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The conditions of Latin teaching have changed much in the last fifteen or twenty years. Once the subject was rigidly required, and too often the requirement was ruthlessly administered, without regard for the difficulties encountered by the student, and without any particular care to enlist his interest. Now the gradual shift to an elective basis necessitates certain adjustments.
It has long been recognized that the transition from the conventional beginners’ book to Caesar is too abrupt; and there has been more or less agitation for an extension of “beginning Latin” to the end of the third half-year, thus making room for a considerable amount of graded reading before the first Latin author is seriously taken up. Happily this reform seems at length in a fair way to be realized, as indicated by the recent action of the College Entrance Examination Board. It is hoped that the change will result in a large decrease in the excessive mortality that used to mark the end of the first year's work.
Long experience has led the writer to believe that, at the beginning of the third year, there is need of a somewhat similar change of procedure; for it is likely that Cicero will long continue to be the outstanding feature of the reading of that year, and the transition from Caesar is by no means an easy one.
The student who passes directly from one author to the other is confronted simultaneously by three difficulties: (1) an unfamiliar vocabulary, (2) long and complicated sentence structure, and (3) thought and content rather remote from his own experience and very hard to grasp when the reading progresses at the rate of a few lines a day. In other fields victory has often been won by dividing the difficulties to be overcome; and it is suggested that this successful policy be applied here by concentrating upon a single problem at the start, leaving the others for later treatment.
In pursuance of this plan, the present volume, which is designed primarily for use in the first half of the third year, concerns itself chiefly with the matter of vocabulary. Complexity of sentence structure is everywhere avoided, the thought is simple and directly expressed, and the units are so short that the pupil may hope to accomplish something definite at one sitting.
Casual inspection will doubtless leave the impression that the vocabulary of the book is rather extensive. This is a necessary consequence of the variety of the selections; for the chaffing of slaves, the story of Atalanta’s race, and a description of the eruption of Vesuvius each calls for different phraseology. However, about a third of the vocabulary of the volume is made up of words that occur but once; and, with the exception of proper names, these words are given in the footnotes on the page with the text, and they do not appear in the general vocabulary. The latter will be found to be of the same general range and character as in most third-year books, and perhaps even more compact than some.
Here, too, as with other word lists, the student will be much helped by a little previous drill on the meanings of the common prefixes. Indeed, such a background virtually reduces the number of words to be learned; for example, given the verb dūcō, a properly trained pupil should have little need for recourse to the general vocabulary for addūcō, dēdūcō, indūcō, prōdūcō, redūcō, and the like.
If the first semester of the third year is thus devoted chiefly to the task of becoming familiar with the new vocabulary, the facility so gained will do much to rob of their terrors the difficulties postponed to the following term. The conventional practice of attempting everything at once is very discouraging; and it may well be that this policy has helped to foster the much-to-be-regretted tendency to drop Latin at the end of the second year.
In combating this tendency, no third-year book can afford to neglect the element of interest. At this point, too, the conventional program labors under a heavy handicap. Where classes are large and equipment adequate, some enthusiasm may be aroused by such expedients as organizing a “Roman Senate,” or the like; but this at best is costly in time and effort, and it is beyond the reach of most schools.
It is a real misfortune that no classical author has bequeathed to us a volume written for the instruction and entertainment of a youthful audience; but scattered here and there through Latin literature is an abundance of material suited to such a purpose; and it has been the task of the writer to bring some of this together and to adapt it to the end in view.
The use of such a compilation can hardly fail to open the eyes of the pupil to the richness and variety of Latin literature. Incidentally, a wealth of information is introduced on points of Roman history; and the thread of a simple story, which gives unity to the whole, makes it possible to bring in naturally frequent reference to Roman life and manners.
The narrative follows the fortunes of a family party traveling by sea from Ephesus to Brundisium, thence northward by the Appian Way to Rome, then onward to the Alps. As they journey, the elders narrate to the children interesting facts and stories suggested by the places visited.
Such a narrative, dealing often with somewhat familiar subject-matter, provides a context most favorable for quick apprehension of the meaning of individual words; and the short sentences, as well as the simplicity of thought and construction, cannot fail to encourage the habit of attacking Latin as Latin, and of taking in the thought of a passage in the order in which it stands. The confidence engendered by such practice is bound to stand the pupil in good stead, whatever reading he next takes up.
The short selections of verse interspersed through the text are chosen for their aptness and without regard to their difficulty. In a volume that aims to give some idea of the extent and character of Latin literature, the appropriateness of including brief specimens of verse is obvious. To forestall a possible difficulty in handling these, and to help to an appreciation of the spirit of the lines, a metrical version or paraphrase has in many cases been provided in the Appendix.
For the most effective use of the book, the class should have access to the works of reference naturally found in a high-school library, such as a history of Rome, a Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, and Johnston’s Private Life of the Romans.
At this time, when the point is being pressed home that, if Latin is to continue to hold an honored place in secondary education, the cultural element in its study must be emphasized, there should be an abundant welcome for a book like the present in the third year of the course; especially as the matriculation requirements are now being so liberalized as to give the teacher a very wide range of choice in reading matter.
If not adopted as a regular text, the book may be used for sight reading, from the third year onward. For this purpose the notes at the foot of the page will be found convenient. The difficulty of the Latin is about the same throughout, making it possible to select such parts of the story as individual taste may dictate.
It is no new idea, of course, to enrich the reading program of the third year by including material lying outside the six orations of Cicero conventionally read. For example, considerable use of the letters has been made in this connection, a plan that has not always worked well, because the search for extracts easy to read has led too often to the choice of the pitiable and unmanly messages penned by Cicero during the time of his exile. At the other extreme, it has recently been proposed to supplement Cicero’s orations by a random selection from a variety of sources, including such a work as Dē Fīnibus, which is difficult reading even for college seniors.
The present text avoids these rocks and shoals. And the hope is entertained that this new method of approach may bring help and encouragement to many teachers, who are waging a hard fight to save third- and fourth-year Latin, by opening up a vista of attractive reading that will lure on more students into the work of the third year and give them some conception of the richness and variety of Latin literature.
For assistance in bringing out this volume, special thanks are due Professors Katherine Allen and Grant Showerman, of the University of Wisconsin, Professor Charles E. Bennett, of Amherst College, Professor Dwight N. Robinson, of Ohio Wesleyan University, Dr. Robert S. Rogers, of Princeton University, and Professor Harry F. Scott, oî Ohio University, all of whom have contributed generously to the illustration of the text.
Other help has been given by Mr. Bernard M. Allen, Professor William F. Badè, of the Pacific School of Religion, and Miss Florence H. Robinson, of Berkeley; and the publishers have spared no pains to provide a suitable and attractive dress for this new venture in the field of Latin bookmaking.
University of California
March 15, 1927
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