The Classics program enables students to read in Greek and Latin the writings of the classical period’s great authors. These seminal works give students a perspective on their own lives and times by addressing life’s timeless questions on the value of human existence, the comedy and tragedy of life, and the altruism and selfishness of human beings. The authors of classical antiquity have endured because of the way they frame these questions and because of the answers they offer.
Students studying a language that is more than 2,000 years old quickly realize that certain human insights and values abide through all the ages. We believe that students are better prepared for life by joining with Vergil and Homer as these authors wrestle with life’s difficult but defining questions. In the past few years, Classics masters have sponsored trips to Rome in order to experience in situ the language, history, and art studied so fervently.
Seminal works give students a perspective on their own lives and times by addressing life’s timeless questions.
Three years of Latin are required, beginning in Class VI. Boys in Class III may elect to study Greek along with Latin, French, or Spanish. A two-year commitment must be made to the Greek language. Much of the second year of Greek is devoted to The Apology of Socrates and other Platonic writings, and third year students study The Iliad of Homer.
A student-initiated and student-run Classics Club thrives at RL, promoting enthusiasm for Latin through Certamen competitions with clubs from other schools. The Club is registered as an official chapter of the National Junior Classical League and the Massachusetts Junior Classical League.
Latin 1, the Class VI course, focuses on having students understand the fundamentals of the Latin language. English and Latin grammatical usages are extensively compared as mutual reinforcements. First Year Latin, by Jenney, a traditional text, is thoroughly covered. With emphasis on English derivations from Latin roots, the course stresses forms, syntax, and vocabulary. Extensive comparison of English and Latin grammar reinforces the understanding of the mechanics of both languages. The course also attempts to recreate the Romans as real people by means of class discussion and reports assigned on topics of individual interest. Readings from Ancient Rome: An Introductory History and Classical Mythology & More supplement the basic text.
Latin 2, the Class V course, strives for the mastery of fundamentals. Jenney, First Year Latin is completed. When the necessary forms, vocabulary, and grammar are mastered, the course turns to Latin readings from Ritchie, Fabulae Faciles and other suitable texts. Review of grammar and the study of English derivatives from Latin roots continue. Ancient Rome: An Introductory History and Classical Mythology & More are further utilized.
Latin 3, the Class IV course, assumes a familiarity with the fundamentals of grammar and concentrates on the literary contributions of a range of Roman authors. The text is Jenney, Second Year Latin. Authors read include Caesar, Aulus Gellius, Livy, Martial, Ovid, and Pliny. Required vocabulary is drawn from the College Entrance Examination Board Word List, Levels I and II. John Colby, Review Latin Grammar, is used for weekly composition exercises. Students are expected to take the SAT II Latin test at the end of this course. In the spring, the production of a Plautine comedy, performed in Latin, is a popular activity.
Latin 4, an elective offered to Class III, is a literature course (with appropriate grammar review), emphasizing Latin’s “translation-defying” beauty, intricacy, and majesty of expression (both in prose and poetry), as found in a varied group of authors including Caesar, Cicero, Pliny, and Sallust. The course stresses the learning of literary devices, the analysis of “real” Latin literature, and the appreciation of Latin in its various manifestations. The primary texts are Latin for Americans (Ullman and Suskin) and A Call to Conquest (edited by Perry). Vergil, Aeneid II (edited by LaFleur), the classicus locus for the Trojan Horse story and the centerpiece of the spring semester, serves both as a vehicle for literary analysis and as the quintessential readable tale. Required vocabulary is drawn from the College Entrance Examination Board Word List, Levels I-IV.
AP Latin 5, an elective offered to Class II, follows the Advanced Placement Syllabus of Vergil’s Aeneid and Caesar’s Gallic War. The texts are A Song of War (edited by LaFleur and McKay) and A Call to Conquest (edited by Perry). Selections from Books I, II, IV, and VI from the Aeneid and Chapters I, IV, V, and VI from the Gallic War are read in order to enhance the students’ appreciation of the history of Epic as a literary form and the theme of statesmanship in the first century B.C. Students are required to take the Advanced Placement Examination in May, which stresses familiarity with the use of imagery and metrical effects, as well as character analysis and the recognition of particular motifs and general themes. In addition to the Aeneid and Gallic War the course explores related works such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Dune to reinforce the concept of the hero as an enduring motif in Classical and World literature.
The fall course of Latin 6, an elective offered to Class I, focuses on the topic of satire primarily through a close reading of The Satyricon of Petronius. The course also samples other examples of satire ranging from Jonathan Swift to The Three Stooges, from Jon Stewart to Saturday Night Live. In the spring, selections from Rome’s most emotional lyric poet, Catullus, are read from Garrison, The Student’s Catullus, followed by selections from Ovid, Metamorphoses and Amores (An Ovid Reader, edited by LaFleur).
Greek 1 aims not only at gaining control of the language but also at comprehending some of the ideas of the Hellenistic world which have decisively contributed to Western Civilization. The text is Groton, From Alpha to Omega, supplemented by materials prepared by the department. Mastery of form recognition, vocabulary (including English derivations), and grammar is stressed, with major emphasis placed on reading and interpreting original Greek.
After a review of the basic grammar and paradigms, Greek 2 spends the remainder of the fall term finishing From Alpha to Omega and crossing the bridge to original Greek with materials prepared by the department. Reading from the works of Aesop, Theophrastus, Lucian, and Xenophon, using A Greek Reader for Schools (Freeman and Lowe), is the focus of the winter term. In the spring, the major topic is Socrates (man, teacher, philosopher), as depicted in Aristophanes’ Clouds, Xenophon’s Memorabilia, and Plato’s Lysis and Apology (edited by J.J. Helm).
In Greek 3, the fall term is devoted to a study of Homer’s Iliad. Emphasis is placed on understanding the history of the epic, the heroic image in literature, and the values of Mycenaean society. The text is Benner, Selections from the Iliad. In the spring semester, Aristophanes’ Frogs serves as the basis for a study of politics in late 5th-century Athens. Dependent upon student interest, the spring course also includes readings from Greek tragedy: either Euripides, Medea (edited by Elliott) or Sophocles, Antigone (edited by Brown).