Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Buzz: Why Homer Matters

Marie Bolchazy, EdD, recommends popular modern fiction and nonfiction with ties to Classics.

Why Homer Matters
by Adam Nicolson

Did Homer create the Iliad and the Odyssey on his own or did he build upon the oral tradition of epic songs of battle and disaster? Is the Iliad based on the Trojan War or on a war that happened much before that? When did Homer live? And, is he one person or many? These fascinating questions are covered in Why Homer Matters.

When I started reading Why Homer Matters, I struggled to find Homer’s answers to life’s important questions: Do we love others as ourselves? Do we indulge ourselves? Do we surrender when we face seemingly insurmountable challenges? How much should we fight for our principles? Homer is silent on such questions. So why does he matter? Nicolson posits that Homer’s purpose is providing enlightenment on how things are and that a detailed engagement with pain and sorrow through poetry is the way we are enlightened. He believes that the wars happened so that the poems could happen. We find the wisdom that Homer provides gradually as we progress with the reading of this book. It should be read carefully and thoughtfully and with many time-outs for reflection.

The author is a polymath; his knowledge of so many fields of study is deep and breathtaking. In this book, he weaves in information on Michael Ventris, who deciphered Linear B, and Albert Lord, who researched the oral traditions possibly underlying Homer’s epics. He compares the ethic of the Greek warriors with the code of conduct of gangs in South Central LA and East St. Louis. Nicolson also gives a very personal account of his rape by a young man in the Syrian desert and relates the episode to Homer’s warriors. 

According to Nicolson, the Iliad is not an antiwar poem. Nicolson’s primary focus is on demonstrating that Homer’s writing provides us with a vade mecum, a kind of metaphysical guidebook on how to lead a meaningful life in a world of terrifying and wondrous changes. Homer does not provide guidance “if the lessons derived are the usefulness of violence, the lack of regret at killing, the subjection and selling of women, the extinction of all men in a surrendering city or the sense that justice resides in personal revenge.” Homer doesn't answer questions about how we should behave. Instead, Homer provides us with wisdom, a sense of reality, and an embrace of the complexity of life. By telling the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey, he helps us learn how we became who we are.

Marie Carducci Bolchazy, EdD
President, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Classics in Pop Culture, Part II

Classics in Pop Culture, Part II

In my last post I presented a project idea that involved sending students out on a scavenger hunt to find songs with Latin or Greek in the lyrics, and then relaying their discoveries to the class. This week I offer an idea that requires more creative engagement from the students.
Rondellus’s album, Sabbatum, is
composed entirely of Black
Sabbath covers…in Latin!

Instead of driving students to go out and find songs with Latin or Greek, have them choose popular songs they like and translate them into Latin or Greek! This is a task that some professional musicians have undertaken in recent years—and have met with success in their attempts. The band Rondellus has taken the music of Black Sabbath, such as “Planet Caravan,” translated the lyrics into Latin, and set the music to a medieval-like composition. Fint Floyd, a Pink Floyd cover band, has taken the entire album The Dark Side of the Moon and reworked it with Latin lyrics. For example, “Pecunia,” is the band’s take on the 1973 hit “Money.”

There are different ways students could approach a project like this. For some a simple translation might suffice, while others may wish to record the lyrics and put them over the track they use. Even more ambitious students might record their own composition with the translated lyrics. The most ambitious may do this along with a music video.

To make the project most useful for learning Latin, students should be able to account for the decisions they made in word choice and arrangement. Students could, and perhaps should, also aim to include some poetic devices, like alliteration or chiasmus, in their translations. An ambitious student may choose to emulate the style of his or her favorite ancient author, or an author relevant to the course.

This project can also be used for classics courses that do not emphasize language. Students might take historical or cultural themes and work them into the lyrics and melodies of popular songs. There are many great examples of this done already on YouTube. Those done by historyteachers are particular favorites of mine. For classes without time to create their own songs, viewing or lip syncing to videos such as “Trojan War” (“Tainted Love” by Softcell) or “Viva Roma No. V” (“Mambo #5” by Lou Bega) would make a great fun class day.

Urge your students to get creative with some of these project ideas! Have you had experiences with projects like this? Do you have similar project ideas that you would like to share? Are you still uncertain how you might make a project like this work? Leave your comment or question in the section below! And be sure to stay tuned for a future post where I take classics in pop culture one step further.

-Connor Hart

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

eyeVocab - Latin for the New Millennium Level 1

Just Released:

eyeVocab for Latin for the New Millennium Levels 1 - This implementation of eyeVocab Latin covers 423 “Vocabulary to Learn” words presented in each chapter of Latin for the New Millennium, Level 1.

Also Available:
eyeVocab for Clyde Pharr's Aeneid I-VI - This implementation of eyeVocab Latin covers the high frequency vocabulary, 261 words, from the pullout in Clyde Pharr's Vergil's Aeneid: Books I-VI.


eyeVocab for Barbara Weiden Boyd's Vergil's AENEID: Selected Readings from Books 1, 2, 4, and 6 - This implementation of eyeVocab Latin covers those 162 vocabulary words that occur eight times or more in Barbara Weiden Boyd's Vergil's Aeneid: Selected Readings from Books 1, 2, 4, and 6.

eyeVocab for
Hans-Friedrich Mueller's Caesar Selections from his Commentarii De Bello Gallico - This implementation of eyeVocab's Latin covers those 218 vocabulary words that occur eight times or more in Hans Friedrich Mueller's Caesar: Selections from his Commentarii De Bello Gallico.

eyeVocab for Latin for the New Millennium Level 2

Far more than a set of electronic flashcards, the multimodal vocabulary program facilitates a significantly deeper learning and retention. Students will readily master vocabulary and thereby devote far more of their study time and energy to reading and analyzing the Aeneid.

eyeVocab leverages memory for graphically distinctive and emotionally affective images with narrative implications, presented in isolation and combined with phonologically emphasized sound, to establish long-term declarative knowledge of the vocabulary presented.

eyeVocab has provided impressive results in Latin, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin at the middle school, high school, and university levels, including university intensive courses in Latin and Arabic as well as Arabic intensive courses funded by the US State Department. These results far exceed those attained employing all other methods of vocabulary learning.


  • powerful images drawn from art, both western and eastern, through the ages, from photojournalism and historical photography, from great book illustrations, and from other sources
  • each vocabulary word is carefully articulated with macrons in the classical pronunciation
  • multisensory program draws on visual, auditory, and tactile learning as well as subvocalizing that collectively hardwire the new vocabulary in student’s long-term memory
  • for use in the classroom, language lab, or at home
The basis of the power of this method: eyeVocab's Essential Principles.

For more information see: eyeVocab and Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition.

NB: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers is pleased to help distribute this remarkable program. All technical questions and concerns, however, should be directed to eyeVocab’s Miles Becker at

AP is a registered trademark of the College Entrance Examination Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Classics in Pop Culture, Part I

Procul Harum’s name, though misspelled,
derives from the Latin for “Beyond these things.”
In my recent posts I began to explore ways to put a modern twist on classics courses by incorporating technology in the classroom. I provided several ways to use online mapping programs to give students a chance to modernize the journey of Aeneas. Then I gave a brief example of how students could create a traveler’s eating guide along the route that Aeneas took. I would like to take a step further in combining classics with the contemporary by incorporating pop culture in the classroom through music.  

The modern Greek lyrics, “kyrie eleison,”
in Mr. Mister’s song “Kyrie” translate to “Lord, have mercy.”
One possible option is to have students try to find popular songs that use Latin and/or Greek. Though there are, perhaps, more out there than one would expect, there might not be enough for this to be something that the whole class does at one time. The project might work best as a group presentation, or as an extra credit opportunity. Alternatively, teachers could challenge their students to find such songs and offer a reward every time any student brings a new song in, making the project a yearlong musical scavenger hunt that makes students aware of Latin and Greek in pop culture.

To make this an effective project, first have students try to find the songs, and believe me, they’re out there. Artists working in a variety of genres have drawn on Latin and Greek, from the folky “Benedictus” off of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1964 album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. to the alternative U2 single, “Gloria” and the heavy, punk-rock song “Halloween II” by The Misfits. Have the student bring the song into the classroom and play the whole thing or an excerpt, ideally the Latin part.

As opposed to just translating, compel the student to give insight to the Latin or Greek lyrics. Present them with questions, such as:

  • Why do you think the songwriter chose Latin or Greek, as opposed to a language more familiar to the audience, or English, even?
  • Translate the Latin or Greek. What does it mean and why is it significant?
  • Has the Latin or Greek been used in other texts or other places before?
These are a few examples of questions to ask. It could be a chance to put the presenter on the spot and show what they’ve taken from the project, or the presenter could assume the role of the teacher and pose such questions to the class and then compare their discoveries to what the rest of the class has taken from the presentation, making the project more involved.

This is the first of several posts I will write exploring the possibilities of incorporating pop culture and, specifically, music into the classics classroom. Stay tuned for next week’s post where I explore a more creative way of combining popular music and classics.

-Connor Hart

Friday, January 02, 2015

AIA / SCS Annual Meeting

BC Latin Reader Series is complete!!!

AIA / SCS 146th Annual Meeting visit booth #300 for a chance to win the complete series.

B-C owners: Marie Bolchazy and Allan Bolchazy, and editors: Bridge Dean and Donald Sprague will be available at booth #300 throughout the conference. Stop by and see what is new and forthcoming from Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
146th Annual Meeting
146th Annual Meeting
146th Annual Meeting