Ecce Bloody Romani – Again

Oscar is doing the Romans at school.

He is quite fed up about this, as he prefers the Greeks. I would like to tell him that the Romans are more exciting than the Greeks, except that most of the exciting things that I know about the Romans are not fit for eight year old boys to hear.

Regular readers will know that I am quite fed up of the Romans because they have been done to death in this house. Tilly did the Romans twice due to a school move that clashed with curriculum time tabling, and Tallulah has also done them. I have built a model of  Vesuvius out of papier mache. I have created a scale model of the Colosseum out of cardboard. I have plumbed the very bowels of primary school related interest in the Romans. Russell Crowe could have hired me to coach him in the arcane arts of gladiatorial combat I am that well versed in the ways of Roman amphitheatres.

On top of which I did a year of classical studies at university and a short course on the Colosseum with the OU, and a foundation course in classical literature thanks to my English degree. I think it’s fair to say that short of taking it up as an academic career I have Veni, Vidi, Vici’d to death.

Every term at Oscar’s school they have an overarching topic into which they slot whichever tedious bits of the curriculum they are forced to re-enact, and which they try to use to give a new angle on what they’re doing. This term it is Grand Designs. When Oscar announced it, I had great hopes of meeting Kevin McCloud and was up for any school trip that might be on offer.

Now I suspect it will be another trip to the Jewry wall museum and another, endless series of low walls and curators dressed in hairy blankets.

Having lived in and around Leicester all my life pretty much, I am not even remotely tempted to go back to the Jewry wall for the four hundredth time. I suspect I still have the bit I broke off in 1979 on a school trip of my own.

I would go to the Jewry Wall if I was about to meet Kevin McCloud wearing a hairy blanket (blanket optional), but I don’t think he’s coming, which is a crying shame. I am not interested in Roman ruins anywhere else in the UK either, thanks very much. We have done quite a lot of them, and the theme of ‘a series of low walls’ is persistent and unedifying as far as I’m concerned. There are only so many hypocausts a woman can get excited about, and I’ve had my fill.

Other classes are studying the Greeks, which is making Oscar very jealous, and the Vikings, which is making me very jealous. As a sop, Oscar and I are reading Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series of books, which is about as close to the Vikings he’s ever likely to come for the rest of his school career.

I realise that the Romans are quite important to our history in this fair isle. After all, What have the Romans ever done for us? etc, but honestly? Again? It drives me crazy that there are over two thousand years of rich historical pickings for schools to go at and yet every child leaves knowing about Romans, Tudors and Victorians and that’s your lot. No wonder they have no sense of historical continuity. Oscar asked me the other day what I thought of Queen Victoria’s rule from the point of view of someone who was alive at the time, and whether Julius Caesar had ever met Henry VIII.

No jokes about my age here, thanks Dad, if you’re reading.

Despite this grumbling, we are embracing our fate. Oscar has taken up his Asterix books once more and we are looking at them from a more Roman angle. I am going to dig out Molesworth and show Oscar the Romans going into Gaul and the Romans leaving Gaul. We have made a mosaic out of Lego instead of with the usual bits of paper and endless amounts of PVA glue, and this afternoon, after school, Oscar is going to his first ever Latin/Archaeology class.

This is a ten week course that the school are running in collaboration with Leicester university’s archaeology department, and apparently they will learn Latin and look at the results of the latest archaeological finds in Leicester. It sounds reasonably interesting despite my nagging fear about the low wall situation. I am not sure how Oscar feels about low walls. I suspect they don’t feature much in his day to day activities except as possibly hurdles in some kind of complex race involving pretending to be a Pokemon.

I did do Latin for about four weeks when I was in sixth form. I am not a natural as far as languages go, and the idea that the words could go anywhere in a sentence because it’s the tenses that matter and the ceaseless conjugating (and not in a good way), made me want to weep. I am hoping that Oscar is more thrilled with it than I was, particularly as this is a course I’ve paid for.

Of course, the law of Sod says he will come home in a conjugating verb induced coma and never want to go again.

7 responses to “Ecce Bloody Romani – Again

  1. To be fair, Hadrian’s Wall isn’t all that low 😉 I see your point though.

  2. So I am an American and, as such, got very little of Romans in school. (lots more of “redcoats”, i.e. you all, and the Stamp Act) On a recent trip to London, I dragged my mother to several parts of the old city wall because I couldn’t get enough of it. Perhaps you can answer a question for me then? I’ve wanted to read some of the classic Roman texts. Where should I start? I thought it would be a good idea to begin with an author to whom all the other authors refer, or who is most commonly referred to by later classics…?

  3. Oh blimey! I loved The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius. Really readable and fascinatingly scurrilous. Ovid is great. I loved Metamorphosis. I can’t remember many other Roman authors we studied. I loved Herodotus: ‘The Histories’. He was Greek though. We did a lot of plays by Aristophanes and Euripedes, which I enjoyed. Also Greek.

    I recommend Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid and Robert Graves The Greek Myths too.

  4. Reminded me of when my daughter was about 6 and one day asked: “Mummy, which came first, the Romans or the Sixties?”

  5. Greeks and Roman, they all kind of melded for me. Best of luck to Oscar

  6. I never ‘did’ the Romans, probably as I grew up in the bit they possibly labelled Ultima Thule, though their record-keeping is a bit vague on this, and really if they couldn’t be bothered with us, why should we bother with them? (2000 years of disgruntlement there) We did the Vikings in spades though.

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