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.

05 December 2015

Lesson 10 - Saturnalia optima omnibus!

The first half of our lesson saw us recapping all the language we'd learned this term: the present tense endings 't' and 'nt', imperatives and negative imperatives, nominatives, accusatives, plurals, singulars, genders and adjectival agreement - phew! If you want to have another go at the game you all played so brilliantly, it can be found here.

Blame the Romans for
paper hats
And after such hard work, a little bit of fun. 'Tis the season to be merry, but we found out today about how many of our current Christmas traditions come from the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia. Present giving? Roman. Partying? Roman. Silly hats? Roman. Even those cute gingerbread men may have their origins in the Saturnalian tradition of baking biscuits in the shape of people. So to make sure our nearest and dearest are aware of just how Roman we're being right now, we made some Saturnalia cards showing a splendid pileus-wearing reveller, and containing our best seasonal wishes - in Latin, of course.

Sabir's Saturnalia surprise
And then, of course, we couldn't let Saturnalia pass without the traditional exchange of sigillaria. (Well, OK, I thought books might be a better choice, especially when they're the fantastic Roman Mysteries series!)

Optimae feriae vobis omnibus, et vobiscum novo anno congrediar!

Happy holidays to you all and see you in the New Year!
valete omnes!

28 November 2015

Lesson 9 - The Great Roman Bake Off

One of our favourite activities today: The Great Roman Bake Off. Using recipes from Apicius (which you can find here), we tried our hand at preparing an array of Roman dishes. First things first, we took a tour (with the odd tasting) of the ingredients available to us. Dark rye bread, apricots, figs, melon, fish sauce, honey, spices, herbs, date syrup, eggs, pepper, grape juice, raisins, pine nuts, almonds, semolina and milk - yum!

Yaren - kitchen goddess
Proud chefs!

Yaren and Jagoda impressed everyone with their focus and, quite frankly, professionalism to create a delicious semolina pudding studded with crunchy almonds and chewy raisins. The presentation wouldn't have been out of place in a five star restaurant. Therefore, quite rightly, they carried off the victor's crown.

Taiwo and Rebecca pound away
Hannah puts her back into it
The hypotrimma (a dip that seems to taste completely different depending on who's making it) required a great deal of elbow grease to get it to the right consistency. Kind of a work-out and cooking combined. Hannah and Ketsia's version was peppery and minty and absolutely delicious, and so these two won their group's title of Star Roman Baker.

"No, he's the evil chef genius!"
Adrian finds a creative way to grind pepper
Other notable dishes included mushroom patina by Kehinde and Abiye, and a fantastic ham and fig pie. The melon in mint was as wonderful as ever (if a little sweet the second time around!). We introduced a new dish this year to replace the (quite frankly, disgusting) lettuce patina: the stewed apricots were actually really delicious. 

Of course, we couldn't cook all this food and then not try it! A testament to the skill of all the chefs, after the judging the food was devoured by the members of Classics Club (and me!).

21 November 2015

Lesson 8 - Just DON'T do it!

More on the joys of cursing today. In language work, we learned the negative imperative (i.e. how to tell someone not to do something). Using this knowledge, we created even more Latin curses (or benedictions, if we were feeling nice) ready for the next part of the lesson...

After a quick virtual tour of the Roman Baths at Bath (or Aquae Sulis as it used to be known), we looked at pictures of some defixiones (curse tablets) that were thrown into the sacred waters, and imagined what stories of deceit and treachery might be behind what was written on those little slips of metal. And then it was time to get personal. After a quick session practising backwards writing (a skill Monika never knew she had!), we started to inscribe our own curses.

Of course, being Classics Club, we had to ask some important questions about curses - mainly, do they work? What's the point of them? We discussed how, in the absence of scientific understanding, people tended to hold much more mystical views of why things happened, and also how believing that your curse would work could help you get through a difficult event in your life (like having your girlfriend stolen). Here's a golden example of how science and psychology can explain away a curse:

And don't forget that it's the Great Roman Bake Off next week. Group 1 will be staying a bit later and Group 2 need to come to the Food Tech room at 1.35pm. Yum!

14 November 2015

Lesson 7 - Curse you all!

Things got a bit nasty in Classics Club today...

Cases mean prizes
First of all, we started off with a fairly fiendish language recap. Both groups did amazingly in the Millionaire Game, avoiding all the traps I set, recognising word endings (singular/plural, nominative/accusative) like TOTAL NINJAS to choose the right translation for the Latin sentence. If you want to play that game again (if only it were real money!), here's the link.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus
Next, we investigated some curses in ancient mythology: Tantalus, Narcissus and Arachne. 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.

Darnell gets mean
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). Channelling our nice or nasty sides, we assembled a few imperatives together with adverbs on paper. Next week, we'll get all authentic and etch 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 when we meet next week.

07 November 2015

Lesson 6 - Mix it up

Refreshed after our half-term break, we embarked on a big slice of language work today. Firstly, we recapped everything we'd learned about Latin endings, verbs, nouns and adjectives. Then, adding to our ever-increasing knowledge, we encountered masculine, feminine and neuter nouns in not only the singular but also the plural. In an task that I like to call Nobody Sneeze, we arranged Latin words to make grammatically coherent sentences. A special mention to Hannah, who produced a whole pageful of perfect Latin sentences. No mean feat, as the subject had to be in the nominative, the object had to be in the accusative, and the verb ending (singular or plural) had to agree with the subject of the sentence. Phew!

Needs a little more ketchup...
After sharing and translating our sentences round the class, we then took a look at some of the deities we didn't have time to talk about during our last session. Kronos, especially, captivated our imagination. For all of you who were freaked out by that Goya painting of Kronos eating his children (right), here's some more information on what a gruesome character this particular Titan was. You can also watch the video of him battling his children again...

Your home task is to learn those noun endings, which you can find here. Oh, and don't forget to put the 27th November in your diaries as our day for the Great Roman Bake Off (and don't believe the rumours, there are no recipes involving custard and tuna in my kitchen!).

24 October 2015

Lesson 5 - OMGs

We came, we saw, we recapped our Latin grammar. And don’t forget, the nominative case is for the SUB-JECT, accusative is for the DI-RECT OB-JECT. Here’s that little earworm to burrow its way into your brains…

...and you can see how those nouns change depending on their role in the sentence on our grammar page

Next, one of the most interesting parts of Classical culture - the gods and goddesses. We opened up with a quiz to see just how much you knew about Zeus*, Poseidon et al. Then we explored the family tree of the gods. It’s interesting how many of the god myths explain natural phenomena (remember our lesson on the reasons for myths?). Here, for example, is the ancient explanation for the seasons, with Persephone’s annual departure to her husband’s home in Hades…

You can see more in-depth information about the Greek gods family tree here. Have a great half-term holiday, everyone, and don’t forget to visit the Classics Club Memrise module to help you learn your vocabulary.

*Hmm, about Zeus. Appears quite a lot in the family tree, doesn’t he? As Taj says, a bit of a player.

18 October 2015

Lesson 4 - Creature creations

We opened with a fun exploration of how ancient languages often blended word parts to make compound words, especially for mythological characters (Mino-taur, uni-corn, hippo-gryph), and we noted how this still happens today (labrad-oodle, beef-alo, ze-donk). We each got a word-part card and as a class tried to make some well-known compound words. We got a bit stuck on cephalo and pod, but knowing the meanings of these words in Greek, we could work out that a head-foot creature might be something like a snail. Then the really fun bit: mixing up the word cards to make new compound creatures of our own. Here's a selection...
Shantay's cephalosaur

Angel's dinodactyl

Oliwia's dinopod

Andrei's pterolyc

Jagoda's pusanthrope

After all that creativity, we settled down to our language work, and to ponder subject and object nouns. In English, meaning is defined by the order in which nouns come in the sentence, but we all know now that Latin conveys meaning through word ending. As many students correctly guessed, we have to look at the ending of nouns to see which one is doing the action and which one is receiving the action. Silence descended on the class as we tackled a worksheet full of nominative (subject) and accusative (object) endings, and all that could be heard was the ticking of brains!...

And finally, for any of you who enjoyed that rap at the beginning of the class, here it is:

Valete omnes!

04 October 2015

Lesson 3 - Mythbusters

Breaking & entering - serial offender
Picking up where we left off last week, we took a look at some myths - Greek and modern - to investigate why these intriguing and often scary tales play such an important part in so many cultures. We all agreed on Mormo and Father Christmas as tales used to keep naughty children in check. There was also consensus on mermaids and the Taraxippi as
Fact or fiction?
myths that helped explain observed phenomena. However, the debate got very lively when it came onto the origins of UFO stories. Some of us bought into the fact that these stories tap into human physiology (sleep paralysis) and psychology (addressing our deepest fears), but others argued that they weren't myths at all, but true accounts of actual events. We even had a vivid first-hand account of a mysterious light in the sky. Fun stuff, and loads of food for thought...

taurus magnus est...
...vacca magna est
In language work today, we looked at how the ends of Latin nouns denote their gender (-us for masculine, -a for feminine and -um for neuter). We then explored how adjectives have to agree with their noun by changing their endings, and completed some sentences of our own , supplying the correct adjective.

No home tasks this week, and see you all in a fortnight as there's an INSET day next Friday.

26 September 2015

Lesson 2 - Goodbye word order, hello word ending

puer piscem edit
A double dose of language work today kicked off our first encounter with the lingua Latina. A quick Grammar 101 Quiz showed that we were all up to speed with the concepts of nouns, verbs, subjects and objects, singulars and plurals: most of us also encountered the terms 'nominative' and 'accusative' for the first time. Next up, our contemplation of boys, fish and eating (and various combinations of those words) showed us that in English, word order is critical to the meaning of a sentence - BUT NOT IN LATIN! We learned instead that the endings of words are codes we need to crack to see what job a noun or verb is doing in a Latin sentence.

gallinae rident? stultae sunt!
And so on to our first 'word ending codes' - how to analyse the end of a verb to see whether a verb is being done by one or more than one person (or, indeed, animal!). We spotted -t for singulars and -nt for plurals.
After all that language work, we settled down to think about one of the best aspects of Classical culture: Greek mythology. We watched Polyphemus the Cyclops snack on a (crunchy) man, Perseus chased by a snaky Medusa, and Cerberus seeing off Harry Potter et al. Fun stories, but this is Classics Club, where we like to dig a bit deeper. What's the point of these myths? How did they come about? What do they tell us about human beings, modern or ancient? This week's home task is to research a myth from any time or any culture. Next week we'll have a look at some of the reasons - psychological, sociological, political - why myths have arisen and continue to arise today.

19 September 2015

Lesson 1 - iterum denuo*

Welcome, and not just to a new school year but to thirty new Classics enthusiasts!

The world's toughest French lesson?
We started Classics Club with an exploration of the English language, to show just how much Latin we already know in the form of modern words that have their roots in the ancient language. Students flew through the task of matching familiar English words to their etymological ancestors. We also explored the notion of language as an organic entity that is constantly changing, from the transition of Latin into French, and then the imposition by the Normans of their language on the English from 1066 A.D. onwards. And, of course, more l8ly, the impact of technology changing language 4eva.

Not forgetting the Ancient Greeks, we also had a go at learning the Greek alphabet, so that we could design some name badges for ourselves, as well as crack a few codes written up on the board.

This week's hometask: find a modern word or object that has an association with Latin, Ancient Greek or Classical culture. 

* = once more from the top

18 July 2015

Post scriptum

This week, Greig City Academy was asked to address the Classics for All Lawyers Group (and friends!) at the House of Lords. Nailaa and Lai'larni did an amazing job, and here's what they had to say...

"I would like to thank everyone that funded this programme because it is amazing to learn a new language, especially when it's a hard one. Learning Latin has given me a better understanding of the English language and other languages, for example, Spanish. The subject will benefit me because I'm planning on being a doctor in the future and Latin has quite a bit to do with medicine. I will be choosing Latin for my GCSE because I like the fact that it's quite a challenging subject and not everybody can say they've learned Latin."

"Classics this year has been really helpful for me. I have had the opportunity to study a subject that is intellectually demanding and incredibly interesting. It has helped me with many subjects, most notably with my English. Learning Latin has helped me with my grammar in English. I have also enjoyed learning how many words in the English language have come from Latin ones; learning about roots words has changed my way of thinking about etymology and has helped me to deduce unfamiliar words. Classics has also helped me in my History lessons. I have been fascinated by Roman history and studying about how the Roman Empire stretched to Britain, founding Londinium and bringing Latin culture and language with it. 

I've particularly enjoyed the varied activities that we have done this year. The philosophy has been incredibly interesting, where we got to study some Aristotle and Plato. We learned about human irrationality and how Plato stated that democracy is only one step up from anarchy. This really challenged my way of thinking about modern-day governments. Outside of the classroom, we have been on three really interesting trips. I particularly enjoyed the trip to the Roman amphitheatre, where we actually found under the Guildhall the old foundations of the amphitheatre for London, where gladiators would have fought, slaves would have been executed and a third of the population of London at the time would have gathered.

Perhaps the most appealing thing for me now, going forward, is that we have now been given the opportunity to study a GCSE in Latin. This will be really challenging, but it will be an incredible advantage to have on a CV, and I will have an intellectual advantage over many students who have not been privileged enough to access classical education. And it's a privilege to be able to study, to read and to write Latin. I know it will be difficult, but the opportunity to study this is amazing and I very much look forward to starting in September."

12 July 2015

Lesson 27 - Ave atque vale*

Well, here we are: our last lesson of Classics Club.

After a bit of admin (thanks for all your feedback), we thought about amphitheatres, after seeing those ruins last week under the Guildhall. The grandest Roman amphitheatre - which you all knew - is, of course, the Colosseum. To fully appreciate this architectural wonder, we took a video quiz on the impressive structure which was originally called (as we now know) the Flavian Amphitheatre.

So the Romans certainly knew how to build an impressive structure. But what else did they ever do for the world? The perfect answer can be found in a rather unexpected comic source...

And, from the same source (Monty Python's 'Life of Brian'), a contrast to the Classics Club method of teaching Latin... at least, I hope you all think so!

It's been a fantastic year. Have a great summer holiday and see some of you again in the new term for further adventures in Latin.

*="Hello and goodbye", a famous line written by the Roman poet Catullus. More here, if you're interested.

05 July 2015

Going underground

The outline of the amphitheatre
sub arbores cenabamus
What perfect weather for our trip to see some hidden archaeological gems in the City of London. First things first: a picnic in leafy Finsbury Circus before the short walk to the Guildhall. The Guildhall, home since the thirteenth century of the Mayor and various bodies of tradesmen ('guilds'), was built on the site of the
old Roman amphitheatre, the outline of which is marked in the courtyard pavement (above). But the real treat lies below ground, where sections of the Roman amphitheatre can be seen, along with a modern reconstruction of what the terraces would have looked like. 2,000 years ago, the amphitheatre was the site of gladiatorial combats, wild animal fights and public executions, and the stands could hold a large proportion of the city's inhabitants: the gory goings-on were evidently popular!

Into the unknown
The next part of our archaeological trail was a little more... maverick. I'd read about a massive, well-preserved piece of the Roman city wall. It just happened to be in an unnamed underground car park. Undaunted, we set out along London Wall (guess why the road has that name!) to find the entrance to the mysterious car park. And find it we did. As we walked through the long, blissfully cool underground passage, we saw cars, bikes, more cars, more bikes... but no sign of any Roman wall. Until, right at the end of the car park, standing out like a sore thumb, there it was. 2,000 years old, with a car park built around it. This just goes to show that you never know what's right under your feet.
tandem murem invenimus!

20 June 2015

Testing times...

Test week. Enough said. But for any of you who wanted exactly to know what was going on in that scene of marital strife, here's the full translation:

Once upon a time two friends, Caecilius and Quintus, were walking to the temple...

Caecilius looks around the forum. "I'm starving. Have you got any bread?" asks Caecilius. Quintus says, "I don't have any. But look! It's a tavern! Here we can eat bread." The friends run to the tavern. They go into the tavern. Many Roman men are there."Do you love to eat" says a slave. "Bread? Fish? Wine?"

The two friends dine well. They drink a lot of wine. The temple is forgotten. Oh dear, soon the friends are sleeping in the tavern.

Suddenly, Cassia comes into the tavern. Cassia is Quintus' wife. Cassia is savage. Cassia is very angry.

"What the heck*, husband!" exclaims Cassia."Why were you not in the temple? I was working very hard in the house, and you were eating food, you were drinking wine. You are stupid, you are wretched, you are drunk! The gods punish wicked men!"

Caecilius laughs and quickly leaves. Wretched Quintus sobs.

(* or words to that effect!)

13 June 2015

Lesson 26 - Looking to the future

Incredible to think, but Classics Club is now nearing its end. It's been a packed year, full of language, culture, trips, creativity and (best of all) enthusiasm. So, first of all, a bit of admin: here are our dates for the next few weeks:

19th June - test
26th June - INSET (so no Classics Club)
3rd July - possible trip date
10th July - our very last CC lesson!

I hope this clears up any confusion about dates (especially that INSET!). And just a reminder, the test (WHICH IS NEXT WEEK!!) will take the following format:

Part 1: Pick the correct Latin word to complete the sentence
Part 2: Translate an unseen block of text (including using vocabulary that you won't have seen before, given to you with the text)
Part 3: Classical culture multiple choice

infans leonem amat
We also cleared up a language loose end today: third declension nouns, those awkward ones that don't end in us/a/um like most of the others. We had a look at leo, infans and fur. You can now see how this works on our Latin grammar page

Next, onwards and upwards with another CLC translation about the arrival of actors in Pompeii. Your speed as a group at tackling chunks of Latin text has improved fantastically. This bodes really well for those of you who are thinking of carrying on your Latin studies in Year 9. Well done.

And in case we hadn't crammed enough into one lesson, we also started to think about The Odyssey, the greatest poem ever written (IMHO, at least). Here's a great synopsis...

Followed by Part II...

...and Part III

06 June 2015

Lesson 25 - Epic work...

Underline those verbs if it helps
Back to our old friends Felix, Caecilius and Clemens this week, and a heart-warming story of thwarted kid-napping. We're getting a little faster at unseen translation, but we'll get even faster if we always remember the golden rules, most importantly to ignore what your English-speaking brain is telling you. Don't go for the subject first. Find the VERB as it has loads of important clues about what is happening, when it's happening, who and how many people govern the verb. Parse the verb first, and then look for a subject (nominative) and then any object (accusative). Make a rough translation, then look for any other bits & bobs floating around (e.g. adverbials). Put them in, then polish up your translation. If you want to have another look at the translation, you can find an interactive version here.

Then a real treat. A twenty minute overview of The Iliad and why it's such an amazing piece of work.

1. It's very, very old and very, very long. Pretty impressive if you think that it was originally not written down but passed on through an oral tradition.

2. Some of the language is stunning, including the innovative use of similes and metaphors, setting images of war and peace in contrast to comment on the savagery (and futility?) of war.

3. It set the gold standard for both the war poetry and horror genres for the next few thousands of years.

4. It provided the inspiration for Troy, a film based on the Trojan War. Brad Pitt as Achilles - oh yes!

And, because we didn't have time to watch it in class, here's how the Trojan War ended (courtesy of Odysseus' brains, not Achilles' muscles)...
For your home task, start revising from that crib sheet you got in the lesson. The test date is 19th June.

23 May 2015

Lesson 24 - Can we really call this a lesson?!

Perhaps better described as a fun end to this half term, this 'lesson' we all made mosaics. Having said that, we did learn that:
  • the stuff in between tiles is called grout
  • mosaic tiles ('tesserae') do not taste nice, despite their startling similarity to sweets
  • it's best to duck when cutting tesserae
  • Max is a perfectionist
  • Classics Club should at no point enter the X-Factor
Here's some of the amazing artwork...
...for Slash (aka Kacper)
...for Jamellia
...for Nailaa

The stunning results of Max's perfectionism