Latin 422

Led by Latin teacher and Honors program director James Clauss, we read nearly the entire first book of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita (which means “from the founding of the city” or if we change the length of the “i,” “from the pickling of the city”).

While he made sure we understood Latin grammar, Clauss encouraged us to translate into fluent English and use our discretion in choosing the best English equivalent for a given word based on the context. He gave me a greater appreciation for the art of translation (which is quite different from reading or writing).

I enjoyed the discussions of Roman religion, history, and archaeology. There was something magical about the teacher and maybe also the students. We would start each class period simply translating paragraphs of Livy, and after a couple of minutes we would be discussing the big ideas of the text, similarities with other ancient stories, and the like. When we ran out of things to say–I won’t say we ever finished a discussion–we would continue with the translation.  Several times we had a substitute, usually a retired Classics professor, and, although those classes were different, they were also quite interesting.  We once spent a whole period discussing Etruscan history and archaeology.

We had to write a short paper for a final project.  Since I was interested in the rhythm of Latin oratory, I had been analyzing the rhythm of Livy’s history to see whether he used specific patterns intentionally like the orators.  In the end, I wrote some simple Java code that would mark long and short syllables in the text and count up instances of a given pattern in each paragraph of the text. The results are explained here (link to be posted).

Art of a Mathematician