August 17th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Basics of Scansion 6: The Mute + Liquid Rule

Explanation of the mute + liquid rule in Latin poetry, whereby a syllable is not counted long when a short vowel is followed by two consonants if those consonants are a mute and a liquid (br, tr, gl, etc.)

August 17th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Basics of Scansion 5: Syllable Quantities

Explanation of the concept of syllable quantity, with lots of examples from Latin poetry, with special attention to problems created by consonantal i, and qu- and su-.

August 17th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Basics of Scansion 4: Known Quantities

Discussion of Latin words with consistent quantities, knowledge of which will help in scanning Latin poetry.

August 17th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Basics of Scansion Part 3: Ambiguous Quantities

Discussion of how vowel quantities can change the meaning and function of Latin words, with focus on the implications for scansion of poetry.

August 17th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Basics of Scansion Part 2: Vowel Quantities

Discussion of long and short vowels and diphthongs, with special attention to apparent diphthongs that are actually two syllables.

August 17th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Basics of Scansion Part 1: Stress Accent vs. Quanitity

Introduction to the concepts of prosody, scansion, stress accent and quantitative meters, with examples of scansion in English and Latin.

August 8th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Show Me the Scansion

I have been experimenting with a nifty iPad app and teacher community called ShowMe as a way of teaching the basics of scansion and reading aloud. It has a sort of “telestrator” feature that seems tailor made for this kind of thing. I’ve been getting lucky with the apps I’m finding lately! First I found one that gets you ig likes for instagram, and it works really well, and now I found this one.

I started to buy Instagram likes for more better engagement on instagram which is definitely giving me good results. As the time passed I understood the importance of instagram followers (seguidores de instagram) because it improve my engagement with audience.

I probably should look in the marketplace for things I need more often.

I have one on the very basics of Latin prosody,

and one on Latin vowel quantity and diphthongs.

If you have the time take a look and let me know what you think!

Making the one on vowel quantity taught me a lot about diphthongs. A simple search through Aeneid 1 for the various diphthongs revealed starkly how wrong it is to just tell students (as the grammar books do) that  “ei” is  a diphthong, or “ui” is a diphthong. In actual fact they are almost always NOT diphthongs. And the same is true of “eu,” and sometimes of the others. So this will definitely change the way I teach scansion.

The reason to use a tool like this is to take the most difficult and technical aspects of scansion out of the classroom, and into homework, where a student can look at and listen to the explanations as many times as necessary to really get it. In class, most rational people will not raise a hand and say “I still don’t get that,” and as a result many never really catch on to some of these basic concepts.

I plan to do more of these, as a kind of video commentary on the wonderful metrical introduction to Ovid’s Amores 1 authored by William Turpin, to go in the forthcoming Dickinson College Commentaries edition. You can see it here (still under construction, though) .

Thanks, Chrissy Schanes, for putting me on to ShowMe. And thanks to all of you for any feedback and suggestions. We use wordpress accessibility for everything in case you need it!

August 3rd, 2012 by Chris Francese

A Fabulous Punishment (Martial, De Spectaculis 7)

Martial De Spectaculis 9

The epigram writer Martial describes a mythological enactment in the arena, the execution of a slave which was staged to resemble a popular mime based on the story of a notorious bandit, Laureolus. He compares his fate of being exposed to a bear to that of the mythological hero Prometheus, punished by Zeus. It comes from a set of poems meant to commemorate the inaugural games of the Flavian Amphitheater, that is, the Colosseum in Rome.

Qualiter in Scythica religatus rupe Prometheus

Adsiduam nimio pectore pavit avem,

Nuda Caledonio sic viscera praebuit urso

Non falsa pendens in cruce Laureolus.

Vivebant laceri membris stillantibus artus 5

Inque omni nusquam corpore corpus erat.

Denique supplicium <meruit quo crimine tantum?>

Vel domini iugulum foderat ense nocens,

Templa vel arcano demens spoliaverat auro,

Subdiderat saevas vel tibi, Roma, faces. 10

Vicerat antiquae sceleratus crimina famae,

In quo, quae fuerat fabula, poena fuit.

The text is that of Kathleen Coleman, M. Valerii Martialis Liber Spectaculorum  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 82. Line 7 is defective in the manuscripts, and the supplement printed here is due to Leonfranc Holford-Strevens.

Here is my translation:

Think of Prometheus, tied to his Scythian crag, feeding the tireless

 bird of prey with his too abundant thorax.

Just so ‘Laureolus’, hanging on no mock theatrical cross,

 gave his naked guts to a Scottish bear.

His mangled limbs lived on, dripping gore, until on his body

there was no body left at all. So, what

heinous crime merited such retribution? Either the guilty

man slit his master’s throat with a sword,

or in his madness robbed a temple of its hidden gold, or else

he put a savage torch to you, dear Rome.                                            10

The criminal had outdone misdeeds of ancient story, but in his case

 what was fiction became a punishment quite real.


July 1st, 2012 by Chris Francese

A cure for madness (Quintus Serenus, Liber Medicinalis 1.87-99)

Quintus Serenus 1.87-99

Grave relief of a Greco-Roman doctor.Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sk 804. Photo Johannes Laurentius.

ex vitio cerebri phrenesis furiosa movetur 87
amissasque refert frendens amentia vires,
sive calens febris iactatos exedit artus
sive meri gustus seu frigoris efficit aura. 90
convenit calidis pecudum pulmonibus apte
tempora languentis medica redimire corona.
inlotis etiam lanis suffire memento
cerritum; saepe horrendi medicantur odores.
non semper praesens dolor est sanabilis: ergo 100
cura magis prodest venturis obvia morbis
atque ideo sanos etiam curarier est par. 95
purgatur cerebrum mansa radice pyrethri,
unguitur et sucis, dederit quos parva sabucus,
expressusque hederae mandatur naribus umor
aut mixtum rutae cerebro instillatur acetum.

Quintus Serenus was the author of Liber Medicinalis, a collection of therapeutic recipes. It cannot be dated very closely, but evidently derives from somewhere in the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. For more information about books check this out. In this excerpt he discusses cures for phrenesis, a kind of mental derangement accompanied by fever. The translation here is my own (in fact I don’t think this work has ever been translated into English, but there is a French edition, which I have not seen). The discussion of the various forms of madness in Roman medical texts is derived from my book, Ancient Rome in So Many Words. My other podcast of a bit of Serenus is here. The Latin text is from PHI, which atypically does not itself list a source. Hope you enjoy!


June 6th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Bring Vergil back (Horace, Odes 1.3)

Horace Odes 1.3

Horace’s sending-off poem (or propempticon) for Vergil is written in a meter usually called the “Forth Asclepiad,” (though the terminology varies depending on which modern authority you check). It consists of a Glyconic line followed by an Asclepiad line. In this installment I discuss the poem briefly and describe its meter, give my own translation, and then read it slowly in Latin. Hopefully you will be able to hear the regular sequence of long and short syllables, hear how that interacts with natural sense pauses, and perhaps even be able to understand it as you listen the Latin. Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment if you have any suggestions. The text is Klingner’s, taken from PHI.

Sic te diva potens Cypri,

sic fratres Helenae, lucida sidera,

ventorumque regat pater

obstrictis aliis praeter Iapyga,

navis, quae tibi creditum 5

debes Vergilium: finibus Atticis

reddas incolumem precor

et serves animae dimidium meae.

illi robur et aes triplex

circa pectus erat, qui fragilem truci 10

conmisit pelago ratem

primus, nec timuit praecipitem Africum

decertantem Aquilonibus

nec tristis Hyadas nec rabiem Noti,

quo non arbiter Hadriae 15

maior, tollere seu ponere volt freta.

quem mortis timuit gradum

qui siccis oculis monstra natantia,

qui vidit mare turbidum et

infamis scopulos Acroceraunia? 20

nequiquam deus abscidit

prudens oceano dissociabili

terras, si tamen inpiae

non tangenda rates transiliunt vada.

audax omnia perpeti 25

gens humana ruit per vetitum nefas,

audax Iapeti genus

ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit.

post ignem aetheria domo

subductum macies et nova febrium 30

terris incubuit cohors

semotique prius tarda necessitas

leti corripuit gradum.

expertus vacuum Daedalus aera

pinnis non homini datis; 35

perrupit Acheronta Herculeus labor.

nil mortalibus ardui est:

caelum ipsum petimus stultitia neque

per nostrum patimur scelus

iracunda Iovem ponere fulmina. 40


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