THE STATED AIM of this book is `to provide Latinists with a reasonably comprehensive introduction to wall inscriptions from Pompeii and Herculaneum.' W succeeds in this aim. His intended audience is [American] undergraduates and more advanced students. Though W selects the most interesting texts from an historical point of view, these will be students of linguistics, rather than of Roman history, since the notes on the texts are largely philological. Technical terms (clearly explained in the introduction) abound, `monophthongization' being particularly common. (One can imagine W as the centurion in The Life of Brian shouting `How many times have I told you not to monophthongize?' at some hapless innkeeper writing copo for caupo)
W is a reliable guide to what the people of Pompeii wrote on their walls and to how we should interpret it. He reminds us that Latin was an everyday language, full of variations in spellings, even when the graffiti is a quotation from Ovid or Virgil, and colloquialisms. My favourite is da fridam pusillum which, with the help of the accompanying drawing, we can translate as `Give me a drop of cold water'. The book contains a full vocabulary list though this does not really do justice to some colloquialisms. Secundus hic cacat does rather lose its impact if translated (in accordance with the vocabulary list) `Secundus defecates here'.
W is also reliable in historical notes, though he seems not to realize that annual magistracies in Pompeii ran from July 1, rather than January 1, (as can be shown from Caecilius' wax tablets) so a set of games announced in February (his no. 65) is misdated by one year, thus missing an important connection with the earthquake of AD 62. Some facsimiles of inscriptions are included, taken (with due acknowledgement) from the drawings in Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IV, though without the measurements provided there.
M. G. L. Cooley
King Henry VIII School, Coventry
JACT September 2005
Chilroius was Here--in Pompeii and Herculaneum
The newly published An Introduction to Wall Inscriptions from Pompeii and Herculaneum by Rex E. Wallace offers several opportunities for teachers' use in the classroom, at any level, for a variety of courses:
college: elementary Latin to the reading level, undergraduate or graduate; Classics Civilization or Introduction to Language
high school: all levels of Latin; world history
middle school: Latin language, introductory Roman civilization or the Roman culture of ". . . Populusque Romanus."
elementary: language, culture, or "College for Kids" classes
The inscriptions provide instruction in two major areas:
Reading: The book is written for the intermediate college or advanced high school levels and provides a useful glimpse into both the daily life of the Romans and the colloquial use Latin by the lesser known half of Roman society. The dialect and changes in the language also show to the upper level reader how varieties of Latin developed.
Culture: The inscriptions would be an excellent component of a course about ancient Roman society, in which both the culture of well-known personages as well as that of citizens and slaves on the street is discussed. The examples show real Latin in real contexts. Knowing the language is not necessary in order to understand the topics addressed, or even the linguistic changes.
The book contains 351 different illustrations, 24 of which are reproduced as facsimiles as well. The teacher would probably want to put an example on an overhead for the class, in order to point out the abbreviations, typical structure and style, variations in forms (loss of -m ending, orthographic changes in vowels), and then demonstrate a reading or interpretation, and follow with elaboration on the cultural interest.
The facsimiles especially bring the students closer to the Roman writer and the wall, by showing various styles, artistic flourishes, and the actual style of writing, not entirely legible until compared with the reproduction or with the help of the notes or teacher. By presenting on an overhead some of the facsimiles or the reproduced illustrations, the teacher can explore linguistic or cultural topics, to enrich students' acquaintance with the Romans about whom they are reading or studying.
The illustrations are organized by categories. The electoral announcements; advertisements for rentals and sales; lost and found notices; public acclamations and salutations; and curses and insults reflect everyday, commercial, and romantic life of the Romans, specifically those in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The gladiator advertisements can be used to demonstrate different forms of dress, winning and losing, styles of fighting, as well as understanding of this form of entertainment. Some of the miscellaneous entries (I.95, a birth announcement; I.107, found in a room next to a latrine with a picture of a man defecating and with cacator inscribed; I.109, cacator appearing again in a sign near a water reservoir) reflect other daily activities and remind students of the humanness of the people using the language they are studying.
In order to provide a cultural unit, the teacher (either high school or college) could spend a period of days or weeks with assignments and discussion in class. Or this could occur on activity days on either a regular or irregular basis. In a Latin class, the teacher can assign (or allow students to select their own) inscriptions on the basis of subject matter, names used, vocabulary, or illustration of grammar. A set of An Introduction to Wall Inscriptions from Pompeii and Herculaneum in the classroom would allow for individual students to work on their own assigned piece. Accessing the books' vocabulary glossary, lists of abbreviations, commentary, and finally the teacher's help should allow each student to come up with an adequate understanding of what the piece means and allow for presentation and ensuing discussion with the class; the different inscriptions can then be compared.
The Latin teacher can find selections appropriate to the students' level. Many inscriptions use forms of the subjunctive, but just as many don't. The examples are short, of course, both in the number of lines and length of lines, and sentences. Repetition is part of the style and structure. Translating short phrases with nouns, prepositional phrases, and few verbs, or verbs in short phrases or sentences, allows for accessibility. The teacher may wish to use illustrations of particular grammar points: vocatives appear frequently; the lists use nouns in the accusative; genitive, dative, and ablative appear for specific purposes as well.
The reproductions themselves offer the student the fun of decoding the abbreviations and reading real Latin, which was written for a real purpose, on a real wall, in a language they are studying but which has undergone dialectic, regional, and colloquial modifications. Studying the language itself then provides the student with an insight into the use of a language which may seem "foreign," detached, or unapproachable. Students will be able to recognize vocabulary (oro, vos, vir, cupit, cum, optimos, signi sunt, sum, facit, panem, iuvenem, civem, bonum, universi, ille, et, te, suos, ex, sententia, rei publicae, in vita, quicquam, gloria, debet, e.g.,) while learning new vocabulary used in real life: abomino (despise), amator (lover), aquarium (water pitcher), auction (public sale), axungia (hog's fat)--to use the a's as an example.
For review at the beginning of the second semester of my college elementary Latin class, I selected nine inscriptions, all of them using vocabulary the students would recognize and using case endings from the first three declensions. Some used verbs in 3rd person, all in present with one perfect (docuit). This list shows the grammar I wanted the students to review in the inscriptions:
II.45--all nominatives in 1st, 2nd, 3rd declensions
II.37--all words in vocative in 2nd, 2nd-i, 3rd declensions
II.187--nominative 2nd declension (er and us)
(11)--3rd declension nominative and dative
(13)--2nd declension nominative , accusative, and genitive
II.164--nominatives, relative pronoun; 3rd person present tense verb ending
II.33--nominative; present tense verb
II.183--nominative; present tense verb
II.179--nominative, accusative; perfect tense verb
The short sentences illustrated cases and declension endings with the pungent intent of an insult; the other graffiti showed how both soldiers and gladiators wanted to proclaim their presence.
Culture will be easily introduced through reading the inscriptions, but understanding a little Latin can also be readily introduced through looking at the inscriptions for cultural purposes. -- Vicki Wine eLitterae 03/15/2005 (published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers)