2021 Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop: Ovid’s Little Aeneid (Metamorphoses 13.623–14.582)

Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop: Ovid’s Little Aeneid (Metamorphoses 13.623–14.582)

July 12-16, 2021

woman at beach at sunset

Meghan Newell Reedy

The Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop will be held online this year. While this situation is far from ideal, we hope it will allow those who could not normally travel to Carlisle to participate. We are delighted to have Meghan Newell Reedy with us as guest instructor. Meghan grew up in South Africa and the Pacific Northwest, and has lived in Boston, Texas, England, and, currently Maine. A graduate of Whitman College, she holds an M.A. from the University of Durham and a D.Phil. from Oxford University. She is a former Dickinson faculty member and is currently Program Coordinator with the Maine Humanities Council. Her scholarly work focuses on Propertius. Among other things she thinks a lot about how textiles and clothing get made and worn and usually has a knitting / sewing / weaving project on the go. Longtime attendees will remember Meghan from Dickinson summer workshops on Tacitus’ Germania (2011), Propertius (2012) and Ovid’s Fasti (2013).


  • Online meetings will take place daily 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Eastern time US, with a break in the middle. Group translation will be carried on in two sections, one for the more confident (affectionately known as “the sharks”), one for the less confident (even more affectionately known as “the dolphins”) led on alternating days by Meghan Reedy and Chris Francese (Dickinson College).

Reading Schedule (Approximate)

Monday, July 12: Metamorphoses 13.623–808

Tuesday, July 13: Metamorphoses 13.809–968, 14.1–24

Wednesday, July 14: Metamorphoses 14.25–222

Thursday, July 15: Metamorphoses 14.223–444

Friday, July 16: Metamorphoses 14.445–582

Registration Fee

$200, due by check on or before July 1, 2021. Make checks payable to Dickinson College and mail them to

Department of Classical Studies, Dickinson College

c/o Terri Blumenthal

Carlisle, PA 17013

Reading Ovid Aloud for Homework

O pandemic, mother of invention. I have started assigning my Ovid students homework of submitting a recording of 10-15 lines, which we read at sight in class, read aloud rather than translated. Moodle makes this easy to submit. It’s amazing how readily you can tell if they understand. I added a part that involves picking five key words and looking them up the dictionary and explaining why they think they are important, which gets in an interpretive element consistent with my learning goals. But that’s not essential, of course. The results of the first round are so good, the ability to hear if they get Ovid’s tone so cool, the interpretations they gave in the written part so perceptive, and the homework so damn easy to grade, I had to share. I emphasized that I was not judging their pronunciation, but rather their pausing and emphasis as it reflects comprehension. I may never go back to grading written translations.

Here is the prompt:

  • Read the passage out loud in Latin with emphasis and pausing that reflect comprehension. Submit a recording.
  • Find the five most important or emphatic words in the passage in your view;
    • write the location in Lewis & Short where the contextually appropriate meaning of each if these five words is listed
    • give the contextually appropriate translation of these five words
    • explain briefly why you believe each word is important in the context

And here is the example I provided:

Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.1–4.

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas          

corpora; di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)    

adspirate meis primaque ab origine mundi          

ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen!

nova: “new” (LS novus I.A), or “strange” (LS novus I.B): this is the first significant word, and separated a long way from the word it modifies, corpora, which gives it emphasis. What he has to say will be “new” and/or “strange.” Exciting!

mutatas: “changed” (LS muto II.A.1), going with formas. This whole poem is about change, so it makes sense to foreground this word in the first line. mutatas formas is pretty much Latin for the Greek title Metamorphoses (“Transformations”).

adspirate: “to be favorable to, to favor, assist (the figure taken from a fair breeze)” + dat. (LS aspiro I.A.2), governing coeptis meis (“the work I have begun”). Ovid is calling on the gods to favor his enterprise, so this is a key word, emphasized by being first in the line. It’s imperative, looking back to the vocative di in line 2. Tone is confident (?).

perpetuum: “continuous, unbroken, uninterrupted” (LS perpetuus I.A). Ovid’s song will be “continuous” and extend all the way from the origin of the world to his own time. Very ambitious! Also, if you’ve read the Metamorphoses you know it’s loosely organized, with one story after another in a continuous stream. So he may be giving us a heads up about that.

A few notes:

  • I grade these on a 1-10 scale, and they take under 5 minutes each to grade.
  • The due date is midnight on the day after we read the lines at sight in class. I don’t want it to get stale. Great way to review and reinforce, I think.
  • The students have as a textbook Peter Jones’ superb Reading Ovid. This helps the students by giving them context, interpretive summaries, vocabulary, macrons on the Latin, and excellent interpretive notes. I frigging love this book. This assignment asks them to go beyond it by investigating in the dictionary and saying what they think.

Is Owen and Goodspeed Worth Saving?

portrait of William Bishop Owen

William Bishop Owen

Generations of beginning Homerists have been asked to purchase the little book Homeric Vocabularies by William Bishop Owen and Edgar Johnson Goodspeed. I acquired it in college, and later, when I came to teach Homer, I also asked my students to buy it. It’s a mainstay. The blisteringly critical review by Wm. W. Baker in Classical Review of 1908, however, has convinced me, however, that it is a piece of junk from the student’s point of view. Originally published in 1906, it has been frequently reprinted, and is currently published by the University of Oklahoma Press in a revised edition, copyright 1969. It has lists of words in Homer, organized by frequency. The very first page has an impressive list of verbs occurring 500 to 2,000 times. There are 13 of them, all the greatest hits:

list of 13 common Greek verbs

The 13 most common verbs in Homer, from Owen and Goodspeed (1906 edition), p. 3.

Other lists include verbs that occur 200 to 500 times, down to ones that occur 10 to 25 times. Noun lists give those occurring 500 to 1,000 times, down to 10 to 25 times. There are (combined) lists of common pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions.

Baker first questions the whole approach of learning vocabulary from lists. Probably better to read fast and widely, he says. True enough. But if you must have lists, at least make the lists in a way that gives the student needed help and doesn’t mislead or make the student’s life more difficult. The review (full text below) points out a number of flaws, only some of which were rectified in the 1969 revision. The main version available on the internet is from 1909, and all these criticisms apply.

  • Greek words are not associated with English definitions, which are given only in the back of the book. They should be in parallel columns. Duh! This was fixed in the 1969 revision.
  • Related words, and even different forms of the same words, are widely separated (e.g. τανύω, τείνωμ, τιταίνω, which are nos. 151, 275, and 504 respectively).
  • Words of similar form but different meaning are not juxtaposed so the student may be put on guard not to confuse them.
  • English definitions were haphazardly taken (without attribution) from the English version of Authenrieth’s Homeric Dictionary (1891, now on Perseus), which was old-fashioned and clunky even back in the day. The results are frequently misleading, or just laughable (ἤαβάω, “Am at my youthful prime”).
  • Definitions for parallel forms of the same word (e.g. λανθάνω λήθω) are inconsistent.
  • Needless synonyms make memorization harder. ἔγχος, “Spear, lance.” Why spear and lance?
  • Attic forms, with which most students are more familiar, are not provided for comparison, for words like πρήσσω and θηέομαι. The same goes for words in which Attic meanings vary substantially from Homeric ones, like φοβέω, ἀρκέω, and ἀσκέω.

When I think how many brilliant, dedicated Homerists there are in the world, all the monographs and commentaries that have been published in the last 100 years, the enormous progress made in understanding Homer at an advanced scholarly level, and how no one has thought it worthwhile to create a more effective replacement for this potentially so useful book, it seems to sum up something basic to the culture of classical scholarship. The mind especially boggles at how easy it would be to solve all these problems and add countless improvements in a digital environment. I’m hoping to get my Homer students this spring interested in collaborating on an overhaul for DCC. Ok, here is the full text of Baker’s review in The Classical Review, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Jun., 1908), pp. 128–129:

Homeric Vocabularies: Greek and English Word-Lists for the Study of Homer. By WILLIAM BISHOP OWEN, Ph.D., and EDGAR JOHNSON GOODSPEED, Ph.D. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1906. Pp. viii+ 62. 50 cents, net.

To those who believe in the systematic study of vocabularies, the title of this little book has a hopeful sound. And doubtless the book itself may fulfil its purpose reasonably well in the hands of many teachers. Yet it seems as if it might easily have been made much more useful. The object of such a list should be to enable the student to fix the meaning of as many important words as possible in his mind with the least possible labour. And this can hardly be accomplished with the present book. First of all its arrangement strikes one as faulty. The Greek words and the English are in separate halves of the book, nor do the Greek and their meanings even occupy corresponding places on their respective pages. Much less laborious, certainly, for the learner would have been an arrangement of both on the same page in parallel columns. The words are further separated into three groups, verbs, nouns, and, thirdly, the other parts of speech together, and in each group its members are separated into a half dozen lists according to the frequency of their occurrence in Homer. This plan has some advantages, but, on the other hand, the labour of memorizing is unquestionably much increased: related words and even different forms of the same word are widely separated (e.g. τανύω, τείνω, τιταίνω, are Nos. 151, 275, 504 respectively); nor are words of similar form but different meaning placed in proper juxtaposition so that the student may be put on his guard and not confuse them.

The choice of meanings, too, is not above reproach. They are, we may say, almost entirely chosen from the English translation of Autenrieth’s Homeric Dictionary, as but a brief glance will show, and although meanings of words may not be subject to copyright, it might have been well if the editors had acknowledged their indebtedness. Unfortunately, also, they are not always chosen wisely. For example, τελέθω is ‘Am become, assume,’ where ‘assume’ is worse than useless; so with πειρητίζω, ‘Test, sound.’ For τρωπάω (a word which, so far as Ebeling’s Lexicon shows, does not occur the ten times the editors claim for it) we have ‘Change, vary’—entirely unsuitable meanings except for a single passage. Again one might reasonably expect to find identical meanings given for parallel forms of the same word. But quite the opposite is often the case. Thus λανθάνω is ‘Escape notice, forget,’ λήθω is only ‘Escape notice’; κεδάννυμι is ‘ Scatter,’ σκεδάννυμι, and σκίνδαμαι, ‘Scatter, disperse,’ for no apparent reason. And in general why should so many useless synonyms be given? Why should ἔγχος be ‘Spear, lance’ or θύρη ‘Door, gate’? It seems obvious that unless a word has more than one distinct signification, only a single meaning should be set down. For if the meanings are to be committed absolutely to memory one is easier to learn than two; if not, the method of wide and rapid reading would seem preferable to fooling with a word-list. Among other meanings susceptible of improvement are those of μεγάθυμος, ‘Great-hearted,’—a mere school-boy’s rendering—and ἡβάω, ‘Am at my youthful prime,’—enough to make even a school-boy laugh. All of which goes to show that the meanings must have been selected in a very haphazard fashion.

Additional information would be desirable in some cases: thus the meaning of active and middle of such verbs as ἅπτω and λανθάνω ought to have been differentiated. To have the Attic forms given in words like πρήσσω and θηέομαι would be helpful, though it may not be necessary; so also the Attic meaning, where this varies widely from the Homeric, as in φοβέω, ἀρκέω, and ἀσκέω. And none of these additions would overload the book.

I have noticed a few misprints: δύνω occurs twice (Nos. 46 and 201, and with varying meanings in the two places); No. 407, κορέω, ‘Sweep ‘—a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον— should be κορέννυμι, ‘Satisfy’; at No. 474, for ‘Cover,’ read ‘Cower’; at No. 521, for ‘place,’ read ‘plan’; noun Νo. 198 should be defined ‘olive-oil,’ not ‘olive, oil.’


Haverford College

Rules of thumb for commentary writing

Our commentaries are akin the the Bryn Mawr Commentaries: for first-time readers, whether students or advanced scholars who want to read the text expeditiously. Commentary authors are asked to keep the following considerations/rules-of-thumb in mind:

1. Respect the reader’s time
Stick to what a curious reader would want and need to know to help understand and appreciate the text at hand. Tangentially related material and ancillary texts can be handled in an introduction or in a close reading essay.

2. Look out for what is assumed
Readers frequently need to know what’s not there, or rather what’s there but invisible: the omitted antecedent of a relative pronoun, half of a compound verb form, or the explanation of some constitutional nicety, religious custom, or mythological detail that the author takes as common knowledge.

3. Use jargon only for a good reason
Technical terms are ok, but as a tool, not a substitute for explanation. Explain in a way that doesn’t simply rely on everybody being fully familiar with your own favorite terminology, at least the first time through.

4. Go easy on cross-references
Only use a cross-reference when it’s genuinely important for comprehension, or to spell out what is assumed. Avoid especially untranslated parallel passages.

5. Elucidate first, observe second
First make clear what is going on, whether by judicious translation, paraphrase, rearranging the word order. Then move to whatever comment you would like to make.

6. Look out for what is typical or atypical
It is sometimes useful to point out what is unusual or what is standard, what is distinctive or what is cliché, what is central or what is peripheral, interesting word order, or striking word choice. 

7. Separate interpretation from elucidation
When it comes to serving first-time readers, even expert ones, literary interpretation is out of place. If you advance a clever observation in a note that doesn’t help elucidate the language itself, you are likely to alienate rather than to enlighten. And there’s not enough time in a note to make a literary argument effectively, anyway. Save that for a close reading essay.

8. When the text makes no sense when translated literally, translate it idiomatically
Many commentators on classical texts see translation in a note as dishonest, allowing the reader to cheat. Think of it instead as modeling the sort of careful, close translation you’d like to see: not over-literal pseudo-English, but the real, satisfying mots justes.

9. Save space by linking to stable resources
Link to DCC grammars for grammatical points, to Logeion for lexicography, to Wikipedia for literary devices, to Perseus for classical texts, to Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology for those topics, and to Pleiades for geography. But don’t link to a news article or blog post that’s likely to be gone in a year or two. 

10. Model close reading practices
Humanists and scholars read slowly and carefully, alive to the precise meanings of words. They appreciate the beauty of the style. They read critically, aware of what’s left out, what’s partial or unfair. They want to take something away and apply it to life. The other rules flow from this central purpose.

Things That Drive Me Crazy about Plato’s Republic

In a few minutes I have to teach Plato’s Republic (Books 2 and 4) to a wonderful group of first-year students in a writing-based seminar. I dread this. Every time I teach this seminar, I struggle to find something valuable to justify its inclusion in the syllabus with so many great writers, from Homer and Thucydides to Achebe and Du Bois. Every year I investigate how other people teach it. Steven B. Smith’s discussion in Yale Open Courses is available as a free podcast. I find it infuriating, the special pleading, and assertion of the life-changing greatness of the work despite the turgid appearances. The star-studded cast assembled by Melvyn Bragg for BBC’s In Our Time plump for it during the entire program, then end up in the bonus material admitting that his psychology is bogus. I feel like there are not enough people out there just complaining about the Republic, and making this list was cathartic for me. I make absolutely no claim to philosophical insight or subtlety, quite the opposite. I just had to get this off my chest. With that defensive preamble, here is my list of

Things that drive me crazy about the Republic

  1. The narrowness of his political vision. No mention of the successful Persian model of a multi-ethnic empire next door.
  2. The assumption that most people should not and cannot exercise political leadership or know what is best for them.
  3. The exile of Homer. If you can’t see that Homer is humanizing, then something is wrong with you. His view of art as epistemically inferior seems absolutely outrageous.
  4. The assertion that justice involves above all everybody knowing their place and not meddling, staying in their classes or lanes.
  5. The idea that only the educated can have moderation (σωφροσύνη) required for leadership.

On the other hand (and here’s what I find valuable in the work) he does ask some fundamental questions:

  1. How can we create a concept of justice that is separate from what those in power happened to want to enforce?
  2. How do we get beyond a politics based simply on desire and force? I want this, you want that, let’s see who’s strong enough to enforce his will.
  3. What would it look like if reason-driven people, non-self-interested people, ruled and tried to bring about the maximum happiness for the whole?
  4. What are the psychological sources of political failure and corruption?
  5. What is the best kind of education for the elite?

Ok, that’s a non-philosopher’s two cents. If you love the work, please tell me why in the comments!

Chinese resources for the study of Latin

As readers of this site will know, the study of Latin attracts considerable interest in China, and many Chinese students studying abroad are learning the language as well. Until recently this had to be done almost entirely through English. An incoming first year student to Dickinson from Guangzhou is being forced to defer college for one year thanks to the pandemic. She asked me if I knew of any resources through which she could get started with her Latin during her unexpected downtime. I put out some feelers and received an excellent response. Here are some resources, some of them older and well known, others brand new.

Professor Li Hui (Rosina) at Beijing Foreign Studies University has translated Oerberg’s Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata:

  1. Familia Romana (《拉丁语综合教程1·课本》) in which all the contents of the original book have been conserved. For the convenience of Chinese students, we added the recording of text reading and the Key to Exercises.
  2. Latine Disco (《拉丁语综合教程1·学生用书》)contains Colloquia personarum, Enchiridion discipulorum, Exercitia Latina, Phonetica Latina, Syntaxis etc. 

Grammars: Gu Zhiyin has translated Allen & Greenough.

Cicero dixit, written by Liu Xun is also a very useful grammar book.

All of these books are available on JD.com and Taobao.

Shanghai Normal University is offering a summer Latin course in Late August:  (Application deadline: July 15)

Of course the DCC core Greek and Latin vocabularies exist in Chinese translation. More advanced students will want to visit Dickinson Classics Online, which contains various resources for Chinese speaking students of the Greco-Roman classics.

Please let us know in the comments if you are aware of other things. Thanks!


An honest editorial preface

Pieter Burman’s edition of the works of Ovid (1713, with many later versions) was the dominant edition of Ovid until the early nineteenth century. It was a variorum edition based on the text of the great Dutch poet and classical scholar Nicolaas Heinsius the Elder (1652) with notes in Latin by various scholars, especially the German humanist Jacob Micyllus

Burman’s preface begins with this charming bit of rueful indignation:

text of the beginning of Burman's introduction

“If I ever began a piece of work quickly and eagerly, it was certainly this edition of Ovid. At the same time, I cannot conceal the fact that in the process of completing it so many tedious annoyances arose for me that I cursed my plan of editing Ovid in the first place a thousand times, and I regretted naively trusting men who did nothing but delay and had no concern but their own financial profit.”

Burman’s Latin is just delightful, and I recommend this edition to those who want to understand Ovid’s Latin in Latin, that is, by reading explanatory notes in Latin:

Burman, Pieter. Publii Ovidii Nasonis Opera omnia, vol. 1. (Amsterdam: R. & J. Wetstenios & G. Smith, 1727) unpaginated preface.


2020 Ovid Heroides Online Workshop Announcement

Dickinson Latin Workshop: Ovid’s Heroides

July 16–20, 2020

The Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop will move online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. While this situation is far from ideal, we hope it will allow those who could not normally travel to Carlisle to participate. We are privileged to have Prof. Chun Liu of Peking University with us this year as guest instructor. Prof. Liu earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English literature from Peking University, and received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California Riverside in 2010. She has written widely on Ovid and Greek epic and tragedy and is currently completing the first ever complete translation of Ovid’s Heroides into Chinese.

photo of Chun Liu outside at some kind of lake


  • Online meetings will take place daily 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Eastern time US, with a break in the middle. Group translation will be carried on in two sections, one for the more confident (affectionately known as “the sharks”), one for the less confident (even more affectionately known as “the dolphins”) led on alternating days by Prof. Liu and Prof. Chris Francese (Dickinson College).
  • Optional daily discussion sections will happen 2:00–3:00 p.m. Eastern time, led by Chris Francese.

Resources provided

  • Latin text
  • Running vocabulary lists of all words not in the DCC Core Latin Vocabulary
  • Commentaries with notes on the Latin text
  • English translations
  • Certificate of completion for professional development hours

Reading Schedule

Thursday, July 16: Heroides 1 (Penelope Ulixi, 116 lines) and 2 (Phyllis Demophoonti, 148 lines)

Friday, July 17: Heroides 3 (Briseis Achilli, 154 lines) and 4 (Phaedra Hippolyto, 1–100)

Saturday, July 18: Heroides 4 (Phaedra Hippolyto, 101–176) and 7 (Dido Aeneae 196 lines)

Sunday, July 19: Heroides 10 (Ariadne Theseo, 150 lines) and 12 (Medea Iasoni 1–100)

Monday, July 20 Heroides 12 (Medea Iasoni 101-212)

Registration and Fee

To register, please email Mrs. Terri Blumenthal, blumentt@dickinson.edu. The fee of $200 is due by check on or before July 1, 2020. Make checks payable to Dickinson College and mail them to Department of Classical Studies, Dickinson College, c/o Terri Blumenthal, Carlisle, PA 17013

We hope you can join us!

Announcement for the Reading Group on Epictetus’ Encheiridion

The next session of the online reading group for Epictetus will be Friday, May 8th, 10:30 a.m. CST. We are starting at Ch. 5 The text is available at:


Join us at:


The next session of the online reading group for Epictetus will be Friday, May 1st, 10:30 a.m. CST. We are starting at Ch. 2.2 The text is available at:
Join us at:


In these times when everything seems to be out of our control, we could all do with a good dose of Stoicism.  Join me and a small reading group at LSU as we read through Epictetus’ Encheiridion and we learn answers to important questions such as: “What is and what is not in our control?” “How do we deal with what is not in our control?” and much more.  The fun begins Friday, April 24th, at 10:30 a.m. CST. 

head shot of Albert Watanabe

Albert Watanabe

The text with vocabulary and notes may be found at: http://dcc.dickinson.edu/epictetus-encheiridion/intro/preface  For this first Friday, we will be looking at chapters 1-4.  If you need a refresher on background about Epictetus, click on the links in the left margin of the page.  Thereafter, we will meet on Fridays until we finish the work.  You can join us by clicking on the Zoom link:


If you have any questions, you can email me at awatan@lsu.edu.

Albert Watanabe

Conventiculum Dickinsoniense Covid-19 Announcement

Prof. Tunberg sends the following important announcement regarding the 2020 Conventiculum Dickinsoniense and the Covid-19 crisis:

We have yielded to the force of circumstances, friends, and decided to put off the Conventiculum Dickinsoniense until the summer of 2021.  However, in July of this year, we will arrange a “virtual” Conventiculum via the internet, so that you can still experience a continuous sequence of days this coming summer at least semi-immersed in spoken Latin! We can do this through ZOOM or other conferencing software. Our “virtual” Conventiculum, which will take place from July 9 to July 14, can’t of course be the full equivalent of an event based on all day and face to face immersion, but it can still offer a lot of interaction and practice—and be fun too!

Our sessions will be designed for the sole purpose of giving those who take part maximum exposure to active Latin and a large opportunity to develop their powers in spoken expression and in understanding others speaking. And—yes—there will even be some written composition in Latin. Our conventicula are not aimed at people just beginning to learn the basics of Latin. They are designed to add an ability for some active expression in Latin for people who already have a reasonable passive knowledge of the language. Participants should know the essentials of Latin grammar and be able to read a Latin text of moderate complexity. But no previous experience in speaking Latin is necessary. So, some sessions will be exclusively devoted to people who have no (or very little) experience in spoken Latin communication. Here they will have the opportunity build up their vocabulary and awaken their powers of expression. Of course, we also welcome people experienced in communicative Latin, and we want the Conventiculum be an opportunity for them to develop and refine their proficiency.


The deadline for receipt of entry fees for our “virtual” Conventiculum is June 1, 2020. Indeed, we encourage people to register earlier than this deadline, when possible, since the Conventiculum may well fill up fairly quickly. We will be unable to accept more than 25 participants in this event.


The entry fee for this new “virtual” Conventiculum will be $200. And please note that there will be no refunds of entry fees when they have been deposited in the Conventiculum’s account.

Those interested in applying for admission should write to Prof. Terence Tunberg at this address: