Learning Classics is a bit like putting on a magic pair of 3-D glasses. Once you start delving into the language and the culture, you'll start to see it all around you. This blog is a record of the club's journey through the worlds and language of ancient Rome and Greece... and through modern times, too, searching for the influence of classics all around us. You'll also be able to find vocab, home tasks, links and generally enlightening info here, too.

14 December 2014

A Night (OK, Afternoon) At The Museum

GCA Classics Club hit the BM
Having reached the requisite amount of points, we had an end-of-term treat: a treasure hunt at the British Museum. Despite my best efforts to get everyone lost/wear everyone out by climbing endless stairs, we succeeded in finding objects on our sheets and answering questions about them.

We also managed to take a sneaky look at the Elgin Marbles (not on our hunt!), and some students had an interesting discussion about whether they should be here, or back in their original home, Athens. Is the best place for these works of art in a specially-designed gallery, in a museum created to look like the Parthenon itself, or should artefacts be returned to their place of creation (and perhaps help Greece make some money from tourists going to see them)? The debate is summarised here, but what do you think?

Yep, more stairs...
Uh-oh, Tanvir's gone all intellectual.
We looked at works of art both Greek and Roman, including the Mildenhall Dish ("Miss, I can't look at it, it's too shiny!") and pottery paintings thousands of years old. But we also saw everyday artefacts that gave a glimpse into the lives of ancient people, including a receipt and a curse tablet ("Woah, she must have done something NASTY to deserve that!"). After all that treasure-hunting (and stair-climbing!), we rested a while in the Great Court, exchanged Saturnalia gifts and then said farewell to the Museum.

06 December 2014

Lesson 11 - Great Roman Bake Off

Today we busted out of the classroom and took over the food tech room. In our Great Roman Bake Off we tried our hand at making some of the food served at Roman feasts. All the recipes we used come from the cookbook written by Apicius (and you can find them  here).

Caroenum - mmm!

First of all, we took a quick tour of the ingredients available to the Roman cook. We tasted caroenum (condensed grape juice) and date syrup, and smelled fish sauce and dark sourdough bread.
Food processing, Roman style

Then we set to work on our recipes. Gungor, Gizem and Anna - armed with a mortar and pestle - worked on hypotrimma, a sweet, herby cheese dip. Much pounding, slicing and stirring later, and a wonderful dip emerged. And Trevelle discovered a new favourite food!


Max and Benedict took on the hefty challenge of ham and figs in pastry. A superb, delicious and beautifully presented dish - even if the cooking time went to the wire!
Cook the lettuce?!!

Bruno and Andrew tackled perhaps the most unusual dish to modern palates: lettuce patina, a sort of vegetable baked custard. Excellent seasoning with lots of pepper, the lettuce crunchy and the egg creamy, the dish was cooked to perfection, even if it wasn't to all tastes.

Cantharellus cibarius
Another patina for Jamelia and Lai'larni, this time mushroom flavoured. But not with ordinary mushrooms, but with wild ones like the Romans would have gathered. This dish went down very well: hardly any left after the tasting session.

Not your average semolina pudding

Nailaa and Trevelle produced a real crowd-pleaser, a honey-flavoured semolina pudding with almonds and raisins. It was delicious. I think I ate more than my fair share of that one.

Serious amounts of chopping required

And that leaves us with Kacper ("I don't cook") and Tanvir (kitchen whizz). Well, they obviously made a good team (or Tanvir did twice the work?) because their melon in a mint sauce went down a storm.

Once all the dishes were ready, the tasting and judging happened. Two winners were declared: ham and figs in pastry and the melon with mint. Well done Max, Benedict, Tanvir and Kacper!

29 November 2014

Lesson 10 - Me, myself and I

Salve, acolitus sum!

A final push on our language work this week, before the Saturnalia fun starts. 

The class demonstrated its ninja skills in identifying verb forms by grammatically analysing* song lyrics: third person plurals from Bastille ("and the walls came tumbling down..."), imperative plural from Band Aid ("throw your arms around the world..."), and imperative singular from Rihanna ("baby... shut up and drive"). We spotted an infinitive in Pharrell's 'Happy', which then led us on to a new verb form: 'I', or the first person singular. 

Klaudiusz' translations
Nailaa's Latin 
We then had a go at translating first person singular verbs from Latin to English and English to Latin, taking the infinitive, finding the verb 'stem' and then adding 'o'.
 And then the countdown to Saturnalia began. Gizem read us some facts about Saturnalia, the Roman winter festive holiday (which you can see here in more detail. Home task for this week is to find modern equivalents of Saturnalian traditions (on the handout), perhaps persuading you that Christmas has some roots in cultures much older than Christianity.

Don't forget it's our Great Roman Bake Off week next week. See you in the Food Tech room ten minutes earlier than usual!

* and singing, of course!

22 November 2014

Lesson 9 - Curse you all, again!!

Noli perire!
Another week with a big language focus so that we could curse and order not just on one person, but many. To do this, we learned the plural imperative. What's more, we learned how to form any imperative, singular or plural, from the infinitive of the verb. The infinitive ('to ...') form of the verb is a handy, handy friend and we'll meet it loads more in the coming weeks.

We then looked at some curse inscriptions recovered from the baths at Bath (Aquae Sulis) - top-notch nastiness. Don't ever steal anyone's girlfriend in Bath.

After all this intensive cursing, we took a few moments to consider whether curses actually work. Benedict very astutely commented that curses only work if the curser and cursee believe in them - they rely heavily on the power of suggestion and biased thinking (see this site for a more detailed explanation). We watched a scientific investigation into one of the most famous curses of all: the Curse of King Tutankhamun's Tomb, which seemed to be responsible for the deaths of many people (and dogs!) associated with the tomb's excavation. But with a little scientific and rational thinking, it turned out that the 'curse' could be explained away.

We've had a few intensive language weeks, and we've got another one next week, but don't forget that Saturnalia is on the horizon. We'll be celebrating the Roman season of fun with our Great Roman Bake-Off on the 5th December, and our British Museum Treasure Hunt on the 12th December.

Valete omnes! (which is a plural imperative, as you know...)

15 November 2014

Lesson 8 - Curse you!

Her Maj enjoys a nice red
Today we all got a bit mean. The first cruelty was dished out in the form of a test (yes, without looking at our books!) to see what we'd remembered about nominatives, accusatives, singulars, plurals, feminines, masculines, neuters AND... vocabulary. Everyone had to describe six pictures in Latin. Could it get any more challenging?

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dali, 1937
 Next, we investigated some curses in ancient mythology: Tantalus, Narcissus and Cassandra. To the right you can see an interesting interpretation of the Narcissus myth by surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Take a close look at the picture and see if you can relate any details back to the story of Narcissus. By the way, you can see this actual painting here in London at the Tate Modern.

Steady on, you mean lot!!
In language work, we took a look at imperatives - verbs that command - which are very useful for casting curses, or, if you're in a more kindly mood, giving benedictions ('bene', well/nicely + 'dictum', thing spoken). After assembling a few imperatives (and negative imperatives) together with adverbs on paper, we got all authentic and etched our curses on metal to make defixiones. These were curses written on lead and thrown into a sacred well to 'activate' them. You can see some brilliant examples at the Roman Baths in Bath - but more about this next week.

08 November 2014

Lesson 7 - A brief history of defenestration

Great to see everyone back and full of enthusiasm after the half term break.

Latin, Greek, Arabic and Anglo-Saxon
We started our session with some etymological detective work, prompted by a very insightful question from the classroom floor about how words come into being. Etymology is the study of words' origins and usage over time, and - of course - this word itself comes from Greek:  'etumon' means 'true meaning', and '-logia' is the suffix denoting 'study of' (as in biology, the study of 'bios' - life). In pairs and using dictionaries, we discovered the etymology of some everyday and unusual words, and sorted them out by linguistic origins. Max kindly expounded on the Old English roots of 'window', and then Tanvir, with the help of the class and the knowledge that 'fenestra' is Latin for 'window', worked out the meaning of 'defenestration'. Here's a dramatic defenestration for you:

This was followed by some important recapping on nouns and their genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), number (singular, plural) and cases (nominative, accusative). We now know that we have to detect these three things in the ending of the noun, and this will help us make sense of our sentence (once again, we all cried out, "NOT WORD ORDER, WORD ENDINGS!!"). Knowledge was put to good use in describing in Latin the goings-on in six pictures, making sure that all nouns were in the right number and case, and that verbs matched their subjects in number (singular or plural, '-t' or '-nt').
Gizem's killer epistula
Max's generous equus

26 October 2014

Lesson 6 - language focus

Choosing the right endings...
In this last session before the half-term holiday, we collected together all the language learning we've accumulated since the beginning of Classics Club - (1) word ending, not word order, (2) singular and plural verbs in the present tense, (3) masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, (4) adjectives that agree with their noun's gender, and (5) the nominative (subject) and accusative (object) endings. Not bad for six hours' work! As explained in our lesson, all the grammar we've learned so far can be seen here (don't stress about the stuff in grey - we'll be tackling that in due course). Plus, on the vocabulary front, we've officially covered 10% of all the GCSE higher-tier words.

Nope, we won't be swimming!
But probably the highlight of the lesson was finding out that the trip we're planning is to Bath (formerly known as Aquae Sulis) to see the fantastic Roman baths and underground thermal spring next half term. Have a great week off (but don't forget to memorise those nominative and accusative endings!).

19 October 2014

Nasty, very nasty

We talked very briefly about the Titan Kronos in our last lesson and a few of you commented on the nastiness of his backstory. So, in the spirit of Classics Club giving you the warts-and-all perspective on all things ancient, here, point-by-point, is why Kronos really is a nasty piece of work:

1. Kronos came to power by cutting off certain parts of his dad, Ouranos, that would ensure Ouranos would not be having any more children. Nice.

2. Winning Bad Father of the Year award, he wanted to get rid of his children in case they stole his power.

3. Ensuring he kept the title, he decided the best way to get rid of his kids was to eat them. Which seems a little extreme.

Fortunately, Rhea, wife of Kronos and mother of the child-flavoured snacks took a stand and fed Kronos a rock when he went to munch on Zeus. Zeus then grew up to lead a revolt against Kronos, and banished him to Tartarus.

The particularly gruesome picture of Kronos here is by Francisco Goya. Although it looks like it could have come out of a modern horror movie, it was painted nearly 200 years ago. Some more of Goya's grisly 'black paintings' can be seen here.

18 October 2014

Lesson 5 - Birthdays, babies and the accusative

Sit tibi dies natalis felix, Lai'Larni. Cue a discussion about how Romans didn't celebrate the day of a baby's birth, but the 'dies lustricus' ('day of purification') eight days later. And why? The sad fact was that a lot of babies (25-40%) didn't make it that far. So if you got past the first week, everyone breathed a sigh of relief, gave you a name and celebrated. Romans may have had an advanced civilisation, but the lack of medicinal technology (including penicillin, pointed out by Benedict) meant that the mortality rate (from 'mors', Latin for 'death') was a lot higher than today.

Anna's accusatives
In language work, we met the accusative for nouns: an accusative ending on a noun shows that it is the object of a verb, i.e. it's having something done to it, it's not the doer (subject/nominative). Jumping in at the deep end, we translated English sentences into Latin, making sure that we changed the ending of all the nouns to show which were the subject (nominative) and which were the object (accusative). Don't forget, all the grammar we've covered is here on our Grammar page.

Wannabe god
Bruno then took over as teacher, and showed us some Olympian gods, Titans and wannabe deities. Serious point scoring for excellence here, with an extra contribution from Anna for recognising Caesar Augustus. And to answer the question about who the baby at Augustus' feet is, it's Cupid, son of Venus - the creator of the statue was reminding his audience of the claim that Augustus was a descendent of Venus (hmmm, a bit of propaganda perhaps?).

A feisty one
One final outstanding question from birthday girl Lai'Larni: do we get the word 'feisty' from 'Hephaestos'? I was pretty sure we didn't, so I looked up the etymology (where the word comes from). A 'feist' was a term used in the past for a small, yappy dog, so you can see how it turned into the adjective we use today.

11 October 2014

Lesson 4 - annuit coeptis* Iuppiter (Zeus likes what we're doing)

Message received, Zeus
Can it really be a coincidence that when we do a lesson about the gods and goddesses of Olympus, an almighty storm descends over Greig City Academy and rattles the windows with the rumble of thunder? I think not! Zeus (or Jupiter to the Romans) is the god of thunder and lightning, and uses them to communicate with mere mortals. I think he approves of what we're up to ;-)

So today we took a look at the Olympian gods and goddesses their 'specialist' areas, their symbols and/or special animals. We watched a clip from Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief that showed us how the gods can be an argumentative lot, and how they support their champions and heroes on earth. We also saw a perfect illustration of how myths are used to explain natural phenomena, with the tale of how Persephone has to spend four months a year in the hellish company of Hades (and that's the reason for winter). Here's the clip if you want to watch it in full.

If you've read the Odyssey or Percy Jackson, you'll know that gods have their mortal favourites whom they help out. But who's your patron god or goddess? You can find out here.

* If you can get your hands on a US dollar bill, you'll see the Latin phrase 'annuit coeptis', which means, 'He approves of our undertakings' ('He' meaning God). These words come from a prayer spoken by one of the characters in The Aeneid, an important epic poem about the foundation of Rome. More on this in due course!

Classics Club hits the headlines

"Why is Miss making me hold cat food?!"
Classics Club has now appeared in three recent editions of the Ham & High newspaper. If you can't get your hands on a copy, there's a link to the online article below. 


26 September 2014

Lesson 3 - Beastly blends and feminine wasps

Zedonk - overdoing the cuteness
More exploration of beasts this week, this time looking at compound creatures in myth and reality. We marvelled at the zedonk and beefalo, and now know that a unicorn is NOT REAL! FICTITIOUS! A FANTASY! We matched beginnings and ends of words to make familiar and novel creatures, showing our creative excellence along the way (see selection of pics at the end of this post).

Language work saw an introduction to nouns that have genders, and how adjectives need to agree in gender with their noun. Plus we discovered the similarities between wasps and motor scooters (the word 'vespa' and the buzzy noise that they make).

Top effort on home tasks, with even more suggestions flowing in for links between Latin and modern words (left). And here's the start of our Mythological Top Trumps deck (right) - keep those cards coming in, we need as many as possible.

She's got wings and feet - she's a pteropod

Here's a selection of our new mythological creations...

A Minodactyl: wouldn't want to meet one on a dark night
Klaudiusz' Biocephian - surely the next Dr Who alien?

20 September 2014

Lesson 2 - Myths (and CGI) ancient and modern

Session 2 was full of puzzles, monsters and our first taste of verb endings...

Lesson 1 recap
Latin-to-English brain workout
Max brings Portuguese into the mix
Loud and clear, it's all about word endings in Latin. Great recall from the class of the homework vocab in the slightly challenging Latin/English, English/Latin word searches. Plus 30 points earned by Max, Anna and Kacper for finding words in English and other modern languages that come from last week's vocab.

Creatures of mythology video quiz
We watched videos (of varying CGI quality!) of how films have brought mythical monsters to life. We noted how ancient monsters have found their way into modern stories, too. We watched an evil Centaur battling Sinbad, Harry Potter versus Cerberus and a terrifying Medusa attack, as well as the perils of relying on a Cyclops for hospitality.

And why do myths arise? Eight volunteers brought mythological stories (ancient and modern) to life, and we sorted them into these four aetiological* (i.e. 'reasons why') categories:

1. Explaining natural phenomena
2. Teaching a moral lesson
3. Controlling people
4. Confronting fears

(But are UFOs real or mythological? The debate rages on!...)

Present tense verb endings
gallinae rident
Jabba ridet
Now we know the importance of verb endings, we can start learning the codes to help us crack them. Present tense verbs tell us what is happening NOW, and in Latin words in the present tense end in 't' when one person or thing (singular) is doing something, and they end in 'nt' when it's more than one person or thing (plural) is doing it. The class tackled an ambitious worksheet, selecting the right verb to match the subject of a sentence, and then translating from Latin to English.
Top translations from Benedict

Home tasks
Vocab is on the link to the right as usual, and for extra points, everyone's got a blank Greek Myth Top Trumps card to research and fill in: draw a picture and give scores out of 100 for each of the four categories. You can find out about your monster here.

(* pronouned ee-tee-oh-loj-i-kal. From 'aitia' + 'logos', ancient Greek for 'reason/cause' and 'study of' - stun someone this week by using 'aetiology' or 'aetiological' in a conversation...)

12 September 2014

Lesson 1 - name badges and disgusting pictures of fish

We kicked off Classics Club today with some great contributions, and we're already making connections between ancient and modern worlds. Here's a few of the things we explored today...

Word matching
CC members sped through their word matching task, proving that they already knew loads of associations between English and Latin words.

What do invading forces bring to conquered lands?
Armies and language, and this is how English ended up with so much Latin influence in it, courtesy of William the Conqueror in 1066. 

Name badges in Greek
Overcoming the challenges of lack of J and W in the Greek alphabet, CC members all wrote their first names in Greek on badges. An especially colourful badge from Anna.

What is the most important difference between Latin and English?
English uses word order, Latin uses...?

(I think we shouted it loudly enough)

Here's that picture of the boy eating the fish that you all loved so much (note: not the fish eating the boy). And excellent connection-making between 'piscis' ('fish') and Pisces the star sign.

In case you've forgotten/lost your sheet, this week's vocab for learning can be found by clicking the 'vocab' link on the home page of this site. Have a go at the optional gold star home task if you're feeling keen: write your whole name in Greek letters. There's a link to the Greek alphabet on the home page, too.

Did we do ALL THAT in an hour?!

30 August 2014

Sneak preview

What we'll be looking at over the next few months...

It's always good to know what you're in for, so here's a peek at topics we'll be covering. In each lesson, we'll mix topic work up with Latin language work.

Beasts, Real and Imaginary
Hold onto your lunch, there are some pretty gory tales here. We'll look at myths and monsters of ancient literature, from grim Gorgons to the bone-crunching Polyphemos. What do these myths tell us about ancient societies? What are our modern day equivalents? We'll also see how Latin is used to classify creatures and plants.

Gods, Magic & Curses
There were a LOT of gods and goddesses, and almost as many ways to get on their bad side. Who is your 'patron deity': are you a hot-headed fighter for Team Ares, or does Athene's calculating, smart approach reflect your style? Ancient people loved a good curse in story and in real life. We'll look at some of the best/worst classic and modern curses and spells. And watch out, North London, we'll be writing some of our own.

Money and (Unfair) Trade
The harsh truth is that the power of Rome was built on the back of slavery. We'll look at the lives of slaves, as well as their masters and those lording it over them. How did your average Roman make money? The ancient Greeks and Romans introduced currency systems into their societies, just like we have today - but have you ever stopped to think why? How would life be different if we didn't have money? Deep, deep thoughts...

Human nature doesn't really change all that much through the ages, and the Ancient world loved a celebrity. We'll investigate what you had to do in Ancient Rome or Greece to get famous (not always good things!) and we'll match classical celebs with modern VIPs.