A Little Veni, Vidi, Vici For Students
Games’ Victorious Teens Speak Well Of Latin
Casey Banas, Tribune Education Writer.
Chicago Tribune: October 06, 1997
Clad in a purple toga fastened on the right shoulder by a gold fibula and sporting brown sandals, the quizmaster posed a question to the three high school teams.
“Identify the mythological character who is the subject of the following Latin sentence: Ego, parvus puer, duas serpentes interfeci,” he queried.
Gail Bremner, a senior at Naperville North High School, knew that meant in English, “I, as a small boy, killed two serpents.” She was the first student among 12 teenagers in the contest to raise her hand.
“Hercules,” she correctly answered to Edward Joyce, the quizmaster and Latin and Greek teacher at Chicago’s Archbishop Quigley Seminary.
Bremner was among 240 students of Latin from 12 Chicago-area schools and one in Springfield participating Saturday in Roman-style academic, art, costume, speaking and athletics contests. In the process, they countered the myth that Latin is a dead language.
The contest was part of the annual state convention of the Illinois Classical League North, held this year at Lyons Township High School’s south campus in Western Springs.
Among the contestants were 43 from Lyons Township, each sporting a T-shirt with a message on the back proclaiming, “Stayin’ Alive,” a reference to a popular Bee Gees song, and bearing a drawing of a Roman woman in a dance pose reminiscent of John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”
Teachers at the Roman festival estimated that 7,000 Illinois high school students are studying Latin. Classes are even held for 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Barrington Middle School, where 110 youngsters have chosen Latin over languages such as French and Spanish.
“The back to basics movement has helped our cause,” said Virginia Anderson, Latin teacher at the Barrington school who said enrollment in the language’s classes is on the upswing.
As part of its three-sentence creed, the Illinois Classical League says that an understanding of the civilizations of Greece and Rome will “help us understand and appraise this world of today, which is indebted to ancient civilization in its government and laws, literature, language and arts.”
The convention, said Laurie Jolicoeur, chairwoman and Lyons Township Latin teacher, is a way for kids who enjoy classical civilization to compete against and meet other students with a similar interest.
Some students said they take Latin because it will provide a good foundation for careers in medicine. Others believe it will help them with language arts questions on the American College Test and Scholastic Assessment Test, both of which are used to help determine college admissions.
Bremner, who may pursue a career in medicine, is looking for a way to get the edge on other students in SAT scores. And she loves mythology. She led her team to victory over Elgin’s Larkin High School and Chicago’s Bogan High School in one round of the academic contest.
Among other answers she knew were that Priam was king of Troy during the Trojan War and Aquitani, Belgae and Celtae were the three major peoples of Gaul.
Another featured event was the creation of art with Roman themes–mosaics, paintings, posters, maps, cartoons and three-dimensional models. The last category was won by Brad Johnson, a junior at Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox. He built a 2-foot-high catapult with a bucket of stones firing its ammunition when a pencil is taken out of a hole, releasing a wooden arm into action.
“I want to be a veterinarian, and Latin will help me understand medical terms,” he said.
Events at the convention also included creative spinoffs of athletic contests. A four-person relay in the gymnasium was called “Mercury Madness” for the mythical swift messenger of the gods. Each runner wore a purple cape and carried a golden staff.
Among the questions in the academic competition was one with a mathematical theme.
“In Latin, the number of Olympians (gods in mythology) minus the number of hills in Rome equals how many?” asked quizmaster Joyce, of the three teams.
On this one, the three teams were stumped. The answer, revealed Joyce was quinque, or in English, five.