On The Road, You Don’t Expect To Come Across Latin Written By Someone You Know

Capernaum archaeological zone.

Eastern Israel is one of the strange, miraculous places. Heading east from Jerusalem on the Jericho Road, all is dust and stone; your eyes squint in the glare of the yellow-white desert. But cutting through the middle of that rainless desert, just as you come into view of the high treeless sunlit hills of Jordan, is a linear oasis, a belt of trees and farms that stretches off into the distance: the Jordan River. You can barely see the river — there’s not much to it, but it soaks the ground and makes the desert green. Something even more miraculous…


A Personal Account of the Ceremonies at Holy Hill

The Shrine Chapel at Holy Hill, where Reginald Foster’s body was exposed (stock photo; I took no photos in the church at the event).

When I am overburdened, I start coughing, and the night before Fr. Reginald Foster’s funeral I was coughing continually. As Fr. Foster’s biographer, I had gotten permission to attend his requiem mass and burial. Due to coronavirus restrictions, it would be a private ceremony. I was asked to keep the event in the strictest confidence: the Carmelites feared that many people would come, and come from far away. They were afraid of bringing COVID-19 into their monastery, especially with several elderly friars in their company. COVID, after all, was the very thing which killed Reginaldus in the end. And there…


Thomas Cole, Italian Coast Scene With Ruined Tower,” National Gallery, Washington. (source)

Sometimes books contain sentences that seem as if they were written especially for you. When you are lucky and writers are particularly clever, these sentences appear near the beginning of their books. This sentence of Gilbert Highet appears in the introduction to his Poets in a Landscape: “This book is meant for those who love Italy, and for those who love poetry.” The internet never had a cookie that could target me so precisely. I kept reading.

And I’m very glad I did. The book, published in 1957, appears to be the fruit of Highet’s post-World-War-II travels in Italy —…


Aeschylus Leads Us On A Long Road, But Love Is Its Destination

Some Greek myths are well-known today. The story of the Danaids isn’t one of them. At a cocktail party you might expect someone to understand what you mean by an Oedipus complex or the Trojan Horse or a Herculean task. But “the hubris of the sons of Aegyptos” will get you a blank stare. You might have heard the tale’s denouement — the Danaids are condemned in Hades to fill a leaking tub with water — but might not have remembered what the Danaids did (they were fifty sisters who massacred forty-nine of their fifty husbands on their wedding night)…


In Medias Res Takes A Look At The Grandest of the Tragedians This Season

Philippe-Auguste Hennequin’s “Remorse of Orestes” (1800), in the Louvre. (source)

It’s curious the things you remember from college, decades later. I remember, during the first class of a course on Plato’s Republic, that the professor praised the Republic as one of the most famous and worthy works of the ancient world. “It is one of the greatest works of the mind of antiquity,” he opined, in his precise, German-accented English. “But it is not the greatest. Does anyone know what that is, by the way? The greatest work of the mind of antiquity?”

We looked at each other in stunned silence. Was he really asking us to make a pronouncement…


A Pleasant, At Times Imperfect, Latin Jaunt Through Pop Music

It’s October, and it’s a worthwhile idea to at least start thinking about appropriate gifts for that Latin teacher you love. Earlier this year Unicorn Press published Latin Rocks On (distributed by the University of Chicago Press), a collection of lines from pop songs translated into Latin, which just might fit the bill.

Unicorn Press boasts on its website that it employs “the very best designers, editors, researchers, photographers, indexers and publicists… to make beautiful books for our global audience to cherish.” It doesn’t appear to be an idle boast — Latin Rocks On is a pretty book, a bright…


A New Solution To A Classical Problem

Marc Charles Gabriel Gleyre, “Les Romains Passant Sous Le Joug” (1858; Musee Cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne; source).

In the ninth book of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, Livy describes the most memorable event in the history of the Samnite Wars, and one of the most notable disasters in Roman military history: the Battle of the Caudine Forks (321 B.C.). Livy himself had in the previous book complained, writing about the Samnite wars, that there were no authors contemporary with these events of any reliability (Nec quisquam aequalis temporibus illis scriptor exstat, quo satis certo auctore stetur), and that the historical record had been made useless (vitiatam memoriam… reor) due to Roman families trying to burnish their reputations. The…


A New, Online, Low-cost Bookshop for Classicists

Bibliophile-Beloved Milton Inscription at the New York Public Library

[UPDATE: The next Redux Books sale will take place from November 27th at 9 a.m. EST and run until midnight on Tuesday, December 1st].

In 1815 the English historian and abolitionist William Roscoe, a lover of Italy and a friend of the Classics, was at the age of 62 forced by bankruptcy to sell his book collection. He had used it to compose, as an independent scholar with no access to university libraries, his Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici and Life and Pontificate of Leo X. He was so affected by the sale that he wrote a sonnet, “To My…


2020.

2020 marks the first time in a long time that there will be no Rusticationes held, the weeklong spoken-Latin gatherings held mostly in West Virginia. I’ve been thinking about them during this quarantine: they offer a opportunity to devote an entire week to friendship, with friends both old and new, all drawn by their love of Latin, and with little else to do but speak to each other. It seems like a heavenly bliss, after all the isolation of the past few months.

One of the rusticators, a wise Episcopalian priest, would say over and over again when people got…


From One Lover of the Eternal City to Another

Rome in a picture.

I’ve always found it a little sad that so many teachers, when asked what they do for their students, claim that they are making critical thinkers. Critical thinking has its place, of course, but unless you want to drown in your own negativity, it’s always going to be a small place compared with something like appreciative thinking, or right action. I take more pride in the fact that I found an Aronia arbutifolia growing in the wild for the first time yesterday, and planted a blueberry bush, than in all the perfectly apt critical comments I directed at the world…

John Byron Kuhner

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store