Greco-Roman Classics in China: The Case of Virgil

Jinyu Liu poster

Jinyu Liu, Professor and Chair of Classics at DePauw University

April 10, 2014, 4:30 p.m.

Dickinson College, Stern Center 103

Vergil has never incurred any serious scholarly or popular attention in China until the end of the twentieth century. The sporadic and limited translations of Virgil’s works in China are in sharp contrast to his enduring influence in the West and the general popularity of the Homeric epics in China. What factors, then, might have hindered Virgil,who was proclaimed as the “Father of the West” (Theodor Haecker) and “classic of all Europe” (T. S. Eliot), to gain some stature in China in the periods of intense Westernization? What led to the small surge of interest in Virgil in China in the last few decades?  Stepping out of the Euro-centric approaches to Virgil, this paper uses Virgil in China as a case study to tap into the broader issues of the Chinese selection of Western classics and the viability of Western classics in a non-Western context.

Paedagogus: tutor, child minder


Greek terracotta figurine of a paedagogus with a child. Photo © flickr user Ostertag28

A paedagogus is assigned to the young so that the rowdiness of youth might be restrained and their hearts prone to sin be held in check . . . by the fear of punishment. (Jerome, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 2.3.24)

For he removed that area of philosophy which has to do with admonitions, and said that it was the business of the paedagogus, not the philosopher. As if the wise man is something other than a paedagogus for the human race. (Seneca, speaking of the philosopher Ariston of Chios, Letters 89.13.)

I will say this much further about paedagogi: that they should either be educated, which would be my preference, or else they should know that they are not educated. (Quintilian, On the Orator’s Education 1.1.8)

How she used to cling to her father’s embrace! How lovingly and modestly she used to hug us, her father’s friends! How she loved her nurses, her pedagogues, her teachers, each appropriately according to their roles! (Pliny the Younger, from a letter describing the death of a young girl, Letters 5.16.3.)

Well-to-do Roman children spent most of their time under the direct care not of their parents but of tutors, usually older and trusted male slaves, called often by the Greek term paedagogus (“child leader”). Other Latin terms exist: comes (“companion”) and custos (“guardian”). But the foreign word presumably sounded more elegant, much as in English an au pair sounds more sophisticated than a nanny or babysitter. The custom was so general by Augustus’s day that when that emperor was making regulations for theater seating, he assigned a section to boys (praetextati) right next to a section for their paedagogi, no doubt so the boys would be less unruly. Paedagogi were charged with constantly monitoring a youth’s public behavior, in the streets, at meals, at shows, or in the atria of important men. The emperor Galba had three corrupt cronies who never left his side in public, and they were jokingly referred to as his paedagogi.

The use of corporal punishment was widely endured but criticized by enlightened educationalists such as Quintilian. Like primary teachers, they used a rod made of giant fennel, the ferula, because it left few scars. The poet Martial calls it “the sinister rod, sceptre of the paedagogus.” When the young man was of the imperial house, however, more subtle methods might have to be used. The twelve-year-old future emperor Commodus once demanded, when his bathing room was too cool, that the bath slave in charge be thrown into the furnace. His paedagogus discretely had a sheep skin thrown into the furnace, the acrid smell of which convinced Commodus that his order had been carried out. Traditionally humorless, the paedagogus had as his job not so much education as behavioral control. Some might earn the affection of their charges, but as a type, they were not loved. Nero had the respected senator and devotee of Stoic philosophy Thrasea Paetus executed, by one account, “because he wore the miserable expression of a paedagogus.”

An educated Greek, who could teach the boy how to speak proper Greek, was the best sort of paedagogus to have, but this of course was not always possible. Nero, who grew up in relative poverty, was said to have had two paedagogi as a young boy, a barber and a dancer. Augustus punished the corrupt paedagogus of his son Gaius for a serious offence by having him thrown into a river with weights around his neck. Claudius complained in his memoirs about being assigned a cruel barbarian for a tutor, who was given specific instructions to beat him with the slightest provocation.

The word dies out in the Middle Ages, because the custom itself faded with the prosperity of the high empire. But in the meantime it made an interesting detour in Christian Greek. St. Paul compared the law of the Jews to a paedagogus who disciplines us and shows us how to act, until the higher instruction of Christian faith gives us independent moral agency. Picking up on this idea, St. Clement of Alexandria in the late second century wrote an entire treatise called Paedagogus, which gives instructions on a Christian lifestyle for those who, though they have committed to a Christian life, have not advanced all the way to perfect Christian wisdom. It contains advice on what to wear, how to walk, how to kiss, and many other aspects of proper behavior for women and men.

In English, pedagogue resurfaced in the late 1300s, as a synonym for schoolmaster. It thus took a Roman rather than a Greek connotation, since while Roman paedagogi did do some language teaching, their Greek counterparts did not. The pedagogue has continued his rise up the educational ladder, until today pedagogy suggests not mere instruction but sophisticated teaching techniques based on some kind of scientific system—a vice of which the Roman paedagogus could not be accused.

ReferencesTLL 10.31–34. RE 18.2375–2385. Theater seating: Suetonius, Augustus 44.2. Galba: Suetonius, Galba 14.2. Quintilian: On the Orator’s Education 1.3.15. Martial, Epigrams 10.62.10. Commodus: SHA, Commodus 1.9. Thrasea Paetus: Suetonius, Nero 37.1. Nero’s paedagogi: Suetonius, Nero 6.3. Thrown into a river: Suetonius, Augustus 67.2. Cruel barbarians: Suetonius, Claudius 2.2. Paul: Letter to the Galatians 3.24.

ARSMW_coverAdapted from the book Ancient Rome in So Many Words (New York: Hippocrene, 2007) by Christopher Francese.

Ancient Rome in So Many Words: Liberi

Mummy Portrait of a girl, AD 50-70, Roman Egypt. Image © The Trustees of the British Museum

Mummy Portrait of a girl, AD 50-70, Roman Egypt. Image © The Trustees of the British Museum

LIBERI: freeborn, legitimate children (of either sex)

I want you to take a wife to your house so you can produce liberi. (Plautus, Aulularia 148)

You had liberi not just for yourself but for the fatherland, children who could be not just a source of pleasure for you but also who would one day be useful to the state. (Cicero, Against Verres 2.3.161)

Quite a few men are stingy in the raising of their liberi—which were the original objectives of their marriages and prayers—nor do they tend to their education or to the development of their physical faculties. (Columella, On Farming 4.3.2)

You made a contract regarding the manner of your marriage. The writing of that contract rings clear, “for the sake of bearing children” [liberorum procreandorum causa]. Therefore do not approach her, if possible, unless for the purpose of bearing liberi. If you pass this limit, you act against that agreement and that contract. (Augustine, Sermons 278, PL 38.1272.)

Terms of affection for children are not as numerous in Latin as in English, but they include pullus (“chickadee”), parvulus and putillus (“little shaver”), and pupus (“puppet,” “doll”). The most idiomatic and Roman of endearments is pignus. A pignus is whatever one gives as bond or security for a debt, or to assure appearance in court, good conduct, etc. By extension, a person who is a pignus can serve as a “collateral” or “hostage”—for example, in diplomacy between two states. When applied to children, as it sometimes is in epitaphs, in poetry and other emotive contexts, pignora casts them as “sureties” or “pledges” of the love of the parents, assuring the reality of their marriage. But in such contexts it has no legalistic flavor. Often the best translation is simply “dear ones” rather than something more literal, like “little guarantees.”

Liberi is not a term of affection, but, like pignora, it has legalistic roots and lacks any real equivalent in English. It designates children born free (liber) from the legitimate union of a free man and woman. Liberi were the goal of marriage, and raising them properly was seen as a serious responsibility to the state, as Cicero reminds a courtroom adversary. For St. Augustine, they are the only possible reason for having sex. Not spurii (of unknown father), or “conceived promiscuously” (vulgo concepti) from a slave girl, concubine, or courtesan, they were instead certain (certi) and legitimate (legitimi) and provided an indisputable heir. Roman educational advice concerned itself exclusively with liberi, probably on the assumption that other children would be prevented by prejudice from pursuing a public career that was the point of education in the first place. As the Greek writer Plutarch says in this context, “I should advise those desirous of becoming fathers of notable offspring to abstain from random cohabitation with women; I mean with such women as courtesans and concubines. For those who are not well-born, whether on the father’s side or mother’s side, have an indelible disgrace in their low birth, which accompanies them throughout their lives, and offers to anyone desiring to use it a ready subject of reproach and insult.”

The word liberi has a solemn tone that derives from its use in legal and ceremonial contexts, especially in the standard marriage contract. The words liberi and filii are often interchangeable; but in moments of high drama, such as when children were being threatened or dishonored, the solemnity of liberi might be used for emotional effect. “I myself have seen,” says St. Ambrose, “the wretched spectacle of liberi being led off to the auction block to pay a father’s debt, and being kept as heirs to his calamity, though they had no part in his success, and the creditor not even blushing to commit such an outrage.” Another church father says, “You must work hard and take risks in order to keep your children [pignora], your home and your fortunes safe, and to enjoy all the good things of peace and victory. But if you prefer peace now to the hard work . . . your fields will be laid waste, your house plundered, your wife and children [liberi] will become the spoils of war, and you yourself will be captured or killed.” In these passages liberi, with its connotations of legal legitimacy, honorable marriage, and secure inheritance, emphasizes the dastardliness of the moneylender and the threat posed by the enemy. On the other hand, when referring casually to one’s children, it would not be necessary to use a word of such precision, and nati or filii would do.

Filii, as we can see from the French and Italian descendants (figlio and fils), won out in the long run. Liberi seems to have gone out of currency in later Latin, and it left no trace in the Romance languages. Writing in the early seventh century, Isidore of Seville seems not quite to understand it fully when he says, “In the laws, filii are called liberi to distinguish them from slaves.” But of course one could be freeborn without necessarily being a liber in this sense, provided that one’s mother was free. To be a true liber was to be free and also not a bastard.

Given the care with which classical Latin defines the legal status of children, a curious gap in the lexicon is an insult meaning “bastard.” Of the recorded terms, spurius was a rare legalism referring to any child conceived out of lawful wedlock, or one whose father was not known; nothus was the insulting ancient Greek word for bastard, and it is occasionally borrowed by Roman writers. But neither spurius nor nothus ever became a common insult. Illegitimi, while a theoretically possible formation in Latin, is not recorded. Quintilian notes the lack of a good word for bastard in Latin and says that when necessary Romans used the Greek term, nothus. One would think, prone to invective and obsessed with birth and lineage as the Romans were, that spurius would have been a handy stone to throw. But no.

At some point now impossible to determine, bastardus emerged. This mysterious but fertile Romance root yielded Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish bastardo, French bâtard, and passed into all the continental Germanic languages, including English, by the late thirteenth century. But it has no recorded existence in Latin. One theory of the etymology of this non-classical insult says that it comes from the French word bast, as in fils de bast, meaning “son of the packsaddle.” This compares with the British English usage of someone being “born the wrong side of the blanket” or being “the son of a gun” (as in a “shotgun wedding”).

Bibliography: Thesaurus Linguae Latina 7.1301–1304. Plutarch: On the Education of Children 2. Ambrose: On Tobias 8.29. Another church father: Lactantius, Divine Institutes 6.4.15. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 9.5.17. Quintilian: On the Orator’s Education 3.6.97.

ARSMW_coverAdapted from the book Ancient Rome in So Many Words (New York: Hippocrene, 2007) by Christopher Francese.

Reviewing Digital Projects

It is often difficult for digital projects to get any detailed critique outside of the grant writing process, or even then. So I was delighted to see Patricia Johnson’s thorough and thoughtful review of William Turpin’s DCC edition of Ovid’s Amores, Book 1 in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. It was full of good suggestions from Prof. Johnson and her students. She highlighted some problems of which we were already aware, especially the insufficiency of the vocabulary lists. These exclude the DCC core of the 1000 most common Latin words. The problem is that students normally do not have anywhere near that much vocabulary under their command, and access to the core items through the core database is not as easy as it should be. The solution we plan to adopt going forward is to provide two vocabulary lists, one core and one non-core. Bret Mulligan’s edition of Nepos’ Life of Hannibal has these segregated core and non-core lists, and they have proven to have real pedagogical utility. One can say to students at the lower intermediate level, “you don’t have to learn all the words right now, just the high frequency ones,” then hand them that list. One can also make reading texts in which non-core items are glossed.

She also pointed out the problems of using Google Earth for maps of places mentioned in the text. This was an expedient based on the resources we had available, but for many people having to download Google Earth is not worth the trouble, and this constitutes a real barrier to usability. We have some GIS capability to make static maps (Dan Plekhov’s excellent maps for Caesar’s Gallic War), but at the moment true interactive maps that you can dive right into seem to be beyond our budget. But I would welcome ideas about how to achieve this easily.

Prof. Johnson’s use of this resource in a classroom setting yielded some good insights and ideas from her students:

My students propose a notetaking/highlighting feature, with the ability to save both text and notes to use in class, and/or better printing capability for in-class use of the text. Some envisioned a feature allowing the creation of a unique class forum on the site where grammatical and translation questions can be posted and answered by their professor. My seminarians discovered an unanticipated advantage of the electronic format in class: I could project the text from my iPad onto a white board (in our case, green, so font color options would be useful) for in-class scansion exercises without spending precious class time writing out the Latin on the board.

Better printing capability is definitely something we need to work on. Most simply we could just provide a .pdf of the text, notes, and vocabulary. But then we get into version issues. Every time we make corrections (as I did to the Amores 1 edition yesterday based on notes sent to me separately by Prof. Johnson) we would have to go back in and fix the .pdf. Not realistic for our workflow, alas. On the other hand, Nimis and Hayes’ editions of Greek texts are a good model for print-on-demand, and I would still like to see all out commentaries appear at some point as books.

The question of social features is one that we on the editorial board discussed a lot in the early stages. Online user annotation is a fascinating area, but one in which platforms are evolving fast. It’s a moving target, and we felt it was preferable not to do it than to try, and do it badly. Luckily, possible salvation has recently emerged in the form of a developing collaboration with Rap Genius/Poetry Genius, a brilliant social annotation format. Jeremy Dean at Poetry Genius has shown interest in developing some kind of partnership with DCC so that our content can be socially annotated at their site–fine because all our content is under open license (CC-BY-SA). Such a partnership is already proving successful between Poetry Genius and another Dickinson digital humanities site, House Divided (more on that).

The idea of projecting the text on screen is a superb one, for the reasons Prof. Johnson mentions, and because it greatly alters the quality of attention in a classroom setting. If DCC can encourage this growing trend, I would be very happy about that. DCC exists within an academic culture, and within an ecosystem of print and electronic resources. Reviews like Prof. Johnson’s are a much-needed aid to help us explore this new and uncertain territory. I encourage you to read the review in full here, and more importantly to go out and write similar reviews of digital projects yourself if you can. I have started editing a little review series called DH Direct on a different blog, and would be pleased to receive contributions from scholars or students in any field, in classics or beyond.

–Chris Francese

Ancient Rome in So Many Words: Crepundia

CREPUNDIA: a child’s toy rattle, sometimes used for identification; infancy

Marble bust of a sleeping child wearing crepundia (amulets and charms) on a cord across his chest. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Marble bust of a sleeping child wearing crepundia (amulets and charms) on a cord across his chest. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Ebony comes from India and Ethiopia, and when cut it becomes hard as stone . . . it is also attached to crepundia, so that the sight of the color black will not scare the infant. (Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 17.7.36)

All too transitory and fragile, like the crepundia of childhood, are the so-called power and wealth of human kind. (Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 6.9 ext. 7)

From infancy [a crepundiis] he gave equal attention to courage and to eloquence. (From an inscription honoring Flavius Merobaudes, an imperial official and writer of poetry of the fifth century, CIL 6.1724.)

Now in here are the crepundia you had when that woman brought you to me years ago. She gave them to me so as to make it easier for your parents to recognize you. (The madam at a brothel, to one of her courtesans, in Plautus’s comedy Cistellaria 635–636.)

She had already given an indication that she was destined for heaven and not for the couch of marriage: she had rejected her very crepundia, a little girl who knew not how to play. No interest in amber, she wept at roses, disdained aureate bracelets, was sober of expression, modest of gate and, though of all-too-tender years, her character imitated that of gray-haired age. (Prudentius, on the twelve-year-old martyr Eulalia, killed in Merida, Spain in AD 304, Crowns of the Martyrs 3.16–25.)

Crepundia derives from the verb meaning “to rattle” (crepare) and refers in the first instance to the metal charms jingled to try and calm fussing babies. From there crepundia comes to stand in as a symbol for early childhood itself, as in the comment of Valerius Maximus and the inscription quoted above. Unlike today, when such things are generally mass-produced, a Roman tot’s crepundia were homemade and individualized. They might be inscribed with the name of the mother or father, or include some distinctive figurines. Archaeologists have found bells, clappers, letters of ivory, children’s utensils for eating and drinking, and many other objects that served this purpose.

Since they were individualized, crepundia could be used to identify babies who got misplaced. Special crepundia could be given to children by mothers who were compelled by poverty to expose them or give them away, in hope that, when they had grown up in someone else’s care, they might by some chance return and be recognized using the crepundia. Such improbable recognitions of lost or abandoned children, duly verified by crepundia, were a common plot device in Roman and Greek comedy, as in the line from Plautus quoted here.

But this does not mean it never happened in real life. The real rate of child abandonment in ancient Rome is unclear. By one estimate, impossible to verify, 20 to 40 percent of all urban children were abandoned in the third century AD. This is a very high figure, and probably not a normal situation, but it is well paralleled in pre-industrial Paris, Vienna, Milan, and Florence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The comparative evidence corroborates the impression we get from Roman sources, that the prototypical abandoner was an urban woman, perhaps from a peasant background in the city as a domestic servant, for whom taking care of an infant interfered with the necessity of urban employment. The modern evidence suggests that, unlike the happy endings of Roman comedy, however, abandonment was often tantamount to infanticide. Eighty percent mortality and higher in the first year was regular, even when foundling homes were in place (which they were not in ancient Rome).

Bronze Roman necklace fragment with crepundia from the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum

Bronze Roman necklace fragment with crepundia from the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum

Just as crepundia were fragile and fleeting, childhood itself was seen as a time of immaturity and imperfection. Roman children were often praised by adults for not acting like children—that is, for being serious, responsible, and sober, like adults—the so-called senex puer or “old-man boy” phenomenon. Prudentius follows in this tradition when he praises the young martyr Eulalia for wanting to have nothing to do with her crepundia, and “not knowing how to play.”

Bibliography: Thesaurus Linguae Latinae 4.1174–1175. J. Marquardt, Das Privatleben der Römer (repr. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1980) 1.120. Susan Dixon, The Roman Family (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992) 98–132; David Kertzer et al., “Child Abandonment in European History: A Symposium,” Journal of Family History 17 (1992) 1–23.

ARSMW_coverAdapted from the book Ancient Rome in So Many Words (New York: Hippocrene, 2007) by Christopher Francese.

Annotating with Poetry Genius and House Divided

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX.

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX.

From scribbled marginalia  to full-scale scholarly treatises that gobble the works on which they comment, text annotation is one of the most basic and diverse activities of the humanities. Its purposes embrace the intensely personal, the didactic, and the evangelical. It serves all kinds of communities, from the classroom to the law court, from the synagogue to the university research library.

The movement of text annotation to an online environment is still very much a work in progress. There are many platforms attempting to marry original text and a stream of added comments, some attractive and functional, some awkward. Crowd-sourced annotation is being tried in many corners, and sometimes it catches on (check out the remarkable wiki commentaries on the novels of Thomas Pynchon), sometimes they build it and nobody comes.

Rap Genius and its sister sites Poetry Genius and Education Genius are the most exciting recent entrants into this field. What distinguishes these sites is first the astonishing ease and flexibility of the interface. The mere selecting of a chunk of text allows one to add not just a typed comment but audio, video, links to parallel passages, embedded tweets, virtually anything digital. The other good thing about the Genius sites is the way they tap into existing communities of fans, readers, teachers, and students. Education Genius is well-funded by venture capital and has a staff that talks directly to teachers, works to make the site useful to students, and builds bridges with other sites and institutions.

A case in point is the emerging collaboration of Education Genius with Dickinson’s House Divided Project. An annotated version of Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 autobiographical sketch is now available at Poetry Genius, and represents the beginning of partnership between the House Divided Project and the Genius platform spearheaded by Dickinson College student Will Nelligan (’14). There is a general annotated guide to the sketch, which was originally written for a Pennsylvania newspaper when Lincoln was a presidential candidate, and also a version especially designed as an open Common Core platform. This is in keeping with the  strong educational outreach of House Divided and its director, Associate Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History Matthew Pinsker.

There is an audio recording of the sketch in the voice of Lincoln as recreated by Todd Wronski, part of a larger multimedia edition of Lincoln’s writings being undertaken by House Divided. In the Genius platform clicking on different colored text brings up an annotation. Here is one with an embedded video player. Note that annotations are fully “social,” in that one can give them a thumbs up or down, share in various ways, and leave a comment on the comment.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Some annotations simply add contextual information. Others, like the one above, hint at an interpretation, as a teacher might, in an attempt to get the reader thinking beyond the surface of the text. Others amount to polite essay prompts:

Lincoln Genius Screenshot 2

One can easily create an account and start annotating.

Lincoln Genius Screenshot  3

House Divided’s annotations often take the form of questions.

The idea of annotating with questions, in addition to statements, is a fine one, helpful to teachers and students alike. Note also the ability to brand annotations with the House Divided logo, which marks them as more authoritative and “verified.” The folks at Poetry Genius understand the power of reputation, and unobtrusively include it in the platform in a variety of ways.

The ease of annotation—one can sign up for an account in a moment and fire away—makes this platform well-suited to “class-sourcing,” the adding of content by students under academic supervision, and in fact that is how these particular annotations were created. High quality content created collaboratively for a well-defined audience in an attractive, open, and flexible format: digital humanities doesn’t get much better than that.

I am delighted to say that Jeremy Dean of Education Genius will be visiting Dickinson on April 17, 2014 to speak with a group of faculty and students about text annotation and to further develop this collaboration between the Genius sites and Dickinson College. If you would like further information about this event please contact me ( francese at

–Chris Francese


Review: Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World App

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World App. Princeton University Press, 2013. iTunes $19.99 US.

Reviewed by Meagan Ayer, Dickinson College ( ayerm at

iTunes preview

In December 2013 Princeton University Press launched the much anticipated app version of its Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. The original print version of the Atlas, overseen by Richard J. A. Talbert and published in 2000, was the first atlas to provide comprehensive maps of ancient Greek and Roman territories stretching from Britain to India and Africa. It immediately became the standard for maps of that part of the ancient world. The extent of territory and level of detail required that the atlas be large (13.25 x 18 in. unopened), and its high quality came at a fairly high price (currently $395 US), which meant that “the Barrington” was not always easily accessible to individuals. The application is, therefore, a welcome effort to make all the scholarship of the Barrington Atlas available to individuals anywhere at anytime.

Barrington Atlas Dust Cover

The app itself is surprisingly small, weighing in at only 411 MB. In this compact package you have access to all 102 maps of the original Barrington which are stored locally, allowing the user to browse maps on an iPad without being connected to the internet. Upon opening the app, the Princeton University Press logo appears, followed by a cropped version of the dust cover from the print version. In order to access the application features from here, it is necessary to either tap the screen or swipe from left to right. Doing so reveals the navigation menu.

Navigation Menu
Navigation Menu

There are three different ways to view the content of the atlas. If you simply wish to browse the maps you can select the Maps tab. This will load a thumbnail gallery of all the maps in the atlas which you can flip through before tapping on a particular map to select it.

Thumbnail Gallery
Thumbnail Gallery

Alternatively, a navigational menu button in the upper right hand corner of the gallery allows for the selection of maps by region. Simply open the menu, choose your larger region and then select a specific map.

Selecting Maps by Region
Selecting Maps by Region

One can also use the Locator tab, which pulls up a map displaying the entire area covered by the atlas overlaid with boxes corresponding to individual maps. If you wanted to view a map of the Nile delta you could simply select box 74 to be taken to that map. If you are looking for maps of ancient sites within a modern country, a button is also provided in the upper right hand corner to turn on and off modern borders.

Map Locator
Map Locator

Finally, you might be searching for a specific site in the atlas. Selecting the Gazetteer tab opens a searchable alphabetical listing of all the sites included in the atlas. A pop-out drawer located in the upper right hand corner of the screen explains the organization of modern and ancient site names as well as country abbreviations. Searching for a site returns links to each map on which that site appears.

Gazetteer Tab
Gazetteer Tab

Unfortunately, search results are not saved, so that if you click through to one map, the search must be performed again to see the other maps. It is possible, though, to save individual maps to the Favorites section by tapping the star icon to the right of the map coordinates.

Saving Maps to Favorites

There are a few interesting features within the maps themselves. Tapping in the center of a map drops down a tool bar containing key and compass icons. Selecting the key icon slides out two drawers from the right which elucidate the symbols and coding of features and time periods on the map. This is a vast improvement over the print edition which required flipping back and forth within the atlas to read the key.


Tapping the compass icon in the tool bar reveals thumbnail maps of adjoining regions that can be used as short cuts to those maps. Additionally, a large compass icon appears in the center of the screen; touching this icon reorients maps so that true north appears at the top of the screen.

Compass icon in the tool bar reveals thumbnail maps of adjoining regions

It also enlarges the map, which is less useful, forcing you to carefully zoom out again to see most of the map. It is extremely easy to accidentally zoom entirely out of a map and into the map browser; the creators might consider removing the feature allowing users to zoom out to the map gallery as it serves little purpose and can result in some frustration.

Version 1.1 has already begun to address some of the issues noted by early adopters. The app no longer cycles through the start-up sequence again after backgrounding; instead it picks up on the page or map last viewed. Stability has also been greatly increased. In version 1.0 the app was given to crashing during navigation, however, I have not experienced any crashing since upgrading to version 1.1. Also, smaller symbols and place names on maps that would often appear slightly blurry in version 1.0 when fully zoomed in, are crisp and easily read in version 1.1.

Still there are a few missteps, almost all of which appear to result from mimicking the print volume in digital format too closely. For example, the Introduction tab simply replicates the same material of the print edition, including table of contents and credits. While the introduction itself is worth reading, I am not certain how useful the table of contents from the print edition is within a digital app. It seems unlikely that someone searching for a map would backtrack to the introduction rather than simply use the browse or list features. Moreover, the short tutorial provided for the app is static and buried in the help section of the main menu. It would be beneficial to either pop-up the tutorial the first time the app is opened or run a short video illustrating how to navigate the app.

I could wish for more interactive features within the app, such as the ability to plot routes and otherwise manipulate the maps— similar to what is found in the Ancient World Mapping Center’s on-line tool Antiquity á la Carte— but that would, I suspect, require designing entirely new maps from the ground up. I might also wish that the app was available on more platforms. As of this moment it is limited to Apple’s iOS, preventing Android tablet owners from using this wonderful resource.

Overall, the app version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman Worlds is an admirable effort. It provides all the information and resources of the original Barrington Atlas in an easily transportable format at a fraction of the cost. It is significantly more accessible to students and scholars at home or on the road and I suspect that, like its predecessor, it will become a standard tool for students of the ancient world.

This review of the Barrington Atlas App tested version 1.1 and was conducted on a 128GB iPad Air running iOS 7.0.4.

Professional Development opportunities at Notre Dame of Maryland University

From the wonderful Sister Therese Marie Dougherty come these announcements, (borrowed from the latin-bestpractices listserv):

LLT511 Teaching Caesar and Vergil Spring 2014

This workshop-format course will cover the content of the new AP Latin syllabus, with a focus on teaching translation, grammar, scansion, essay writing and other components of the AP Latin exam. Classes will meet on six Saturdays from 8:30 to 3:00, beginning February 1 and ending May 10. An on-line option will be available for anyone who lives too far to commute. Meeting dates are February 1, 22, March 8, April 5, 26 and May 10. Students earn 3 graduate credits. Further information and registration forms may be obtained from Sister Therese Marie Dougherty at  tdougherty at<mailto:tdougher….

Tour of Roman Britain July 7-19, 2014

A ten-day program in England, July 8-18, plus two travel days. Most of the program will be based in London where we will examine artifacts from the Roman period in the British Museum and the Museum of London and visit some of the remains of Roman Londinium. Day trips will include Fishbourne Palace, Bath, Colchester, Cirencester and Verulamium. Our program will conclude with a tour of Roman Chester and the Roman fort at Vindolanda.
Register now to reserve a place. Information and registration forms are available from Sister Therese Marie Dougherty at  tdougherty at<mailto:tdougher….

Sister Therese Marie Dougherty, SSND, Ph.D.
Professor of Classics
School of Arts and Sciences
Notre Dame of Maryland University
4701 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21210
Phone: 410-532-5559
Fax: 410-532-5794

A Podcasting Approach to Greek and Latin Orality

This is a talk I gave at the APA on Jan. 4, 2014, as part of a panel organized by the Society for the Oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature. The full assignments, rubrics, and student projects are available here. The handout with a couple more links and Quintilian’s Guide to Dignified Gesturing, is below.

There are many ways to keep the sounds of Greek and Latin alive, and make them part of the classroom and the learning process. I want to share with you a podcasting assignment that helps me do this, and I hope that some aspects of or variant on it may be helpful to you as well. I use it in my fourth semester Latin and Greek classes, which are called “Introduction to Latin Poetry” and “Introduction to Greek Poetry.” The Latin course (typically 15 people) is based around Catullus and Ovid’s Amores, the Greek course (typically about 7) around the Odyssey. In addition to reading and transl
ating, the students do an assignment comparing different published translations of a particular poem or passage, to get them focused on close reading and different styles of translation. The podcast follows that, as a summative “final paper” substitute. The final product is a 6-8 minute audio recording with three parts:

  • a discussion of a poem or section of a longer piece
  • and translation written by the student
  • a reading of the piece aloud in the original language

This assignment reinforces the point that Greek and Latin poetry was performance art, meant for the ear, not just the eye. But it also helps forward my central learning goals for the class:

  • read Latin poets of moderate difficulty in Latin with appropriate assistance
  • relate the Latin poetry to its historical and literary contexts
  • identify and appreciate literary and stylistic features of Latin poetry

[See full assignments here: Latin, and Greek versions.]

Through the process of drafting the script and making the recording the students hit all these areas in ways that harness their creativity, help them fully master and “ownetize” a poem, contextualize and explain what they like about it to an audience of their peers, relating it to its historical context and its larger themes. The podcast medium, unlike a traditional research paper, is a piece of public scholarship, in which the students point out specific stylistic features, discuss its effect, and actually perform it for an audience, but without the pressure of a live audience. They attempt to explain, translate, and perform the poem as an authentic piece of verbal art.

Results vary, of course, but are often something to be proud of. Podcasts by my students are perennially at or near the top downloads on Dickinson’s iTunesU channel, and occasionally get a comment or two from the internet on the WordPress blog where I also post them. Of course, not all of them are perfect. For broadcast ideally we want not just good, correct writing, but something to grab the attention of the listener and hold it; not just competent recitation, but audible passion; not just research, but insight and application; not just accurate translation, but English that sings. In short we want not just excellence, but panache.

Now of course panache is exactly what you think about when you think about an academic research paper for a Latin class. Wait, no, it’s not. The reason I keep doing this assignment is not just because it fosters performance of Latin and Greek. It is also because of the way it transforms the writing process, wresting it from the Soviet tyranny of the five paragraph essay with its fulsome, stilted introduction, its formulaic paragraph structures and transitions, its smoke-blowing vaguery, its bottomless insincerity. The required style is more journalistic than academic. The main idea has to be up front, not languishing at the end of the first paragraph. You need to give the listener a reason to care. Since this writing has to be capable of being processed by actual human beings, not me, I am put in the position of a coach, rather than a judge and executioner. Students are thus much more willing to re-write and take advice, much less threatened when I criticize their work. The most common comments I make on the first drafts are

  • don’t use technical terms (poetae novi, Enniamn, choliambic), or else explain them so ordinary people can understand them.
  • find an angle a particular aspect of the poem that intrigues you; start with a grabber
  • Say what you think, what you like or don’t like about the piece, help the listener to appreciate it
  • Subordinate research to your own ideas.
  • Don’t translate too literally.

An in-person meeting is essential to get the recitation up to snuff. Most students are petrified about the meter and the macrons. This meeting is opportunity to make the point that there is really no such thing as reading “in meter.” Pronounce it well, read it like you understand it, sell it, perform it, that’s what counts. Here again the presence of that external audience and the project-based nature of this make the students much more willing to take instruction, less like a class and more like a music lesson.

Passing out a rubric ahead of time is also helpful

[my rubric is here]

This to me is a good example of the use of technology that, far from distracting for the core values of the humanities, enacts them, while at the same time working on public speaking skills and technological competencies that will be useful far beyond the Latin classroom. This kind of thing is really in some ways a recuperation of Roman traditions of rhetorical education and public speaking. The advent of digital humanities and of social media (which are two different things) is an opportunity to revive the ancient art of rhetoric, a point stressed by the entirely classicist-free group of authors of the 2012 book Digital Humanities:

In the era of pervasive personal broadcasting, the art of oratory must be rediscovered. This is because digital networks and media have brought orality back into the mainstream of argumentation after a half-millennium in which it was mostly cast in a supporting role vis-à-vis print. You Tube lectures, podcasts, audio books, and the ubiquity of what is sometimes referred to as “demo culture” in the Digital Humanities all contribute to the resurgence of voice, of gesture, of extemporaneous speaking, of embodied performances of argument.

Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp, Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012), p. 11, original emphasis.

In closing, I’ll offer you some advice from that great Roman professor of rhetoric Marcus Fabius Quintilianus on how to take this podcasting approach to Greek and Latin orality one step further into the realm of video podcasting. Quintilian discusses performance and gesture at length in his treatise on the education of the orator. For your enjoyment I abstracted the key points about gesture, essential stuff as we make the move to Latin and Greek on Youtube:


Podcasting Training outline (Brenda Landis, Dickinson Media Center):