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Jul 28, 2006, 12:49 pm

Nice to see Vergil at the top of a list of commonly shared books, as it is now in this group.

2Edward First Message
Jul 28, 2006, 5:25 pm

Interesting that the second and third books are Greek-related, though. (Owning both, I shan't complain.)

Jul 29, 2006, 7:34 am

Vergil is now fairly well represented here. Unfortunately my Latin reading has lately been confined to 19th century German academics writing on Hellenistic didactic.

Jul 29, 2006, 10:48 am

That sounds crushingly boring, I must say!

5appaloosaman First Message
Jul 29, 2006, 2:49 pm

I can't claim to have read anything quite so demanding. My current Latin read is Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis but I'm girding my loins to move on to Harreios Poter kai he tou philosophou lithos. There's an excellent crib by J.K. Rowling. :-)

Jul 29, 2006, 2:55 pm

I wish I had time to do some Latin reading right now, but my summer job is too demanding. I'm really interested to read Caesar, who used to be read by schoolboys but is now rarely taught. What else are people reading/ want to read?

Jul 30, 2006, 5:20 am

Is Caesar rarely taught? (I mean, they're ALL rarely taught, but still.) Who's replaced him in prose? If you want some easy, fun reading, go for Nepos, Justin, Curtius and stay the hell away from Tacitus and Cicero...

Jul 30, 2006, 7:08 am

I would say that Caesar is rarely taught. In all my time studying Greek and Latin I've had one opportunity to read him, and that was in my first semester out of baby Latin. We read excerpts from the Bellum Gallicum at a very slow pace. Forget about the Bellum Civile. But a course like that can hardly be said to comrpise either teaching or study; it's merely staying in practice. I have a sneaking suspicion that many professor's avoid Caesar for what he represents, as a military man and a dictator, despite the fact that he's totally kick-ass.

Jul 30, 2006, 7:26 am

So, what's the prose choice?

Jul 30, 2006, 8:16 am

As an undergraduate I read Cicero's Pro Caelio and some of the Verrines. In the intermediate Latin class (the one with a bit of Caesar) we also read from a selection of Seneca called 'The Virtues of a Stoic.' I modified my cover to read 'Vir u s.'

Later the only Latin prose I was able to read formally was Tacitus, a mass of epistolography from Cicero to the Church fathers, and an ungodly amount of St. Jerome in a course nominally on Roman Satire.

Beware the dangers of a small program. You're virtually forced to read the bibliography of your professor's next book.

That ties into one of the biggest problems with the discipline, I think, namely that novelty is where the fruit of publication is and so professors tend to avoid the most canonical authors. Either their research and publication interests drive their courses, or they grow weary of teaching the same things year after year.

We have one specialist in tragedy who hasn't taught tragedy in more than three years. We haven't a Plato scholar who hasn't taught a graduate level course in Plato. Instead we're treated to seminars on hobbies, like magic, which will do nothing for the student's still struggling to learn Greek.

Jul 30, 2006, 9:31 am

I always felt like there was so much of the mainstream canon I hadn't covered, but getting to the end of a 4 yr course, I realised I had touched on most of the major prose-writers and poets.

Jul 30, 2006, 1:18 pm


I've heard a lot of such stories. It was one of the reasons I chose Michigan, one of the larger programs. The down-side of a canon-focused approach is, however, that I spent three years reading Greek and Latin I wasn't necessarily that interested in. I felt like I was on a no-salt diet. I would have killed for that course on magic :) .


Jul 30, 2006, 3:52 pm


The real problem I have with the move away from teaching the canon is that we rarely have any shared knowledge and scurry off to our little corners (late Roman ethnology, Hellenistic poetry, etc.) making conjectures and what seem to us original and brilliant discoveries. You can see in some of the scholarship on Lucan, for example, ignorance of Nicander, which is an exreme example, but Milton thought that even schoolboys should know Nicander (in his essay Of Education, where he considers 'the rural part of Virgil' to be just as difficult).

A better example would be failing to see clear and striking allusions to a well-known poem by Catullus in the correspondence of late Christian writers. Any attempt to elucidate the letters that fails to appreciate the allusion is incomplete. I find it difficult to accept that scholarship on late authors can be done sufficiently without a sufficient grounding in what survives of earlier literature. Imagine a scholar ignorant of the Bible or contemporary church debates trying to serious scholarship on the same letters.

Also, I think the discipline would benefit from teaching students the traditional methodology of the field as practiced upon canonical authors. It seems that so much of what we do is a cheap version of literary criticism without any training in historical method, the appreciation, at least, of textual criticism, or the integration of historical knowledge with the study of cultural artifacts ranging from texts to physical remains, such as artwork and coins. It seems that too many of us enter graduate school with little or no direction or grounding.

I think it's more important to ensure that college and graduate students learn the languages, the history, and the methodology firmly enough that they can do good work in their chosen areas, than it is to tailor classes to their or the professors' enjoyment.

This is probably better suited to another group: Wir Philologen.

By the way, this is Dennis of the Campus Mawrtius (

Jul 30, 2006, 8:11 pm

To go back to your earlier question, Tim, i was racking my brain to recall the prose I read in my undergraduate education, to see who perhaps "replaced" Caesar. I read a lot of poetry, though that's mostly my fault, because I tended to choose to read authors like Vergil. The prose I read was Cicero's Pro Caelio and some of the _Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum_, homilies, and exegeses of the Venerable Bede. In graduate school I've gotten to read some Livy, Sallust, and Velleius Paterculus.

My guess is that Livy is still read as prose, particularly the early books, which are full of interesting stories that can entertain even those who are new to Latin and Roman culture. Is this something others have found?

I'm also pleased to report that in the fall, I finally get to read some Caesar. I made some requests in my program, so a professor is offering "The Age of Cicero and Caesar," where we'll read some prose weeks from these canonical authors, "salted" with some of the less-read authors of the Late Republic. I'm looking forward to it.

Jul 31, 2006, 1:52 am

I only took Latin up to 'A' level, but our prose set book for that was Tacitus' Agricola, and if IIRC, Horace's Carmina for the verse set book.

Jul 31, 2006, 2:09 am

I agree that the failure to be well-read in one's discipline is very bad. But it is not the only bad thing. Programs that endeavor to give graduate students a first-class 19c. Oxford or Harvard education in the classics might accomplish that, but at the expense of everything else.

You meet idiots and incompetents in every field, but you feel far more narrow drudges in classics graduate school than in others. They have been walking the same path for half their life—foot after foot, year of Latin after year of Latin. Most of the literary critics in my graduate school read NO OTHER LITERATURE. We gave PhDs on historical topics who hadn't the faintest interest in historical method or any period after the ancient.

I'm not making some big play for "theory"—I think a lot of theory is bunk—but for mere intellectual curiosity. I content that the most traditional programs (as mine) fail to foster that, even if the student leave able to spot a Catullus allusion.

Jul 31, 2006, 7:37 am

I am curious to know what level of competence students have today in the classical languages. Like Robert Greaves, I did Latin and Greek up to English 'A' level standard and by age 17 I was a pretty competent classicist. I still have the Greek and Latin public examination papers I sat in these languages at ages 15 and 17 in the 1960s. Although I went on to read Law, I know that my contemporaries who read Classics at Oxford received a 'welcome pack' that instructed them to read the whole of the Odyssey in Greek before joining in October. They would have had an examination in December. For those who are interested, I am happy to supply PDF images of the public examination papers on e-mail request - or Tim could post them.
OTOH if people are entering universities with no facility in the languages, I do wonder what competence they have on graduation - or is the graduate Classics degree of today, the undergraduate degree of yesterday? I noted recently that the public examination boards in Britain had reduced the required vocabulary for the first stage public examinations to a suspciously low figure.

Jul 31, 2006, 7:57 am

There was a rumor that one of our professors had been lobbying for years to do away with the graduate program ('let's end this charade') because no one comes in prepared to do graduate level work. I've never doubted that earlier generations were more competent, because they generally started younger. (Of course, people like me generally never had any exposure to classical languages in the past.) I hadn't begun Greek or Latin until I was 23, and the vast majority of Classics grad students I know had neither language before college.

Jul 31, 2006, 10:21 am

appaloosaman, I suspect that to get an accurate (and depressing) idea of the competence of classics graduates today, one need look no further than the Classics-L mailing list, where the "house rule" that political discussions are only permitted on-list if conducted in an ancient language seems to have effectively stripped the list of all political content. It would seem that the overwhelming majority of graduates of Latin can't express themselves *in* Latin well enough to keep up a debate. (Well, I know I can't, and I majored in Latin too.) Which shouldn't come as any surprise considering the methods by which the dead languages are taught, but that's a whole other kettle of fish!

Jul 31, 2006, 10:32 am

Oh dear! If competence is that low, why do they bother doing the course? What do they get out of it? I don't suppose Greek and Latin verse composition is taught either? ;-)

Jul 31, 2006, 10:53 am

Not only is verse composition not taught, but any knowledge of meter makes one a specialist. Prose composition is often entirely neglected though I was able to take graduate seminars in each language at UPenn. In the end I'd wished I had done a lot more of it, and sooner. I think classics departments are so concerned these days with staying alive and 'relevant' that they tend to simplify the subjects to the detriment of serious students, and composition is one of the first things to go.

Jul 31, 2006, 12:33 pm

I'm doing a prose composition subject at the moment, and had to convince my faculty to offer it for me and draw up a course. Like many classics students these days, I came to the language(s) with no school background, so it was a hard slog uphill to gain competency in a rather compressed time - that is one of the disadvantages of starting only when you get to university.

I'm all for higher standards, but I'm also all for changing methods of pedagogy too.

Jul 31, 2006, 1:06 pm

>Not only is verse composition not taught, but any knowledge of meter makes one a specialist.

You ARE joking, surely? Or at least exaggerating? To read Vergil, Lucretius or Horace - or Aeschylus, Euripides or Sophocles - without any knowledge of meter seems quite inconceivable. It would be like reading Shakespeare without any understanding of blank verse. The plays or poems would just be prose cut into even lengths. It would also mean that large chunks of comedies like The Frogs would go completely over the student's head - even the explanations of the parodies of style in the annotated texts would be meaningless.
I can see the real difficulties of teaching Classics to people with no prior knowledge of the language - getting up to speed with Latin declensions and conjugations would be bad enough but Greek would be doubly (or possibly even trebly) difficult. With modern languages not ordinarily taught in high schools, say Arabic, Japanese or Chines, universities give a year's intensive language instruction then send the students to work for a year in the country to learn by total immersion. They can then return flluent for the remaining two years of their degree. Alas no such option exists for Latin and Greek - there seems little alternative but to accept that Classics graduates who came without prior language skills will not yet have mastered their subject.
I had previously been discussing this topic with another American LibraryThing member who did Latin and Green in her (private) school. She sent me a good quote from M R James's autobiography. James recalled a Greek master scolding a boy in class for being incredibly stupid:

“A boy who construes ‘de’ *and* instead of ‘de’ *but* at sixteen years of age is guilty not merely of folly, and ignorance, and dullness inconceivable, but of crime, of deadly crime, of filial ingratitude which I tremble to contemplate.” (Eton and King’s, p. 2-3). Tempora quid faciunt!

Jul 31, 2006, 2:42 pm

appaloosaman: wrt metre, I very much fear thecardiffgiant is dead serious. I did Vergil, Catullus, AND Horace at one university with barely any mention made of metre. Switched to Vienna Uni midstream and suddenly found myself being asked to sight-read hexameters and pentameters at a minimum. (And it took me all of a week to learn -- it really isn't that hard, and I fail utterly to understand how the faculty at my first uni could ignore it so completely.)

As for prose composition -- something by that name was taught all right, but it turned out to be translation into Latin. Which doesn't fit any intuitively acceptable definition of "composition" in my personal dictionary, frankly, and in my view one of the reasons classics students don't in fact manage to acquire any significant facility in the languages (at least, not by comparison with any modern language students) is that they are never permitted to engage with the languages on their own terms. From day one it's either translation from Latin or into Latin, and this simply is the worst possible way to attempt to learn a language. I strongly suspect that the main reason Latin is a dead language is that its teachers have been systematically killing it for the last couple of centuries at least. (And to judge from some of the comments over on Classics-L when the subject comes up, they're even proud of the fact.)

Jul 31, 2006, 3:52 pm

On meter, I am serious. In my experience, students are casually pointed toward Halporn, Ostwald, and Rosenmeyer's Meters of Greek and Latin Poetry and occasionally called on to read a few lines of hexameter. When they bungle the meter, as they always do (either by ignoring the rhythm completely and speeding through the lines in fear, or by shouting out a semi-regular stress that is meant to be, but rarely coincides with, the longum), professors have them try once more, and with the errors repeated, they are satisfied to say 'good' and move on to the next victim.

Students come to regard Halporn, Ostwald, and Rosenmeyer as the bible of meter rather than the introductory handbook that it is. They use it as they use translations when preparing for a class, glad to have a crutch. Most will never read A.M. Dale when their professors consider West's Greek Metre to be some kind of cipher. Few will enjoy Wilkinson's Golden Latin Artistry, and all will throw their hands up at the impossibility of Pindar.

It's true that published works on meter rarely answer the questions students have, and that the amount of contradictory theory (especially pre-Maas) and misinformation (think D.S. Raven) is considerable, but I suspect that the guidance of competent scholars in the classroom tended to mitigate that. Now that meter is downplayed or ignored in the classroom, and students don't benefit from that sort of apprenticeship, the task becomes all the more daunting.

Luckily direct observation is still a pretty good teacher, so there's hope if you want to work at it.

Jul 31, 2006, 5:03 pm

It's getting to sound a bit like "Classics degrees - please take one".
Now that my melancholy choleric hat is comfortably on my head, perhaps I can sound out the assembled contemporary classicists on another point. When Greek is taught, are students taught to use the diacritics or are they ignored? We ignored them initially but learned the use of diacritics halfway through our studies and had them (mostly) correct by the time we finished aged 17.

Jul 31, 2006, 5:31 pm

Most everyone I know learned accents from the start, but generally as a uniform stress accent, which is something, but not ideal. I have a private student, aged 14, who has had no problem reading with a tonal accent. Some people object that we don't know what they really sounded like, but I think it's important for the student to be able distinguish an acute from a circumflex, for example, and especially to pronounce a grave as a flat tone. I'd rather acknowledge the differences than ignore them, because it does sometimes impact the meaning or the relationship between words.

Jul 31, 2006, 5:57 pm

Well, I took one semester of both Greek and Latin prose comp. I found it helpful and interesting.

On Pindar or tonal accents what level of understanding is appropriate for ALL classics grad students?

What is the purpose of grad school? To acquire facility in the languages? Would we elect the average 19c schoolboy to the Classics faculty at a 20c American university? If not, why not? It seems to me that while language ability might be a necessary basis--just how much isn't clear to me--it is not enough. Graduate programs that produce students able to scan Pindar but with a high-school understanding of literary criticism and historical methodology have failed.

Jul 31, 2006, 6:32 pm

I consider the ability to scan Pindar almost rudimentary, so there's no reason it should be avoided. There's nothing stopping programs from producing technically competent scholars, and I don't think better philological training excludes one from becoming a literary critic.

You can train a philologist, but you can't train a literary critic. In other words, you can equip someone with the technical tools (which is what I'm advocating), but you can't ensure that he'll do good work with them. The better equipped he is, though, the better. Ignoring or diminishing the focus on certain technical aspects does not make anyone a better critic.

I think it's something like the amateur guitarist who maintains the lie that practice and theory hamper creativity, while the jazz musicians he would emulate practice endlessly to fuel their improvisations. But even if he were to practice the same sets of skills, he might never prove as brilliant a musician.

Quoting Housman never wins anyone points today, but I'm reminded me of this:

"Such a man as Scaliger, living in our time, would be a better critic than Scaliger was, but we shall not be better critics than Scaliger by the simple act of living in our own time."

And in the same way, the brilliant critical mind better equipped would be more brilliant still, while the average critical mind would not measure up, whether a trained philologist or not.

I don't think it hurts anyone to be able to scan Pindar or to acknowledge tonal accents. Neither does it mean that you neglect other tools or perspectives. It just seems to me that there's a stigma on things associated with 19th century philology, and it's misplaced.

Jul 31, 2006, 7:08 pm

Surely a confident grasp of language has to be a sine qua non for any serious study of antiquity? Our only informants are the archaeological remains and the texts. If we do not have a firm handle on the languages we can do little. The texts have been picked over for hundreds of years and have an enormous exegesis. The system is essentially a closed field - there is a trickle of new materials from places like Herculaneum and Oxyrhyncus but essentially the literary materials available today are little different from those available in 1800. The only substantial additions to materials are the archaeological discoveries. As an academic my heart goes out to faculty in Classics Departments worldwide. As a lawyer, I am never short of new material to pick apart and criticise. I have no idea what Classics faculty busy themselves with today but if my memory of classical scholarship in the 60s is anything to go by, it is likely to be microscopic examination of language. The kind of books my teachers were discussing with us were Denniston's The Greek Particles and Delotte's Le Verbe Grec.
Of course we have had the delightful Courtesans and Fishcakes and The Maculate Muse since then - just what I would have needed to stimulate me as a teenage boy. :)

Jul 31, 2006, 7:27 pm

On the subject of diacritics and Greek, I was not taught them initially. I started with Koine and have moved on to Attic. Part of the problem, I think, is that if they are taught 'all in one go', it's a lot of seemingly-complex rules to pick up. Secondly, one can get by exceedingly well without knowing them, so people do. Thirdly, if you didn't learn the accents on nouns and adjectives when you first learnt them, it's a lot harder to learn that later.

All that said, I now think that they are quite important, and have been learning them slowly but steadily. Understanding accentuation on verbs is quite easy, nouns not much harder. Part of the solution, I think, is to require more Greek composition from those learning the language at the start - there is nothing like having to have those accents in place when writing Greek to help one learn where they go.

Jul 31, 2006, 8:34 pm

Cardiff: I don't disagree with anything you say in principle, but you're going to have to make choices. Deciding to make graduate school today the intellectual equivalent of college 120 years ago—and the Classical attainments of the past are often much inflated in hindsight—will not do.

Going to one of the more rigorous programs, I feel like I've seen the other side--that students need to have their intellectual horizons expanded as much as their treasury of dialect forms. I can't say I think of a deep reading of Pindar as being at the center of the center for all grad students. (Nor, if we're lusting for 18c. standards, were they big then either.) But, by all means do two weeks on Pindar in a survey of Greek lit., and put a whole bunch on the reading exam...

Jul 31, 2006, 10:51 pm

I think you're reading too much into what I'm saying. I don't believe in golden ages, but I think you can document pretty easily that standards have changed, and that flailing programs keep asking for less from their students to maintain enrollment.

As for a deep reading of Pindar, I don't know where that came from. I was talking about a mechanical process: scanning. If you can scan Pindar, you'll never feel helpless when a metrical question confronts you. What I keep trying to emphasize are toolsets, and meter provides a good example. Give students the tools to solve problems.

But you do bring up a very serious issue with my program: no reading lists. We do have sight exams that are demanding, but there are no lists. I've managed to pass both exams, but it can be troubling to have no direction.

Jul 31, 2006, 10:56 pm

Correction taken. I don't actually think we disagree too much. That your program has no reading lists frankly shocks me--unless it means "read everything!"

Do you know who was, when asked if he could read everything in Greek replied "by the time you can read everything, you have"? I always liked that quote. It's practically true.

Jul 31, 2006, 11:52 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jul 31, 2006, 11:52 pm

Ah, a nice bug. You can submit an empty message...

Aug 1, 2006, 4:45 am

On Greek diacritics: I did two years of Greek and we were initially told "don't worry about the accents, they're too complicated". Then, at some point in second year one of the lecturers suddenly suggested "oh, and start trying to add the diacritics if you can" -- without anyone ever having bothered to actually explain how they work, of course. Needless to say, it was a bit of a disaster.

As for our perception of Classics standards of bygone days being inflated, Tim has a point. There's an article online here that bemoans the fact that kids were entering college with no ability to read Latin fluently... back in 1887. And my big German-to-Latin dictionary, which was originally published in 1918, goes on at length about the awful howlers philologists were committing when writing their PhD theses in Latin...

Aug 1, 2006, 5:59 pm

That's not a bug, Tim, that's a feature.

39cinaedus First Message
Aug 6, 2006, 1:21 pm

I guess I have to consider myself fortunate then. At the University of Arkansas, we were required to use correct Greek diacritics from the very beginning (and our textbook was still the venerable Crosby & Schaeffer) and scanning meter for the day's assigned passage was part of every daily quiz in non-prose courses for both languages.

As for the "who replaced Caesar" questions (from the start of the message board): I did do a semester of the Bellum Gallicum, but I had a lot more for the next year reading Apuleius. It occurs to me, thinking back now, that somehow the Latin classes I signed up for were overwhelmingly poetry/drama.

Aug 6, 2006, 5:12 pm

It's been remarked upon often by one of our professors that everyone seems better equipped to read poetry and he has run semi-regular sight reading groups for the past two years in the hopes of relieving that.

This coming year those who are still taking seminars will actually have the opportunity to read Cicero and Caesar, as well as Greek tragedy. I'm envious. It beats Pliny the Younger and random pieces from the likes of Olympiodorus.

Aug 7, 2006, 7:20 am

I'm curious about this longing to read Caesar. Since his prose is pretty much a model of clarity and simplicity, why would you need a special class? Why not just pick up a text and read it? You would only need a commentary for the more obscure military jargon in a few passages. It was not for nothing that everyone's first set book in my day was something by Caesar. I can see why you would need a class to read Tacitus or some of Cicero though! :)

Aug 7, 2006, 10:18 am

I think initially what we were talking about was the lack of doing Caesar early. But I don't think I've ever had an easier time reading 'difficult' authors because there was a class on them. The benefit of the class isn't help with grammar and syntax, but rather it's context and guidance. You can learn a lot more of foundational value for further study in Roman military and social history by reading Caesar with a good professor than by reading him alone. Of course, I'm not asking for Caesar to replace Tacitus, but maybe to be offered at least once every five or six years (the time I've been studying Latin).

Aug 31, 2006, 7:19 pm

My Latin courses leaned very heavily towards poetry--particularly Virgil. I remember reading Livy in my first course that was mostly reading and not grammar, but the first 2 completely reading courses people take are both Virgil. I loathed Virgil by the time I was done, I have to admit. He had to be rehabilitated at a later date. I started learning Latin because I studied medieval history. In fact, I did a few semesters of a masters degree in medieval studies from Notre Dame. The Medieval Institute at Notre Dame is one of the few places that still requires students to pass a Latin proficiency exam, and it about does everyone in. Latin is essential for the study of primary source material of the Middle Ages, but there are many many people getting graduate degrees in medieval fields today that cannot read Latin proficiently. Even after all the Latin I have done, and I dare say that I have done as much Latin as any non-classicist, I feel like I can hardly read myself.

Sep 8, 2006, 11:02 am

Well, I'm an ex-classicist, now Reformation Historian/Theologian, and it's a constant frustration how other historians fail to recognise the obvious classical allusions in Renaissance texts - even professional "grown-up" academics!

Sep 8, 2006, 12:04 pm

The first time I got an allusion in Milton because I had read Virgil, I felt like I must be the most erudite person in the entire world :)

Sep 26, 2006, 6:53 am

It is rather satisfying when you read modern literature and you find some allusion to a Classical text, which most people would not realise.

Sep 26, 2006, 1:33 pm

I agree with the sentiments in #45 and 46 - the truth is that most authors writing before 1850 and many writing up to the 20th century simply assumed knowledge of classical civilization that simply does not exist for most people today. This means that allusions have to be laboriously explained in footnotes or annotated editions and the writings lose their immediacy. However, those of us who are blessed with this knowledge can bask in the warm rosy glow that comes from recognition and shared culture.

Sep 26, 2006, 4:12 pm

Do people still think, as they did in 19th century Britain, that to be "educated" you have to have a knowledge of the classical languages? I'm just wondering what today's attitude is.

Sep 26, 2006, 8:02 pm

For myself I feel that it's necessary, but I wouldn't actually consider someone else uneducated if they didn't know those languages.

Sep 27, 2006, 3:52 am

Re # 48: No - there is no longer that feeling in Britain. Latin and Greek are rarely taught in state schools - they are seen as 'hard subjects' and have been mostly replaced by something called "Classical Civilization" - basically classics texts in translation but with some social and ancient history thrown in. I have no idea how popular it is.

Latin was still widely taught in British state schools until the early 1970s - students would do a couple of hours a aweek for 4-5 years. Part of its death knell was when the legal professional bodies dropped Roman Law from the compulsory syllabus in law schools. My year of university law school entrance (1967) was the last year that a qualification in Latin was a requirement to read Law.

Sep 27, 2006, 6:56 am

Classical Civilization is as popular as Latin and Greek at A-Level, according to The Times newspaper statistics from this summer's supplement about exam results. That was certainly the case at my school. What was most amusing was that there were more people doing Latin than Computing and IT!

There are now attempts to rekindle the teaching of Latin in state schools by after school classes held by visiting teachers, who are usually from a nearby independant school. One proposal I read about a few weeks ago was that there were plans to start teaching Latin online and people could download the "lessons" and teach themselves at home. An ancient language going hi-tech!

Sep 27, 2006, 9:19 am

Hmmm! If it's as popular as Greek and Latin A-Level combined, that is not saying much. Last time I looked (a few years ago, admittedly) only 285 people did Greek A-Level and about 1,250 Latin A-Level. Today these are real minority subjects.

Oct 8, 2006, 11:50 pm

On the decline of the study of Latin and Greek, I was reminded of this footnote in L.L. Forman's A First Greek Book:

"Yet if Greek be swept utterly out of our education, the blame will lie not so much with the youth of the country as with us teachers, who yield to their importunities. Because the babe in the cradle cries, we permit it first Option of Study (or of No-Study), then Option of Method. These two Options were, I suspect, the two serpents carelessly allowed to invade the cradle of little Hercules, but strangled by that sensible young hero. Can we hope, however, for this happy issue now?"

That was written about 1889, and I think this is related to something appaloosaman said: they're considered 'hard subjects.' Parents and students complain, the teaching of the languages changes, the disciplines die, and each new generation sees new efforts to revive their study with newer, easier methods. But that's just what killed them in the first place.

Oct 9, 2006, 1:30 pm

>53 thecardiffgiant:

At ours, in the first year of "humaniora" ("humanities", school at age 12-18), we got 9 hours of Latin class pro week. Nowadays, in our present school system, one can get 5 hours of Latin class pro week at most. It just might be possible that school children are a lot smarter today. But then again TMMV, I think.

Though remember these complaints might be rather universal and not new at all. What exactly was Socrates charged of?

Are we getting old--yet?

Oct 8, 2020, 6:28 pm


Oct 8, 2020, 9:28 pm

Si vis hanc congregationem salvare, forsitan in lingua Latina dicamus?

Oct 8, 2020, 9:58 pm

If we're talking about groups, though, I think a Latin and Greek group would be a better idea. Or just use the language group.

Oct 8, 2020, 11:09 pm

>56 timspalding:


>57 timspalding:

I think a Latin and Greek group would be a better idea

I don't have strong feelings on this but I must say "Lingua Latina" looks very pretty on its own.

Or just use the language group.


Surely the dead classical languages deserve special focus? I think it's also more inviting when there's a dedicated group. "Language" isn't really about anything.

If I saw Language, would I think "this is where I'll go with my (Graeco-)Latin dilemma"?--no.

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