Happy second week of Latin Academy! We had an awesome first week! I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to meet all of our students at the introductory meeting, to attend a few discussion sections from other teachers’ classes, and to read responses from students following my own class. Although it looks a little different this year, our Latin Academy has still fostered deep thinking, thoughtful and respectful discussion, and a sense of academic community, all surrounding many aspects of the ancient world, and all made possible by the amazing and fantastic students who make up our academy. I have been so impressed with the intellect and eagerness of our students!
On Thursday, my lesson, “Monimenta Romana” went live for students to watch and respond to. The lesson presented an introduction of how Roman leaders, specifically the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, used architecture to present information to the Roman public. After viewing this information, I asked students to think further about what the intended messages said about the Roman people, who exactly these messages were directed towards, and what might make one monument more effective in communicating than another.
During this lesson, students spent time exploring and analyzing Roman history, traditions, and values. A common theme in written responses regarding Augustus’ image construction via monuments was balance. The passages below, borrowed from student responses, provide a glimpse of this discussion:
“Augustus was sly in his construction of the Mausoleum; while it was evident that the monument was a product of Augustus’s wealth and power (and subsequent dedication to Rome), its simple design and somewhat nostalgic aesthetic made him seem like a man of the people. He proved himself a capable powerhead as well as a virtuous Roman citizen through the building of the Mausoleum.” - Amazing Latin Academy student
“The way in which many of the monuments were planned and designed shows that status and tradition were both very important to the Romans. There had to be a very delicate blend between an emperor showcasing his wealth--and thus the wealth of the nation--and being modest in order to show that he would rather spend his money on things to help everybody. Augustus’s house, for example, is quite plain compared to what we might expect an emperor to live in. ...However, the monuments and buildings established during an emperor’s time still had to be grand and beautiful enough to show that the country was thriving and powerful.” - Fantastic Latin Academy student
“These temples represent very different aspects of Roman life in the different gods that they represent. Mars Ultor, Mars the Avenger, otherwise known as the god of war represents Rome’s vast military power and conquest. War as a means of expansion would prove to be very important to Augustus and Rome in the age of the Empire. Mars Ultor is in stark contrast to Apollo, the god of healing, music, poetry, and knowledge and beauty. This temple represents the creative aspects of Rome. It represents the domestic rather than the foreign conquest of Rome. It pays respects to all the poets, philosophers and important thinkers that have lived throughout Roman history.” - Wonderful Latin Academy student
With all of this discussion of balance, many students came to the conclusion that Augustus, as well as Roman leaders before and after him, spent much time and effort constructing their image for the public. They had to make many careful choices to keep the people’s opinions of them perfectly balanced, as is expertly expressed in yet another student-created Latin Academy meme:
In our live discussion on Friday, we pushed beyond talking about the messages meant to be conveyed by Augustus’ monuments, to who his audience might have been. Our conversation focused on how different groups of people in the city might have perceived the monuments, from Roman senators to visitors or enslaved workers from recently conquered provinces. In addition to considering mixed messages from the monuments themselves, we also examined some of the literature presented in the lesson, and what biases may be present there too. We concluded this conversation with a riveting mini-lesson on Nero’s Domus Aurea, presented by Magister Cavedo. If you have a moment and were not present for the live discussion, consider checking out the recording! (Reminder - the discussion recordings are posted in the Google Classroom assignment for each class).
To our awesome students, thank you all for your continued engagement in the Latin Academy lessons and activities. I am looking forward to seeing you in discussions this week, and ESPECIALLY looking forward to seeing your theme projects!
This blog will document the MMXX virtual session of the Virginia Governor's Latin Academy.