Sunday, November 25, 2012

Latin in the Real World

I frequently do an assignment in my beginning Latin classes called "Latin in the Real World." I ask my students to collect examples of Latin that they find in their daily lives. This fall I've started collecting images of Latin I find in the real world around me via Instagram. I'll periodically post my images here.

The "Rostrum" dedicated by the 1914 graduating class at the University of Utah. I've been digging around into the history of this senior class gift and will write it up at some point.

Carpe diem! from Horace's (65-8 BCE) Odes 1.11:

"You should not ask (to know is forbidden) what end the gods will give to me or to you, Leuconoe, nor try out Babylonian astrology. Whether Jupiter allots us many more winters or this one last winter, which now wears down the Tyrrhenian sea on the exposed rocks. Be sensible, strain the wine and hold back distant hope for a short time. While we talk, hateful time flies: seize the day, trusting tomorrow as little as possible." (my translation)
Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi / finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios / temptaris numeros. Vt melius quicquid erit pati! / Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam, / quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare / Tyrrhenum, sapias, uina liques et spatio breui / spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit inuida / aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. (via the Latin Library)

Semper Fidelis! Always faithful. The United States Marine Corps motto.

Some of the trees on the University of Utah campus have been identified by their Linnaean classification. This system has been used to classify all living things since Carl Linnaeus developed the system in the 18th century. As of this January, the International Botanical Congress has ruled that plant species no longer need to be given Latin names, (read about it here).

Is this really Latin? Who knows what the author intended, but it definitely seems to have a bit of Latin in it. One possible reading, if we read EHAB for ERAB, is "Thracian consider rehab!" Romans weren't perfect spellers and their inscriptions frequently break words at the end of a line, so this would be a reasonable reading, if only it was painted by a Roman!! Maybe it's a message to Spartacus.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

5 Dinners You Can Be Thankful That You’re Not Responsible For Preparing This Thanksgiving

I suspect that everyone has a Thanksgiving preparation anecdote in which preparing the “big meal” didn’t go so smoothly. Mine occurred just a few years ago. We had gone to spend the holiday with my grandfather, who had a small cattle ranch on the Great Plains. We brought the turkey and other fixin’s with us, most of it pre-made, except the turkey. When I went to pre-heat the oven, we discovered that it no longer worked. “No problem,” my grandfather said, “try the one in the trailer.” So I carried the turkey across the yard to the trailer, cleared off the stuff that had been “stored” around the stove and turned on the oven. It didn’t work either. We next contemplated the oven in the camper, but decided it was too small. In the end, I cooked the turkey on the gas grill, hoping the whole time that we had enough propane to get it cooked. It actually turned out quite nicely, in the end.
Here is my top 5 list of dinners from ancient Rome that I wouldn’t want to have to prepare. Enjoy while you wait for the guests to arrive or recovering from a food coma!
Potluck Extreme: I love the Roman poet Catullus (ca. 84-54 BCE); he may be my favorite in fact. But be wary if he invites you over for dinner, as he plays the poor poet image to its fullest. In Carmen 13, Catullus invites his friend Fabullus to dinner, asking him to bring just a few things with him: 

“You will dine well, Fabullus my friend, at my place in a few days, (if the gods are in your corner), if you bring along a good, big dinner, including a pretty girl and the wine and some salt and all the laughs. If, I declare, you bring these things my charming friend, you will dine well; for the wallet of your buddy Catullus is full of cobwebs. But in return you will receive undiluted love, or whatever is sweeter and more choice: for I will give you a perfume, which the Venuses and Cupids have given to my girlfriend, and when you smell it, you will beg the gods to make you, Fabullus, all nose.” (my translation)
Least Appealing Menu: The story of the original “Thyestean Banquet” has its origins in Greek myth, but it is perhaps most vividly related by Seneca the Younger (ca. 4 BCE – 65 CE), a Roman philosopher, tragedian, and tutor to the emperor Nero. In his Thyestes (lns 759-783), Seneca describes how Atreus sought revenge against his brother Thyestes, who had stolen his kingdom and his wife, (there might have been a curse at work):

“…[Atreus] is now free to prepare his brother’s banquet. With his own hands he cuts the body <of his nephew> into parts, severs the broad shoulders at the trunk, and the retarding arms, heartlessly strips off the flesh and severs the bones; the heads only he saves, and the hands that had been given to him in pledge of faith. Some of the flesh is fixed on spits and, set before slow fires, hangs dripping; other parts boiling waters tosses in heated kettles. The fire overleaps the feast that is set before it and, twice and again thrown back upon the shuddering hearth and forced to tarry there, burns grudgingly. The liver sputters on the spits; nor could I well say whether the bodies or the flames made more complaint. The fire dies down in pitchy smoke; and the smoke itself, a gloomy and heavy smudge, does not rise straight up and lift itself in air – upon the household gods themselves in disfiguring cloud it settles. O all-enduring Phoebus, though thou didst shrink afar, and in mid-sky didst bury the darkened day, still thou didst set too late. The father rends his sons and with baleful jaws chews his own flesh; with hair dripping with liquid nard he sits resplendent, heavy with wine; oft-times the food sticks in his choking gullet. In the midst of these thy woes, Thyestes, this only good remains, that thou knowest not thy woes." (translation by F.J. Miller, via
Most Painstaking Preparation: The emperor Vitellius (15-69 CE) was a well-known glutton. In his Life of Vitellius (13), the Roman biographer Suetonius (ca. 70-130 CE) describes the ingredients of the “Shield of Minerva,” a dish of his own design:

“<Vitellius> himself actually exceeded this by the dedication of a platter which, by reason of its great size, he called the shield of Minerva, protectress of cities. On this he combined the livers of parrotfish, the brains of pheasants and peacocks, the tongues of flamingoes, and eels’ intestines, sought from Parthia and all the way from the Spanish strait by trireme captains.” (my translation)

The Biggest Guest List: In his Silvae, the Roman poet Statius (ca. 45-96 CE) recounts several banquets hosted by the emperor Domitian. Silvae 1.6.11-50 describes an elaborate festival and feast provided by Domitian for the people of Rome at the beginning of December. The feast is staged in, or perhaps adjacent to, an amphitheater, probably the Colosseum, which could seat ca. 50-90,000 people:

“…And already good things rained down:
These the dews the easterly sprinkled:
Whichever are best of Pontic nuts,
And dates from Idume’s fertile hills,
And plums pious Damascus grows,
And figs Ebusos and Caunos ripen,
Freely the lavish spoils descend.
And pastries and ‘little Gaiuses’
Ameria’s un-dried apples and pears,
Spiced cakes and ripened dates,
Shower from an unseen palm.
Not stormy Hyas drenches Earth
Nor the Pleiades with such showers
As rattled down on the Latian theatre
Like bursts of hail from a clear sky.
Let Jupiter cloud the whole world
Threaten to deluge the open fields,
So long as our Jove brings such rain.
Look, along the aisles comes another
Crowd, handsome and finely dressed,
No less in number than those seated!
These bring bread-baskets and white
Napkins, and elegant delicacies to eat,
Those pour out mellow wine freely:
So many cupbearers down from Ida.
The fourteen rows, now virtuous, sober,
Are fed, with the people wearing gowns;
And since you nourish so many, Lord,
Annona, the price of corn’s, outweighed.
Ages, compare now, if it’s your wish,
Old Saturn’s centuries, golden days:
Never flowed wine so, even then,
Nor did harvest anticipate new year.
Every order eats here at the one table:
Women, children, knights, plebs, Senate:
Freedom has set aside reverence.
Why you yourself (which of the gods
Issues and accepts his own invitation?)
Have come to the feast along with us.
Now all, now whoever, rich or poor
Can boast of dining with our leader…”
(translated by A.S. Kline)

Biggest Logistical Nightmare: In his Satyricon, Petronius (ca. 27-66 CE) describes a banquet hosted by a nouveau riche, freedman by the name of Trimalchio. The dinner is a master piece of stage craft from the food to the entertainment. It really must be read in full (which you can do here) to fully appreciate it, but here is a preview of some of the menu highlights:
  • Pastry peacock eggs filled with fig-peckers in peppered egg yolk
  • Wild boar garnished with dates and pastry piglets, stuffed with live thrushes
  • Pastry Priapus accompanied by cakes and fruit
  • Pastry doves filled with raisins and nuts
  • Goose, fish and other birds modeled from pork
Happy Thanksgiving to all!! May your dinner preparations go smoothly!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Spring 2013 Courses & Textbooks

Although it is hard to believe it, we are almost finished with fall semester courses and students are registering for spring courses. I'll be teaching a whopping four courses! Second semester Beginning Classical Greek, The Romans, and Trojan Wars for the Classics Section and Medieval-Renaissence Intellectual Traditions (IT) for the Honors Program. I'm looking forward to them all for different reasons.

This will be only my second time teaching second semester Greek and we're using a new textbook this year and so I get the fun of tweaking things and improving upon the first time. I also suffered through a bout of pneumonia the last time I taught the course, so I'm hoping not to repeat that experience!! I'll also be teaching the IT course for a second time. The Romans is essentially Roman civ and I've taught it a number of times here at the U of U and elsewhere. The Romans are my own research focus, so I especially enjoy this course and this semester I am planning some new things. The Trojan Wars course is completely new and I am very excited to teach it. We'll cover the Homeric version of the war, but also look at the archaeological/art historical side of things and reception issues.

For students looking to do some comparison shopping for textbooks, here is a list of the required texts I have asked the bookstore to order. Many of them are available as ebooks as well.

GREEK 1020 - Beginning Classical Greek II (same text as fall semester)
Introduction to Greek
by C. Shelmerdine
Focus Publishing, 2008
ISBN 1585101842

CL CV 1570 - The Romans
Ancient Rome: An Introductory History
by P. Zoch
University of Oklahoma Press, 2000
ISBN 0806132876

Catiline's War, The Jugurthine War, Histories
translated by A.J. Woodman
Penguin Classics, 2008
ISBN 0140449485

Essential Aeneid
translated by S. Lombardo
Hackett Publishing CO., 2006
ISBN 0872207919

Four Comedies
translated by E. Segal
Oxford University Press, 2008
ISBN 019954056X

translated by S. Ruden
Hackett Publishing Co., 2000
ISBN 087220510X

HONOR 2102-006 - Intellectual Tradiations II: Mediaval-Renaissance
Arabian Nights
translated by H. Haddawy
W.W. Norton & Co., 2008
ISBN 9780393331660

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
translated by S. Heaney
W.W. Norton & Co., 2001
ISBN 0393320979

Consolation of Philosophy
translated by J. Relihan
Hackett Publishing Co, 2001
ISBN 0872205835

translated by S. Lombardo
Hackett Publishing Co., 2009
ISBN 0872209172

The Lays of Marie de France
translated by E. Gallagher
Hackett Publishing Co., 2010
ISBN 1603841881

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches
translated by N. Yuasa
Penguin Classics, 1967
ISBN 0140441859

translated by D. Wootton
Hackett Publishing Co., 1999
ISBN 087220376X

CL CV 4580-002 - Trojan Wars
Age of Bronze, Vol. 1: A Thousand Ships
by E. Shanower
Image Comics, 2001
ISBN 1582402000

translated by R. Lattimore
University of Chicago Press, 2011
ISBN 0226470490
[n.b. any edition of the Iliad, except S. Mitchell's, will be fine]

In Search of the Trojan War
by M. Woods
University of California Press, 1998
ISBN 0520215990

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Catiline & Cato Get Out the Vote!

I've always been fascinated by these two pots. They are in the Museo Nazionale Romano - Terme di Diocleziano which houses an excellent epigraphical collection. These are just small (ca. 4 inch diam.), common ware dishes that would have been used for individual servings of food.

Bols de propaganda electoral a favor de Cató el Jove i de Catilina (63 a.C.), Museo Nazionale Romano nelle Terme di Diocleziano, Roma
Photo by Sebastia Giralt, 2009

The things that makes them interesting are their inscriptions:

Casius Longinu(s) quei Catilinae <su>  | sufragatur (CIL VI 40897 = AE 1979, 63)
Cassius Longinus who gives his support to Catiline (My translation)

M(arcus) Cato quei petit tribun(at)u(m) plebei (CIL VI 40904 = AE 1979, 64)
M. <Porcius>  Cato who is running for tribune of the plebs (My translation)

These inscriptions, assuming they are authentic, indicate that these bowls were used as election propaganda in 63 B.C.E.. They would have been filled with food and give out to the people to remind them to vote for the candidate whose name was scratched into the interior. In his defense of L. Licinius Murena, consul-elect for 62 B.C.E., against charges of electoral bribery (ambitus), M. Tullius Cicero argues that the provision of entertainments, gladiators, and banquets are traditional and should be viewed as generosity rather than bribery, (Pro Murena, 77).

We know that in 63 B.C.E L. Sergius Catilina was standing for the consulship of 62 B.C.E. He had also run the previous year, 64 B.C.E. and lost to Cicero and G. Antonius Hybrida. L. Cassius Longinus had also run for consul in 64 B.C.E., but he seems to have stood down in 63 B.C.E. and thrown his support over to Catiline. We know quite a bit about Catiline thanks to the fact that, after the elections in 63 B.C.E, he resorted to an attempted coup, which was ferreted out by Cicero and cost Catiline his life. This conspiracy is recorded for us in Cicero's own speeches against Catiline (In Catilinam) and Sallust's history of the events (Bellum Catilinae).

Also in 63 B.C.E., Cato the Younger was running for the office of tribune of the plebs. Things turned out rather better for Cato. He won. Plutarch, (Life of Cato the Younger, 20-23), tells us that Cato made a point of learning and remembering people's names while campaigning, rather than use a nomenclator to remind him. Cato also supported Cicero against Catiline. Sallust provides us with a speech by Cato endorsing the execution of the Catilinarian conspirators. After the elections in 63 B.C.E., Cato prosecuted Murena, consul-elect for 62 B.C.E., for ambitus.

So we have here two bowls that would have been used not as electoral bribes, but to "get out the vote" for Cato and Catiline in the elections of 63 B.C.E.. These are tangible evidence of Roman campaigning practices. Or are they? I've known about these bowls for a number of years and thought it odd that they haven't made it into popular handbooks on the Romans, but I have never really looked into the scholarship on them. It turns out that there isn't very much available. The inscriptions are listed in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) and there is a bit of discussion of them in L'Année épigraphique (AE 1979, 63-64). They are said to have come from the Monte Sacro quarter of modern Rome, at the northern edges of the city, just east of the Tiber River and identified as a type of pot that is commonly handed out as gifts during festivals, gladiatorial games and banquets. But their authenticity is called into question ("si elles sont authentiques!"). This sort of inscription could be easily forged, as it is scratched into the surface of an already fired pot. Also, the diminutive size and common fabric of these bowls would make them likely candidates for surviving intact for roughly 2000 years. So, it wouldn't be hard to imagine someone acquiring a couple of uninteresting, little bowls and making them much more interesting by inscribing the names of two famous Romans, Cato and Catiline, on them.

[gratias maximas tibi ago to H. Conley for talking pottery with me on these!]