Hussey’s Latin Homonyms

John Muccigrosso (@JD_PhD), whose published work was so helpful in the creation of the DCC core Latin vocabulary,  alerted me recently to a hidden gem of classical scholarship, George B. Hussey’s Latin Homonyms: Comprising the Homonyms of Caesar, Nepos, Sallust, Vergil, Terence, Tacitus, and Livy (Boston: Benj. H. Sanborn, 1905; available here in scanned form). It is a very full list of homonyms from these authors (the entire corpus in most cases, but only [only!] the orations of Cicero and early books of Livy, up through XXII), crucially including citations of each instance. So, for example, we learn that feri means “fierce” 6 times in that body of Latin, and “strike!” only once. The string ferias means “holidays” twice, and “you may strike” once.

a small taste of the Latin geek delights to be had from Hussey's Latin Homonymns

a small taste of the Latin geek delights to be had from Hussey’s Latin Homonymns

Fascinatingly, Hussey chose to include at the bottom of the page “unmated” homonyms, that is, cases in which one of the pair, while grammatically possible, does not actually appear in the corpus he examined.

It is as if Hussey in 1905 had chosen to do the precisely task that computers are notoriously poor at doing. The potential here for natural language processing in Latin, and the improvement of automatic parsers, seems manifest. If we could expand on Hussey’s data to take in a larger corpus, and continue to use human inspection to categorize the occurrences, then we could get a pretty good picture of the likelihood of a particular homonym deriving from a particular dictionary headword, even without looking at the context. With his homonym list, finding thousands more occurrences of each is now a trivial task. With the help of contextual analysis of the kind being pursued by Patrick Burns (@diyclassics) and others, we could really make progress. For me the goal here is to augment tools such as the Bridge, which creates vocabulary lists that are accurate and helpful to readers. Combining this sort of data with good, author-specific dictionaries holds enormous potential to ease the burdens of Latin and Greek learners in the years ahead.

Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop 2017

Dickinson Latin Workshop: Prudentius’ Psychomachia

July 12–17, 2017

346The Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop is intended for teachers of Latin, as a way to refresh the mind through study of an extended Latin text, and to share experiences and ideas with Latinists and teachers. Sometimes those who are not currently engaged in teaching have participated as well, including retired teachers and those working towards teacher certification.


Marc Mastrangelo (Dickinson College)

Christopher Francese (Dickinson College)

The text for 2016 will be Prudentius’ Psychomachia. This miniature epic of 915 hexameter lines dramatizes the “Battle of the Soul,” pitting colorful and articulate dramatizations of the virtues and vices in mortal combat.

Chasity Pierces Lust, illustration from a manuscript of the Psychomachia, British Library. Cotton MS Titus D XVI, folio 7r St Albans, England, 1120AD.

Chasity Pierces Lust, illustration from a manuscript of the Psychomachia, British Library. Cotton MS Titus D XVI, folio 7r St Albans, England, 1120AD.

Prudentius (died after AD 405) was from Roman Spain. He practiced law and was twice provincial governor, perhaps in his native country, before the emperor Theodosius I summoned him to court. Towards the end of his life Prudentius retired from public life to become an ascetic, fasting until evening and abstaining entirely from animal food, and writing poems, hymns, and controversial works in defense of Catholicism.

Prudentius’ elegant and vigorous Latin has earned him the title “The Roman Vergil,” and the Psychomachia  creatively uses many phrases and ideas from Vergil’s works, especially the Aeneid.

350Deadline for applications is May 1, 2017. The participation fee for each participant will $300. The fee covers lodging, breakfast and lunch in the Dickinson cafeteria, the facilities fee, which allows access to the gym, fitness center, and the library, as well as wireless and wired internet access while on campus. The $300 fee does not cover the costs of books or travel, or of dinners, which are typically eaten in the various restaurants in Carlisle. Please keep in mind that the participation fee of $300, once it has been received by the seminar’s organizers, is not refundable. This is an administrative necessity.

Lodging: accommodations will be in a student residence hall near the site of the sessions. The building features suite-style configurations of two double rooms sharing a private bathroom, or one double and one single room sharing a private bathroom.

324The first event will be an introductory dinner at 6:00 p.m., July 12. The final session ends at noon on July 17, with lunch to follow. Sessions will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each day, with the afternoons left free for preparation.

TO APPLY: please contact Mrs. Terri Blumenthal, by the application deadline May 1, 2017. The fee for 2016 is $300, due in a check made out to Dickinson College, by the fee deadline June 1, 2017.

For more information please contact Prof. Chris Francese (

Conventiculum Dickinsoniense 2017


July 5–11, 2017

The Conventiculum Dickinsoniense is an immersion seminar designed for all cultivators of Latin who wish to acquire some ability at ex-tempore expression in Latin. A wide range of people can benefit from the seminar: professors in universities, teachers in secondary schools, graduate students, undergraduates, and other lovers of Latin, provided that anyone who considers applying has a solid understanding of the grammatical essentials of the Latin language. A minimum requirement for participation is knowledge of Latin grammar and the ability to read a Latin text of average complexity, even if using a dictionary often.  But no previous experience in speaking Latin is necessary. Sessions will be aimed at helping participants to increase their ability to use Latin effectively in spoken discourse and to understand others speaking in Latin. After the first evening reception (in which any language may be spoken), Latin will be the language used throughout the seminar. Participants will be involved in intensive activity each day from morning until early evening (with breaks for lunch and mid-afternoon pauses). They will experience Latin conversations on topics ranging from themes in literature and art all the way to the routines and activities of daily life, and will enjoy the benefits of reading and discussing texts in the target language. Activities will involve both written and spoken discourse, both of which engage the active faculties of expression, and each of which is complementary to the other. The seminar will not merely illustrate how active Latin can be a useful tool for teachers, it will show how developing an active facility in Latin can directly and personally benefit any cultivator of Latin who wishes to acquire a more instinctive command of the language and a more intimate relationship with Latin writings.


Prof. Milena Minkova, University of Kentucky

Prof. Terence Tunberg, University of Kentucky

Minkova and TunbergWe can accept a maximum number of 35 participants. Deadline for applications is May 1, 2017. The participation fee for each participant will $300. The fee includes lodging in a single room in campus housing (and please note that lodging will be in a student residence near the site of the sessions), two meals (breakfast and lunch) per day, as well as the opening dinner, and a cookout at the Dickinson farm on 9 July. Included in this price is also the facilities fee, which allows access to the gym, fitness center, and the library, as well as internet access. The $300 fee does not include the cost of dinners (except for the opening dinner and the cookout at the Dickinson farm), and does not include the cost of travel to and from the seminar. Dinners can easily be had at restaurants within walking distance from campus.  Please keep in mind that the participation fee of $300, once it has been received by the seminar’s organizers, is not refundable. This is an administrative necessity.

Registered participants should plan to arrive in Carlisle, PA on July 5, in time to attenDSCN2294d the first event of the seminar. This first event is an opening dinner and welcoming reception for all participants, which will begin at about 6:00 p.m., in which all languages are acceptable. The actual workshop sessions (in which Latin will the exclusive language) will begin early the next morning on July 6.

For more information and application instructions write to: Professor Terence Tunberg:


Core words not in the Aeneid

Vat.lat_.3225_0101_fr_0049r_lcroppedDiverting Latin parlor game: take a very common Latin word (in the DCC Latin Core Vocabulary) that does not occur in Vergil’s Aeneid, and explain its absence. Why would Vergil avoid certain lemmata (dictionary head words) that are frequent in preserved Latin? Sometimes the reason is simply metrical (celeriter, imperator); in other cases, perhaps a word sounded too prosaic (cibus, servusuxor, interim) for high poetry; sometimes a word just isn’t appropriate for the “prehistoric” period of the epic (provincia, praetor). Sometimes it’s a little hard to figure. Why not sapiens? Why not maiores? Why relinquo but not reliquus? Why vagor but not vagus? Check out the list below and let me know what jumps out at you. The Vergilian data comes from LASLA  (no automatic lemmatizers were used, all human inspection), as analyzed by Seth Levin. To check its accuracy, search the DCC version of Frieze’s Vergilian Dictionary, which includes definitions and citations, as well as (LASLA-based) frequency data for individual lemmata. At times there might be some lemmatization issues (for example barbarus came up in the initial list of excluded core words, since Vergil avoids the noun, though he uses the adjective twice. I deleted it from this version). Ok, here’s the list. Enjoy!

eo (adv)
mundus (adj)
solum (adv)

Image: detail of an illustration of Vergil’s Underworld, from  Fulvii Ursini schedae Bibliothecae Vaticanae (Vaticanus Latinus 3225), also known as the Vergilius Vaticanus or “Vatican Vergil” (49r), magnificent illustrated codex written in Italy in rustic capitals at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century AD. Source: Digital Vatican Library.

Dickinson Latin Workshop 2016 Bede

Thanks for a great week to everyone who participated in this year’s Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop, reading selections the Venerable Bede for five days: Janet Brooks, Daniel Cummings, Michael DiMarco, Michael Erdman, Andrew Fenton, Jen Larson, Eli Goings, Jason Lalonde, Jacqueline Lopata, Kristen Masters, Hugh McElroy, Oliver Morris, Lauren Murphy, Julia Rhodes, Jonathan Rockey, Kitty Zackey, Ashley Roman, Clara Hardy, Rob Hardy, Peter Rook, and Louise Wesson.

Thanks also to everyone who helped make it possible: Terri Blumenthal (Classics Academic Department Coordinator), the staff at Conferences and Special Events, especially Dottie Warner, Jodie Bowermaster, and Sarah Ireland, and also the Dickinson drivers and dining hall staff, and to the Roberts family, whose generous gift to the Dickinson classics department helps us keep the costs low for participants.

Special thanks to Andrew Fenton for bringing his delicious home cured meats to share, and to Hugh McElroy and Jen Larson for bringing home made mead. What would reading Bede be with a good cup of mead?

Most of all, thanks to Rob Hardy for providing us with superb notes that will be the basis of his DCC commentary on selections from the Historia Ecclesiastica.

This was a delightful, rewarding, and rejuvenating week with a wonderful group of Latinists and friends. I hope to see everyone next year!

–Chris Francese

Workshop: Commenting on Latin Poetic Texts

I am both pleased and daunted to be leading a workshop on writing commentaries on Latin poetic texts, a full-day affair to be held on June 30, 2016 at the Guanqi Center at Shanghai Normal University. Here is an abstract:

Ut tibi sit legisse voluptas: Commenting on Latin Poetic Texts

This workshop will consider the art of commenting on Latin poetic texts, first as it has been done in recent years for English-speaking audiences, and then, in open discussion, considering how it might be done in the future for Chinese-speaking audiences. While scholars sometimes think of commenting on a text as an objective process of collecting the facts necessary for full understanding, in practice, the question of audience is paramount. Commentators mediate a text for an imaged reader, and must have a sympathetic awareness of what that reader needs, desires, and can process or understand. In addition to supplying felt needs, however, the commentator can actively lead and model humanistic practices: the precise appreciation of poetic language, close reading, cultural literacy, and skill in translation. The workshop will analyze some good examples of this kind commentary in English on Ovid, then invite a forward-looking brain-storming session on how best to enhance the experience of reading Ovid for Chinese readers of Latin literature. Topics will include the art of the interpretive paraphrase, gloss, and summary; some reliable resources for finding information about geography, mythology, grammar, Roman customs, and rhetorical and literary devices; and techniques of commenting on style and tone.

(The Latin tag in the title comes from the epigram to Ovid’s Amores.) The workshop is part of the festivities for the second annual Shanghai Normal University Guangqi International Center for Scholars Classics Lecture and Seminar Series, organized by the wonderful team of Jinyu Liu 刘津瑜 and Heng Chen 陈恒


Prof. Liu is the Principal Investigator of “Translating the Complete Corpus of Ovid’s Poetry into Chinese with Commentaries,” a multi-year project sponsored by a Chinese National Social Science Foundation Major Grant (2015-2020). She is collaborating with more than a dozen scholars from four countries A full conference with a very impressive roster of speakers will be held in Shanghai in May 31-June 2, 2017.

I am not directly involved with this project, but it served as a useful handle to think about a commentary-writing workshop in Shanghai, helping achieve a more concrete focus for what is a rather terrifying topic. My own activity as an editor on DCC has given me lots of particular ideas and preferences, but the last thing I would want to do is foist those on a Chinese audience. The really exciting thing here is the opportunity to reinvent the genre in a different context, taking the best aspects from the traditions of European commentary and liberating new energies. My goal is to show a few examples of what I think are particularly good recent instances in English, and let the discussion go where it will. Looking forward to a stimulating discussion!

–Chris Francese

Favorite Commentaries: Jones’ Selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses

I’ve been reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses with a third year college Latin class, and we are using Peter Jones’ commentary on selections from this work, published by Cambridge University Press in 2007. I wanted to take a minute to celebrate the virtues and pleasures of this book, as does Betty Rose Nagel in her enthusiastic BMCR review. What Rose Nagel couldn’t do is show the layout.

If you can take a minute to read the introductory paragraph, text, notes, and close readings for this short passage (pp. 33–34), it will be clear that this is philology of a very high order, but put at the service of the first-time reader of Ovid.

Jones p. 33 Jones p. 34


  • Introductory note
    • Clear, brief summary of what has gone just before, setting the physical scene for the passage
    • Mention of who the main characters in the scene are, with details that are important background for understanding the passage at hand, in this case their lineage
  • An italicized heading, with line numbers and summaries: helps in reader orientation
  • Text with macrons: this helps in pronunciation and metrics. Jones’ word order helps, those little carats, are idiosyncratic and may seem distracting to experienced readers, but they are quite helpful to students, at least when first encountering Latin hexameter poetry. They taper off later in the book.
  • Notes:
    • line numbers signaled in bold
    • vocabulary is given in full dictionary form, with typographic difference between lemma and definition
    • references are given to a standard grammar
    • glosses are literal, with any understood matter in brackets.
    • freer translations are followed by a more literal versions in parentheses
    • high frequency vocabulary is marked as such (and given in a list at the end of the section)
    • definitions are brief, and context appropriate
    • there is mention of rhetorical figures, but not too much
    • the important items for comprehension are given first, followed by other information (see especially the ordering of the three items in the note on 353 iungo)
    • notes point out what is typical of Ovid (e.g., note on 351)
    • typography contributes to clarity (note the hanging indents)
    • There are no quotations of parallel passages from other authors, such as litter most classical commentaries, often bewildering and frustrating novices
    • There is a small number of frequently used abbreviations
  • Close readings (at the foot of the page):
    • every point made is followed by parenthetical citation and/or quotation of the Latin that supports it.
    • “cf.” is used sparingly for relevant parallels from the work under discussion
    • Jones comments on tone (“tearful emotions,” “charming innocence”)
    • He frequently mentions what Ovid chooses not to do, but which might have been expected
    • Discussion of rhetorical devices notes the effect of such devices
    • He comments on what makes the passage particularly effective and well-written

Writers of commentaries on classical texts, even at levels higher than the student audience Jones aims to serve, could do worse than imitate its style, layout, and self-restraint. Cambridge’s Green and Yellows get much love in the classics world, and have even inspired a tribute rap. But surely I am not the only one to blanch at the baroque tendencies of some recent volumes of the series. Perhaps there is a middle ground to be staked out, a commentary that possesses the clarity and restraint of Jones, so helpful to novices, but which also puts the reader in touch with contemporary scholarship and criticism, as the Green and Yellow series does so admirably.

Needless to say my students loved using the Jones commentary, and missed his help when we moved on to read some excerpts from Fasti 4, with the aid of Fantham’s excellent Greek and Yellow. But by that time, thanks to Jones’ help, they were no longer novices, and could take on the challenge of figuring out things on their own. Indeed, the final project is a collaborative commentary writing exercise on the Parilia section of the Fasti, in which they are trying to imitate Jones’ style. The results should be ready to show in a week or two, and will be published online. Watch this space for more details. And on behalf of the members of this class, thank you, Mr. Jones!

Praise for Mulligan’s Nepos on DCC

Tip of the hat to Rex Stem for his kind words about DCC in a recent BMCReview of Bret Mulligan’s Nepos:

I have never taught from an online commentary, but I am persuaded that this text would be an effective way to do so. The different types of information that the student needs are easily accessible, the format is pleasing and intuitive, and the level of the notes is appropriate and rigorous. The printed version is successful in itself, but the appeal of the online version is manifest. My pedagogical habits would have to change somewhat if I were to teach from an online commentary (would we all have screens in front of us? would we also still want to have printed texts to annotate?), but this is precisely the sort of online teaching resource that encourages experimentation with new formats and methods. As a pedagogical platform for teaching Latin with digital materials, this text is visionary in its design.

If you are experimenting in this way, please leave a comment and let everyone know how it’s going!

Classicists without Borders

reaching hand

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski, via flickr

Classical outreach programs are proliferating. See, for example, the ones at Oxford, the University of Cincinnati, the Classics in Communities Project in the UK, and the variety of outreach initiatives at the SCS. The problem with the term outreach is the slight air of desperation. There must be people “out” there who have never heard our message, who need to be “reached.” Hands extend into a void, waving cheerfully at passersby, signaling for attention, anxious not to be ignored. I  believe we should think less in terms of reaching out and more in terms of service, of finding places where our skills are needed or welcome, even when those are not the places that our ordinary professional lives typically take us. Possibly the best current example of this is the series of workshops run by Classics in Communities, bringing support to those in schools with no Latin programs who want nonetheless to teach Latin. I can think of two other areas where there is a certain void, a space where the voices of Classicists without Borders would potentially be welcome, even useful, but have not so far been heard very much. The first is podcasting. The podcast medium is widely enjoyed as recreation be people as they exercise, walk, travel, go about housework routines, etc. This is an audience hungry for new content, eager to explore new ideas, and interested in all sorts of things. Perhaps they studied Latin at school, or have always had a love of mythology. The mechanics of producing and delivering podcasts to this audience are well within the technological competence of most classicists. Success in the medium, as with much teaching, requires a conversational style, a sense of humor, and an ability to tell stories. A second area is that of digital project reviews. The vast majority of people who are not professional classicists find their information about the classical world on the internet, and there is a heartening proliferation of good quality digital projects about the ancient world. Still, there is a good deal that is slapdash and ill-informed. Who can tell the difference? Classicists can. Where is there a reliable venue of critiquing, evaluating, and commenting on digital resources? Nowhere. The SCS Communications Committee (which I currently chair), among its other activities, is creating just such a venue as part of the SCS website and blog. When qualified review of open digital resources becomes as routine as it is for monographs, the prestige and the quality of open online publications will rise. The SCS Communications Committee has created a clear set of guidelines for such reviews, and is actively soliciting reviewers and projects to review. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for this, or ideas about other “Classicists with Borders” initiatives.