Syllabus/Daily Assignments

John H. Starks, Jr.
1102 Library Tower
Office Hours: 11-12 MW, 2-3 Th

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Gaul committing suicide with slain wife
copy of Pergamene statue group, 3rd c. BCE
Museo Nazionale, Palazzo Altemps, Rome

Celtic stater AV (Belgic Ambiani) , 58-55 BCE

Gallic War Issue

de gentibus alienis, praecipue Gallis et Germanis, in
Bello Gallico VI
C. Iulii Caesaris

Cornelii Taciti
Rebus Gestis XXVII-XXXI
Ammiani Marcellini


Roman soldiers ransacking
a German (Marcomanni) village, 170sCE

Column of Marcus Aurelius, Rome

Binghamton University SUNY
Spring 2008
Library Tower 1107
dies Lunae et Mercurii (MW)
3:30-4:55 PM

Course Synopsis and Objectives: In this advanced Latin reading course, we will examine the Roman presentation of other ethnic groups. We will particularly study the Celtic/Gallic nations most memorably profiled in Caesar's Bellum Gallicum VI immediately prior to his famous encounter with Vercingetorix at Alesia, Tacitus' ethnographic monograph on the Germans, and various ethnic studies (Thracians, Huns, Goths, as well as Romans and lawyers!) in Ammianus Marcellinus' history of Rome in the 4th century CE. We will examine stereotyping and ethnic profiling, Roman observations of foreign religious rituals, daily life, and social structure, and historiographical commentary that refracts the problems of 'civilized' Rome and Romans through the lenses of 'barbarian' cultures. Through translation, extensive class discussion, and scholastic inquiry, instructor and students will expand our language skills and our understanding of historiographical interpretation,  anthropological constructions of foreign enemy cultures, archaeological evidence, and Roman historical legendizing. Student reports on other ancient ethnic studies of these nationalities and on scholarly investigations into these cultures, introduction to important web, library, and database resources, and examination of advanced scholarly studies in Latin historiography and Roman history will enhance the equally essential attention to Latin translation and literary analysis.

Requirements, Grading, Assignment Descriptions, and other Essentials

Required Texts:

Barry Cunliffe The Ancient Celts (Princeton, 1969, 1997)
de Bello Gallico VI, ed. E.C. Kennedy (Bristol, 1982)
Rhiannon Ash
Tacitus (Duckworth, 2006)
Tacitus Germania, ed. J.G.C. Anderson (Bristol, 1938, 1997)
Ammianus Marcellinus
History, Books 27-31 J.C. Rolfe (Ammianus 3, Loeb 331, 1929)

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you buy a good, comprehensive dictionary, if you do not already have one. The Oxford Desk Dictionary is a good basic dictionary, better than the paperbacks, for quick reference. You should consider getting one of the two Latin dictionaries that include citations for usage by particular Latin authors, Cassell's Latin Dictionary (the hardback, not the paperback) or the Oxford Elementary Latin Dictionary by Lewis.

Course Requirements and Rules:

Exams: One exam will cover Caesar one will cover Tacitus as listed on the syllabus.  These will include seen passages, as well as literary interpretation questions.

Final Exam: This will include a Tacitus sight passage and a substantial essay on ethnicity in Caesar, Tacitus and Ammianus to be written outside class.

Oral Reports:
    Each student will deliver 2 oral reports as follows:

One discussing the knowledge (or lack thereof!) provided about the Celtic peoples in authors other than Caesar. These will be determined from the appendix in Cunliffe’s text and will be divided proportionately for the number of registered students.  These are limited to 10 MINUTES so summarize your findings

Choose and read a modern scholarly article on Tacitus’ historiographical method or ethnicity in Tacitus. Also 10 minutes. You may use any of the databases available through the library under Classical Studies, but the most useful will be L’Annee Philologique – I’ll show you how to use this.
    These oral presentations are designed to help improve your oral skills and allow you ample opportunity to improve and expand your oral presentation methods. You may use any combination of audio-visual aids that might best suit you, or you may experiment with different methods each time you present. Reports can be interactive, not just lectures. You may design projects that include your fellow-students, so long as you keep them informed of what you are doing. Feel free to consult with me about your needs for the classroom presentations and approaches you would like to try. If you plan to use A-V be sure you have practiced with it before the time of your presentation. It will eat into your time.

Class Participation: ATTENDANCE IS REQUIRED. You will receive a daily grade for participation in class that suggests your level of preparation on material covered (A, B, C, D or 0) and your involvement in class activities. Participation includes questions, exchange of ideas, and responses to directed or general questions from the instructor or other discussion leader. An absence from class for ANY REASON must be counted as a 0 since you cannot participate if you are absent. Two (2) absences will be dropped, no questions asked, at the end of the term allowing 1 week of class days for illness, family matters, etc. In general, I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences for purposes of daily participation grades, but PLEASE always contact me by email or phone before class if you MUST be absent on a given day. If absence should be unavoidable, we could probably assess your preparation of material through other means, and in any case, I want to know when and why you need to miss class.

Grade Distribution:

15% = Final Exam
40% = Caesar Exam + Tacitus Exam (20% each)
20% = Oral Presentations
25% = Participation/Preparation 

I must insist on a firm grade scale as follows: 97-100 A+, 93-96 A, 90-92 A-, 87-89 B+, 83-86 B, 80-82 B- and so on for each grade tier I especially reserve the right to consider borderline grades as falling on either side of the divide that seems most appropriate given all grading circumstances (i.e., a 92.5 or even a 92.9 cannot automatically be assumed to round up, though I may decide that a student's overall performance may warrant such rounding). Consult me about your progress in seemingly nebulous areas such as class participation, etc.

Suggestions for Success:
    1) ALL written work to be turned in for a grade must be pledged with an affirmation of your adherence to the Student Academic Honesty Code as described at this site.
    2) Make sure that you regularly consult your email and Blackboard, as these are the most efficient ways for me to disseminate information to everyone enrolled in this class.
    3) My only real pet peeves in classroom demeanor are CELL PHONES (turn them off), chronic tardiness, sleeping in class and not informing me and others affected if you have a schedule problem.
    4) I guess the next closest thing to a peeve is my frustration with being unable to read the minds of completely silent students.  Part of the joy of the classics is sharing what you think about it - whether good or bad. There's always something that deserves discussion, and the whole class can benefit from your insights. And (this is the lesson I've had to learn over time), if you're a natural talker, know when to balance your contribution with that of those around you. Be sensitive to the silences that sometimes occur - someone may be thinking deeply. I have toyed with the idea of using email chat rooms to help out those who are more inclined to silence, but I continue to believe that oral human communication is a most valuable gift and tool for all aspects of modern life, just as it was for the even more orally oriented cultures of the ancient world.
    5) Keep on your syllabus. This class will allow little time for catching up if you fall behind. The syllabus/daily assignments offers a guide and a goal. If you find yourself unable to get through the assigned readings and exercises, let's discuss it as a group or individually - work with others, divide the load and then make sure you teach each other. I prefer to have a plan, and try to find the best way to get there. CHECK YOUR SYLLABUS FREQUENTLY FOR ANY CHANGES I MAY NEED TO MAKE ALONG THE WAY.
    6) Bring all the appropriate books each day they are required by the syllabus. Try to mark up your book as little as possible with answers, but often with extra info that helps you understand. Absolutely DO NOT bring your fully written translations into class with you and read from them (I had to be broken from this habit 1st term freshman year by being called down in class. It worked). Show that you understand what you read or that you have questions about what you read. Make vocabulary and grammar notes while you read, and you can bring that to class with you if necessary. Rereading through an assignment shortly after leaving class is the absolute best way to see if you really understood what was going on with the changes suggested there. Nothing is worse than recalling the incorrect interpretation that you worked so hard on before class better than the corrected interpretation or deeper interpretation that you take away after class simply because you spent so much more time on the former and not enough time on the latter.
    7) Extra Credit - fuhgedaboutit!! (Someone burned me long ago abusing extra credit. I'm afraid there is no antidote for my allergic reaction to requests for extra credit). On the other hand, you get personal extra credit for every thing you learn above and beyond the call of absolute duty, so look at the bigger picture.
    8) Final Grades are an assessment of your whole performance. I like to create many components to a grade as an evaluation of a complete student. I tend not to curve individual assignments (unless something is clearly wrong with the grading apparatus) in order to preserve my overall sense of student performance and aptitude for the assignment of the more important final grade. I do consider improvements in problem areas as part of what shows your increased aptitude.
    9) Enjoy learning Latin. Let's make our time in class productive, but also, as often as possible, interesting, enjoyable and thought- provoking. We will talk frequently about the way Romans and Greeks thought and lived to try to understand what they are saying to us. We will not sit in a dull translation session 2 days per week. We will change exercises and engage in discussion of ideas often.
     Pursuant to this end, please feel free within reason to bring coffee or other legal stimulants for our sessions - we will agree to meet in locations other than the room when weather and lesson needs permit - Latin and Greek schools often met in a stoa/basilica or under a tree, in the open air - we should do no less.
    10) One day there may be a suggestion 10, but right now, I don't have one and there were 9 Muses, so we will leave an ennead of sage Starks suggestions for student success - maybe suggestion 10 should be to practice saying that 10 times fast.