12th February – Latin at Madingley

It is always a joy to return to Madingley, especially when there is the opportunity to renew acquaintances from earlier courses. Since the Reading Latin and Greek courses are regular events, roughly every 3 months, such meetings are guaranteed. The purpose of this course was to read the first half of Cicero’s Pro Roscio. The last 3 Latin courses I have attended have been on Cicero and this is no accident. I remember from school that I was more comfortable with Cicero than some of the other authors we did. Our school texts, particularly in the lower school had too much reliance on military strategy for my liking, with the Romans seemingly for ever routing the enemy. Of course we read Virgil, Ovid and Catullus and enjoyed them too, but poetry can be difficult. But the real reason probably lies in my usual choice of reading matter. I have always preferred fact to fiction, though I have tried to broaden my reading to include some novels over the last 20 or 30 years. There is something very compelling about reading the defence speech of a real legal case that happened over 2000 years ago. Personal accounts, such as letters and diaries have always interested me, for the light they throw not only on the way of life of our ancestors but also on the way they thought.

Having just dismissed novels I will however admit to having read an excellent novel on the Pro Roscio case, “Roman Blood” by Steven Saylor. Since my first introduction to this author with “Murder on the Appian Way”, which I read as background to Pro Milone,  I have been steadily working through the other Gordianus books. I find the main protagonist and the portrayal of Ancient Rome very believable.

There were many classicists at Madingley that weekend, but Latinists were far out-numbered by Hellenists, many of whom I knew from earlier Greek and Latin courses at Madingley. They were there to study New Testament Greek. During the Saturday afternoon break, the weather being rather inclement, and curiosity overwhelming my desire to stride out into the Cambridgeshire countryside I decided to watch a game of Scabble in Greek. I have the Spanish version myself, which I bought as a teaching aide, but have only managed to play once. It was therefore interesting to see this game being played in Greek. With reference to a Greek dictionary installed as an app on an iphone the game proceeded magnificently and the whole board was used. It is an excellent learning tool.

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