Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hobbitus Ille

As a fan of The Hobbit, I had to post about a book I came across today on Amazon: Hobbitus Ille: The Latin Hobbit (Latin and English Edition).

It hasn't been released yet, but it is currently available for pre-order at Amazon. This joins a growing list of modern favourites that have been translated into Latin (such as Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Latin edition.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Divination... haruspicy and augury

It can be easy to forget about those daily activities & aspects of Roman society that are far from our everyday modern experience. Divination is one such routine element of the Roman world that I've recently been reading about.

The Romans adopted the Etruscan art of haruspicy as one of their 'unofficial' forms of divination. Now the Etruscans liked their divination a little messy. Haruspicy involved examining the various entrails of sacrificed animals for divine messages. The liver was especially popular for divining the future, and in fact a bronze 'demo' liver has survived from antiquity ("The Bronze Liver of Piacenza" - see the picture at the right.)

The Romans themselves were a little less... er... hands-on than the Etruscans. One of the 'official' forms of Roman divination was augury. At its core, augury involved observing the sky for signs from the gods. An augur would 'inaugurate' a region in the sky as his templum (a word which could denote any sacred area, not just a physical building). Then he would watch how birds flew across this region (did they fly from left to right? or right to left?), or for bolder signs like lighting (Jupiter clearly had something to say then...)

Unlike other forms of divination, augury was not intended to foretell future events - it was rather used to find out whether the gods approved of some course of action. So for example, before setting off on a military campaign, an augur would have to check with the gods - did they have permission to set out? (Always best to have Jupiter willing.)

Augurs were also consulted before assemblies - if the gods didn't approve, the assembly wouldn't be held. If some sign became apparent during an assembly, the assembly would be adjourned. Even the acts of assemblies could be made null & void, and in fact the college of augurs could even declare an election invalid. This happened in 163 BC, when the father of the Gracchi (at the time a consul and an augur) suddenly 'remembered' that he forgot to take the auspices before crossing the pomerium (the city's sacred boundary) for an assembly. The two new consuls who had been elected in that assembly were forced to resign their office. 'vitio facti abdicarunt' was recorded on the list of magistrates.

Clearly the opportunity for political manipulation was great...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"People called Romanes they go the house?!"

Well, classes are starting up again. Good luck to all you Latin students this term!

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Time for some resolutions (what with it being New Year's and all). Here are some of my more academic goals:
  1. Review my Latin & Greek grammar. It hurts, but it's good for you in the end. Like exercise.
  2. Read the entire Aeneid and the Odyssey in their original languages. I've read chunks of both from here and there, but I've never read either 'cover-to-cover', so to speak.
  3. Read the New Testament in Greek. Hopefully this will be a more relaxing read.
  4. Quit procrastinating! (That's the toughest one by far...)

Happy New Year all! What have you got planned for 2007?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Google Scholar

First off, for those who are unfamiliar, here is Google's description of their Google Scholar search engine:

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Google Scholar helps you identify the most relevant research across the world of scholarly research.

I remember trying Google Scholar when it was first released. At the time, I didn't find it all that helpful and I more or less forgot about it. Recently, amidst the flurry of term-end papers, I came across it again and I must say it seems considerably more useful now. Classics majors will be happy to know that it searches JSTOR now. (JSTOR is a journal index that includes quite a number of Classics journals - if you are a Classics major and have never used JSTOR, go check it out! You can probably get full-text access to articles online through your university library.)

Speaking of libraries, one of Google Scholar's spiffy features is the ability to set your library preference (visit the preferences page and check out the 'Library Links' section). Pick your university's library and you'll get links next to search results (e.g. 'Get it @ Oxford'). This facilitates finding the book or article at your library (or getting online access through your library login).

Google classifies Scholar as 'beta', and rightly so - it still has a long way to go... (I sure hope it gets there!) Linked with Scholar is their full-text Book Search tool. It is also in beta, but is already quite useful (and will only get better as they add more books.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Latin Morphological Analysis in IE7

IE 7 has a new search box in the top-right corner of the browser window. It's possible to search with different search engines by selecting one using the little drop-down box. A few options are built-in, but it's also possible to add your own search engines.

I've found it useful to add the morphological tool from Perseus to the list. Then I can just type in a Latin word and quickly get the morphology and links to Lewis & Short without having to load up Perseus first.

It's rather easy to set up:
  1. Click the 'find more providers' link.

  2. You'll get to a Microsoft website which provides a list of different search engines to add. There isn't a default link for Perseus (shocking, I know! Doesn't everyone want morphological analysis?), so you'll have to set it up yourself by following the directions in the 'Create Your Own' box.

  3. Cut and paste the following URL where it asks for the search results page:

And that's it!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

300 (The Movie)

That's the latest trailer for '300', a new movie based on Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name. I've not read the comics, but a fellow Classics major says they're great. The movie looks like it should be fun - of course, it's certainly not intended to be some historically accurate depiction of Thermopylae... (check Classics sensibility at the door, sit back, and enjoy).

It would be interesting to see what sort of correlation there has been between the release of all these sword-and-sandal movies of the last few years, and enrolment in Classics programs. I wonder if departments have seen a surge in numbers as of late. Gladiator must have had some sort of impact...

Occasionally I wonder whether these kinds of films are detrimental for Classics... but I tend to think the publicity is good. Let the movie draw students into the classroom, and let an excellent prof show them just how much more there is to Greek & Roman history.

Any thoughts?

The Electronic Resources site disappears...

Electronic Resources for Wheelock's Latin seems to have been taken down recently. All that is left: "Site Closed Until Further Notice". This is really too bad - it was an excellent and useful resource for students. I wonder what happened? Does anyone know?

If you're looking for online resources related to Wheelock's Latin, you can check this list at the official Wheelock website. You'll find plenty of links to other helpful Latin sites.