Monday, May 22, 2023

Reception Assignment: Orpheus & Eurydice

This past semester in Latin III, we read an adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The version we read was inspired by the versions found in Vergil and Ovid. Once we finished that version, we read my own adaptation of Plato's version of the ending of the myth. In the most famous version of the myth, Orpheus descends to the Underworld to retrieve his deceased wife, Eurydice. Hades/Pluto and Persephone/Proserpina allow Eurydice to leave the Underworld with Orpheus, provided that he not turn around and look at her until they have returned to the world of the living. Plato, on the other hand, briefly summarizes a different version: Since Orpheus (unlike Alcestis for Admetus) did not die to be reunited with his beloved Eurydice, Hades and Persephone deem him unworthy of her and instead send Orpheus away with, unbeknownst to him, an imitation of her. 

After we read both these endings, I wanted students to not only explain the differences between the two versions, but also examine the reception of the myth in different media, since it is such a famous myth. Hence this assignment, which requires students to watch or listen to three different reimaginations of the myth: Carlos Diegues' 1999 film Orfeu, Anaïs Mitchell's 2006 musical Hadestown, and Christoph Willibald Gluck's 2022 opera production of Orpheus and Eurydice (Orfeo ed Euridice). I chose three scenes for students to examine and compare/contrast to the myth we had read in class. Lastly, students were required to summarize the differences between the two endings of the myth, explain in their own opinions why the Vergilian/Ovidian ending has been the more popular of the two, and then explain in their own opinions why the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in general has been so popular and reimagined so many times across different time periods and places.

Here are the slides with all the videos/songs and prompts embedded:

Friday, September 30, 2022

Cultural Lesson: Islamic Burial Practices

I did this lesson on Islamic burial practices with my Latin IV class last year as we were reading my publication Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae. One of the fables alludes to Islamic burial practices. Here is my Latin adaptation of the fable:

Chōgia ōlim hieme in silvā ligna caedēns, “Algeō!,” inquit, “Ergō, mortuus sum!”

Ergō, Chōgia cum dēcubuisset tamquam mortuus, “Efferendus sum!,” inquit.

Chōgia cum domum rediisset, tum, “Mortuus sum,” inquit uxōrī, “in silvā. Iubē amīcōs mē efferre.”

Deinde Chōgia cum in silvam rediisset, dēcubuit.

Cum uxor Chōgiae in tabernam vēnisset, “Nasreddīn Chōgia,” inquit, “in silvā mortuus est.”

Amīcī Chōgiae, “Quī scīs?,” inquiunt.

Uxor, “Quia,” inquit, “Chōgia domum rediit et haec mihi dīxit.”

(A translation for readers who do not read Latin:)

Once upon a time, Hoca, while chopping firewood in the woods in the wintertime, said, "I am cold! Therefore, I am dead!"

So Hoca, when he had lay down as if he were dead, said, "I must be carried out (i.e. for burial)!"

So Hoca, when he had returned home, then he said to his wife, "I died in the woods. Tell my friends to carry me out (i.e. for burial)."

Then Hoca, when he had returned to the woods, lay down.

When Hoca's wife had arrived at the coffeehouse, she said, "Nasreddin Hoca has died in the woods."

Hoca's friends said, "How do you know?"

The wife said, "Because Hoca came back home and told me this."

After reading this fable with my students, I wanted students to understand Islamic burial practices and why Nasreddin Hoca feels such a strong sense of urgency to be buried when he believes that he is dead. For this lesson, students located QR codes posted around our building at school. These QR codes linked to a sentence in Latin and a clue to the location of the next clue. All of the sentences described steps involved in a traditional Islamic burial. Students not only located the QR codes and copied down the Latin sentences, but also put the sentences in chronological order.

The sentences for each step. I glossed new terms in Latin or in English in parentheses:

1. Muslimus periit. (A Muslim has died.)

2. Cadaver (corpus mortui) inter 24 horas sepeliendum (in terra ponendum) est. [The corpse (the body of a deceased person) must be buried (placed in the ground) within 24 hours.

3. Cadaver necessariis (e.g. sororibus, fratribus, filiis, matri, patri, etc.) lavandum est. [The corpse must be washed by relatives (e.g. sisters, brothers, children, mother, father, etc.).]

4. Cadaver involvendum est. (The corpse must be wrapped up.)

5. Cadaver in arca ponitur. (The corpse is placed in a coffin.)

6. Cadaver ad meschitam effertur. (The corpse is brought to a mosque.)

7. Cadaver in sepulcretum effertur. (The corpse is brought to a cemetery.)

8. Eis qui adsunt orandum est. (Those in attendance must pray.)

9. Cadaver in sepulcro sepeliendum (in terra ponendum) est. [The corpse must be buried (placed in the ground)].

10. Cadaver in Meccam advertendum est. (The corpse must be turned towards Mecca.)

After putting the steps in order, students then wrote in Latin summarizing the fable in their own words in Latin and explaining why Hoca felt such a strong sense of urgency to be buried.

The worksheet:

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Teaching about Islam in Latin

This year my school returned to (almost) fully in-person learning. Since some students did a mix of in-person, digital, hybrid, or a combination of all three last year, I decided to begin the year with my Latin IV class with my latest publication, Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae. Why? The fables present short, but syntactically-dense Latin. The brevity, levity, and relatively concrete subject matter of the fables facilitates quick and light reading. On the other hand, the fables are syntactically-dense (e.g. conditionals; changes in person, mood, tense, inter alia), which will (hopefully) prepare students for readings that may see on the ALIRA (ACTFL Latin Interpretive Reading Assessment), which they will take in the spring to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy. 

To prepare my students to understand the cultural references within the fables, I began the year by teaching about the religion of Islam, mosque architecture, and important figures and traditions in Muslim communities. In my slides included below, you will find the following:
  • The fundamental beliefs in Islam
  • Statistics about Muslims worldwide and in the United States
  • The Five Pillars of Islam
  • Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha
  • Mosque features and architecture
    • The role of the imam and the muezzin
    • Architectural features: minarets, mihrab, minbar, ablution fountains, calligraphy

See my slides below:

What my students did with the material:
  • Picture Talks: I facilitated discussions in Latin by projecting images of mosques from around the world. Students and I discussed exterior and interior features and their significance.
  • Timed Write: I projected photos of the Sokollu Mehmet Mosque in Istanbul. Students were expected to write as much as they could in Latin about the images by using the photos and their notes from our earlier discussions. 

Why teach about Islam in a Latin class? In my humble opinion, it is an imperative of any humanities course to foster understanding and appreciation for the traditions and communities that exist in the local community and around in the world today. The communities and traditions we examine in a language course should not necessarily belong to that specific language tradition. Although Latin language cultures like ancient Rome and medieval Western Europe continue to be stereotyped and appropriated by white supremacists, ignorance of contemporary communities comes with greater consequences (i.e. Islamophobia). I do not expect my students to become experts on Islam, but if in the future they can at least speak accurately and respectfully about the Muslim traditions and beliefs and the basics of mosque architecture, then I will consider my efforts a success.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Who Am I Writing For?

The more I learn about the world of writing and publishing in Latin/Ancient Greek, the more I ask myself: who is the target audience? 

There are two audiences:


  • To provide reading materials for teachers (for Free Voluntary Reading, cultural units, etc.)
  • To help teachers prepare their students for certain authors (i.e. using particular vocabulary/constructions of certain classical authors)
  • To be used as provided by the teacher for the reasons above
  • To be used by independent learners to gain reading proficiency through self-study
When I write my publications, who is my audience? The student who plans to study Latin/Ancient Greek for 1-2 year(s) (e.g. to satisfy a graduation/language requirement). 

Of course I have my fellow teachers in mind, but I have never sought to align my publications with any textbook (I have very limited familiarity with the major textbooks anyway), curriculum (eww, AP Latin), or authors. I hope that my fellow teachers do, however, find my publications useful and enjoyable as readings, either for the whole class or for Free Voluntary Reading.

Monday, May 10, 2021


Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae/Νασρεδδὶν Χότζας· Μῦθοι

Available in both Latin and Ancient Greek

Nasreddin Hoca, one of the most beloved figures from Turkish folklore, is many things: a trickster, a holy man, a wise philosopher, the butt of the joke. With wisdom, humor, and wit, he teaches life lessons (or not), such as: How do you teach a donkey to read? How should you react to a bad joke? Which came first - the chicken or the egg?

Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae (Latin Version)
Click to buy Amazon
  • Total Words: 1,804
  • Vocabulary: 290 lemmata (excluding names), 593 unique forms
  • Intended level: Intermediate (2nd year+)

Νασρεδδὶν Χότζας· Μῦθοι (Nasreddin Chotzas: Mythoi) (Ancient Greek Version)
Click to buy on Lulu
  • Total Words: 2,126
  • Vocabulary: 288 lemmata, 617 unique forms
  • Intended level: Intermediate (2nd year+)

Friday, April 30, 2021

Mercurius Omnia Furatur/Ἑρμῆς πάντα κλέπτει

Available in both Latin and Ancient Greek

When he is born, the god Mercury/Hermes is no normal baby. He can walk, talk, and even make music. But what he really wants to do is steal from the other gods. Will Mercury/Hermes get away with it? Or will the gods find out that they've been tricked by a newborn baby?

Mercurius Omnia Furatur (Latin Version)

Click to see on Amazon
  • Total Words: 1,598
  • Vocabulary: 79 (excluding names and unique forms), 217 unique forms
  • Intended level: Novice (1st year)
First 103 Words:
Hodiē puer nātus est. Hic puer est fīlius Iovis et Māiae. Māia est māter puerī. Iūppiter est pater puerī. Iūppiter est rex deōrum.
Hic puer est mīrus. Hic puer ambulāre potest. Hic puer loquī potest. Hic puer canere potest. Nōmen puerō est Mercurius.
Hodiē Mercurius in Cyllēnē monte nātus est. Mercurius cum mātre habitat. Mercurius cum patre nōn habitat. Nam Iūppiter in Olympō monte habitat. Mercurius est puer mīrus. Mercurius domō exīre vult. Mercurius loquī vult. Mercurius canere vult. Mercurius autem vult fūrārī.
Mercurius clam domō exit.
Mercurius: “Ego volō domō exīre! Ego volō fūrārī!”
Mercurius videt testūdinem!
Mercurius: “Ego volō habēre testūdinem!

Ἑρμῆς πάντα κλέπτει (Hermes Panta Kleptei) (Ancient Greek Version)
Click to see on Lulu
  • Total Words: 2,225
  • Vocabulary: 87 (excluding names and unique forms), 263 unique forms
  • Intended level: Novice (1st year)
First 100 Words:
τήμερον παιδίον τι ἐγένετο. τοῦτο δὲ τὸ παιδίον ἐστὶν ὁ υἱὸς Διὸς καὶ Μαίας. ἡ μὲν γὰρ Μαῖά ἐστιν ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ παιδίου. ὁ δὲ Ζεύς ἐστιν ὁ πατὴρ τοῦ παιδίου. καὶ ὁ Ζεύς ἐστιν ὁ τῶν θεῶν βασιλεύς.
τὸ δὲ παιδίον ἐστὶ θαυμαστόν. βαδίζειν μὲν γὰρ τὸ παιδίον δύναται. διαλέγεσθαι δὲ τὸ παιδίον δύναται. ᾄδειν δὲ τὸ παιδίον δύναται. Ἑρμῆς δέ ἐστι τῷ παιδίῳ ὄνομα.
τήμερον δὲ ὁ Ἑρμῆς ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῇ Κυλλήνῃ. καὶ ἡ μήτηρ μὲν οἰκεῖ μετὰ τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ. ὁ δὲ πατὴρ οὐκ οἰκεῖ μετὰ τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ. ὁ γὰρ Ζεὺς οἰκεῖ ἐν τῷ Ὀλύμπῳ ὄρει.     

Monday, August 31, 2020

Self-Publishing in Greek

In the world of self-publishing novellas for language learners, most authors use Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Why? For authors, it is easy to use - you just need to upload your manuscript and cover artwork and you are pretty much ready to publish. With KDP, your novella is published on Amazon and is accessible to Amazon's massive customer base. Many customers already have an Amazon account and are probably familiar with how Amazon works, so customers can buy your novella in a matter of seconds.

Sound too good to be true?

There are some drawbacks to KDP compared to other self-publishing websites, such as:

  • If you have ethical concerns about Amazon
  • KDP's royalty rate for authors is lower than those of other self-publishing websites
  • KDP (almost) only supports publishing in languages that use the Latin alphabet

This last point obviously presents a challenge for those of us who wish to self-publish in Greek (Ancient, Modern - it doesn't matter!). In this post I will share all of the hurdles I had to overcome to publish my novella in Greek.

But there are Greek books on Amazon! How does that work?!

I am pretty certain that those books were published through CreateSpace, which Amazon bought out a couple of years ago. I never used CreateSpace, but I believe that it supported Greek. As far as I know, KDP continues to support all books that were originally published with CreateSpace.

There is also a way to circumvent KDP's language policy, which I will share at the end of this post, but this requires violating KDP's language policy.

I. Choose a self-publishing company.

There are a variety of self-publishing companies out there. Most of them are targeted at authors who wish to self-publish books in English for a wide audience, i.e. not those of us who wish to publish novellas in languages other than English for a very select audience (i.e. language teachers and self-motivated language learners). 

I went with Lulu. Why?
  • Writers of Latin novellas use it (such as these)
  • Lulu allows free edits (some self-publishing websites charge a fee if you need to fix errors in your book - no thanks!)
  • No language restrictions! (Caveat: Books in Greek can only be sold on Lulu and are ineligible for their wider distribution service)

No self-publishing company is perfect, so choose the one that best suits your goals.

II. Convert your PDF files into a press-ready PDF files

Before publishing my novella, I had no idea what layers and flattening were in PDF files. KDP allows authors to submit any old PDF. Other self-publishing companies, on the other hand, require that your PDF be flattened to remove all layers (also described as a "press-ready PDF"). 

The easiest way to do this is with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

The downside? Adobe is expensive! As of August 2020, it costs $14.99/month (USD). I am lucky that my work PC has Adobe already installed.

To convert your PDF to a press-ready PDF, click File, then Save as Other, then select Press-Ready PDF (PDF/X). In the save menu, I also clicked Settings... and selected Save as PDF/X-1a. It turns out that there are different types of press-ready PDFs. According to the wisdom of the Internet, PDF/X-1a seems to be the safest option. 

You will also need to convert your cover artwork PDF file too.

III. Publish!

At this point, your Greek novella should be ready to publish.

Fonts: Stick with PDF-friendly fonts that support Polytonic Greek. I used Source Sans Pro and Palatino Linotype. There are plenty of fonts to choose from, but always check your PDFs to ensure that they display correctly. Fonts may look great in your word processing program of choice, but may not be rendered properly or at all in a PDF. I had to change my fonts at least a few times!

Publishing with KDP: Remember how I said earlier that you can try to circumvent KDP's language policy and self-publish in Greek? It is fairly simple, but I have not attempted it, so do so at your own risk. The secret: select English as your book's language. I have heard that KDP will remove your book if they find out that your book is in an unapproved language. That was too big of a risk for me to take, so I decided to play it safe and publish on Lulu. 

I still have a lot to learn about self-publishing, so please share your tips and tricks! 

γράφε δή!