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Polis Greek and Latin at Ave Maria University

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Salve! χαῖρε! The faculty members of the Department of Classics & Early Christian Literature at Ave Maria University use this space to share about the life of the department. We also enjoy passing along links and quotations of general Classical interest.

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  • April 13, 2014 1:47 pm

    From Homer to the law

    An interesting post at the blog Excess of Democracy entitled “The Best Prospective Law Students Read Homer”. An excerpt:

    As you can see [from the table in the post], the best prospective law students were the Classics majors. Even though there were just 190 of them, they achieved a 159.8 LSAT and a UGPA of 3.477—the highest in both categories.

    Among the rest, there is a pretty good correlation between LSAT and UGPA. As expected, some of the majors with disproportionately low UGPAs but high LSATs were in the sciences (I labeled Biology, specialization; Biology, general; Electrical Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; and Mathematics on the chart.) Among majors with disproportionately low LSATs but high UGPAs were Accounting, Law, Social Work, and Spanish.

    My trivial anecdotal evidence in addition: I know there’s at least one law school bound student, with a scholarship to boot, in our Homer course this semester.

  • April 10, 2014 4:58 pm

    This noon Daniel Whitehead shared with his peers and professors an intriguing paper on Horace, Odes I.14, “O navis”. Everyone remarked on the confidence of his presentation and the challenging nature of his thesis. We offer our congratulations to Daniel who will be graduating this spring! Before undertaking studies in the law this fall, Daniel will participate in the Classics Department’s Latin course in Rome.

    More photos from Daniel’s senior presentation are here.

  • December 23, 2013 1:18 pm

    CAMWS award for outstanding accomplishment in classical studies

    I enjoyed seeing Roxanne Perko’s name and Ave Maria University’s atop this list; this award was for work that Roxanne had done through the end of her junior year. More recently, Roxanne read her senior paper analyzing a homily by Pope St. Leo the Great to faculty, fellow students, and some residents of the town.


  • November 15, 2013 10:01 am

                               Sermo Latinus hac in universitate floret!

                Spoken Latin has been a feature of Latin instruction in various ways at Ave Maria University for several years. A few semesters ago, however, Dr. Bradley Ritter began to offer a one-credit course—Sermo Latinus Hodiernus/Latin Today—devoted exclusively to this pursuit, using materials that he has designed himself on the basis of careful investigation into ancient and modern Latin texts and into methods of language instruction throughout the centuries. Interest has steadily grown among students and faculty.

                This semester, in fact, in response to this interest, the Department of Classics & Early Christian Literature is offering two sections of this course, one taught by Dr. Ritter (at top, with students), the other by Dr. Joseph Yarbrough (below, with students). Nearly twenty students are enrolled in these two sections.

                In a typical class students pursue a given topic, e.g., numbers, by means of guided conversations in Latin intended to elicit various grammatical points, build vocabulary, encourage confidence, and in general to attain what all students should seek always: an active mastery, rather than a passive acquaintance, with the subject. Classes are lively, with students engaging one another as well as the professor. The noon section of this class regularly carries over into a Latin Table at lunch. Both Dr. Ritter and Dr. Yarbrough will continue to teach these courses in the spring.

                This summer Ave Maria University will once again be offering intensive courses in Latin as well as Greek that make use of the communicative approach and are designed to bring about active proficiency. Further details about these unique courses can be found here.

  • October 30, 2013 9:05 am

    Patristics and classical education

    Many thanks to Joseph Shaw for bringing to my attention, through a recent blog post, a number of documents about the study of Latin in houses of priestly formation. Because of its general remarks on the Fathers of the Church and the study of the humanities and classical languages in today’s schools and universities, Inspectis dierum (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1990) caught my eye. A couple quotations from it:

    It is very noteworthy that many fathers had an excellent preparation in the disciplines of ancient Greek and Roman culture. From it they borrowed lofty civil and spiritual values and enriched their treatises, catecheses and preaching with them. By imprinting the Christian stamp on the ancient, classical humanitas, they were the first to make a bridge between the Gospel and secular culture, thus outlining for the church a rich and engaging cultural program that profoundly influenced subsequent ages and, in particular, the whole spiritual, intellectual and social life of the Middle Ages. Thanks to their teaching, many Christians during the first centuries had access to the various spheres of public life (schools, administration, politics). Christianity could also make the best use of what was valid in the ancient world, purify what was less perfect and contribute to the creation of a new culture and civilization inspired by the Gospel… .

    It is obvious that the study of the fathers also requires adequate instruments and aids such as a well-equipped library from the patristic viewpoint (collections, monographs, reviews, dictionaries), as well as knowledge of classical and modern languages. Given the well-known deficiencies in the humanities in today’s schools, everything possible will have to be done to strengthen the study of Greek and Latin in centers of priestly formation.

    While most of Ave Maria’s students will never enter the seminary, all those who study here have the opportunity to receive this formation. Our Classics majors, in particular, find themselves very well prepared to engage Patristic texts in graduate school and seminary. Besides elective courses that involve readings from the Latin and Greek Fathers, one of the required courses in our major is Latin Church Fathers. In this course we ask our students both to read extended passages of Latin prose as well as to write a term paper engaging a Latin text through an analysis of its theological and philosophical ideas combined with an evaluation of the word choices and Latin style of the author.

    One of my inspirations in teaching students at Ave Maria, even and especially in the first year of Latin, is that they will later, as parents, be the beginning of a new generation that will help to restore classical humanities to its proper place in education. One way this happens is when children are enabled and encouraged to undertake the study of the classical languages at a young age. The great scholars of the past came from such a formation and it can happen again through the good will of parents properly formed in the classical humanities at universities like Ave Maria.

  • October 28, 2013 2:52 pm

    Some new Classics apps

    There were a number of new Latin apps for iOS and Android that I saw mentioned over the weekend.

    My preferred Lewis & Short app for iOS is SPQR. When the latest version came out this fall, I wrote a review of it here. That same developer has now released SPQR for Android.

    There’s also a new app for iOS that has been available for some time as a website, Logeion. The UI is a bit messy, but it is fast and free; it also combines Greek and Latin in one search field. Finally, depending on your screen size, you may find Numen a useful web app; point your mobile browser to that site, and it will explain how to “install” the interface as a separate “app” on your home screen.

  • October 20, 2013 11:00 am

    Roma 2014: Study Latin in Rome with Ave Maria

    Once again Dr. Andrew Dinan and Dr. Joseph Yarbrough will lead a group of students from Ave Maria University to study Latin in Rome during the summer term in June 2014. This unique summer program has two tracks: students who have passed LATN 102 will begin the summer with LATN 203 online, completing the elements of the language; students who have already passed LATN 203 or a higher course will begin the summer with LATN 304 online, studying texts from those Fathers of the Church who are so intimately linked to Rome. Once in Rome, both groups will explore monuments of classical and Christian antiquity with the help of carefully chosen texts pertinent to each site. Following the trip, students will sit for an oral exam online and complete a term paper based upon a text encountered during their time in Rome.

    See the button in the sidebar or click on the link here for further details and an application.

    Dr. Dinan and Dr. Yarbrough will host an informational night about the courses and the trip to Rome on Wednesday, October 30 at 7PM in Henkels 1012.

  • September 30, 2013 2:25 pm

    "Pope Francis speaks in Latin to announce canonization date of John Paul II and John XXIII" via Rome Reports

  • September 21, 2013 11:35 am

    Study Latin and learn to read the Fathers in Latin and to pray in Latin, like Pope Francis:

    At this point he gets up and goes to get the breviary from his desk. It is in Latin, now worn from use. He opens to the Office of Readings for Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time and reads me a passage from the Commonitorium Primum of St. Vincent of Lerins: Ita etiam christianae religionis dogma sequatur has decet profectuum leges, ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate.


  • September 19, 2013 5:23 pm

    Officiorum Omnium

    Joseph Shaw shares here a number of impressive quotations from Pius XI’s apostolic letter, Officiorum Omnium (1922). I take the liberty of reposting a few of them:

    Since the Latin language is such, it was divinely foreseen that it should be something marvellously useful for the teaching Church, and that it should also serve as a great bond of unity for Christ’s more learned faithful; that is to say, by giving them not only something with which, whether they are separated by spatial location or gathered into one place, they might easily compare the respective thoughts and insights of their minds, but also – and this is greater – something with which they might understand more profoundly the things of mother Church, and might be united more closely with the head of the Church.


    But if in any layman who is indeed imbued with literature, ignorance of the Latin language, which we can truly call the “catholic” language, indicates a certain sluggishness (apathy) in love towards the Church, how much more fitting it is that each and every cleric be adequately practised and skilled in that language! Their task is certainly to defend Latinity with all the more steadiness, aware as they are that it was with all the more violence that it was attacked by the adversaries of catholic wisdom who in the 16th century shattered Europe’s accord in a single doctrine of Faith.


    We wish the alumni [of seminaries] to be instructed very exactly in the Latin language, and also for this motive, in case, when they afterwards approach the higher disciplines, which are certainly both to be handed on and to be received in Latin, it happens that through ignorance of the language they are unable to achieve full understanding of the doctrines, let alone to exercise themselves in those scholastic disciplines by which the talents of youths are sharpened for defending truth.

    This of course applies no less to undergraduates who are considering graduate school in theology and philosophy than to seminarians who are, at least at this time, already graduate students. And:

    Our clerics and priests, when they have not put enough effort into the study of Latin literature, by neglecting the copious volumes of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church in which the dogmas of the Faith are presented and are both set forth very lucidly and defended invincibly, seek for themselves a suitable supply of doctrine from more recent authors, in which not only does a clear kind of speech and an exact method of arrangement often scarcely usually exists, but also a faithful interpretation of dogmas is lacking.

  • August 14, 2013 5:29 pm

    Review of SPQR 3.0 Latin Dictionary & Reader for iOS

    I have had Paul Hudson’s SPQR app for iOS on my iPhone for some time, but it was just this week that I moved it back onto my home screen.

    I acquired it after I had gone looking for an app to replace Lexidium, an elegant, no-frills application that gave one easy access to the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary. The demise of Lexidium was that its designer, Harry Schmidt, decided to support it no longer. The first problem to arise from this lack of support was that fast app switching, when it arrived on iOS, was not implemented in the app. Since the Lewis & Short is the Lewis & Short, regardless of the app designer, I went looking for an app with current support that would take advantage of the latest iOS features.

    That’s when I found Mr. Hudson and the line of apps that he has built in support of Classical education (another example of his work is the Ancient Greek app). I used Mr. Hudson’s app for a long time, but last spring, I became frustrated with its slowness in opening and went in search of an alternative. Numen, a free mobile application, seemed slightly faster in loading, provided that I didn’t need to switch between apps, for it doesn’t stay open in the background and so must reload on one’s returning to it. It was also annoying for not stretching to fit the full length of the iPhone 5’s screen.

    At this point, SPQR 3.0 enters the picture, with an update that I think worthy of a new application, and not just a new version number. Most importantly for my needs, Mr. Hudson has dramatically diminished the load time for the app. This makes it that much easier to consult Lewis & Short, whether in class or while reading on one’s own. Another aid to speed is that the app launches straight to the last tab that I have used; this is great because in the app I use almost exclusively the Lewis & Short and so want the app to take me straight there. Yet another increase in speed comes from the cursor now automatically being tapped into the blank search field for the lexicon. I was delighted with all of these improvements and SPQR easily won a place on my home screen again.

    These improvements would have been worthy of a 3.0 update, but what makes the app worth a new sale, I think, is that Mr. Hudson has also added a parsing tool. This was a feature that Lexidium had offered via an in-app extra purchase and, from what I’ve seen, it separates from the men from the boys in the world of Latin dictionary apps. Several years in the trenches of Latin 101 & 102 have removed my personal need for such a tool, but I know that beginning students or those trying to brush up on their Latin a few years out from 101 will appreciate this feature greatly.

    I have informed Mr. Hudson of one feature that I would like to see in the future: an ability to search across the entirety of the Lewis & Short and not just its headwords. This is a feature useful for those intent on Latin prose or verse composition as well as for those in spoken Latin courses, all of which we do at Ave Maria.

    I have not even begun to touch upon the dizzying array of extras (from my perspective) that he has packed into this app. These extras, e.g. flashcards, make the app somewhat bulky at 328 MB, but that’s only a concern for those like me with a device stuffed to the gills. Professors & students may also be interested to know that the app includes the full text of Allen & Greenough’s Latin Grammar as well as Bennett’s, which will you find within the app at More > Learn. This is somewhat confusing as I would have expected to find them under the “Grammar” tab. Also, the ability to text search these grammars individually or both at once would make them even more useful.

    My thanks to Mr. Hudson for the fine improvements he has made to SPQR!

  • July 30, 2013 9:44 pm

    Plurimas tibi gratias agimus, Travis, who has written to us after, as he notes, one year of carefully mulling over and polishing his submission! It was well worth waiting for this reply, I think, because his words do speak to where many of our freshmen will be when they enter: wondering about the place of Latin in their educations, but eager to learn and to see where it will take them.

    Travis Gonzales writes:

    It has been nearly a year since Dr. Yarbrough asked me to write something for the Classics Department’s blog. During that time, I told myself, “I’ll do it this weekend.” Obviously, this never happened since you are reading this now. Even as I write this, I’m not exactly sure what I should say. Anyone familiar with the Classics department at AMU knows how the department speaks for itself in its scholarship and in its attempt to bring the Classics to our present day. Nevertheless, I feel as though I should say something about AMU’s Classics Department and its influence on my career.

    A little bit about me. I attended Ave Maria from 2007-2011. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Latin. Like many freshmen at Ave, I hated the fact that Latin was a core requirement. In high school, I breezed by Spanish, not because I am a native Spanish speaker, but rather, the curriculum was quite frankly a joke. It was not until the end of my Spring semester in 2008 that I began to see the beauty of studying classical languages. Dr. Dinan held an out-of-class seminar where we read selections from Augustine’s Confessions. It was this seminar that encouraged me to minor in Latin. The process was very long and very arduous. For the native English speaker, Latin can be very challenging and at times, it may seem unconquerable. To those students still taking Latin, I’m here to tell you that it is possible to grasp the language!

    After graduating from AMU, I chose to attend the University of Dallas for a M.A. in Humanities. Although I have not taken any more Latin courses since AMU, the language was helpful in learning German as part of the requirements for my Master’s degree. Although there are many differences between the two languages, grammatically, my Latin background provided me with the habit of waiting for verbs, knowing the importance of noun genders and declensions, etc. 

    My Latin minor also helped me secure a teaching position at Prince of Peace Christian School in Carrollton, TX. Prior to my position at Prince of Peace, I taught Latin at Faustina Academy, a K-12 school ranked in the Top 50 Catholic High Schools by The Cardinal Newman Society. My position at Faustina was the starting block for an unexpected career. This summer, I was hired as the new Latin teacher at Prince of Peace, a school striving to bring education into our present day by using iPads and Apple TV in the classroom. Although using this technology in the classroom will be a new experience for me, I am excited to use modern technological advancements to teach a language and culture thousands of years old. 

    To close, I’d like to thank my professors from AMU and the support they provide their students to be successful in their studies. Without your encouragement, I can honestly say I would not be where I am at now. 

    – Travis Gonzales, AMU Class of 2011

  • July 21, 2013 6:23 pm

    In June, John Paul Jaquith, Dr Andrew Dinan, and Dr Joseph Yarbrough discussed St. Thomas Aquinas at the site of his birth, Roccasecca. The ruins of his family’s estate enjoy a magnificent view of the valley below. Thomas’ adoption of Boethius’ metaphor for explaining God’s knowledge in eternity of events in time came to mind:

    Sicut ille qui vadit per viam, non videt illos qui post eum veniunt, sed ille qui ab aliqua altitudine totam viam intuetur, simul videt omnes transeuntes per viam. Et ideo illud quod scitur a nobis, oportet esse necessarium etiam secundum quod in se est, quia ea quae in se sunt contingentia futura, a nobis sciri non possunt. Sed ea quae sunt scita a Deo, oportet esse necessaria secundum modum quo subsunt divinae scientiae, ut dictum est, non autem absolute, secundum quod in propriis causis considerantur.

    Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q. 14, Art. 13, ad 3.

  • July 12, 2013 4:04 pm
    "Vehementius igitur admirandam censeo totius urbis inspectionem, ubi tanta seges turrium, tot aedificia palatiorum, quot nulli hominum contigit enumerare." – Master Gregory of Oxford, Narracio de mirabilibus urbis Romae
Photo credit goes to our own Ben Houde. View high resolution

    "Vehementius igitur admirandam censeo totius urbis inspectionem, ubi tanta seges turrium, tot aedificia palatiorum, quot nulli hominum contigit enumerare." – Master Gregory of Oxford, Narracio de mirabilibus urbis Romae

    Photo credit goes to our own Ben Houde.

  • July 5, 2013 9:00 am

    "Lumen fidei: sententia hac Ecclesiae traditio magnum donum ab Iesu delatum indicavit, qui in Ioannis Evangelio sic se exhibet: «Ego lux in mundum veni, ut omnis, qui credit in me, in tenebris non maneat» (Io 12,46). Sanctus Paulus quoque haec verba protulit: «Deus qui dixit: “De tenebris lux splendescat”, ipse illuxit in cordibus nostris» (2 Cor 4,6). Apud paganos, lucem esurientes, Solis dei, Solis invicti, cultus increbruit, qui oriens invocabatur. Etiamsi quotidie oriebatur sol, plane intellegebatur lucem toti hominis exsistentiae eum adferre non posse. Etenim sol omnes res non illuminat, eius radius usque ad umbram mortis pervenire non valet, ubi hominis oculus se a luce excludit. Sanctus Iustinus martyr asserit: «Nec quisquam unquam exstitit, qui mortem propter fidem in solem oppeteret ». De magno conscii prospectu, quem eis patefaciebat fides, christiani verum solem Christum vocaverunt, qui «suisque radiis vitam praebuit». Marthae, quae Lazarum fratrem mortuum flet, Iesus dicit: «Nonne dixi tibi quoniam si credideris, videbis gloriam Dei?» (Io 11,40). Qui credit, videt; luce videt quadam, quae totum vitae cursum illuminat, quandoquidem ad nos a Christo resuscitato pervenit, matutina stella quae non occidit."

    — Francisci Summi Pontificis Litterae Encyclicae Lumen Fidei