Monday, November 5, 2012


[Mt Athos]

I notice that one of the horses racing in today's Melbourne Cup is called Mt Athos. It just so happens I was translating this passage from Aeneid XII with my year 12 class today:

quantus Athos aut quantus Eryx aut ipse coruscis
cum fremit ilicibus quantus gaudetque nivali
vertice se attollens pater Appenninus ad auras.

Aeneas was as great as Athos, or as great as Eryx or as great as father Apenninus himself with his quivering pine trees, when he roars and rejoices in his snowy peak, lifting himself up into the sky.

Mt Athos is in Macedonia, Mt Eryx (these days Monte San Giuliano) on Sicily and Appenninus in central Italy. Here is a map. I recall a few years ago there was a horse in the Melbourne cup called Sirmione - I wonder if they're somehow related. helps to know the language.

Apart from English, classical languages are the only subjects which focus on the study of great literature.
The books you get to read by the last year of high school are the best of their kind. (Over the centuries, the mediocre stuff just got lost.) Epic, history, tragedy, comedy, satire, oratory and philosophy - all yours to analyse, discuss and enjoy, not second-hand, but in the very words of the composer, speaking to you in 21st century Australia, to you, their cultural descendant.
All right, it's not for everyone. But for many intellectually curious teenagers, the ancient world is a fascinating place, and when you travel to a new place, it helps to know the language.