erectae circa studia mentis fore, cum in hoc quoque maxime naturali aetatibus illis impetu iaceat. Modus tamen sit remissionibus, ne aut odium studiorum faciant negatae aut otii consuetudinem nimiae. Sunt etiam nonnulli acuendis puerorum ingeniis non inutiles lusus, cum positis invicem cuiusque generis quaestiunculis aemulantur. Mores quoque se inter ludendum simplicius detegunt: modo nulla videatur aetas tam infirma quae non protinus quid rectum pravumque sit discat, tum vel maxime formanda cum simulandi nescia est et praecipientibus facillime cedit; frangas enim citius quam corrigas quae in pravum induruerunt.

Image result for medieval manuscript student and teachers
From the British Library

Let Poets Be Our Teachers

Strabo Geography 1.2.3

“[Eratosthenes] said that the poet arranges everything for delighting the mind and not for education. Quite the opposite—ancients used to say that poetry was the first philosophy which integrates us into life from youth and teaches our characters, informs our experiences, and our actions in a pleasurable way.

The scholars of our day claim that the poet is the only wise person. For this reason too, the cities of Greece educate their children at the earliest stages through poetry, not only of course for the sake of entertaining them, but for nurturing wisdom as well. Indeed, for this reason too, music teachers who instruct those who play strings, lyre, and pipes help to shape their character. For these teachers say that they are also reformers of their ways. It is not only common to hear Pythagoreans making such claims, but even Aristoxenos asserts this, and Homer said that the singers were the wisest people of his day.”

Ποιητὴν γὰρ ἔφη πάντα στοχάζεσθαι ψυχαγωγίας, οὐ διδασκαλίας. τοὐναντίον δ’ οἱ παλαιοὶ φιλοσοφίαν τινὰ λέγουσι πρώτην τὴν ποιητικήν, εἰσάγουσαν εἰς τὸν βίον ἡμᾶς ἐκ νέων καὶ διδάσκουσαν ἤθη καὶ πάθη καὶ πράξεις μεθ’ ἡδονῆς· οἱ δ’ ἡμέτεροι καὶ μόνον ποιητὴν ἔφασαν εἶναι τὸν σοφόν. διὰ τοῦτο καὶ τοὺς παῖδας αἱ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων πόλεις πρώτιστα διὰ τῆς ποιητικῆς παιδεύουσιν, οὐ ψυχαγωγίας χάριν δήπουθεν ψιλῆς, ἀλλὰ σωφρονισμοῦ· ὅπου γε καὶ οἱ μουσικοὶ ψάλλειν καὶ λυρίζειν καὶ αὐλεῖν διδάσκοντες μεταποιοῦνται τῆς ἀρετῆς ταύτης· παιδευτικοὶ γὰρ εἶναί φασι καὶ ἐπανορθωτικοὶ τῶν ἠθῶν. ταῦτα δ’ οὐ μόνον παρὰ τῶν Πυθαγορείων ἀκούειν ἐστὶ λεγόντων, ἀλλὰ καὶ ᾿Αριστόξενος οὕτως ἀποφαίνεται. καὶ ῞Ομηρος δὲ τοὺς ἀοιδοὺς σωφρονιστὰς εἴρηκε.

Later

“But the nature of the poet is yoked to that of the human being—therefore, one cannot be a good poet unless first established as a good person.”

ἡ δὲ ποιητοῦ συνέζευκται τῇ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, καὶ οὐχ οἷόν τε ἀγαθὸν γενέσθαι ποιητὴν μὴ πρότερον γενηθέντα ἄνδρα ἀγαθόν.

The Construction and Destruction of Troy in Cite de Dieu / Orosius Master
The Construction and Destruction of Troy, Orosius Master (c. 15th Century CE)

Post-Classical Intellectualism in the Latin Classroom

The following is a guest editorial submitted by Zachary Taylor, a middle and high school Latin teacher:

My Advanced Placement Latin students, in their third week into the Aeneid, just read Helen Bacon’s excellent article, “The Aeneid as a Drama of Election.”

Bacon interprets Rome’s most famous poem as a visionary epic of transcendence, wherein the hero, Aeneas, “is the bearer of a divine and specifically national mission, first resisted, ultimately accepted.” Unlike in the Iliad and the Odyssey, personal heroism and fulfillment take a notable back-seat to the predestined establishment of the Roman people, and thus Aeneas must constantly set aside his personal desires and ambitions to follow the decrees of Fate. As he slowly loses his “humanity,” as Bacon puts it, he simultaneously becomes divine. “Aeneas is a hero destined for immortality,” she writes.

For perhaps the first time in their academic careers, my students had encountered in Bacon’s article inscrutable ideas and concepts such as transcendence, metaphysics, deification, and election. They were at a loss to comprehend the notion that in the Aeneid, we encounter “not pure metaphysics but metaphysical poetry” that manifests a “poetized vision of the transcendent reality of the soul” articulated by Plato, the Neoplatonists, Plotinus, and Pseudo-Dionysius. Such philosophical and conjectural ideas went entirely over their heads, not because they were unable to understand them—my Advanced Placement students are extremely smart—but because never before had they been exposed to late antique intellectual history. While they can discuss quite competently the ideas of Socrates and Cicero, whom they encountered in history and literature classes, they had not, until our Latin class, ever heard of Plotinus and only vaguely knew of Augustine. I must have sounded like an utter quack.

Even when I tried to relate Bacon’s interpretation of the Aeneid to the letters of Saint Paul, my students were at a loss. In fact, I believe they mistakenly assumed that I had started to preach and that our discussion of metaphysics, the afterlife, and deification had taken an unwanted Christian turn in which I aimed to defend Paul and the notion of transcendence. I quickly realized that my attempt to approach the Aeneid, a classical first century BCE text, via the late antique lens of Neoplatonism and the Christian lens of Pauline mysticism had utterly failed. They did not have a clue what they could add to or even contest in Bacon’s thesis.

What explains this? It is far too easy to say that my students could not handle literary criticism informed by unfamiliar philosophical or theological ideas. They can. Had they been exposed to late antique history and the period’s philosophy and philosophical theology, and had they learned about the numerous connections between the late antique Roman world, Christianity, and the classical era they know so well, they would have participated in our conversation with aplomb.

I venture that our failed discussion stems from a recurrent lacuna in Latin curriculum in secondary schools and universities across the country. For quite some time now, “classical studies” has stood apart from “late antique and medieval studies,” and in particular the field has made a concerted effort to distance itself from the study of Christianity. Simon Goldhill, in a paper titled “Classics in the Providential Order of the World” presented at the 2017 Society for Classical Studies annual conference, noted how, after a close-knitted affair between classics and Christian theology, both of which the same nineteenth century practitioners often studied, the disciplines have taken radically different paths. “Modern classicists in general are loathe to give theology the attention it requires in the development of our discipline,” he added, “and such a repression has consequently hugely distorted the field of reception studies.” Beyond Goldhill’s more narrow critique in relation to theology and reception studies, I wish to call attention to the study of late antique intellectual history, and by connection Christianity, in Latin classrooms. While I by no means wish to advocate for the study of theology over and above or even in between the study of Virgil and Caesar in the Advanced Placement curriculum, I do want to promote a broader, more inclusive advanced Latin curriculum that exposes students to the complex intellectual (and entirely Roman) world of Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome in addition to that of Cicero, Caesar, and Virgil.

Why? Beyond the obvious fact that such a curriculum provides students with a more comprehensive portraiture of the ancient world and Latin literature, it also helps students understand and substantively interact with claims like those made by Helen Bacon. In other words, a Latin curriculum that has students read Augustine opens interpretative doors to the Aeneid they may not have opened otherwise.

Catherine Conybeare, in a paper titled “Virgil, Creator of the World,” which she also presented at the 2017 Society for Classical Studies conference, claimed that “the intellectual heritage of classicists is radically incomplete if we continue to ignore the pressure of the cultural divisions of the fourth and fifth centuries on how we write and read and, indeed, select our objects of concern today.” As Conybeare made clear in her paper, the study of classical Latin texts in the nascent Christian cultural milieu of the fifth century—she drew attention to Macrobius’s Saturnalia—incorporated new interpretive techniques molded by debates within Christianity itself. “Pressure from the cultural and intellectual ferment of Christianity in the Western empire,” Conybeare said, “tacitly shapes the work of Macrobius”; moreover, his description of the reader’s approaches to the “holy recesses (adyta)” of the Aeneid, which Macrobius calls “sacred (sacri poematis)” (Saturnalia 1.24.13), parallels Augustine’s approach to biblical hermeneutics in Confessions (3.5.9). Ultimately, Conybeare concluded that Macrobius’s Saturnalia “provides a model for readers of classical texts in . . . the twenty-first century.” Macrobius, while a non-Christian representative of an intellectual culture that revered Rome’s pre-Christian literary past, nevertheless adopts interpretive tools inflected by Christianity in his analyses of a canonical classical text.

We must also remember that, on the other end of the spectrum, non-Christian authors exerted a massive influence on the new Christian intellectual elite of the fourth and fifth centuries. Augustine, like many of his episcopal peers, received a standard Roman education that led him to a career at Rome as a professor of rhetoric. Evidence of his instruction in philosophy, rhetoric, and poetry abounds in his work, wherein he often explicitly discusses canonical texts, such as the Aeneid (Confessions 2.2) or confronts philosophical ideas from the classical Roman period, such as Cicero’s definition of the res publica, the focal point of City of God Book XIX. In fact, apropos rhetoric as it concerns the didactic role of the Christian preacher, Augustine was part of an entire movement, led by Christian bishops educated in the typical fashion for Roman elites, who accepted the authority of classical rhetoric yet abhorred its sophistic tendencies. In response, they tried to create “an oasis of literary culture,” in the words of Peter Brown, that was unselfconscious, unacademic, uncompetitive, and devoted to the comprehension of biblical texts, evidently in opposition to the non-Christian intellectual milieu. In short, just as Macrobius (perhaps unselfconsciously) employed Christian interpretive techniques in his literary analyses, late antiquity’s Christian thinkers appropriated what they found useful in classical literary culture and dispensed with what they perceived was harmful.

I do not think that secondary school Latin students should learn all this. I nevertheless call attention to this rich period of Roman intellectual history because, like Conybeare, I contend that late antiquity’s “cross-disciplinary approach,” as it were, to the study of classical texts like the Aeneid offers a model for Latin educators just as well as readers or scholars. Latin teachers more familiar with late antiquity can, in turn, expose their students in the years prior to advanced Latin to the philosophical, literary, and theological ideas of late antiquity, not merely because well-rounded future classicists should know this information, but also because such an approach aids them in their own comprehension and analysis of traditional Latin texts from the first century BCE and the early years of the Principate. Armed with such interpretive tools, students could more fully appreciate the finer points made by scholars such as Helen Bacon.

I should note that some Latin textbooks already take seriously the idea that Latin students should learn more about late antiquity and the post-classical life of Latin, if for somewhat different reasons. Most notably, Bolchazy-Carducci’s Latin for the New Millennium series, written by Milena Minkova and Terence Tunberg, introduces students to adapted Latin texts from Augustine, Boethius, and Ammianus Marcellinus as early as Level 1. Brief introductions to these authors’ lives, which expose students to the historical and literary contexts in which they wrote, accompany the selections students are expected to translate. The Level 2 textbook, which commences with an introduction to the subjunctive mood (trial by fire, Level 2 students!), takes as its thematic foci post-classical Latin in medieval and Renaissance contexts. Students therefore read selections from the Venerable Bede, Einhard, and Petrarch, and learn about medieval Britain, the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Renaissance reception of Cicero, respectively. Level 2 even includes excerpts from Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda on the New World and from Nicolaus Copernicus on “the revolution of the celestial bodies.” With a textbook series such as Latin for the New Millennium, which I use in my own Latin classroom, a Latin teacher can craft a curriculum extraordinarily rich in late antique intellectual history.

The alterations to the conventional secondary school Latin curriculum that I propose here may not be at the top of every teacher’s priorities. Many of us are concerned with Latin’s exclusionary and elitist reputation, with its whiteness and maleness, and with the appropriation of classical culture by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Others seek to transform Latin curriculum in other, more fundamental ways, such as those committed to comprehensible input. I, too, share these sociopolitical and curricular concerns, and have tried to address issues of race and racism, white supremacy, and sexism in my Latin classes. I have also tried to speak Latin more frequently, convinced that my students and I can truly benefit from comprehensible input. By no means, then, do I wish to imply that exposure to late antique intellectual history will radically transform our Latin classes in the most relevant or consequential ways. I do, however, believe that students can benefit considerably from a more inclusive Latin curriculum that does not shy away from Latin’s extensive post-classical, Christian life out of fear that such a curriculum would stray uncomfortably into non-secular academic realms. To conclude, I cite Macrobius once more—an excerpt from his Saturnalia that Catherine Conybeare quoted at the start of her paper at last year’s conference, which I shared with my Advanced Placement students after we dissected Helen Bacon’s “The Aeneid as a Drama of Election.” On the Aeneid, Macrobius writes:

Videsne eloquentiam omni varietate distinctam? quam quidem mihi videtur Virgilius non sine quodam praesagio . . . de industria permiscuisse, idque non mortali sed divino ingenio praevidisse: atque adeo non alium ducem secutus quam ipsam rerum omnium matrem naturam hanc praetexuit velut in musica concordiam dissonorum. Quippe si mundum ipsum diligenter inspicias, magnam similitudinem divini illius et huius poetici operis invenies.

Do you see the eloquence, distinct in every kind of variety? Indeed, Virgil seems to me to have mixed assiduously with a certain prescience that which he foresaw with a divine, not mortal talent: and thus having followed no other guide except nature itself, the mother of all things, he wove together this harmony of discordant sounds just as if it were music. Indeed, if you look carefully at the world itself, you will discover a profound similarity between the creation of the divine and that of this poet.

Saturnalia, 5.1.18-19, my translation.

 

Zachary Taylor is a new Latin teacher at an independent school in Delaware. In between his Latin classes, he draws up plays he hopes will help his middle school boys basketball team win a few close contests.

St Augustine Teaching Rhetoric (1)
“St. Augustine Teaching Rhetoric.” By Jan van Scorel. 1495-1562.

 

Little By Little: Memory and 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.

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.

Image result for Ancient Roman School rooms

Building Ships, Feeding Minds: Reflections on Teaching in Latin and Greek

Today I teach the final classes of the semester, closing out a decade since I earned my PhD. For the first time in that span, I am not eager to have the semester end. So, here are some random Greek and Latin passages reflecting on teaching.

Teaching is of no minor import

Plato, Laws 803

“We should speak next about the teaching and communication of these subjects: how to do so, who should do it, and when it is right to apply each of them. In the same way that a shipwright anticipates the outline of his creation at the beginning in laying out the keel, I seem to be outlining the whole, trying to imagine the shape of lives based on the habits of their minds and in actuality then laying out their keels, by seeking out precisely through what method and with what habits we might best navigate through this journey of life.”

τούτων δὲ αὐτῶν διδασκαλία καὶ παράδοσις λεγέσθω τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο, τίνα τρόπον χρὴ καὶ οἷστισι καὶ πότε πράττειν ἕκαστα αὐτῶν· οἷον δή τις ναυπηγὸς τὴν τῆς ναυπηγίας ἀρχὴν καταβαλλόμενος τὰ τροπιδεῖα ὑπογράφεται <τὰ> τῶν πλοίων σχήματα, ταὐτὸν δή μοι κἀγὼ φαίνομαι ἐμαυτῷ δρᾷν τὰ τῶν βίων πειρώμενος σχήματα διαστήσασθαι κατὰ τρόπους τοὺς τῶν ψυχῶν, ὄντως αὐτῶν τὰ τροπιδεῖα καταβάλλεσθαι, ποίᾳ μηχανῇ καὶ τίσι ποτὲ τρόποις ξυνόντες τὸν βίον ἄριστα διὰ τοῦ πλοῦ τούτου τῆς ζωῆς διακομισθησόμεθα, τοῦτο σκοπῶν ὀρθῶς.

How does it balance with innate skills and character? It’s complicated.

Quintilian, 2.19

“In sum, nature is education’s raw material: the latter shapes, the former is shaped. There is no art without substance; material has a worth apart from art; and yet, the highest art is superior to the best material.”

Denique natura materia doctrinae est: haec fingit, illa fingitur. Nihil ars sine materia, materiae etiam sine arte pretium est; ars summa materia optima melior.

How important is education?

Plutarch, Can Virtue Be Taught 439f

“ ‘If people are not made better through education, their teacher’s pay is wasted’  The teachers are the first to guide children after they leave their mother and, just as nurses help shape the body with hands, teachers shape their character: with their habits they put children on the first step toward excellence. This is why the Spartan, when asked what he accomplished through teaching, said ‘I make noble things appealing to children.’ ”

“εἰ μὴ γίνονται μαθήσει βελτίονες ἄνθρωποι, παραπόλλυται ὁ μισθὸς τῶν παιδαγωγῶν”; πρῶτοι γὰρ οὗτοι παραλαμβάνοντες ἐκ γάλακτος, ὥσπερ αἱ τίτθαι ταῖς χερσὶ τὸ σῶμα πλάττουσιν, οὕτω τὸ ἦθος ῥυθμίζουσι τοῖς ἔθεσιν, εἰς ἴχνος τι πρῶτον ἀρετῆς καθιστάντες. καὶ ὁ Λάκων ἐρωτηθεὶς τί παρέχει παιδαγωγῶν, “τὰ καλά,” ἔφη, “τοῖς παισὶν ἡδέα ποιῶ.”

,Image result for Ancient Greek teaching vase

Hmmm, how do you do this?

Suetonius, On Grammarians 37

“Marcus Verrius flaccus, a freedman, became especially famous through his manner of teaching. For he was in the habit of matching students with their equals in order to encourage learning. He would not merely specify the subjects they would write about, but he would offer a prize which the winner would earn. This prize was some pretty or rare old book. For this reason, Augustus chose him as tutor to his grandsons….”

Verrius Flaccus libertinus docendi genere maxime claruit. Namque ad exercitanda discentium ingenia aequales inter se committere solebat, proposita non solum materia quam scriberent, sed et praemio quod victor auferret. Id erat liber aliquis antiquus pulcher aut rarior. Quare ab Augusto quoque nepotibus eius praeceptor electus

No course of learning is without some regrets….

Letters of Cicero, Fragments. (Suet. Gram. 26)

On Lucius Plotius Gallus,

“I still have a memory from my childhood when a certain Plotius began to teach in Latin for the first time. When crowds circled him and everyone was eager to study with him, I was upset because it was forbidden to me. I was restricted by the advice of the most educated men who used to believe that minds were better fed by training in Greek.”

Plotius Gallus. de hoc Cicero in epistula ad M. Titinium sic refert: equidem memoria teneo pueris nobis primum Latine docere coepisse Plotium quendam. ad quem cum fieret concursus et studiosissimus quisque apud eum exerceretur, dolebam mihi idem non licere; continebar autem doctissimorum hominum auctoritate, qui existimabant Graecis exercitationibus ali melius ingenia posse. (Suet.Gram. 26)