Finding a "dead language" alive and well in the Eternal City
Roman culture in all of its manifestations, comes alive through the graces of the Rome HBO series, slick CGI productions, and sweeping crane shots from HD cameras courtesy of Nat Geo and the History Channel to view the houses of Pompeii, the piazza of the Roman Forum, amphitheater of El Jem in Tunisia. These reconstructions populate these places with people, sights, sounds. But, in reality, when you visit, these environs are bereft of the teeming life of the ancient landscape that once was. What about the smells that wafted up from the cook pots? The less pleasant ones of the urinals emptied into the vats of the fullers' shops? Multiple languages from people hawking their wares, in piazzas, small shops, the exotic, colorful goods and local commodities? These were the places where Caesar walked, the Vestals prayed, the masses gathered to vote or riot. Such was life in the urban landscape of the Rome. How do we recapture all of this in these original locations? One way is to actively engage history in the sites inhabited by ancient Romans using the original language. That's exactly what we are dong in Rome this summer with the American Institute for Roman Culture's colloquial Latin course: Living Latin Living History. We're not just reading the texts, we are full-on encountering the past by learning to speak in Latin. The program is led by a true expert, Professor Nancy Lleyleyan, who learned from the best in business- at the Gregorian University and with Fr. Reginald Foster. She has created a unique, intense (and fun) program for this summer, on the heels of her extensive teaching in US universities, as well as through her illustrious non profit educational North American Institute for Living Latin Studies (www.latin.org). She, like I, studied with Reginald Foster, living Latin legend- who is an inspiration to us all in the field, though admittedly she continued on to a degree far more involved than I had ever imagined possible. Have a look and, in light of recent articles on memory in the news, you can see just how relevant Latin and the classics remain. Hope to see some of you in Rome this summer! Curate ut valeatis.