Archive for the ‘Latin’ Category

It’s fitting because the Adams would drill Latin into their children’s heads   Leave a comment

I was feeling worn-out and exhausted today, so I decided to pep myself up by reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln, because that is who I am now. I’m reading Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, that book that won all the awards in the late 2000s. I opened the book up to page 152 and scanned the page to see where I had last left off. On page 152, Virginia officially seceded from the Union, taking the crucial Norfolk Navy Yard with it.

With its stategic location, immense dry dock, great supply of cannons and guns, and premier vessel, the Merrimac, the Norfolk yard was indispensible to both sides.

But, of course, Virginia secedes from the Union, and Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, was unable to secure the vital navy yard before the Confederacy took it over. We shall see what the consequences of this was.

The loss of Norfolk prompted Charles Francis Adams* to note in his diary:

We the children of the third and fourth generations are doomed to pay the penalties of the compromises made by the first.

You may recognize this as my facebook status a few days ago.^ For some reason that quote has stuck with me. I stopped at that line again. I read it over a few times. I couldn’t think of why I like that sentence so much. I read it again. Suddenly I realized that to pay the penalty is a vocab term in early Latin studies (poenas dare. Had the sentence simply triggered my Classics scholarship?

I decided to translate the sentence into Latin rather than read on.

After writing out the sentence, the next step is to break it down into parts of speech. Diagramming it. However the old-school folks say it.

We the children nominative (subject)
of the third and fourth generations genitive (possessive)
are doomed first person plural indicative active present
to pay the penalties infinitive/accusative plural (infinitive/object)
of the compromises genitive (possessive)
made wait there’s another verb?
by the first ablative

I stared in horror at the last three steps. There was already a possessive and a verb in the sentence. How could there be more? I set that question aside for the moment and tried to think about the ablative.

Ablative doesn’t have a direct correlation in English, unlike nominative/subject, genitive/possessive, dative/indirect object, and accusative/direct object. The best I can explain it is as a setting. Ablative tells you where the sentence happened, when it happened, or how it happened (ablative of means). The first several chapters of my textbooks avoids ablatives, and then suddenly ablatives are everywhere. They’re hard to get across in English. When I was in high school, I wrote out English translations for every single word I diagrammed: by/with/in/on/from the troops, I would write.

My life is brilliant
My love is pure
I saw an angel
Of that I’m sure
She smiled at me on the subway
She was with another man
But I won’t lose no sleep on that
‘Cause I’ve got a plan

You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful, it’s true
I saw your face in a crowded place
And I don’t know what to do
‘Cause I’ll never be with you

You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful, it’s true
There must be an angel with a smile on her face
When she thought up that I should be with you
But it’s time to face the truth
I will never be with you

But I also knew from my days in community college Latin that there was another use for ablative. And by another I mean “the way bearded dragons and komodo dragons are both lizard dragons.” That way is Ablative Absolute.

There must be an angel with a smile on her face
When she thought up that I should be with you <—BAM WHAM

When the angel thought up that he should be with her, the angel smiled.

Ablative absolute sets the scene like nothing else. It can’t stand on its own, it’s not a full sentence even though it might have a subject and a verb (wait-). It’s very ablative-heavy. And it always (well, typically) goes in the front, especially in Latin.

By the compromises made by the first generation, we the children of the third and fourth generation are doomed to pay the penalties.

Compromissit primis aetatibus facerunt, nos pueri aetatis tertiae et quartiae damnamus poenas dare.

Is it correct? I actually have no idea.

*grandson of John, son of John Quincy
^or you may not, I don’t know you.

Posted September 23, 2015 by agentksilver in history, Latin

Tagged with ,

Id possum tollere   Leave a comment

I’ve started on Chapter 6 of my Wheelock textbook, trying to relearn Latin. I’m focusing a lot more on the vocabulary this time around. It’s helping! I’ve never had difficulties understanding the grammar of foreign languages, but applying it practically has always been difficult, because vocab is hard. I drill myself a few days a week on it.

For Chapter 6 one of the vocab words was salvus, -i, and the definition given was safe, sound. This immediately put into my mind Capital City’s “Safe and Sound”.

I thought, Sumus salvus. I then began humming the ending of the song, which is basically “We’re safe and sound” over and over. They have the same amount of syllables, too. Suuuumus, sumus salvus — suuuuumus sumus salvus! Because I am a huge nerd. Then I tried translating the whole thing from the beginning, and then I got frustrated because I don’t know enough Latin grammar, basically.

I could lift you up Te possum tollere
I could show you what you want to see Te possum exhibere oh no I ran out of room
And take you where you want to be Et te word for take? It can’t be carpere, that is the figurative use of “take”, could it be “bring”? Is that in the subjunctive or is it ablative or what?

So I gave up and went back to studying Wheelock. But the first sentence took me a surprising amount of time. I couldn’t find a word that fit with “lift”. There isn’t a direct translation for the word, as with most English:Latin vocabulary. Latin is a very direct language. It doesn’t allow for much poetry. The first word I found that I sort of liked was “atollero”, and it took me forever to find proof that “tollere” was the same word (it has one less syllable). So the word stuck out in my mind.

So this morning I picked up my biography of Cicero. I read about the success of Marc Antony’s march on Mutina (he wanted the governorship of the Cisalpine province for strategic reasons, but Decimus Brutus already had the position, and anyway it was a big conflict between the people who wanted the Republic to stay unified and those who wanted it to have a stronger central command — an imperator or a dictator at its head). I came across this paragraph:

If the Consuls had survived and his strategy had succeeded, as it very nearly did, Cicero’s attitude towards Octavian would surely have been very different [Cicero had praised Octavian and pushed for honors and complacency towards the boy, hoping to appease him], for his usefulness to the Senate as its protector against Antony would have been at an end. In this connection it was most unfortunate that Octavian learned his “father’s” true intentions. Never one to avoid careless talk if a witty remark or a pun occurred to him, Cicero had observed that “the young man must get praises, honors–and the push.” The Latin is laudandum, ornandum, tollendum; the last word had a double meaning: to “exalt” and to “get rid of”. Towards the end of May, Decimus Brutus warned Cicero that someone had reported this joke to the young man, who had been unamused, commenting tersely that he had no intention of letting that happen.

I thought about how terrible of a Latin translator I am. And how weird of a coincidence it was that the word I had struggled over yesterday, tollere, turned out to be the central word in a pun by Cicero written two thousand years ago; and that I happened to have read that pun the day after I learned about the word. Then I thought how weird it was that Latin had a word that meant both “exalt” and “get rid of.” How often do those situations come up together?

College career path   Leave a comment

unc latin requirements

unc history requirements

I was talking with my brother-in-law the other day (I have a brother-in-law now!) and I told him that I was planning on pursuing a teaching degree at the University of North Carolina. He suggested that I apply as soon as possible, for a variety of reasons. With that in mind, I went and looked up the endorsements necessary to get into the two teaching programs I’m considering.

It appears that I am going to be a Latin teacher. Colonial history is going to have to be a hobby. For now.

Spoilers for the Secret of NIMH   1 comment

So on Thursday I headed back to the United States. I had asked the building manager/doorman/whatever he is to get a cab for me on Thursday morning at 9:00. At about 8:20 on Thursday, I walked out of the apartment building, intending to get some cash from the bank, for the taxi and the airport bag check-in. He was standing outside talking with some folks. When he saw me, he looked worried.

He asked me (in Italian) if I wanted that taxi for 9:00. I said, “Si, vado a uno banco.” (yes, I am going to the bank)

He looked confused.

I said, “É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank)

He turned to the couple he was talking to and said, “Parlete inglese?” (Do you guys speak English)

“No,” they said.

He turned back to me and said, “Taxi per le nove?” (Taxi for nine o’clock?)

“Si,” I said again. “Taxi per nove. É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (Yes, taxi for nine o’clock. It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank.)

He turned to his friends and said something. Finally the man in the couple (in Italian) told me to be down here in half an hour. I said (in Italian) that I would be.

So I took a taxi to the airport, because it was a lot easier to deal with than hauling two suitcases and a full backpack around on public transportation during rush hour traffic. He dropped me off at Terminal Five. That was where all of the flights to the United States left from. But I had said specifically that I was going to Canada. I can only guess that since almost all of the flights to North America leave from Terminal Five, he thought Air Canada left from Terminal Five as well. But Air Canada was in Terminal Three, with all the European flights, for some reason.

So after some mild panicking and resentment on my part, I got on the airport shuttle and to Terminal Three. Everything else in the airport went without a hitch. In the airport, I sat and started The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time and sobbed several times. I sat in seat 38H in the very back of the plane, where I finished before the plane even took off. It’s not a difficult book to read. Except emotionally. I cried so many times.

Fortunately I was dry-eyed when a woman approached my seat and stared at me.

I looked up at her.

“Is this your seat?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

She narrowed her eyes.

“What’s your seat number?” she asked.

“38H,” I said.

She muttered under her breath and walked away. When I saw her next, she was in seat 37G. I think she was originally supposed to sit in 38K, next to me, but for some reason didn’t want to sit next to me. I don’t know why. Maybe she wanted an aisle seat. Maybe she wanted to have two seats all to herself. When I recounted the story to my family later on, my uncle Steve pointed out that I would make a great seatmate because I’m small.

She wasn’t rude. When I remarked aloud to no one that the plane was a lot less full than I expected, she turned around and explained that the back of the plane on long flights was reserved for flight attendants, so they could have a place to nap on their breaks. So she didn’t hate me, at least.

Whatever the reason, no one ever came to sit in 38K, so I had two seats all to myself for nine hours. I stuck my backpack under 37K, so I was able to stretch my legs out as far as I want (and because I’m small, I had almost as much footroom as a tall person would have in First Class). I could use 38K as a place to set my books and my laptop, or another footrest if I wanted to sit sideways. I could use 38K’s interactive screen to show me the flight’s progress on the map, and my interactive screen to watch movies.

After The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, I needed to lightest movie imaginable to lift my mood. I ended up settling on Hotel Transylvania. It was a fun movie, exactly what I needed, but afterwards, I needed something a bit heavier to chew on. So I watched the 1993 version of Secret Garden. Then I tried to read another book, Green Rider, but I’ve read that book so often that I got bored and started skipping parts I knew already. Like, all of the opening scene, where the bad guy ruminates on history, and the heroine gets her mission from the dying Green Rider. I just skipped all of that premise-building. Then I got skipped the next chapter because I knew that too. I decided that since I had skipped three chapters, I should probably just not bother reading the book. Instead I watched The Secret of NIMH.

Although I grew up watching The Secret of NIMH, I hadn’t seen it in several years. I found myself enthralled in a way I hadn’t been as a child. When I was a little girl, I had loved the comical scenes — Jeremy the Crow being clumsy (‘scuse me, pardon me!), Auntie Shrew shrieking in self-aggrandizement, the children tying up Jeremy. I had hardly noticed the main character, Mrs. Brisby.

But now, as an adult, I was fascinated by her. She is a strong character — truly strong, I think. Not physically. Not in a 1990s I’m-a-woman-in-a-man’s-world type of strong female character. She had strong characterization. She had a true personality. I sat back and watched her, and I realized what this woman is:

This woman is Heart. Everything she does, she does from the heart. She is constantly battling her own fear and uncertainty in order to protect those she loves. She begins the story fearful of even visiting Mr. Ages, but she does it anyway. When the tractor begins the plowing early, she immediately runs to the danger without having any idea what she is going to do (another character, Auntie Shrew, manages to stop the tractor, and finds her frozen in fear, still clinging to the tractor). She just wants to save her family.

There are arc words attached to the amulet Mrs. Brisby is holding. They are “Courage of the Heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it’s there.” The actual words on the amulet are “you can unlock any door if you only have the key,” which is also important to note, but nowhere near as important as the words Nicodemus gives us (the “courage of the heart” quote).

After a long and dramatic scene in which the rats get caught up in internal politics, Mrs. Brisby’s house and children (and Auntie Shrew, never forget Auntie Shrew) begin sinking into the mud. The rats all struggle to get the house out of the mud — setting aside their dispute to focus on the task at hand. Justin and Mrs. Brisby are on the granite block of the house. The other rats are tossing rope to them, and they desperate tie the ropes around the block, so that the rats can pull the block to safety. But all the ropes keep breaking. The granite block sinks beneath the mud. Justin only barely manages to pull out a desperate, grieving Mrs. Brisby from the mud. But she is fighting. Her heart, broken, strong, her strength, her courage — even to the last, Mrs. Brisby is fighting to save her family.

And that is why the stone amulet works. Mrs. Brisby, heart personified, is courageous, selfless, but always courageous. The stone unleashes its power and saves the house and the children (including Timmy and Auntie Shrew).

This had always confused me as a child. Why should the stone amulet work, when Mrs. Brisby had been crying and not being courageous? Because Mrs. Brisby never gave up. No, not even when her children were sinking beneath the mud. She may have been crying. But she hadn’t given up, not really. Not ever.

Facciamo spese   Leave a comment

It’s not all just goofing off and trying to figure out what “cernitur” means (was Lamia Cicero’s buddy? Like, super buddy?). Last night, for instance, my roommates and I all put on nice clothing and went to the German bar two blocks away. We would live there if we could, I think. Sarah would, at least.

The roommates tried to eat bread with oil and vinegar without having any plates. So Nicole just drew on the placemat with balsalmic vinegar instead.

This being our last weekend in Rome, we also hit up the outdoor market that’s right outside our door every Sunday. We all found something to like! For example, these moustache scarves:

Just me? Okay, how about hats.

Hey, boys. *winkwink*

Like what you see, huh? I think I look pretty fly. In a female sense?

Yeah, you know this is hot.

Oh also I took a picture of Nicole in a pope t-shirt and her bikini, because we are all classy, classy people in Building 34 Floor 4.

Also I have the most coordinated outfit ever now the end.

Oh Cicero   Leave a comment


Finals season for the summer session is upon us! I am now doing boring things. The downside to reading scholarly articles written in the 1950s is that all of the quotes are still in Latin, because Latin and Greek scholarship was still pretty common back then. So I have to bring the old Latin dictionary out and dust out my Latin grammar, which has been sitting in the attic for months under some old tourist maps and a pile of cobwebs.

I refuse to translate this:

Vidi enim hesterno die quendam murmurantem, quem aiebant negare ferri me posse, quia, cum ab hoc eodem impurissimo parricida rogarer cuius essem civitatis, respondi me, probantibus et vobis et equitibus Romanis, esse eius quae carere me non potuisset. Ille, ut opinor, ingemuit.

Apparently it contains some zingers, but no. I refuse to try. I’m willing to translate this:

aliqua gloria iusta et merit

I think it means “Some fair and deserved glory”, roughly.

I’m not entirely sure why I find this so funny, but I do.

Denizens of Rome   1 comment

Buckle up you guys, this is going to be a wild tale of crazy Romans and conquering public transit. Sadly I do not have any awesome pictures of myself to start this entry so we’re stuck with Tarzan here.

I had stopped to take this picture of a band’s poster. Some random dude, potbellied in a striped polo shirt, waited until I was done, then took out a map, pointed at it, and started speaking in Italian. I gathered enough from his pointing and a few stray words of Italian to understand that he was trying to get to the Pyramid. That was nowhere near where we were. For some reason I had assumed that all Italians, by their fluency in the language, gained fluency in public transportation as well. Apparently not. I had just figured out the bus system and the metro system, like, two hours prior. Now I had to explain how to get to Piramide with only rudimentary Italian.

The guy followed me like a lost dog all the way to the Metro station, which was a hike: a block, up two flights of stairs, and over a bridge. Finally I was able to get a Metro map.

“San Pietro,” he said.

“Oh!” I said. “No, San Paolo!” I ran my finger along the map to show him that the San Pietro stop was the wrong way, and San Paolo was the right way. “Marconi, Piramide — Ribbibia. Marconi, Laurentina — no.”

“Oh!” he said. “Grazie!”

Marconi is a Mussolini-era neighborhood, built a fair distance away from the older, more central parts of the city. It took me an hour or so to get back to the city. I got off on Nazione and looked around. It was around 1:00. I had to be at the Piazza Della Repubblica for my next class at 3:00. I had planned on going home for lunch, but I decided against it.

I bought a sandwich, water, and a cold soda at a cafe. I got it to go, but then I thought, well, where am I going to eat this? Since I was only a block away from the Capitoline Hill, I decided that I would eat there. I headed out; my hands were overladen with stuff, and my backpack was swinging in front of me. I had a difficult time balancing all of it.

I successfully crossed Via del Plebiscito. I was just walking on my merry way, looking ahead at the Hill, making plans for crossing the gigantic roundabout and trying to find shade. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some leathery, skinny, toothless old man burst out through a crowd of tourists. He looked at me, I looked away. Too late. He walked straight over to me, in just the course of a step or two. He shouted something in Italian at me, then threw his clear soda at me; it hit my feet.

I just stared at him, absolutely terrified. My only thought was that I was about to get attacked by this toothless dude. I had absolutely no way to defend myself, unless I whacked him with my sandwich or something.

He said some final word to me — or maybe it was a dry spit — and then he walked away.

I hid in the shade by San Marco and tried not to look at anyone. I ran through a list of what I could possibly have done to provoke him. Was it that I looked at him? Was it because my shoulders were bare? Was it because I had stumbled a bit on the curb? The fact that I hadn’t understood his rant made the whole thing more important and more of a mystery to me. I needed closure. Intellectually, I knew he was just a crazy person and that I had done nothing wrong. But I couldn’t stop myself from wondering.

After lunch I made my way to the Piazza della Repubblica. I was not going to leave this Piazza for much, much longer than I wanted. For a while I read in the shade of a large lamppost. As it got close to 3:00, I got up and started looking for my classmates. I found one, Kelly.

“It’s almost 3:00,” I said.

“I think he said that if there’s no shade we should go inside the church,” she said.

So we did.

“He’s not here yet,” I said. The church was lovely, and there was some sort of peaceful singing going on, but I still wanted to try to make the class.

“I don’t want to leave,” Kelly said. “There’s air conditioning and I don’t want to pay that old lady again.”

“Old lady?” I said. “You mean the one at the entrance? I thought she was just a begger.”

Kelly thought for a moment.

“Shit,” she said.

Fortunately the professor showed up a few minutes after that, and we were on our way. We learned how the church used to be part of a bathhouse, and then moved on to a nearby museum. On our way over, the girls in our class got cat-called. Most of the other girls ignored the, but I made the mistake of glancing at them as I passed.

“Hey!” they shouted. “Hello! Hey! What’s your name!”

I wondered if that was the only English they knew and how they knew we spoke English.

At the museum we examined various statues and their meanings.

Pop quiz! What’s wrong with this statue?

Then we made our final goodbyes to the professor — he had decided to give us Monday and Tuesday off so we could focus on our papers instead. Then we left. Presumably the other students left quickly. On the other hand, it took me a while to leave the Piazza.

First I stopped and took pictures of the fountain in the Piazza.

I had walked past an embroidery shop or a rug shop or a fabric shop or something on the way over. I had spotted in the window a special: small tapestries for 18€. So I headed back to the store to see if I could get anything good. On the way over, I noticed a crowd gathering in the square.


I was stopped by a guy, who began talking to me in English. I stared at him, confused. Finally he said, “Do you speak English?”

“Yes,” I said.

Then I walked on to the store. I bought three for 50€, then headed to the metro to go home. On the way back to the Metro, the guy stopped me again. He asked me some questions in Italian; I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I headed to the Metro station (with a “parlo inglese!” at a woman who tried to stop me at the entrance). But the ticket machines in the Metro didn’t work. So I had to go back out of the Metro and to the stand near the entrance, where there was a guy who could sell me a Metro ticket.

On my way back from the dude, the same Italian guy stopped me again. He put a bracelet on my wrist and said, “One euro.”

I had a sneaking suspicion he was with the crowd that was gathering. Also, I’m suspicious of street vendors, particularly if they don’t have a stand. “What is this for?”

He didn’t understand the question, merely smiled at me.

“Is this a charity? Charity?” I tried to think of a simpler way to say “charity.” “Is this with them?” I gestured at the crowd that was still gathering. It was now attracting a police presence.

He just smiled at me some more.


This is Antonio. He wanted to get a pizza with me. We tried our best to have a conversation, with my elementary Italian and his rudimentary English. Also he kept asking where I sleep. I told him “Trastevere” because it sounded safe — it’s a big neighborhood. I live off of Trastevere, but not on the street itself. So I could answer the question without actually answering the question. I told him “Ho uno ragazzo in America” — probably not good grammar, but it means roughly “I have a boy in America” and he said something like “That’s okay! You can have two!” or “That’s okay! I’m here, he doesn’t have to know!” I tried to tell him that I couldn’t get a pizza with him because I only eat with my roommates. That’s not true, but I wasn’t really interested in getting a pizza. He also managed to answer my question about why the crowd was gathering; it was something related to the protests in Turkey.

Eventually I did manage to make it home, by taking the Metro to Termini, and then the 64 to Argentina, and the tram to home. I think I earned my sleep.