Summer Reading for Latin teachers and Latin graduates: Petronius

If you have not picked something to read this summer, you owe it to yourself to consider Petronius.

The Satyricon is fairly easy for Latin graduates. The obstacle has always been vocabulary, not grammar, and this new Pharr-styled commentary of Cena Trimalchionis will make it easier than ever to focus on the content–particularly for those of us who want to read for pleasure this summer.

The Cena Trimalchionis tells the story of Encolpius, who with his friends crashes a dinner party where the guests are freedman and the host is the extremely wealthy Trimalchio. The story is rich with satire and social commentary and will seem refreshingly worlds away from the Latin of Caesar, Cicero, and Vergil.

Just read the first four lines of the Cena below.

Vēnerat iam tertius diēs, id est expectātio līberae cēnae, sed tot vulneribus cōnfossīs fuga magis placēbat quam quiēsItaque cum maestī dēlīberārēmusquōnam genere praesentem ēvītārēmus procellam, ūnus servus Agamemnonis interpellāvit…

The third day had already come. There was an expectation of a free dinner, but with so many wounds struck, an escape was more pleasing than rest. And so while we were deliberating, grief-stricken, in what way we might avoid the present storm, a slave of Agamemnon interrupted…

If you are a Latin graduate, this text is well within your grasp. If you read two and a half times the reading above each day (10 lines), you will complete the Cena in four months. If you read five times the amount above each day (20 lines), you will finish Petronius in just two months–from June 1st to August 1st!

There is no commitment to buy the book. While paperback copies will be available in May for 9.95 USD, you can just as well use the pdf. Translation sheets will be available for those who prefer to write out translations or notes as they read. All you need is 20 to 30 minutes each day.

As you plan for the summer, keep Petronius in mind.


How teachers can use the pdf to enhance instruction

Teachers have contacted me and offered a number of ways that they use the pdf to enhance instruction. Below are a few worth passing along:

(1) Enlarge the pdf on the screen and connect the computer to a projector to create a quick and easy presentation.

(2) Enlarge the pdf on the screen and take screenshot images of the selected text (Mac: shift-command-4, Windows: Snipping tool) to insert in presentations, quizzes, and tests. (Enlarging the pdf improves the image resolution.) This is a very easy way to maintain formatting between the book, presentations, and tests.

(3) Copy and paste the Greek or Latin text to insert in translation quizzes and tests.

(4) Use the search function in the pdf to find relevant grammar constructions throughout the commentary: e.g. search “subj” to find all labeled subjunctive constructions and “dat” to find labeled dative constructions.

(5) If the students have mastered the core vocabulary, copy and paste selected dictionary entries from the corresponding vocabulary sections as you read to create vocabulary lists for students to review and memorize.

(6) In a secondary school setting, post the pdf (or a link to the pdf) on your class website and ask that students use the paperback in class and pdf at home or vice versa and not carry the book in their book bags. This is an easy way to discourage daily wear-and-tear on your books and yet ensure that students always have access to the commentary.

(7) If you wish to add selected vocabulary to Quizlet or Anki to make flashcards, most programs allow you to copy and paste lists of vocabulary and then ask what punctuation you wish to use to divide up the word from the definition. Choose “:” and within seconds you will convert the vocabulary list copied from the pdf into a functional set of flashcards. Then, simply copy the link to the flashcard set and send it to your students.

If you have any other suggestions to add to this list, please let me know.