Ancient Tongues Speak

“Beware the Ides of March,” warned professors and students who read poetic and dramatic works in several ancient and modern languages last night. The evening event, Night Of The Living Dead Languages IV, was scheduled on the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s assassination and was hosted by the Undergraduate Classics Club in the Big Red Barn. The night featured ancient and modern Greek; Latin; medieval Arabic and Italian; and Old Church Slavonic.

Readings included a section of Aristophanes’ The Acharnians, read by Prof. Hunter R. Rawlings III, classics, and a dramatic performance of a selection from book four of Virgil’s Aeneid, complete with costumes and music. The performance was staged by Brent Hannah grad, Ally Boex grad, Molly Layton grad and John Wynne grad.

About 45 people attended the event, which the event’s advisor, Prof. David P. Mankin, classics, said “was an exciting turnout.” According to Mankin, the event’s attendance was better than it has been the last two times it was held.

“It was the fourth one, and it was the best one yet,” said Lauren Schwartzman ’04.

According to Lauren Butt ’04, the evening included more languages in its program than its past instances. Butt said that one of the purposes of the evening is to expose people to languages in ways they might have not experienced before.

“People get to hear languages that are usually only read. It makes them seem more relevant to today’s world,” Butts said.

Mary Burkhauster ’05 enjoyed this aspect of the night, saying that “we’re learning about them, but you so rarely get to hear them spoken.”

Burkhauster said that she especially enjoyed a reading of Statius’ Thebaid by Prof. Frederick M. Ahl, classics, and the performance of the Aeneid.

Ahl’s selection depicted the Roman god Jupiter pressing the god of war, Mars, to start a war between two Greek cities. Ahl introduced his reading saying that he chose the passage, which contrasts the urge for war with a gruesome and unappealing depiction of its effects, because of its relevance to current events.

Another reading by Prof. Wayles Browne, linguistics, was from the Preface to the Holy Gospel in Old Church Slavonic. Browne explained a brief linguistic history of the language and said that the translation of the Gospel was first used to convert the Slavs to Christianity in 860 C.E.

Regardless of political implications, the event was organized in part for the sheer enjoyment of performing and listening to the languages.

“We enjoy classics and the languages,” Butts said, adding that participants enjoy sharing passages that they particularly like with their peers.

“This should let the world know how much fun it is to be a classics major,” Mankin said.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit