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kata rhema

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Renasci: To my UofR followers — spread the word to anyone you know might be...


To my UofR followers — spread the word to anyone you know might be interested! My Latin professor is putting together a course on ancient medicine; currently it is going to be listed under Classics, but they are trying to get it cross-listed with history and noted as an optional elective for…

Poyer is back!?

But yes, Poyer is a fantastic teacher in both large lecture-style and small seminar-style settings, and ancient medicine is her personal specialty, so anyone who might possibly be interested should take this class.

Filed under University of Rochester seriously though she said she was leaving to finish her PhD!

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When is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America: Crash Course US History #2

In which John Green teaches you about the (English) colonies in what is now the United States. He covers the first permanent English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, the various havens for persecuted religions in Maryland and Massachusetts, and even a bit about the spooky lost colony at Roanoke Island. What were the English doing in America, anyway? Lots of stuff. In Virginia, the colonists were largely there to make money. In Maryland, the idea was to create a Catholic colony safe from the depraved Protestants back in England. In Massachusetts, the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America to find a place where they could practice their religion freely. And also persecute those who didn’t share their beliefs. But there was a healthy profit motive in Massachusetts as well. Profits were thin at first, and so were the colonists. Trouble growing food and trouble with the natives kept the early colonies from success. Before long though, the colonists started cultivating tobacco, which was a win for everyone involved if you ignore the lung cancer angle. So kick back, light up a smoke, and learn how America became profitable. DON’T SMOKE, THOUGH! THAT WAS A JOKE!

I’m going to depart from my usual focus for a moment to talk about things John Green said (in this video) that are wrong or misleading.

I’m going to pick out a few things he said about Virginia, because that’s what I know well enough to refute. There may or may not be errors in the rest of the video, but it worries me that there are at all.

(01:47) "…So there were a disproportionate number of goldsmiths and jewelers there…"

The original group of settlers had a very reasonable distribution of craftsmen. The job with the most number of people who could do it? Carpentry. There were all of four carpenters in the first group of settlers. Carpenters were important; no carpenters, no buildings. Everything else was done by one person, maybe two. 

Maybe one goldsmith is disproportionate in a region with no gold. But the way John says it, it sounds like there was a room full of men sitting around going to waste, which is just wrong.

(01:54) "…It turns out that jewelers dislike farming…"
No. See above.

(02:21) "But in 1618 … a recruiting strategy called the ‘headright system’…"
The headright system actually came into play in 1616, when the first seven-year contracts (established in 1609) ended.

(02:56) "…In 1619 … the first shipment of African slaves arrived in Virginia."

Yes, 1619 is our first record of Africans in Virginia. However, John makes it sound like Virginia went “Okay, we’ve been here a while, time to send off for some slaves,” which is far from what happened.

The Portuguese at the time were running a very profitable slave trade, taking Africans, Christianizing them, shipping them to Mexico, and selling them to the (mostly Spanish) colonies there.  One such Portuguese ship was pirated by a couple of English ships (probably), who took on some of those Africans. Those (probably) English ships were then blown a bit off course, and decided to stop by Virginia to resupply. They exchanged twenty-odd Africans for some supplies, and went on their way.

Virginia had no established slavery at the time. It had indentured servitude. We don’t have records of what exactly came of those twenty-odd Africans, but it is far more likely that they became indentured servants, and served out their terms of service. We do have record of free Africans owning their own property later on.

Worth noting: Yes, Virginia eventually had slavery. The first laws concerning actual slavery went on the books around 1660. 1660 is not 1619.

(03:50) "Most of the people who came in the 17th century—three quarters of them—were servants."
Worth noting: Originally, everyone was a servant—of the Virginia Company. The only ways to not be a servant in Virginia were 1) to work off your contract with whoever paid your way across (either the company or some plantation owner) or 2) be rich enough to just sail over whenever you felt like it. 

Not really arguing this point, just giving it some context. If you were in Virginia, you were a nobleman, or you were beholden to somebody. Or you had been, and you were lucky enough to survive. 

(04:10) "[Men] outnumbered women five to one."
This really needed to be dated.The circumstances of the Virginia colony varied a lot in its first hundred years, in all ways really.

Men outnumbered women five to one only early on, when the colony was still acting primarily as a mercantile outpost. Thanks to a change in leadership leading to a change in priorities, two ships full of women arrived in Virginia in 1620 and 1621 respectively in an effort to establish Virginia as a more permanent settlement. That and further efforts supplied many women who were not beholden to an indentured service contract—rather, once a man decided to marry her, he would pay off her voyage. The ratio went down to more like three to one—though, sure, that’s still not ideal. 

My sources: I work for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, where it’s basically our business to know the history of Jamestown and Virginia better than you (or nobody would visit!). To make sure I wasn’t making things up, I pulled out my Jamestown manual. I could go in and pull out the manual’s own cited sources if anyone really wants me to.

Filed under crash course crash course US history john green jamestown virginia JYF this has nothing to do with classics

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Summer Latin Programs for Grades 1-7


I work with Ascanius: The Youth Classics Institute which has been introducing kids to Latin and the Roman world for over a decade. Each summer we host a series of LatinSummer camps for students in grades 1-7. Registration is not yet open, but please take a look at the brochures up on the website and spread the word to anyone in the following areas whom you may know and may be interested! 

-Western Mass. (UMass Amherst)

-Charleston, SC

-St. Louis, MO

-Williamsburg, VA

This sounds wonderful! And Williamsburg? Sweet! I should check to see if I can—

[Faculty] Applicant Requirements
Any high school Latin student currently enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12, and any freshman or sophomore college Latin student is welcome to apply.


Filed under I'm too ooooold Ascanius Latin Camp Summer Camp Williamsburg

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Ugh, terrible. I’m incredibly out of practice.

Owing to the recent reminder that, hey, I own Harry Potter in Ancient Greek, I decided to take it out and take another look. But, because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided I wasn’t going to just sit there and muddle through reading it. No, I was going to sit down and re-translate it

So… I took my copy of the book, and the lexicon and commentary on Andrew Wilson’s website, and soon enough the Perseus magic parser (and dictionary), and I translated Harry Potter back in to English.

By which I mean… the first page.

Because that one page took me… an hour and a half. 


To be clear: I wasn’t trying to magically re-create Rowling’s prose out of the Greek. I was trying to treat it like it was a legitimate ancient text, and so to more-or-less accurately convey what the Greek is actually saying. 

Thus did this…

Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills. He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors. The Dursleys had a small son called Dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere.

…a fine example of Rowling-original prose, become, in my translation of Andrew Wilson’s translation, this:

Master Doursleios made borers and augers of all sorts in a workshop called Grouningos. And great was his form, and supremely rotund; being stout, his neck was not easy to see, but you could see his mustache, as it was very thick. His wife, being not round at all, was blonde and long-necked; she had a double neck by nature and to great benefit, looking over the wall at her neighbors, watching them like a crane. And the Doursleioi had a son, still a boy, by the name of Doudlion; they considered him the finest of all men.

Passable, I guess? Certainly I’m not guaranteeing perfection. 

Nothing to it but to keep going, I guess, because if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that my translation skills are really rusty. 

Filed under Harry Potter Greek translating prose Greek translation self-indulgent projects that prove I have too much free time

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The Rise of Rome

The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire

by Anthony Everitt

Okay, well… I did not enjoy this as much as I predicted. 

Everitt has a nice, easygoing, storytelling narrative style that serves him well when he’s writing about the story of one man’s life. I found, however, that it doesn’t work quite as well when he’s trying to write about hundreds of years. That’s probably why he spends as little time as possible reporting history, and instead spends a lot of time doing essentially mini-biographies of various relevant men throughout the history of Rome. 

The problem with this approach—I mean from a writing standpoint, irrespective of any anti-Great Men History criticism—is that it’s really hard to find that balance where you’re giving just the right amount of information about each “character.” To pull two more-or-less random examples, he spends an awful lot of time on the backstory of King Pyrrhus (of Pyrrhic Victory fame), and not nearly enough time on the political situation surrounding Tiberius Gracchus. That contributed to a lot of pacing issues—as much as a history book can have “pacing,” really—but there were certainly others, too.

I mean, the book is still decent. But if somebody came up to me and said that they were totally ignorant about Roman history, but were interested in learning, so would I recommend they read this book… honestly, I’d have to hedge. 

Also, I was wrong about not learning anything at all from it, but my favorite bit of new information I found not in the text itself, but in those endnotes I keep harping on about: “Appius was a first name, or praenomen, that was exclusive to the Claudians.” 

Is that cool or what!

Filed under book reviews Anthony Everitt The Rise of Rome Every time I say or type this title I think of Age of Empires

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Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome

Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome

by Anthony Everitt

Wow, it’s been forever since I wrote a book review. 

Anyway, I’ve wanted to read this for ages (ever since I knew it was a thing). The wait was entirely of my own making (at any time I could have walked over to Barnes & Noble and bought the thing), so it would be a bit silly to say “the wait was worth it,” so… it was a good book.

I was already familiar with Everitt’s style, but it’s worth noting that he remains in good form here. He is very good at constructing a coherent narrative out of scarce evidence, and he’s not afraid to admit when we really just have no idea what happened.

And, of course, he again included my favorite part: a very detailed breakdown of sources, assumptions, and relevant literature in the back. 

I would have preferred that he go on a little bit further beyond Hadrian’s death, but I do understand why he didn’t. Also, while he spent a lot of time on Hadrian’s love of Greek culture and society, I think he could have done more to show how significantly Hadrian influenced Roman society so that Greek culture became fashionable again. As it stands, a casual reader could easily be forgiven for assuming that Roman attitudes towards Greek culture returned to their pre-Hadrian status quo after his death. 

In any event, next up is Everitt’s The Rise of Rome, which I doubt will tell me anything I don’t already know, but reading Everitt’s take on it should be fun regardless. 

Filed under book reviews Anthony Everitt hadrian classical history