Sunday, 29 May 2011

Latin Background Summaries

So you've probably noticed (anyone that actually reads this) that my recent posts have all been work-related. Well, that's 'cause it's exam time, and all my focus is on studying. Only one more week - I promise. This is also to do with my Latin exam, but may be slightly more interesting than confusing summaries that only really make sense if you already know the grammar (in which case, you really don't need them ;-p)

What I'm writing now, are summaries on Roman Background readings. When you learn a new language, it's useful to know something about the culture that speaks the language. This is true for ancient as well as modern languages. And thankfully, we know a fair amount about Roman culture, even though it no longer exists in this form.

The following are summary points taken from passages in the textbook we used: The Oxford Latin Course: Part III, (ed. Balme, M & Morwood, J - 2nd edition)

Brutus & Cassius (37)
  • Brutus & Cassius fled from Rome almost immediately after Caesar's death
  • They claimed to have acted in the name of freedom from dicatatorship, but meant power would be restored to the aristocracy
  • History depicts Cassius unfavourably, Shakespeare shows two sides to him: he is "sincere in his hatred of tyranny"
  • Brutus is more likeable - drawn unwillingly into the plot, he is a geniune philosopher as well as a soldier. He roused up the young students of Athens to join his cause.
  • Brutus was also a writer, writing a book on virtus
Octavian returns to Italy (38)
  • The moment Octavius heard of Caesar's death, he rushed back to Italy
  • As Caesars' heir, he began to promote himself and changed his name to C. Julius Caesar Octavianus.
  • He quickly aroused the jealousy of Antony, who saw him a young upstart.
  • The senate tried to use him to destroy Antony. After he succeeded, they tried to brush him aside.
  • The 19 year-old would have none of this. He demanded and won the consulship, for which the minimum age had been 43.
  • In 42 BC, with Octavian taken ill, Antony won the battle of Phillipi
  • While Ant. established peace in the East, Oct. began to find land for the veterans by confiscating the farms of farmers who had not supported him
  • Tension between Ant and Oct grew as Ant's wife and brother supported the farmers
  • Civil War was imminent on Ant's return to Italy, but they managed to effect a truce.
The Confisctions (39)
  • The confiscations were devastating for the Romans. Horace's family, and perhaps even Vergil, suffered lost their farms
  • Vergil describes the sense of loss in two poems: They speak of how the dispossessed feel, either having to work as servants of the new landowners, or having been forced to find a new home
But the rest of us must go from here and be dispersed - 
To Scythia, bone-dry Africa, the chalky spate of the Oxus,
Even to Britain - that place at the very world's end.
  • Despite Ocavian's ruthlessness during this time, ten years later he would be it's patron
  • Now he improved roads, reduced crime and encouraged poets who were some of country-folk whose farms he'd siezed
Cleopatra (48)
  • Came to the throne of Egypt as joint-hier with her brother on their father's death
  • Was exiled by her brother, but restored with Caesar's help
  • She had a son by Caesar, Caesarion. The mother and child lived in a villa in Rome till Caesar's death. They then returned to Egypt
  • 3 years later she first met
  • Antony as he was establishing matters in the East
  • They had twins and perhaps a third child before he left her to make peace with Octavian
  • Four years later, Ant returned to the East, leaving his wife Octavia and publicly declaring himself Cleopatra's husband
  • Octavian was able to use this as fuel against Ant and Cleopatra against whom he and the senate declared war
(This story is obviously more complex, but the rest of it is in the Latin part of the book and is not necessary for this summary)

Caesar Augustus (49)
  • Rome, it seems, had had enough of Civil War. Tired of the instability, the people welcomed Octavian as their hero and saviour.
  • They awarded him the name Augustus ("worthy of honour and reverence")
  • Poets such as Vergil and Horace praised him, Vergil even linking him to the family of his hero Aeneas (prince of Troy and founder of the precursor to Rome)
  • Many celebrated him as the peace-maker. The Gates of War, in Janus' temple were shut for the first time in years and an "Altar of Peace" set up near the Tiber.
  • By taking the name princeps and not rex, Augustus transformed the Republic to an Empire, but most of the people did not seem to mind.

No comments: