Learning Classics is a bit like putting on a magic pair of 3-D glasses. Once you start delving into the language and the culture, you'll start to see it all around you. This blog is a record of the club's journey through the worlds and language of ancient Rome and Greece... and through modern times, too, searching for the influence of classics all around us. You'll also be able to find vocab, home tasks, links and generally enlightening info here, too.

29 November 2014

Lesson 10 - Me, myself and I

Salve, acolitus sum!

A final push on our language work this week, before the Saturnalia fun starts. 

The class demonstrated its ninja skills in identifying verb forms by grammatically analysing* song lyrics: third person plurals from Bastille ("and the walls came tumbling down..."), imperative plural from Band Aid ("throw your arms around the world..."), and imperative singular from Rihanna ("baby... shut up and drive"). We spotted an infinitive in Pharrell's 'Happy', which then led us on to a new verb form: 'I', or the first person singular. 

Klaudiusz' translations
Nailaa's Latin 
We then had a go at translating first person singular verbs from Latin to English and English to Latin, taking the infinitive, finding the verb 'stem' and then adding 'o'.
 And then the countdown to Saturnalia began. Gizem read us some facts about Saturnalia, the Roman winter festive holiday (which you can see here in more detail. Home task for this week is to find modern equivalents of Saturnalian traditions (on the handout), perhaps persuading you that Christmas has some roots in cultures much older than Christianity.

Don't forget it's our Great Roman Bake Off week next week. See you in the Food Tech room ten minutes earlier than usual!

* and singing, of course!

22 November 2014

Lesson 9 - Curse you all, again!!

Noli perire!
Another week with a big language focus so that we could curse and order not just on one person, but many. To do this, we learned the plural imperative. What's more, we learned how to form any imperative, singular or plural, from the infinitive of the verb. The infinitive ('to ...') form of the verb is a handy, handy friend and we'll meet it loads more in the coming weeks.

We then looked at some curse inscriptions recovered from the baths at Bath (Aquae Sulis) - top-notch nastiness. Don't ever steal anyone's girlfriend in Bath.

After all this intensive cursing, we took a few moments to consider whether curses actually work. Benedict very astutely commented that curses only work if the curser and cursee believe in them - they rely heavily on the power of suggestion and biased thinking (see this site for a more detailed explanation). We watched a scientific investigation into one of the most famous curses of all: the Curse of King Tutankhamun's Tomb, which seemed to be responsible for the deaths of many people (and dogs!) associated with the tomb's excavation. But with a little scientific and rational thinking, it turned out that the 'curse' could be explained away.

We've had a few intensive language weeks, and we've got another one next week, but don't forget that Saturnalia is on the horizon. We'll be celebrating the Roman season of fun with our Great Roman Bake-Off on the 5th December, and our British Museum Treasure Hunt on the 12th December.

Valete omnes! (which is a plural imperative, as you know...)

15 November 2014

Lesson 8 - Curse you!

Her Maj enjoys a nice red
Today we all got a bit mean. The first cruelty was dished out in the form of a test (yes, without looking at our books!) to see what we'd remembered about nominatives, accusatives, singulars, plurals, feminines, masculines, neuters AND... vocabulary. Everyone had to describe six pictures in Latin. Could it get any more challenging?

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dali, 1937
 Next, we investigated some curses in ancient mythology: Tantalus, Narcissus and Cassandra. To the right you can see an interesting interpretation of the Narcissus myth by surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Take a close look at the picture and see if you can relate any details back to the story of Narcissus. By the way, you can see this actual painting here in London at the Tate Modern.

Steady on, you mean lot!!
In language work, we took a look at imperatives - verbs that command - which are very useful for casting curses, or, if you're in a more kindly mood, giving benedictions ('bene', well/nicely + 'dictum', thing spoken). After assembling a few imperatives (and negative imperatives) together with adverbs on paper, we got all authentic and etched our curses on metal to make defixiones. These were curses written on lead and thrown into a sacred well to 'activate' them. You can see some brilliant examples at the Roman Baths in Bath - but more about this next week.

08 November 2014

Lesson 7 - A brief history of defenestration

Great to see everyone back and full of enthusiasm after the half term break.

Latin, Greek, Arabic and Anglo-Saxon
We started our session with some etymological detective work, prompted by a very insightful question from the classroom floor about how words come into being. Etymology is the study of words' origins and usage over time, and - of course - this word itself comes from Greek:  'etumon' means 'true meaning', and '-logia' is the suffix denoting 'study of' (as in biology, the study of 'bios' - life). In pairs and using dictionaries, we discovered the etymology of some everyday and unusual words, and sorted them out by linguistic origins. Max kindly expounded on the Old English roots of 'window', and then Tanvir, with the help of the class and the knowledge that 'fenestra' is Latin for 'window', worked out the meaning of 'defenestration'. Here's a dramatic defenestration for you:

This was followed by some important recapping on nouns and their genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), number (singular, plural) and cases (nominative, accusative). We now know that we have to detect these three things in the ending of the noun, and this will help us make sense of our sentence (once again, we all cried out, "NOT WORD ORDER, WORD ENDINGS!!"). Knowledge was put to good use in describing in Latin the goings-on in six pictures, making sure that all nouns were in the right number and case, and that verbs matched their subjects in number (singular or plural, '-t' or '-nt').
Gizem's killer epistula
Max's generous equus