Friday, February 15, 2013

Centre for Latin Studies, Beijing

I sometimes half-jokingly tell people who ask me about being a Latin teacher that it's a growth industry. While Latin teaching is a small field, and student numbers are not likely to explode overnight, it's true to say that the study of the classics is having something of a revival, and that there is a wealth of opportunities for young teachers.
Nevertheless I was surprised to hear about the recent establishment of the Centre for Latin Language and Culture in Beijing of all places. It turns out some of the first Europeans in China were Jesuit missionaries, who recorded their thoughts and observations in Latin, much of which is both unpublished and untranslated (as far as I can tell).
Here's a bit of information about the centre (taken from this document, which is worth looking at for some of the pictures alone):

"Latinitas Sinica" (Centre for Latin Language and Culture in China) is the name of a study centre established at the prestigious Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Chinese university specialized in foreign languages and cultures and officially opened on June 15th, 2012...
The reason why the Sinology Center has a particular interest in Latin is due to the historical fact that much of the Western material about China, at least until the end of 18th century, was written in Latin.

In the last years some very significant Master and Doctoral Dissertations discussed at the Sinology Center were based on original material – often unpublished manuscripts – written in Latin.

Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci, Philippe Couplet and innumerable other early sinologists wrote about China in Latin.

As the Sinology centre aims at a thorough knowledge of Western studies about China, it cannot neglect the vast amount of historical material produced in Latin.

For this it was necessary to have students and scholars specialized in, or at least familiar with, this language...

Latinitas Sinica is a specialized institution dedicated to the study and promotion of Latin Language in China by:
  • Supporting the learning and teaching of Latin Language in China;
  • Promoting research in China in the field of Latin Language and Culture;
  • Researching the area of Latin Sinology;
  • Researching the area of Early Latin to Chinese Translations;
  • Offering to Chinese society various services related to Latin Language and Culture, being a reference for institutions around the world interested in Latin Language in China;
  • Publishing every year an issue of a "Journal of Latin Studies in China".

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dido and Anna, Turnus and Juturna

Some notes from R.D. Williams on Aeneid XII.843f., interspersed with the relevant passages and translations. For more on the links between Dido and Turnus, I quite like this essay: Chaotic Passions; Turnus and Femininity in the Aeneid. It includes a chapter on both Dido and Juturna.

We are powerfully reminded of the scene in Aeneid 4 where Dido, another tragic victim of the events of the poem, visits her dead husband’s grave and is terrified by omens, voices and the hooting of owls by night

XII        postquam acies videt Iliacas atque agmina Turni,
alitis in parvae subitam collecta figuram,
quae quondam in bustis aut culminibus desertis
nocte sedens serum canit importuna per umbras—
hanc versa in faciem Turni se pestis ob ora               865
fertque refertque sonans clipeumque everberat alis.

When she sees the Trojan battle-lines and the troops of Turnus the Fury, changed suddenly into the form of that small bird which, sitting late at night on tombs and deserted buildings, often sings her ill-omened songs through the shadows - changed into this shape the fiend throws herself again and again into the face of Turnus, shrieking and beating upon his shield with her wings. 
IV         praeterea fuit in tectis de marmore templum
coniugis antiqui, miro quod honore colebat,
velleribus niveis et festa fronde revinctum:
hinc exaudirivuoces et verba vocantis                       460
visa viri, nox cum terras obscura teneret,
solaque culminibus ferali carmine bubo
saepe queri et longas in fletum ducere voces;
And furthermore, there was in her palace a marble chapel, sacred to her first husband, which she venerated with utmost love, keeping it decorated with snowy fleeces and festal greenery. Now from this chapel when night held the world in darkness she thought that she distinctly heard cries, as of her husband calling to her. And often on a rooftop a lonely owl would sound her deathly lamentation, drawing out her notes into a long wail.

There are other deliberate reminiscences of the story of Dido; Juturna’s position as a sister who cannot help is similar to that of Anna, and the repetition (871) of the line describing Anna’s grief (4.673) takes the thoughts back to that other tragedy.
XII        At procul ut Dirae stridorem agnovit et alas,
infelix crinis scindit Iuturna solutos                            870
unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora pugnis:

But when ill-fated Juturna, his sister, recognised the sound of the Fury's wings she tore at her untied hair, marring her cheeks with her fingernails and bruising her breast with her fists.
IV         audiit exanimis trepidoque exterrita cursu
unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora pugnis
per medios ruit, ac morientem nomine clamat:
'hoc illud, germana, fuit? me fraude petebas?          675
hoc rogus iste mihi, hoc ignes araeque parabant?
Her sister heard [the sounds of mourning] and the breath left her. Marring her cheeks with her fingernails and bruising her breast with her fists she dashed in frightened haste through the crowds, found Dido at the very point of death, and cried out to her: “O sister, so this was the truth? You planned to deceive me! Was this what your pyre, your altars and the fires were to mean for me?”
The complaint of Juturna that she cannot accompany her brother in death (880-1) recalls Anna’s words to Dido;
XII        quo vitam dedit aeternam? cur mortis adempta est
condicio? possem tantos finire dolores                      880
nunc certe, et misero fratri comes ire per umbras!
immortalis ego? aut quicquam mihi dulce meorum
te sine, frater, erit? o quae satis ima dehiscat
terra mihi, Manisque deam demittat ad imos?'
Why did Jupiter grant me eternal life? Why was the possibility of death stolen from me? Now indeed I would be able to put an end to such great suffering and to accompany my poor brother through the shadows! Why am I immortal? How will any part of my life be sweet without you, my brother? O what earth will gape wide enough to swallow me and to send me down to the deepest Shades?' 
IV         his etiam struxi manibus patriosque vocavi               680
voce deos, sic te ut posita, crudelis, abessem?
exstinxti te meque, soror, populumque patresque
Sidonios urbemque tuam. date, vulnera lymphis
abluam et, extremus si quis super halitus errat,
ore legam.'                                                                 685
“With these hands I built your pyre and cried aloud upon our ancestral gods, only to be cruelly separated from you as you lay in death! Sister you have destroyed my life with your own, and the lives of our people and Sidon’s nobility, and your whole city too. Come, let me see your wounds – I must wash them clean with water, and gather with my own lips any last hovering breath.”
and her wish to be swallowed up in the depths of the earth (883) is reminiscent of Dido’s words in 4.24f.
IV         Anna (fatebor enim) miseri post fata Sychaei           20
coniugis et sparsos fraterna caede penatis
solus hic inflexit sensus animumque labantem
impulit. agnosco veteris vestigia flammae.
sed mihi vel tellus optem prius ima dehiscat
vel pater omnipotens adigat me fulmine ad umbras,25
pallentis umbras Erebo noctemque profundam,
ante, pudor, quam te violo aut tua iura resolvo.
“Yes, Anna, I shall tell you my secret. Ever since the tragic death of my husband Sychaeus, whose sprinkled blood, which my own brother shed, desecrated our home, no one but this stranger ever made an impression on me, or stirred my heart to wavering. I can discern the old fire coming near again. But I could pray that the earth should yawn deep to engulf me, or the Father Almighty blast me to the Shades with a stroke of his thunder, deep down to those pallid Shades in darkest Erebos, before I ever violate my honour or break its laws.”
In the sympathy it evokes, this final tragic death in the poem is thus deliberately made parallel with the death of Dido, the other great opponent of the mission of Aeneas.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Trawling through the web, looking for something else, I came across an old (2005) statistic from England, pointing out that out 93 of their top 100 schools (ranked by Times according to GCSE results) had Classics department, and that, even more impressively, 24 of the top 25 offered Latin.

Out of interest, I thought I'd put together a similar list for NSW Schools, based on the Sydney Morning Herald's rankings from last year's HSC.

2. North Sydney Boys High School
3. North Sydney Girls High School
4. Sydney Girls High School
5. Baulkham Hills High School
8. Sydney Boys High School
9. SCEGGS Darlinghurst
10. Sydney Grammar School
12. Kambala
13. Frensham
17. Pymble Ladies' College
18. Abbotsleigh
19. SHORE - Sydney Church of England Grammar SChool
21. St George Girls High School
23. Presbyterian Ladies College Sydney
24. Ravenswood School for Girls
26. Meriden School
28. Ascham School
30. St Aloysius' College
37. Loreto Normanhurst*
39. Gosford High School*
40. The King's School
42. St Catherine's School
44. MLC School
45. Barker College
47. Queenwood School for Girls
49. St Ignatius' College
54. Santa Sabina College
64. Newington College
67. Cranbrook School
69. Canberra Grammar School
80. The Scots College
91. Trinity Grammar School

I think that makes 15 out of the top 25 schools (six of which are academically selective government schools, I proudly note), and 32 out of the top 100. If I happen to have left a school out please let me know. Schools with an asterisk have some Latin but don't offer it to the HSC (as far as I know or can find out). The only schools I can think of which offer Latin and aren't on this list are Redlands, St Josephs, Hills Grammar and Kinross-Wolaroi.

Disclaimer: I actually think ranking schools is pretty problematic, that the relationship between wealth, offering Latin and school success is a murky one and that it's not worth reading too much into this table. That is, schools which offer Latin tend to be those which attract students from wealthier families and so will probably get good academic results regardless of whether they offer Latin or not.