The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice





The second year is the time for teaching the main body of Latin Syntax. Pons Tironum — the text-book for the first term of this year — introduces the following constructions one at a time:

indirect command, purpose, indirect question, ablative absolute, result, oratio obliqua,  conditionals, subordinate clauses in O.O.

Thus the master always knows what construction is about to be introduced, and he should make convenient opportunity to explain and practise it orally before it is met with in the textbook. For example, the book opens with a section on indirect command. Oral practice on this therefore precedes, thus:

M. (addressing a boy). Surge. Impero tibi ut surgas. Aperi librum. Impero tibi ut librum aperias.

At least a dozen examples are given, so that there is no doubt about the meaning of impero. Then the master proceeds: Surgas, aperias (etc.) sunt modi subiunctivi. Est novus modus qui declinatur -am, -as, -at (he says nothing, at first, about the first conjugation). Universi dicite mihi hos fines. (The class call out in chorus -am, as, at,ämus -ätis -ant.) The boys are now in a position to reply to questions, and the master continues:

M. Surge. Quid tibi impero?

D. Imperas mihi ut surgam.

M. Tu, Decime, claude librum. Quid tibi impero?

D. Imperas mihi ut librum claudam.

Many such commands are given, and all are turned into the indirect form ; then the master varies his remark and introduces a past tense, thus:

M. Tace Sexte. Imperavi tibi ut taceres. imperavi est tempus praeteritum, itaque adhibemus subiunctivi non praesens tempus (ut surgas, claudas etc, sed imperfectum. Tempus imperfectum subiunctivi facile ducetis ab infinitivo. Modo necesse est addere litteram m. Universi dicite mihi infinitivum quattuor coniugationum.

D. -are -ere -ere -Ire.

M. Addite litteram -m.

D. -ärem -erem -erem -irem.

M. Declinate -ärem.

D. -ärem -äres -aret -äremus -äretis -ärent.

Now follows plenty of practice both after a present and after a past main verb. The master possibly forgets about the first conjugation (present subjunctive) and says something like Decime, pulsa Marcum. Quid tibi impero? and naturally gets the reply Imperas mihi ut Marcum pulsam, whereupon he exclaims, "Minime vero. Pulso est verbum primae coniugationis, et praesens tempus subiunctivi huius coniugationis non fines habet -am -as -at (ut ceterae coniugationes) sed -em -es -et. Iterum pulsa Marcum, Decime. Quid tibi impero?" and Decimus is now able to reply correctly. The lesson concludes with further practice of the construction, and the boys are, of course, allowed to perform the actions before replying to the Quid tibi impero? or Quid tibi imperavi? which inevitably follows. Much will be taught incidentally in the way of vocabulary and new phrases. For example, the master tells a boy to blow his nose. The boy does not understand Nasum emunge, and so the master demonstrates, and all take down the new word in their notebooks, after it has been correctly written on the board with principal parts attached. Then the master explains emunctae naris homo as sapiens,

  • Fun will be made of this later. For whenever a boy later on -- days or weeks after — blows his nose in class the master will appeal to him for an answer to whatever question he may be asking, and if the boy fails to reply the master will chaff him somewhat as follows: Nasum quidem emunxisti; sed non videris esse emunctae naris puer, namque non potes respondere.

and similarly with other phrases that may occur to him.

The next lesson should begin with a revision of the same points. Then it may be well to draw up a scheme

  • Variations between the different conjugations are of course explained, as is also the difference between the the future indicative and present subjunctive of the 3rd conjugation. Later on new forms such as the gerundive and the remainder of the subjunctive, are added, and different boys are practised in writing up the whole scheme on the board.

for the formation of all the tenses of the verb with which the class is familiar, thus:

Then the reading of the first section of Pons Tironum begins. We will speak of the reading later. The important point is — as always — not that so much text should be read, but that the construction, exemplified by the particular portion of text, should be thoroughly mastered. This is best done by oral work, which takes the place of the old-fashioned written "exercise." All the regular syntax is taught in this way. It is unnecessary to give examples of all the constructions, but perhaps one more may be useful. Let us suppose that final sentences are to be taught. The master on entering the classroom asks Cur ad vos venio? Someone is sure to reply Venis nos docere, when the master proceeds:

M. Sed Romani non ita dicunt. Oportet dicere "Venis ut nos doceas." Ego venio ut vos doceam; librum aperio ut recitem; cretam capio ut in tabula nigra scribam. Marco appropinquo ut caput ei pulsem. (Marcus generally anticipates this.)

Then he questions the class:

M. Cur ianuam aperio?

D. Ut intres ianuam aperis.

M. Cur ianuam nunc aperio?

D. Ut exeas ianuam aperis.

M. Cur Marcus librum aperit?

D. Ut recitet Marcus librum aperit.

Then a past tense is introduced, and some bright boy is likely to reply correctly by analogy with what he learnt on indirect command.

  • The negative, of course, both in indirect command and in a final clause, is specially given.

M. Cur ad vos heri veni?

D. Ut nos doceres heri venisti.

As usual plenty of practice follows. Soon one construction is used to help to explain another by a system of paraphrase. Thus it is explained that ut doceas can also be expressed by

(a) ad nos docendos.

(b) nos docendi causa.

(c) nos docturus.

and (d) nos doctum.


This gives plenty of scope for practice, and a whole lesson will often be spent on such paraphrasing work. The master expresses a sentence in one way and bids the class express it aliter, when we get something like this:

M. Caesar legatum misit ut naves compararet. Aliter?

D. Caesar legatum misit qui naves compararet.

M. Aliter?

D. Caesar legatum misit ad naves comparandas.

The same is done with other constructions; for example, the ablative absolute impedimentis collectis is expressed in four ways:

(a) cum impedimenta collecta essent.

(b) cum impedimenta collegissemus.

(c) postquam impedimenta collegimus.

(d) postquam impedimenta collecta sunt.


The class is exercised in all these, and it is a splendid opportunity of employing the device of the boy-master. A bright boy, who has grasped all four ways of turning the sentence, takes the master's chair (which he retains until he makes a mistake), expresses any sentence he likes in one way himself, and bids different members of the class express the same sentence aliter.

When a construction is first introduced to the class, certain set phrases are generally evolved, more or less appropriate to the occasion. This is helpful, because, when a boy subsequently makes a mistake in this or that construction, he can be at once referred back to the set phrase in which he first learnt it; e.g. if a mistake is made in indirect command, the master at once says to the delinquent Surge. Quid tibi impero? and the boy replies, almost automatically,

  • The direct method avails itself of the almost unconscious mental processes, which enter so largely into our psychological life, far more than other methods do.

Imperas mihi ut surgam, and the master continues Quid tibi imperavi? He generally gets the correct answer, Ut surgerem mihi imperavisti, and all he now has to do is to make the boy apply consciously what he has brought up from his subconscious memory.


These set phrases may be elaborated into a formal colloquy such as is described in the introduction to Ludi Persici. The colloquy for the purpose sentences might run somewhat like this:

M. Cur magister venit?

D. Ut doceat magister venit.

M. Cur pulpita escendit?

D. Quo melius nos videre possit pulpita escendit.

M. Cur discipuli libros aperiunt?

D. Ut recitent discipuli libros aperiunt.

M. Cur magister cretam sumit?

D. Ut in tabula nigra scribat magister cretam sumit.

And so on with a past tense.

These common constructions will be continually and automatically practised by the usual classroom procedure. The master naturally begins a lesson with aperite libros, and follows it up with both Quid vobis impero? and Quid vobis imperavi? Then comes Quota est pagina? and, after some boy ha replied, comes inevitably

  • This is so well understood that boys get into the habit of putting up their hands — as volunteering to reply to the question which they know is coming — as soon as they hear the opening command of aperite libros.

Quid rogo? and then Quid rogavi? The course of the lesson provides almost innumerable opportunities for practising just what the master wishes; and he must see to it that the boys do talk. It is so easy to do nearly all of the talking oneself; but now that the place of the old-fashioned "exercise" has been taken by oral work, the master must no more do all this oral work himself, than he would, on the older method, dream of doing all the boys' written exercises himself. Discitur loquendo. So there must be constant give and take of conversation within the powers of the class. Oratio obliqua, for example, is very easily practised. A boy makes a remark, and the master asks Quid dicit Marcus? The same applies to indirect question and to many of the other constructions.

There is a certain danger — of which the master should be well aware — that these constructions will never be consciously realised as such by the majority of the class. How far this is a good or a bad thing admits of dispute; but those who are anxious for their pupils to know their syntax analytically — and all who are preparing for an external examination must do so — should practise them in turning sentences from English into Latin. Perhaps this might be done regularly in the third term of the year. Begin each lesson with Quis potest mihi dicere Latine: If you give me twopence, I will give you a penny, or, If you had hit me, I would have hit you, etc., according to which construction you wish to exercise. You will not, of course, confine yourself to such dead-alive things as Caesar and his ambassadors or Priscilla and her rose, but give your sentences a light or facetious turn, and (best of all) make them deal with the boys themselves, with their daily doings and interests.

Occasionally some sentences (from English into Latin) are given to be translated as home-work. The following, by a boy below the average, show the standard of accuracy which may be gained:

  1. Pecunia mutua accepta, cibum emo.
  2. Cibo empto, domum abeo.
  3. Cibo eso, dormio.
  4. Pueri magistro viso, placent.
  5. Magister pueris visis, irascitur.
  6. Tauri mappa rubra visa, mugirent.
  7. Pueri tauris auditis, timent.
  8. Horatius, penso perfecto, ludit.
  9. Ennius cena magna esa e ventre labourat.
  10. Tintinnabulo sonito pueri gaudent.

The above method of teaching the common constructions is well illustrated by the following uncorrected account of a Latin lesson, written by a second-year boy in examination at the end of the year.

A boy's account of a Latin lesson:

Magister. Rides-ne Coriate? Quid te rogo?

Coriatus. Rogas me num rideam. a

Magister. Quid te rogavi?

Coriatus. Rogavisti me num riderem.

Magister. Intelligisne Gigas? Quid te rogo?

Gigas. Rogas me num intelligam.

Magister. Quid te rogavi?

Gigas. Rogavisti me num intelligerem.

Magister. Intellexistine Lupe? Quid te rogo?

Lupus. Rogas me num intellexerim.

Magister. Quid te rogavi ?

Lupus. Rogavisti me num intellexissem.

Magister. Es-ne insanus Vergilli ? Quid te rogo?

Vergillius. Rogas me num insanus sim.

Magister. Quid te rogavi?

Vergillius. Rogavisti me num insanus essem.

Magister. Gigas nihil intelligit. Quid dico, Horati?

Horatius. Dixis Gigantem nihil intelligere.

Magister. Bene ! Rex cretam frangit, Quid dico, Lupe?

Lupus. Dicis Regem cretam frangere.

Magister. Rex cretam fregit, Quid dico, Verbera?

Verbera. Dicis Regem cretam fregisse.

Magister. Rex cretam franget. Quid dico Marce?

Marcus. Dicis Regem cretam fracturum esse.

Magister. Scelestus insanus est. Quid dico, Iacobe?

Iacobus. Dicis Scelestum insanum esse.

Magister. Scelestus insanus erat. Quid dico, Dure?

Durus. Dicis Scelestum insanum fuisse.

Magister. Scelestus insanus erit. Quid dico, Vigil?

Vigil. Dicis Scelestum insanum futurum esse.

Magister. Cretam capio et scribo. Dic aliter, Sceleste.

Scelestus. Creta capta scribo.

Magister. Librum aperio e recito. Dic aliter, Ionice.

Ionicus. Libro capto recito.

Magister. Plumam frango et sedeo. Dic aliter, Vertumne.

Vertumnus. Pluma fracta sedeo.

Magister. Dum magister docet, oportet pueros tacere. Dic aliter, Gigas.

Gigas. Magistro docente oportet pueros tacere.

Magister. Dum ego sedeo oportet pueros loqui. Dic aliter, Coriate.

Coriatus. Te sedente oportet pueros loqui.

Magister. Cur ad vos venio, Rex?

Rex. Venis ad nos ut nos doceas.

Magister. Cur cretam capio?

Rex. Ut scribas cretam capis.

Magister. Cur vos doceo?

Coriatus. Ut intelligamus linguam Latinam.

Magister. Sede. Quid tibi impero, O Vergilli?

Vergillius. Imperas mihi ut sedeam.

Magister. Quid tibi imperavi?

Vergillius. Imperavisti mihi ut sederem.

Magister. Noli digitos mordete. Quid tibi impero, Horati?

Horatius. Imperas mihi ne digitos mordeam.

Magister. Quid tibi imperavi?

Horatius. Imperavisti mihi ne digitos morderem.

Magister. Cur cretam capio?

Horatius. Scribendi causa cretam capis.

Magister. Cur plumam capio?

Lupus. Frangendi causa plumam capis.

Magister.Cur ad vos veni?

Lupus. Docendi causa ad vos venisti.

We append a similar description which was written out as home-work. This, like all our specimens, is uncorrected:

In conclave intramus et in sellis sedemus. Primo dies mensis scribendus est. Tum sedemus recte et timemus ne magister poenas a nobis sumat.

Magister intrat ut nos doceat. Dicimus, "Salve Magister," et ille respondit. Quom ille conclave intravisset Scelestus ludebat. Itaque Magister dicit, " Ludis-ne, Sceleste ? Quid te rogo? " Scelestus respondit, " Rogas me num ludam."

Tum magister sedet in rostro ut omnes possit videre et omnes nos, ne ludamus, curiose spectat. Imperat nobis ut libros, apud parginam vicesimam septam, aperiamus. "Venter, recita ! " dicit Magister. Itaque Venter recitat, "Quondam homo erat, qui dixit fratri ei 'Da mihi pecuniam!' " Magister dicit "Quid dixit homo? " et nos respondemus, "dixit fratri ei pecuniam mihi davisse!'" "Bene!" dicit magister. "Nunc abite." Et nos abimus.

The Reading.

As is stated in the second chapter, three textbooks — Pons Tironum, Ludi Persici, and Puer Romanus — are used in the second year.

Pons Tironum is finished in the first term, and Ludi Persici may either be read by itself in the second term, or used pari passu with Puer Romanus. If read by itself Ludi Persici is finished in the second term, and Puer Romanus, which contains a year's work, is not begun until the third term of the second year. It thus carries us on to the end of the second term of the third year.

We begin, then, with Pons Tironum. After oral practice upon a certain construction, a boy stands up, upon the master's order, and reads aloud in Latin. The rest of the class follow in their books and correct any mistakes of quantity or intonation. If any words are not understood, it is the boys' business to say so.

  • The same applies to the sense, and a boy is expected to say Sententiam non intellego, but only the best boys will do this. Either from pure laziness or because they really think they understand when they don't, most boys will be satisfied if they get the meaning of the words. The master has, however, other means (described immediately) of assuring that the sense also is understood.

Great stress is laid upon answering in Latin easy questions, also in Latin, upon the text just read. The piece is not translated into English (though an unusually difficult piece, and always all isolated verse, would be so), but the master assures himself that it is being understood, partly by the reader's intonation and partly by the answers to questions which he proceeds to put.

Pons Tironum.

For the sake of clearness, let us suppose that the opening section of Pons Tironum is being read.

Boy (reads). Ante lucem servus quidam nomme Davus ad cellam ubi dormio venit.

Another boy. Non intellego "1ucem".

M. Scribite in libellis: lux, lucis (f) id quod sol nobis dat.

Boy. Sed non intellego 'sol'.

M. Sol est in caelo. Scribite caelum, -i. (n). (He then points to the sky, either out of the window, or in some picture in the room and explains sol, solis (m) by drawing on the board.)

Boy (continuing). Fores pulsat, ac mihi ut surgam imperat.

Fores is explained by ianua quae binas habet partes, accompanied by gesticulation as to how it opens. When a few lines have thus been read and understood, something like the following dialogue (at first with books open, then with them shut) will occur:

M. Quid facit Davus?

D. Ad cellam venit.

M. Quando venit?

D. Ante lucem venit.

M. Quid aliud facit?

D. Fores pulsat.

M. Quid ego facere volo?

D. Dormire vis.

M. Quid igitur ei impero?

D. Ut abeat ei imperas.

M. Quid mihi imperat pater?

D. Ut statim surgas tibi imperat pater.

and so on, to provide plenty of practice. When points have to be driven home the class should be made to answer the master's question in chorus. The master first gets the correct answer from one, and then exclaims, Respondete universi, or calls for it with a clap of the hands.

The more advanced narrative read later is treated on the same principle, though so much question and answer becomes no longer necessary. The master should originate devices of his own for driving things home. For example, after reading the section of Pons Tironum about the old woman who went to market, the boys will be able to narrate the whole story (and so get excellent practice in the ablative absolute) if the key-words are written up on the board one by one, thus:






The sections of Pons Tironum take up new constructions one at a time, but each new construction should first be introduced to the class by purely oral work. Let us suppose that the master glances ahead and observes that the next section employs unfulfilled conditionals. It is now his business to prepare the class for what is coming. This he will do somewhat as follows: Observing that a certain boy (Marcus) is absent, he says to another boy (Sextus) Potesne videre Marcum, Sexte? and so starts the following dialogue:

S. Minime. Marcus abest.

M. Ita enim vero. Marcum videre non potes, quia Marcus abest. Sed si adesset, eum videre posses? Nonne?

S. Ita.

M. Si adesset Marcus quid facere posset Sextus?

Class. Marcum videre posset Sextus si Marcus adesset.

M. Bene. Nunc da mihi pecuniam, Sexte.

S. Sed non habeo magister.

M. Si tamen haberes nonne mihi dares?

S. Fortasse.

  • This one word shows how real the boy finds his latin lesson

M. Si pecuniam haberet Sextus, quid fortasse faceret?

Class. Si pecuniam haberet Sextus tibi fortasse daret.

Similar exercise is made with other suppositions, until boys are able to understand (if not themselves to use) the imperfect subjunctive. Then a past supposition is introduced in a similar way:

M. Sexte, pulsavistine Brutum?

S. Minime, magister.

M. Tanto tibi melius. Si Brutum pulsavisses te virgis cecidissem. Quid fecissem si Sextus Brutum pulsavisset?

Class. Virgis eum cecidisses.

M. Dicite totam sententiam.

Class. Sextum virgis cecidisses si Brutum pulsavisset.

M. Bene. Recte respondistis. Nullum errorem fecistis. Sed si errorem fecissetis non recte respondissetis. Etc.

After this introductory drill the section containing the construction in question (in this case the Lecticarius section of Pons Tironum) is read aloud in the usual way, and this provides plenty of practice by way of question and answer, at first with books open and then with books shut. For example, as soon as this particular section has been read and explained, a dialogue such as the following would be very easy:

M. Quid fecissem, si lecticarium appropinquantem vidissem?

D. E via decessisses.

M. Dic totam sententiam.

D. E via decessisses si lecticarium appropinquantem vidisses.

M. Sed non vidi; itaque quid accidit?

D. Caput tuum assere percussit.

M. Et caput tumidum fiebat, quod non accidisset nisi lecticarius me percussisset. Quid non accidisset, nisi lecticarius me percussisset?

D. Caput tuum non factum esset tumidum nisi lecticarius te percussisset.

M. Ego baculum mecum non habeo, sed si haberem quid facerem?

D. Lecticarium percuteres si baculum haberes

and so on without end.

Ludi Persici.

In Pons Tironum only one new construction is taken up at a time, but the author of Ludi Persici has assumed that all the constructions are known, and permits himself to use whatever syntax he requires. The plays are original productions, though based, to a large extent, upon classical material culled from such places as the Suasoriae of Seneca. They aim, above everything, at being interesting, and boys at the Perse School have always found them so. Of course they are acted as well as read. Some of them will not act as well as others, and one or two -- the De Sagis and the Insula Cyclopum — are perhaps best not acted at all. But most of them will be acted in the classroom with book in hand, and one or two — the Somnium and the Furtum are the best for this purpose — will be learnt by heart and acted properly — without book -- frequently in the classroom and perhaps occasionally on Speech Days and similar functions.

  • For such acting costume is necessary. A local cobbler will make sandals, or the boys may act bare-foot. The tunic may easily be made out of a piece of linen by folding double into an oblong shape to reach from about the neck to the calves of an average boy. Then an opening is left for the head and arms, and the rest (except the bottom) is sewn up. The garment is then put on over the boy's modern shirt and shorts, which are pulled well up the leg so as not to show, and is caught up by apiece of string round the waist so as to form a sort of kolpos, and adjusted so as to fall just to the knees. Chief characters may also wear a piece of coloured material thrown over the shoulders like a chlamys. This is not, of course, correct costume, but it is a useful, simple, and effective convention.

After a play has been acted in classroom the boys sit down, and the master proceeds to his inevitable questioning. Of course the boys do not enjoy this so much as the acting, but if it is made an invariable concomitant of the permission to act they will cheerfully accept their medicine along with their jam. The dialogue form provides excellent, and very natural, practice in such constructions as Oratio Obliqua and indirect question. Thus, when Furtum, for example, has been acted, as soon as the boys are reseated the master will proceed:

M. Quid fur primus alterum furem facere iubet?

D. Salvere eum iubet.

M. Quid dicit se invenisse?

D. Optimum consilium se invenisse dicit.

M. Quis eos spectat?

D. Vigil eos spectat.

M. Quid igitur timuerunt fures?

D. Timuerunt ne vigil audiret de quibus loquerentur.

M. Quid igitur fur alter furi primo imperavit?

D. Imperavit ei ut domum suam veniret.

M. Quid vigil eis imperavit?

D. Imperavit eis ne in viis morarentur.

M. Quid respondit fur?

D. Se domum abire respondit.

M. Quid rogavit?

D. Rogavit num Romanis liceret domum per vias ambulare.

M. Quid vigil deinde eis imperavit?

D. Imperavit eis ut statim abirent.

M. Quid dixit se facturum esse si iterum fures offendisset?

D. Se eos in vincula iacturum esse dixit [si iterum fures offendisset].

The part of the reply enclosed in brackets is not, of course, really necessary, and will not be given by the class until the master insists. But for practice the master wants to hear it, and so insists. He can give as much, or as little, help as is necessary by framing his questions to suit the abilities of the class. For example, his last question above affords a good deal of help. It would have been far more difficult had he merely asked Quid dixit vigil? This practice is conducted first with books open, then with books shut. Something similar should be done after the reading of each scene and also, to a certain extent, after the acting of every complete play.

Written Work.

Written work in connection with the reading is of two kinds:

(a) Translation into English.

(b) A Latin summary or precis.

This is not to be regarded as an integral part of the work. It is, at this stage, merely a test to find out whether the boy has understood what has been read in class or not. It may be set as home-work once a week or once a fortnight. We append an example done by a boy of only moderate ability who left the school in the next year and never made anything of his classics. It is, of course, uncorrected, and shows well, in spite of carelessness, how readily the general sense of a passage read is usually understood. It is a translation of the opening of Furtum from Ludi Persici.



1st Thief (meeting the 2nd thief by night). Good-night!

2nd Thief. Good-night to you also!

1st Thief. I wish to speak to you for a little time for I have found a good plot by which we shall both become rich: (He sees the policeman approaching). But now we must be quiet; the policeman is looking at us and I am afraid that he should hear what we are talking about.

2nd Thief. Come therefore to my house: I have a little pork.

1st Thief. You are kind; we will go together.

Policeman (approaches the thieves). Do not delay in the streets. What are you doing here?

1st Thief. We are going home, rascal. Are not Romans permitted to walk in the streets.

Policeman. Go at once; for if I find you in this part again I will throw you into chains.

(The thieves go away, the policeman walks through.)


(The thieves are lying before a table and eating pork.)

1st Thief. This is my plot. Do you know how rich Tullus is? I saw him many times through a window pouring over a certain desk. There is no doubt that there is much money in it. The desk is near the wall -

2nd Thief. I understand your plot. What then prevents us from digging through the wall and getting out the money?

1st Thief. You have said well: in the middle of the night we will go to the house of Tullus. We will take some very good swag.

2nd Thief. I will be there; only we must look out for the policeman. (They go out together).


The 1st Thief approaches the house cautiously: he hears a noise.

1st Thief (whispering). Who is here?

2nd Thief (comes in from the opposite part). Do not fear, I am a friend.

1st Thief. I thank the Gods I thought you were the policeman. But begin to dig through the wall.

2nd Thief Be quiet or some one will hear you. (He digs through the wall.)

1st Thief. Can you touch the desk?

2nd Thief. I can and already through the hole I can open it.

1st Thief. Let me break it open. Here it is already opened.

2nd Thief (despairing). Oh dear there is nothing in it by a paper.

1st Thief. They are letters but I hear a noise; who is approaching?

The above was all written out as one evening's home-work:, and perhaps the boy attempted too much. The speed at which he wrote may be conjectured from the lapsus calami in the last remark but one.

(b) Latin Summary, or Precis.

This is a more difficult type of exercise. It is done at home with the help of books, and lies open to the objection that the boys are liable to do it very unintelligently. The master must see to this and make it a real exercise in thinking. We append an example, done by the same boy as the last piece of translation, and upon the same theme.


Fur primus occurrit furi secundo in via. Dixit se bonum consilium habere. Sed dum loquitur vigil appropinquinquavit et illos spectavit. Tum imperavit furibus ut domum abirent. Venerunt ad domum ut porcinam ederent. Dum ederunt fur primus narrat consilium suum. Dixit multam pecuniam Tullum habere et constituerunt ire ad domum Tulli et parietem perfodere. Itaque venerunt ad domum Tulli, sed dum parietem perfoderunt, vigiles appropinquaverunt et duxerunt fures ad carcarem.

Obiter Dicta.

One great difference between the direct method and older methods of teaching is, that on older methods progress can always be, at least roughly, measured by pointing to the number of pages "done " in this or that book; whereas on the direct method less than half of the number of pages may have been "done," while twice the amount of Latin has been taught. This is because the successful teacher on the direct method does not march straight along the high-road to his destination, turning neither to the right nor to the left, but allows himself to explore all fascinating little sidetracks which turn up along his course. In other words, his obiter dicta are to be regarded as an essential part of his teaching, for they not only do teach a good deal incidentally, but go far to preserve the spirit which he wishes to maintain in his classroom. They begin to be important towards the end of the second year, though, of course, they are more frequent in the third year, when the class is more or less capable of understanding everything which the master chooses to say. Isolated words will often suggest proverbs, e.g. rixa occurs in the reader; then up goes on the board e iurgio saepenumero oritur rixa; custos calls for quis custodiet ipsos custodes

  • Invariably quoted by the present second-year set whenever the master looks anything up in the Latin dictionary he keeps on his desk. Of course, the way to use such proverbs is always explained, and not only the literal meaning.

and so on without end. Not only are proverbs suggested by isolated words. Outstanding lines from poets and other writers will occur to the master's mind, and he should share his wealth with his pupils. Cunctator, for example, inevitably recalls

Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem,

nd quadrupes suggests the resounding line

Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.

Such things delight the boys, so the time it takes to give and explain them is far from being wasted. Occasionally something will occur in class which recalls an English anecdote to the master's mind. Immediately he tells it to the class (in simple Latin, of course). This may be illustrated by the latest example that comes to mind. A boy was reciting Catullus's

Lugete O veneres cupidinesque

during the repetition lesson, and after the line

illuc, unde negant redire quemquam

he hesitated, and finally went back to the previously recited

nec sese a gremio illius movebat,

and did the same thing when he came, for the second time, to the line

illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.

Thus he was getting into a never-ending circle, and the master exclaimed

"Hoc mihi fabulam in mentem revocat. Animum igitur attendite omnes, atque fabulam vobis narrabo: Olim milites Romani longum iter faciebant. Sub noctem castra fessi posuerunt et omnes circa ignem considebant. Deinde unus ex eis 'Voltisne,' inquit, 'fabulam vobis narrem?' et consentientibus aliis ille hunc in modum perrexit: Olim milites Romani longum iter faciebant. Sub noctem castra fessi posuerunt et omnes circa ignem considebant. Deinde unus ex eis 'Voltisne,' inquit, 'fabulam vobis narrem?' et, consentientibus aliis, ille hunc in modum perrexit : Olim milites Romani.. etc.'"

This is recorded, not because it is the sort of thing to be repeated, but in order to show the kind of trifle in which the master may profitably indulge.

Playful Explanations.

Occasions for such obiter dicta will not be frequent, but in the course of the day the master may take five or more classes. At a low estimate, then, he will have to explain well over a hundred words every day, and he would be inhuman if he never felt tempted to have a little fun. We suggest that he indulge himself whenever such indulgence does not interfere with his teaching. A few examples of the sort of thing we mean are recorded, as the only means of conveying in a book something of the spirit of the direct-method classroom. The word pignus has been explained thus:

"Si nullam pecuniam habeo, id quod saepenumero mihi accidit — ad tabernam eo avunculi mei (laughter from the class). Ante hanc tabernam tres pendent pilae aureae (more laughter). Avunculo meo aliquid pro pignore do, atque ille mihi pecuniam commodat. Pignus est nomen, verbum pignero. Exempli causa, vestem fortasse pignero." It was summer term and the master, realising that he was not wearing a waistcoat, opened his jacket and proceeded " Hodie ad eum ivi." There followed shouts of laughter, and as several boys opened their jackets to show that they also had no waistcoat, the master pointed to one of them, who was wearing a cricket shirt without either collar or tie, and remarked " Pauperrimus videtur esse Simonides."

Nothing pleases the boys more than if the master takes advantage of any little personal incident which may have come to his notice. For example, a second year boy (named Lucius) once injured his leg by falling off his bicycle. A few days later the master, who, owing to a physical infirmity, himself rides a tricycle, had the word testamentum to explain. This he did by saying:

Testamentum est id quod morituri scribimus quo omnia bona nostra amicis relinquimus. Exempli causa, ego moriturus libros meos Marco (a "learned " boy) relinquo, et Lucio machinam meam tribus rotis instructam. Fortasse ex hac machina non cadet."

No one who has not heard the happy laughter which fellows sallies of this nature can have any conception of the spirit which pervades the Latin classroom on the direct method. But we must pass on to more serious matters.


Written composition at this stage is of two main types — (a) Descriptions, (b) Reproduction of a story.

Precis-writing, such as was briefly described when we discussed the reading, is a possible third type, but it is rarely a success at this stage,' and should interest us now mainly on account of the reasons why it does not succeed. These are various, but chief among them is the fact that the writing of the precis itself contains no new interest for a young boy.

  • Later, in the Classical Remove (fifth year) it becomes a regular feature of the work and the boys write out at home a precis in Latin or Greek of the portion of the author read in class each day. It must be remembered that we are dealing with boys from 13 1/2 to 14 1/2 years of age.

His interest has largely evaporated upon the explanation which accompanied the reading of the passage to be summarised. It now figures in his eyes as no more than a rather boring task. To avoid this has now become almost a principle with us, and may well serve to guide us in the choice of composition which should be attempted at this stage.

(a) Descriptions.

Oral work naturally leads to a sort of oral composition, and we begin with this. In explaining the meaning of a word, the master often finds that he is launched upon quite a series of little descriptions.

  • E.g. the explanation of mel naturally brings in flos, axis, and alvearium, and if the master chooses, favus, cera, and cerae.

What we mean by oral composition is a mere development of this, by which the oral description of some connected series of actions is evolved during class and a written account is made at home as home-work. For this kind of oral composition an imaginary incident may be developed from some chance suggestion, or, better still, some real adventure of some member of the class (which the master has happened to hear about) may be painted in lurid colours. But the usual type will consist of a description of what may be called typical incidents, what commonly takes place, for example, in making bread, honey, or cheese, what we do in a boat-race, in hunting or almost any other outdoor occupation. The sort of thing meant will be clear from the following (uncorrected) description of bread-making written by a boy of very moderate ability.


  • The spelling of parnem there has been some carelessness in speech

Arator tauros iungit iugo, Iunctis tauris, agrum arat. In sulcis semina serit, et post breve tempus, segetes crescere incipiunt.

Aestate messores segetes metunt falcibus et frumentum ad mollas mittunt ut molantur. Frumentum mollis molitur, unde fit farina, quae ad pistrinum, pistor parnem coquit. Pistor aut parnem ipse facit quem vendit emptoribus, aut ipsam farinam vendit. Hanc farinam mater familias emit, adque ancillae dat.

Ancilla farinam cum aqua amixtam, furno, ut coquatur imponit, adque nos parnem ita coctum edimus.

(b) Reproduction of a story.

It may be well to describe here the various ways of dealing with the story; although only the easiest is used at this stage. Beginning in the third term of the second year, it is carried on for three terms, and used occasionally in the third term of the third year, and in the fourth year.

  • Questions may be put after every sentence, and answered by the boys singly or in unison, so that they have heard and spoken nearly every word of it before they write it down.
  • The story may be told in short simple sentences, followed by questions, and the boys then asked in turn to group two of these sentences into one, with the proper conjunctions, in as many ways as possible: further grouping of those composed in this way leads up to the period.
  • Or it may be told in a more finished form, with few or no questions, once or twice.
  • Or it may be told in scenes or episodes, each being summed up by one short sentence; these sentences written down forming a skeleton from which the story is to be expanded in the boys' own words. If pictures are available, these sentences may be emitted.  (W.H.S. Jones Latin Picture Stories, the De La More Press, 1/-)
  • Or finally, only a theme may be given, to be worked up at will.

ll new words or idioms are written upon the board by some boy; these alone are entered in the notebooks for use in the exercise. All must be told particularly not to omit these new idioms or words; they will use them, if they are told, but if not, they are apt to take the easiest line, and to omit them. Half an hour is usually quite enough for the preliminary drill : the story may then be written down at once (fifteen minutes), and the home-work may be the same story written from a different point of view. Thus, it may be told in the first person, by one of the characters in the story ; or in Oratio Obliqua; or with other variations. At the beginning of the next lesson, the papers will be returned, with mistakes crossed out, for correction (five minutes); or if there be some general mistakes, after due warning the same idioms or constructions are brought into the new piece: occasionally, the master may find time, while the boys are writing, to go through each piece with its author.


There are a number of good Latin stories in print, comprised in certain elementary reading-books;

  • For example Fabulae by R.B. Appleton  (Bell 2s 6d)

but the best thing is for the master to make his own, since he will then be able to include just those words and constructions which he wishes to teach. He must be careful not to read them; he must speak them, without notes, or if they have notes, they must be inconspicuous, for the more the story seems to come forth naturally and as it were on the spur of the moment, the better is the effect. And if the master cannot remember his own story, how can he expect boys to remember it?

For simple stories there is an inexhaustible stock of animal fables, not only Aesop's, but those of India and Africa. These are usually full of humour, and not seldom, of wisdom; they have a point which may be led up to, and may often be summed up in a proverb, easy to remember. It does not matter how odd or how impossible they are; their very oddity helps us to bear them in mind. In the fourth year, however, a connected series of tales is most useful, where some old friend is recognised again and again in a number of adventures. Such a one is Tyll Owlglass,

  • The Adventures of Tyll Owlglass . (Paul,Trench, Treubner & Co.)

whose pranks may well fill a term; Tartarin of Tarascon is another admirable subject, and the street-boys' mocking verse, modelled on the popular songs of the Roman soldiers, once heard is never forgotten:

Tartarinus ad leones — quando, quando, quando?

The witch tales in Apuleius are heard with rapt attention, and a few scenes from Trimalchio's Supper make a pleasant variety. We have even used Mr. Wells's Food of the Gods; the early chapters are excellent, but the story as a whole has no end, and it is necessary to invent some fantastic catastrophe to wind it up. The Wise Men of Gotham are great favourites, and I only wish there were more of them; but there are many pleasant tales of fools in the Indian books, and some nonsense tales in our folklore, like that of the two men, one blind and the other couldn't see, who saw two other men, one deaf and the other couldn't hear. Robinson Crusoe, Latour's escape from the Bastille, and other tales of Adventure will serve for variety. Stories of classical mythology are obviously useful, such as the Labours of Hercules, or the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.

An example is here given of a story (from Tyll Owl-glass) which, being very long, was told to the class in three parts. The versions are both the third attempts on the part of the boys at this class of work. The first was the best, and the second the worst, done on the particular occasion. It will be noticed that (b) has not only written very little, but does not even understand what he has attempted to write. Our object in publishing his effort is to let others know what to expect, at the worst, from this type of work.

(a) Quaecum Noctuinus noster audivisset, secum ridebat. Manü extenta, capillum posterioris furis vehementer vulsit. Posterior fur, "In malam rem," inquit, "cur capillum mihi vellis ? " Cui prior, "Mentiris" inquit," improbissime, egone capillum tibi vello? Vix possum viam ante oculos meos videre." Perrexerunt. Noctuinus noster iterum manum extendit et capillum prioris furis vehementer vulsit. Prior fur, alveäriö depositö, "Dicis," inquit, "me capilium tibi vellere sed capillum meum vellis. Alvearium porto donec collum meum frangam." Magna fit rixa inter priorem et posteriorem. Noctuinus noster ex alveäriö elapsus in agros effugit.

(b) Quae cum audivisset Noctuinus noster. Et mox manum iterum extenta, capillum furis posterioris vehementer vulsit.

Ille alverio deposito, "In malam rem" inquit. Dicis me capillum tibi vellere.

Songs, Repetition, and Corrections.

This concludes our description of the work done during the second year. But it must not be forgotten that many things — the singing of Latin songs, for example — described under the first-year work are still continued in the second year. As a matter of fact, songs enter more into the second than into the first-year work; for now that the subjunctive and other grammatical forms are known, there is not the difficulty that there previously was in finding a song suitable to the limitations of the knowledge of the class. Most lessons will begin with the singing of one song, but, in addition, as is mentioned in Chapter II, it has been found convenient to allot one lesson per week, during the last term of this year, to a combination of three things. First of all, the boys are given back the compositions which they wrote during the week. These have been marked by the master, who has put his pencil through all mistakes and underlined what he does not like. No corrections are made, but each boy has to find out (in the last resource by consultation with the master) what he should have written. Bright boys quickly do this, and then are allowed to help their duller comrades. Meanwhile any boy who has finished his corrections may put up his hand as volunteering to say a piece of repetition which he has not already said that (half) term. The master keeps a record of these pieces, as is described under the first year's work. The repertory of the second-year class generally consists of:

Catullus's Lugete O Veneres Cupidinesque.

Catullus's Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus.

Horace's O Fons Bandusiae.

The first six lines of Statius' poem to Sleep.

The first eleven lines of the Aeneid, beginning Ille ego ...

Martial's Issa est passere nequior Catulli and Iuli iugera pauca Martialis.

  • The first five pieces are from Ludi Persici, the Martial from Puer Romanus (begun in the third term)

When there are no more individual volunteers to say a poem, the whole class is put on to singing as many songs as the remainder of the period allows.

Latin on the Direct Method - Rouse and Appleton 1925
The Direct Method applied to Latin
Linguaphone handbook for teachers - Rouse





Fut. Indic. -am

Impf. Subj. -m

Fut. et Perf. Indic. -ero

Partic. Pf. -us

Imperf. Indic. -ebam

Plusquampf. Indic. -eram

Part. Fut. -urus

Partic. praesens -ens

Inf. Pf. -isse

Inf. Fut. -urus esse

Praes. Subj. -am


Perf. Indic. -us sum

Fut. et Pf. Indic. -us ero

Plusquam pf. indic. -urus eram


















Lapides et argilla.