Latin IV: Caesar and Vergil

Dr. Bruce McMenomy for Scholars Online
2017-18: Mondays and Thursdays, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM Eastern

Goals and Methods

An AP course is, in substance and intent, a college course offered to high school students. As such, it presumes a level of preparation and commitment beyond what is normal at the high school level. I take that mandate seriously, and hence I expect from the students:

I intend to submit this syllabus to the College Board to secure official recognition of this course as an official AP course, but until that is completed, I cannot advertise it as an AP class. It’s possible that they will not approve it; in the past they have insisted on “improvements” to the previous versions that I didn’t find acceptable, so I decided to forego their cachet. Students may take the AP Exam irrespective of whether the syllabus is officially recognized. Our Latin IV (Vergil) and Latin V (Latin Literature) courses in the past seem to have done a reasonable job of preparing students, many of whom emerged with scores of 4 or 5.

There is no way to make Latin simple; it’s hard, and though it offers real rewards commensurate with the investment of time and effort, there’s no way to learn it painlessly. Caesar is (or should be) reasonably accessible to students who have been through an intermediate course, but we will be covering his material at a pretty brisk clip. On the other hand, there’s no way to make Vergil an easy author. He is the complex product of an allusive and self-conscious poetic culture, still struggling out from under the shadow of a brutal civil war, and yet somewhat uncomfortable from an artistic standpoint about not being Greek. Vergil is not given to obvious exposition. It’s not always clear that even he knew exactly what he was driving at; at spots he’s clearly struggling toward what he wants to say. On that basis, it isn’t surprising that we have to dig pretty deeply to follow him. Most of the time, he gives you the tools you need. He’s one of the greatest wordsmiths ever to grace any language, and once you attune your ear to the magic of his verse, it will change your perception, and you will see and hear things there that you could never pick up from translations, no matter how attentively you read them.

In short, it’s going to be a challenging course with difficult material. But it is possible, and it is worth the effort. But do yourselves and your fellow students a favor: don’t let yourself fall behind. The assignments for this course have been laid out rather precisely. I’ve tried to allow plenty of time to complete the required passages well prior to the AP Exam to allow time for review; the translation assignments start out relatively small, but get larger toward the end of each section of the course. Altogether, there are (in the texts we’re using) a total of 1671 lines of prose and poetry combined — down from the Vergil-only curriculum that required 1856 lines of poetry. The increasing pace is not due to my own inability to plan ahead, but reflects the expectation that your command of Latin will mature. That will only happen if you keep up, however.

In particular, I expect all your assigned passages to be translated into the most accurate English you can produce; I will expect you to have the text available in a disk file so that you can cut and paste any pieces of it that may be required for class. We simply do not have time to wait for students to type up translations from paper on the fly. Making other students wait for your lack of preparation discourteous and won’t; be tolerated. I may or may not require you to submit the translations for review: it depends on how things go.

In addition to translation assignments, you will be expected to:

Along the way, we usually have a good deal of fun with the material.