November 30, 2003

It was in seventh grade that I was first introduced to Latin. We started out with Marcus puellam amat and progressed through by the end of the year to Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, etc. Or perhaps it was in second year Latin that we first hit Caesar–this was almost twenty years ago, so my memory is a little bit vague.

At one point we were assigned a project about Greek or Roman history or art or architecture or culture. The exact parameters have escaped me by now but I do remember that we did this project in pairs, all of us except E.T., who, being the class loser, was naturally anathema as a project partner. If memory serves, he came in dressed as a Roman gladiator and demonstrated various combat techniques on a stuffed dummy; this was pretty successful as a Latin project but did nothing, alas, to raise his standing in the class hierarchy. W.E. and W.N. made a Greek temple out of garbage; rumor had it that there was a piece of cat poop inside. The fact that they flunked the project lends credence to the cat poop legend, but as the motivations of the powers that be are often shrouded in mystery, I’m not willing to stick my neck out for this one.

At any rate, I worked with C.O. for my project, which was more or less all my design: we made a working model of Tartarus, the classical version of hell, using Legos and Star Wars figures.

This involved a cardboard box on its side with a lot of wires and string and holes in the back. There was Obi-Wan Kenobi as Sisyphus, pushing a clay boulder up a posterboard mountain colored with brown marker. Whenever he neared the top, we would jerk the string attached to the boulder and let it fall back down the mountain; then Obi-Wan, by means of a wire wrapped around his waist and running through the back of the box, would follow forlornly down after it and start the whole thing up again. On the other side of the posterboard mountain was bound Han Solo as Prometheus, attended by some vultures (on wires) to eat his liver every morning. (Technically this was a concatenation of the punishments of Prometheus, who was bound to a mountain but who didn’t actually end up in Tartarus and whose heart was eaten by an eagle, and Tityus, whose liver was eaten daily in Tartarus by vultures and snakes but who wasn’t actually bound to a mountain, being spread rather over nine acres of land. But we couldn’t spread Han Solo over nine acres, even to scale, so we figured we’d fudge it.) Princess Leia was a Danaid—there were 49 of them according to Greek myth, but even my extensive collection couldn’t produce that many women in the male-dominated mythos that was Star Wars—forced eternally (again by means of wires) to fill an ostensibly leaky jar made of Legos by means of an ostensibly leaky cup from the Lego Town House collection. Luke Skywalker was Ixion, turning forever on a burning wheel (also posterboard) as punishment for dallying with Hera. And Ice Planet Han Solo was Tantalus, always reaching up (pull the wire) for the fruit on the branches above him (pull the string attached to the twig) or down (push the wire) for the water in the pool below him (let go the string attached to the blue posterboard).

In hindsight, we should have had Darth Vader as Hades sitting on a throne above it all, but we were thirteen, so perhaps we can be forgiven.

And we got an A+ all the same.

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6 Responses to It was in seventh grade

  1. Annie says:

    That’s the coolest class project I’ve ever heard of. Are there any pictures? Oh, please, let there be pictures!

  2. Lee says:

    “…too twisted for color TV.”

  3. Jalal says:

    And I always thought that my enactment of Socrates drinking hemlock was dramatic and morbid.

  4. Wayne says:

    Lovely. Really reminded me of my High School project that involved a burning ship, blood, and lots of fire.

    The teacher made us re-do our project.

  5. Nick says:

    I feel so dumb.
    I’ve only been out of Latin for five years and I can’t remember much except, “Futue te ipsum vacca stulta,” and I bet even that’s improperly phrased.

    That and, “Tu scronium es,” which, when directed at Faustus, I mean with nothing but love.

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