ARLT

The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice

Newsletter 17: July 2004


Dear Classical Friend,


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This is our big month

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July is the big month in the ARLT calendar, when Summer holidays begin and 40 or 50 of us gather for the Summer School (or INSET to be up to date). I'm aware that if you're a teacher in the USA or Japan, or a home tutor in Australia, coming to the Summer School is out of the q. I know also that some teachers prefer the concentrated 'long weekend' format that we run in alternate years, and are saving up for 2005. But I do believe that the Monday to Saturday Summer School has great value, not least by giving opportunities for making friends (networking, if you insist) and sharing ideas and concerns. For those who can't be there, I'll try to report as fully as possible on what is new and useful.


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Joining the Bloggers

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I mentioned this in my June apologetic email. There are several Classical blogs out there in cyberspace, rogueclassicism being a good one from the USA (I think): http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/, but when my technical son presented me with a screen all ready for writing my own blog, I couldn't resist it. I've written from time to time that there's too much material to fit into each month's newsletter, and the blog gives a place to give it an airing. http://arlt.blogware.com/blog There are also pictures on the blog, beginning with a set about athletics I took on a recent visit to Greece. How the written part will develop remains to be seen, but at present it's divided between comments on Classical news and short essays on subjects such as 'Did we Classicists kill Latin twice?' If I can get on line during the Summer School, perhaps I'll write a diary of events there.


Feel free to visit, and to add your comments. Once you've commented, you can ask to be notified by email of any contributions following yours.


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Chat is back

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After one Summer School some ARLT members felt the need to meet regularly on-line to talk about issues arising from the Summer School. The ARLT Chat Room was born. Unfortunately the suppliers of that chat room ceased to offer it, and so the regular on-line meetings ceased. Now I have installed another chat room, and hope that it may be of use. The coding seems a little fragile, but it does work. You can try it at /home/arltcouk/public_html/chat.php . We used to use the previous chat room each Monday at 7 p.m. for half an hour, but I think we must reach a consensus at the Summer School about when the best time is. Unlike the teen chat-rooms we read about, where there are so many members that there's always someone on line, in the smaller world of Classics we need to make an appointment to meet. Meanwhile, if you want to leave a message or question for the Classical world, do use the Bulletin Board. /home/arltcouk/public_html/forum/index.php


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Re-enter Minimus

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How did I miss the launch of Minimus book 2 in March? It was only when an enlightened godmother contacted ARLT about teaching her goddaughter Latin by means of a mouse, that I revisited the Minimus site, enjoyed the animations they've added, and found the news of the new book. http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,5500,1169696,00.html


See below for what the Americans are doing about Minimus.


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Government backing for Classics against AQA decision

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Yesterday, 12 July, Peter Jones was on Radio 4's P.M. programme deploring AQA's plan to drop Latin and Greek in 2006, because AQA's syllabus is the only one that 'twilight' learners can hope to tackle, and if we are left with OCR only it means that only Independent School pupils can take Latin and Greek. Today I read that: "Schools minister Stephen Twigg attacked the UK's biggest exam board for dropping Latin and ancient Greek and called on it to reverse the decision. He said he was writing to the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) to urge it to reconsider a move that has outraged classicists. He said the cut was made without adequate consultation and would hit keen linguists in state schools harder than those in the private sector." Three cheers for Peter Jones.


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International contacts sought

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This email came on June 14th from Jakob Kosowski, Diltheyschule Wiesbaden. Can anyone help?


International contacts:

We're Latin students from Germany and we've been studying Latin for five years (started in grade 5 - first year of high school). We are seeking contact to British students who have been studying Latin for a similar time. Could you point me to a list of contacts so I can give them to my teacher?

Email address is "c/o Mr Bublitz diltheyschule@wiesan.de". We are really grateful for the newsletter inclusion.


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How to make a Greek pot - nice video

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http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/ media_g100.html?batch=0109&file=M00002V1&desc= Making%20Greek%20Vases&speed=100 A 4 minute 9 second video on how a Greek pot was made, decorated and fired. Very handy!


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Thanks again to Brian Bishop for these two items:

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1. Classical events in York:


Saturday 17 July 10-4. Free

National Archaeology Day: Amphitheatre and Visitor Centre - Meet archaeologists at work ...

Roman soldiers in action. Activities


Friday 30 July and Tuesday 3 August 11-11.30, 1-1.30, 3-3.30 Free

Tales of Julius Quasar : Grosvenor Museum, Webster Gallery

"Come along and her about the mischievous ancient Roman sprite Julius Quasar, as written by Nicola Bolton and read by Education Officer Mike Hardman"


Friday 6 August 11.30-12.30; 2-4 £1/child pre-book

Hail Julius Quasar! Grosvenor Museum, Education Workroom

"Listen to more about the mischievous ancient Roman sprite Julius Quasar; draw and decorate your own Julius Caesar character and create a simple mask to act out an adventure."


2. Inspiration from the USA - again! Here's the American Classical League in action:


You are invited on a fishing expedition to help promote Latin at the elementary level.

AMERICAN CLASSICAL LEAGUE SUMMER INSTITUTE SUNDAY JUNE 28


Barbara Bell, author of Minimus, will be at the ACL again this year! She will also be doing a pre-institute session to share information about Minimus Secundus, her second book geared to middle school students. She will travel from "across the pond" and will also share the success of the Primary Latin Project (PLP) . Barbara started the PLP in the UK to meet the need of introducing Latin at the elementary level. We can learn a lot from what she did in the UK. If we can 'hook' the students when they are young they will not hesitate to choose to study Latin when they are in high school. That means more students, more programs, and more teachers. We all know the benefits of studying Latin, but perhaps students introduced to Latin at a young age will continue their studies into college, choose to become Latin teachers, and meet the need for more Latin teachers in the US.


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A Roman wedding photographed

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I don't know how long this link will be live, but if you're teaching Roman weddings, these photos might be handy:

http://www.boston.com/yourlife/weddings/featuredweddings/ gallery/washburn042200/


Psst! You can also get the pics on my blog (see above).


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>From the Chalk Face

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I am delighted to hear from teachers how Classics teaching is going in their neck of the woods. Here is Liz Scott's news:


I wish that there was more to tell about classics at Westgate. I have very few pupils next year, Latin only in Year 11, no beginners. This year I have had some wonderful supply, GCSE and AS Latin (Tacitus!) at Bedales. I shall post myself on the bulletin board as available for more supply...


Sadly I have to miss Summer School this year. I wish everyone a great time.


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What can you do with a Classics degree?

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Do the UK universities still analyse the destinations of their graduates? This little list is from the USA, but might be useful to UK teachers too, in commending their subject:


What do you do with a concentration in Classics? Here's what some Hamilton alumni are doing...


Policy Analyst, New York State Senate

Senior Vice President, First National Bank of Chicago

Associate Director, Public Broadcasting Service

Attorney, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Editor, Houghton Mifflin

Senior Vice President for Business Affairs, ABC Inc.

English Professor, Cornell University

Investment Banker, The Allington Company

Economist, IBM Corporation

Physician, U.S. Navy

Director, National Humanities Center

Classics Professor, Princeton University


Source:

http://www.hamilton.edu/academics/department.html?dept=Classics


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Other items too numerous ....

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Rather than send you a huge e-mail I've put the following items on the ARLT web site, on the Newsletters - Newsletter 17 page. If you are intrigued by any of them, they are here:

/home/arltcouk/public_html/arlt_db.php?catID=44


Learning through rhetorical training - is anything new?

Iphigenia at Aulis at the National Theatre

Trachinae in Washington

Agamemnon, the (Russian) opera

Athens gets its act together, gradually - the National Museum

Welsh news reporter reports on her Latin lessons

Latin and Greek are favourite subjects for 29% of Italians

Tayside Annual Recitation and Project Competition

Several mysteries wrapped in an enigma - best-seller based on medieval Latin

A degree should provide not just vocational skills - with link to full article

Books That Can Change Teens' Lives - including the Oresteia

Treasures of Caesars' Rome in China

Asterix and Obelix XXL (PAL) - review of the computer game

Boudicca to get the Mel Gibson treatment

The Thermopylae 300 - coming film

Are these the sounds of Latin?

Samnites reassessed?

Discussion (in Latin) about Harry Potter (in Latin)

Google in Latin


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Finally, two quotations

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Where do you think these two quotations come from?


"The number of school students interested in the ancient world and in ancient languages is growing all the time."


"Classics departments have been downsizing everywhere for want of students, and cute girls don't have a lot of time for guys who mutter poetry in Latin".


Answers: Scotland and USA (in that order).


Best wishes,


David ********************************************************

Learning through rhetorical training - is anything new?

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Richard Courage in the New York Times of June 23 reported on a 'new' teaching technique that Classicists will recognise as part of Roman education. Here are extracts from a long article:


'Natasha Gill's classroom crackles with tension. Sixteen Barnard and Columbia College students debate a 1790 law turning priests into employees of the revolutionary French government. Each student clutches a copy of Rousseau's "Social Contract" and struggles to make a persuasive case with eloquence, apt quotation and chutzpah.


Assigned to competing factions, the students are participants in a "Reacting to the Past" seminar, which thrusts them into scenarios that reanimate historic issues and classic texts.


... Professor Carnes created the first scenario, based on the trial of Socrates, in response to a nagging "sense of failure" over his freshman seminars.


"Teaching conditions were ideal,'' he said, "good students, small classes, rich materials" that he was well prepared to teach, "but some vital spark was missing." Ultimately, he concluded that the problem was the teaching methods.


The texts themselves were daunting. The Socratic questioning built into seminars created further anxieties. "The more I pushed students to look at other ideas, cultures and societies,'' Professor Carnes said, "the more they clung to familiarity or clammed up, hiding their vulnerability in a shell of silence."


No one hides in a "Reacting to the Past" seminar. The structure forces active participation.


"It's a different way to learn," said Rachel Feinmark, a Columbia student. "You're not just reading the 'Republic' and these other great works. You're living them." Other students describe deep involvement outside the classroom. Gathering in dining halls and dorm rooms, sometimes long after midnight, they study the texts, draft formal presentations, and hatch intrigues.


Nearly 100 faculty members at two dozen institutions currently use the approach. On March 1, the project won the prestigious Hesburgh Award as the outstanding new model of undergraduate teaching and learning..


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Was this Euripides?

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I'm not sure that I regret missing Iphigenia at Aulis at the National Theatre if the Telegraph reviewer is to be believed:


"The drama takes place in a decaying municipal building commandeered by the task force as its HQ, all peeling paint, crumbling plaster and harsh neon lighting in Hildegard Bechtler's evocative design for the National's Lyttelton stage. "Agamemnon, Menelaus and Achilles sport smart suits and haircuts, while the seven women in the superbly drilled chorus are clad in their best black cocktail frocks as they arrive to view the troops, shyly proffering their autograph books for Achilles to sign as if he were a film star. "Every now and then they break off to perform calisthenic routines to the dance music coming over the radio, or to puff nervously on cigarettes, and, as Iphigenia prepares for her sacrifice, stripping off to her undies, they sing All Things Bright and Beautiful like members of the WI."


His conclusion:

"This is an edgy, gripping and often brilliantly atmospheric production, but its relationship to Euripides often seems arrogantly tangential."


Did you see it? What did you think?


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More Greek Drama productions

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1. Trachinae: The Washington Post Thursday, June 24, 2004: 'Some will see it as an act of bravado, others will consider it foolhardy, but Natural Theatricals, the new professional theater company in residence at Alexandria's George Washington Masonic National Memorial, is presenting an obscure and ancient Greek play for its debut. Although the drama is generally well presented, it remains an unwieldy play destined to appeal primarily to a small band of devotees of this art form. Few people have ever seen Sophocles's "The Women of Trachis" (also called "Trachiniai") in performance. The weakest of the great master's few surviving plays, it is rarely staged, most likely because it might be difficult to find a consistent dramatic template.'


2. Agamemnon, the opera.

Murder in Ancient Greece, Accompanied by Choirs; by Allan Kozinn, June 22, 2004


This year the grand novelty offered at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday evening by the Manhattan Philharmonic was "Agamemnon," a work that conductor Peter Tiboris billed as "an opera by Sergey Taneyev." Actually, it was both less and more than that. Taneyev wrote only one opera, "Oresteya," a compressed but still vast setting of Aeschylus' "Oresteia" trilogy, completed in 1894.


"Agamemnon" is the first act of "Oresteya," roughly a third of the work. But Mr. Tiboris offered a bonus. In addition to a slate of vocal soloists, no fewer than three choirs (some arrayed in the balconies) and his Manhattan Philharmonic, Mr. Tiboris invited a handful of actors, including Olympia Dukakis, to read parts of the Aquila Theater Company's version of the Aeschylus text, in a translation by Peter W. Meineck. ...


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Athens gets its act together, gradually

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The National Archaeological Museum is ready for visitors after extensive renovation work. Thirty-two of the 40 ground-floor halls are now open, and the rest will be ready by October.


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News reporter reports on her Latin lessons

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From Wales:

http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/ tm_objectid=14294852%26method=full%26siteid=50082%26 page=3%26headline=language%2dlessons%2dreturning%2dto%2dlatin% 2droots%2d-name_page.html


Getting to know Quintus the slave with volatile Mr Kyle


Our reporter Claire Hill has a GCSE in Latin. Here she recalls the ups and downs of being taught the Classics


GETTING to do Latin at secondary school was quite exciting as far as I was concerned - and yes, I did have a group of friends at the time. Firstly our 12-year-old appetites had been whetted by a weekly dose of Classics, bloodthirsty gods and wars started over who was the prettiest in all the land. Really, Latin and Greek was just like a grown-up version of everyday school life, so what wasn't there to like?


Then there was the fact that you had to wait a year until you could be taught Latin. That alone in the grand scheme of being a 12-year-old did make you feel grown up. And our teacher, Mr Kyle, was a volatile, rambunctious character who could break into a violent rage at anytime during the lesson. Teachers flipping their lids is always entertaining to school kids.


By the end of your first year at school you've already decided if you like making buns in home economics, hate maths and don't like your geography teacher. School becomes routine. But then another language comes into play. It's difficult, challenging and - best of all - dead. There is little chance that you are going to be forced into a situation with a Roman exchange student called Quintus - who's a slave working in a spa - and discuss his favourite pets or food in that awkward, staccato, self-conscious way us humans have when learning a language. No, learning Latin you get to have your head buried in a book and play detective with every sentence that comes your way.


For the uninitiated, Latin syntax does not instantly make real sense. Equipped with a dictionary, your first challenge is to translate the words, then comes the fun bit - you have to juggle the words around to make the sentence. Fun, the time would just fly by, so much so that I dropped our timetabled classes in the third year so I could take it at lunchtime instead. I wanted to keep doing German and French, you see, so lunchtime Latin was the way to go. When it came time to make my GCSE choices, I threw caution to the wind and took it as one of my 11. Despite the fact that I had only been to about five of my lunchtime classes I decided I could wing it.


GCSE gave me a love of Virgil, a hatred of verbs and a C. But whatever the grade, years later I feel that by having a Latin GCSE I'm part of a select group. I might not have to speak the language or even remember all of my school lessons, but Quintus, the slave and our hero of our Cambridge textbooks, will remain with me. The challenging language needs love, determination, diligence and patience - but surely there is nothing wrong with teaching that to today's children.


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Latin and Greek are favourite subjects for 29% of Italians

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Source: Special service by AGI on behalf of the Italian Prime Minister's office


(AGI) - Rome, Italy, 14 June - A survey was conducted by "Cream-magazine" on a sample of 6,348 students in collaboration with the web site, Matura.it, the site exclusively dedicated to the latest secondary school exams. .... Italian is the favourite subject for one in three (31 pct), followed by Latin and Greek for classics (29 pct), then a foreign language (22 pct) and mathematics (18 pct).


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EVENT'S ALL GREEK

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Source: http://news.scotsman.com/education.cfm?id=683382004


CLASSICS scholars from across Scotland gathered at St Andrews University yesterday to take part in the traditional Annual Recitation and Project Competition. Around 100 youngsters from Aberdeen, Tayside, Perthshire and Fife will perform recitals and short dramas in ancient Greek and Latin, competing against their contemporaries for cash and trophies. The competition is organised by the Tayside branch of the Classical Association in conjunction with the university.


Dr Jason König, of the university's School of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, said: "The number of school students interested in the ancient world and in ancient languages is growing all the time."


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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040609/FOUR09/TPEntertainment/TopStories Wednesday, June 9, 2004


Several mysteries wrapped in an enigma


Two friends have crafted the best-selling thriller The Rule of Four by mining a series of Renaissance riddles -- and adding a few of their own, writes RAY CONLOGUE


If you want to sell a half-million books in a few weeks, here's an idea: Take an unreadable book, written more than a half-millennium ago in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean, and turn it into a thriller. Caution: This book is not only ancient, but also has an unreadable title, The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. ....


Whether Hypnerotomachia Poliphil was the work of Colonna the Roman nobleman, or Colonna the monk in Venice, has kept them arguing ever since.


Caldwell was aware that not many young Princetonians, or young people anywhere, care a rat's ass about this sort of thing any more. Classics departments have been downsizing everywhere for want of students, and cute girls don't have a lot of time for guys who mutter poetry in Latin.


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http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=737772004

A degree should provide not just vocational skills - indeed, it need not provide any vocational skills. A first objective of universities should be to protect those elements of education that give students the capacity to reason. This can flow from training in the hard sciences or mathematics - or from vocational material such as law or accountancy. But there is also a powerful argument for the continuing relevance of the humanities, such as moral philosophy, history or classics. They, too, teach students to think and to question, to use evidence, to be sceptical. It's less obvious, and seldom said, that these subjects are also pertinent to a life in business. It's not an accident that a survey for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) last year suggested many employers favoured graduates who had taken traditional degrees from our four ancient universities.


This article summarises a paper by Professor Duncan Rice, principal of Aberdeen University. The full version is published by the Policy Institute and is available at www.policyinstitute.info. Prof Rice writes in a personal capacity.


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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/06/27/ LVGTT79OA01.DTL Amy Crawford and fellow Berkeley High teacher Rick Ayers recently edited "Great Books for High School Kids: A Teacher's Guide to Books That Can Change Teens' Lives."


Ayers, a 57-year-old seasoned leftie -- he was a Vietnam-era draft resister and a member of the Weather Underground -- included plenty of titles that perhaps may not have made it into traditional "Lit-Hum" courses. But Ayers declines to take sides in the great literary cultural war between fans of the Western classics and those denouncing the canon of "dead white men, " saying "wonderful writing exists on both sides of the trenches."


He describes, for example, teaching Aeschylus's "Oresteia'' to a problem class of high school juniors. "Could we really jump off with a story about a warrior king returning from Troy and being slaughtered by his wife and her lover, with the subsequent revenge killing by the cursed couple's son with the aid of his sister?" Ayers asked himself.


Not to mention Atreus serving his brother, Thyestes, a dinner for which he had cooked Thyestes' own children in a stew.


"They were captivated by the tale -- this was no longer obscure Greek literature but an over-the-top horror story," he wrote.


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Treasures of Caesars' Rome in China

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Ancient Rome comes to life in a remarkable exhibition showcasing cultural artifacts from the time of Caesar, writes Wang Jie.


Glory belongs to Greece, while mightiness belongs to Rome -- the ancient saying reflects the overwhelming position of power that ancient Rome once held in the Western world.


Now, that ancient period comes alive again in ``Men and Gods in the Rome of the Caesars,'' an exhibition featuring close to 390 cultural relics, ranging from sculptures, goldware to coins, all on loan from six major museums and archeological institutes in Tuscany, Italy. ``The exhibit is one of the museum's biggest shows this year,'' says museum director Chen Xiejun. ``Looking at the masterpieces created by the ancient Romans, you can almost hear the noises from the battlefields, the hurly-burly from the markets, whispers from rural households and ritual music from the royal palace.'' This exhibition reflects the splendor of Western classical civilization through a comprehensive collection of ancient Roman artifacts, which includes almost everything that would have touched their lives. According to Alberto Ricci, president of Centro Promozioni e Servizi, Arezzo (Arezzo Promotion and Services Center), the golden age of the Roman Empire spans from 100 BC to AD 300. ``With the theme of men and gods, the exhibition beautifully demonstrates the ideal and reality, the happiness and cruelty of ancient society,'' Ricci says. Stepping into the exhibition hall, visitors will immediately be drawn by a series of large marble statues. Young or old, man or woman, citizen or noble, all the statues were carved with an extraordinary expertise, creating vivid representations. Portraits were the most unique feature of Roman fine arts, and were used to celebrate the eminent figures of Roman society or as funerary memorials. ``In terms of statues, the ancient Romans undoubtedly rank the top in the world. There is no compare,'' says Xiao Sheng, a sculpture expert at the Shanghai Museum. ``What they wanted to reflect was reality -- the actual look of an individual.'' ``The Portrait of an Unknown Man,'' for example, depicts a young man whose head is slightly bent to the left, with soft wavy locks. The feature and expression on his face are reminiscent of Hellenistic models. Indeed, the statue looks similar to the traditional Hellenistic portraits of princes. Although most of the statues have lost their noses due to the passage of time, it doesn't seriously affect the beauty of each individual sculpture, when viewed as a whole. The highlight is a female face, a chubby oval with delicate features. The face is framed by soft wisps of hair gathered up with a ribbon on the forehead and knotted on the nape, with long curls escaping, hanging down over her neck. She is an idealized deity full of the sweetness of motherhood, rather than an ordinary person. Her hairstyle and the folds of her dress show the Greek inspiration. ``The Romans were not fans of pure aestheticism,'' says Huang Yang, a professor at the History Department at Fudan University. ``In their opinion, things would lose their intrinsic value under a luxurious surface.'' This preference for simplicity comes through in their daily life, in items like the jewelry they wore. ``You can't imagine how simple the tools the ancient artisans used to manufacture this jewelry,'' said Huang. The jewelry itself, including a ring, earrings, bracelet and necklace, embodies this simplicity as well. The ancient Romans are also known for their stunning intaglio technique. The favorite subjects for intaglio include floral elements, animals and even mythological scenes. ``Roman religion is essentially the study of the relationship between human beings and the gods,'' explains Chen. ``In their eyes, every aspect of human life was conditioned by the gods, and the goal of the religion was to obtain their good will by reinforcing their relationship with humans, or discovering how the gods might influence the activities of humans.'' When a Roman died, according to Chen, the women of the family gathered around the corpse and beat their breasts to show their last respects for their friend or loved one. If the deceased was wealthy, the procession that accompanied the deceased was usually comprised of musicians, torchbearers, mourners and family members. Also on display are the fragment of a sarcophagus, different kinds of urns and several grave steles. Some were highly decorative, made of marble, while others were simple ceramic vases. ``In AD 97, during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), Chinese minister Ban Chao dispatched an envoy to Rome,'' says Chen. ``But the envoy and his delegation were stopped by the Parthians on the way and had to return. Because of this twist of fate, China and Rome, the two great empires in the East and West, missed a golden opportunity to meet.'' But nearly 2,000 years later, China finally has a chance to meet the ancient Romans. Time: 9am-4pm, through September 5 Address: 201 People's Ave Admission: 20 yuan Tel: 6372-3500


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Asterix and Obelix XXL (PAL)

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Action game based on the famous French comic book series by Les Edition Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. Players control both heroes at once, similar to Nintendo's Mario & Luigi roleplaying game -- but the game is completely action-focused. By utilizing the special powers of both Asterix and Obelix at once, players can execute elaborate combo moves between the two main heroes, using such functions as the twister fusion, earthquake, and atomic magic potion.


Features include huge battles inspired by the comics, with more than 70 Romans at once, spanning 40 different levels. Instead of going for a cel-shaded cartoon look, the game portrays Goscinny/Uderzo's world of 50 B.C. in a detailed 3D style, with plenty of humorous animations and special effects.


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Boudicca to get the Mel Gibson treatment

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LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - After the success of his "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson is bent on bringing another bloody historical tale to the big screen.


The actor-filmmaker's Icon production company is working on "Warrior," a dramatic account of Boudicca, Britain's warrior queen, reports Reuters. The story is in high demand in Hollywood, with at least three other scripts in development besides Icon's.


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The Thermopylae 300

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Zombie director signs on for a last stand - 22 June 2004


Forget Butch and Sundance, leave aside Ned Kelly and definitely don't mention Custer. In what is unquestionably the greatest last stand in history, King Leonidas of Sparta and his 300 bodyguards once held a narrow mountain pass, the Gap of Thermopylae, against King Xerxes' Persian army (numbering by some accounts over 100,000) for a week. All the Spartans died, of course, but not before they had decimated the enemy forces and given their fellow Greeks time to unite against the invader and layeth the smackdown on Xerxes and all his men.


This may all have taken place in 480 BC, but after the worldwide success of Troy a mere couple of millennia is no obstacle to box-office success. Sure enough, a new screen version of the ancient battle is to be produced, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, with Dawn of the Dead director Zack Snyder signed on to direct.


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Are these the sounds of Latin?

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You can buy a CD rom ($150) with a Latin course that claims to give 600 or 700 lessons. Some of the early stuff is available on-line as a free demo. I thought ARLT members, who almost by definition are interested in correctly spoken Latin, might like to lend a critical ear to this page, where the sounds of letters are demonstrated:


http://www.learnlatinlanguage.com/DEMPHON.HTM


Whatever we think of the vowel quantities and the pronunciation of 'gn' I think we can applaud the method of testing vocabulary by matching sounds to pictures - though there is no context for the vocab learning, as far as I can see. Have a look at http://www.learnlatinlanguage.com/DEMVOC.HTM#lesson5 and the exercises.


This bit of customer feedback with its comment on the Cambridge course interested me:

* Lowell B. Koppel - USA - lbkoppel@attbi.com (27 June 2003)

'I think your program is excellent. For the past year, I've been trying to teach myself Latin from the Cambridge Latin Course Series of textbooks. I've made some progress. But without "hearing" the material I'm reading, I'm not getting what I want. I had previously bought another CD-based course on Latin ...but found it skimpy and only marginally helpful.


'Based on what I've observed to date, I think your course will help me towards my initial objective – to tackle the Aeneid in Latin (with a dictionary close by I'm sure).'


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Samnites reassessed?

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I thought that I'd read years ago about pre-Roman Pompeii. Why then is the discovery of a Samnite temple of the goddess Mephitis said to be "a complete surprise"? Apparently the Samnites turn out to have been more civilised than we thought. A report by Bruce Johnston in Rome filed on 5th July says:


"The temple complex includes a sanctuary where it is thought girls from good families worked briefly in 'sacred prostitution' as a rite of passage to full womanhood. The Samnites were previously thought of as mountain warriors, whose settlements thrived due to a military pact with Rome, but archaeologists say the finds suggest instead that theirs was an advanced society in its own right. The discovery is the result of a three-year joint project by the University of London and the University of Basilicata in Italy."


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Just for fun

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Discussion (in Latin) about Harry Potter (in Latin):

http://chat.yle.fi/yleradio1/latini/viewtopic.php?t=75


Google in Latin:

http://directory.google.com/Top/World/Lingua_Latina/