Thursday, November 09, 2006

HSC Latin Exam

My year 12 students sat their HSC Latin exam yesterday. I thought it was a bit of a tricky paper- particularly the comment questions on both Livy and Virgil. For anyone who's interested, here are two of the questions:

"Romulus" inquit, "Quirites, parens urbis huius, prima hodierna luce caelo repente delapsus se mihi obuium dedit. Cum perfusus horrore venerabundusque adstitissem petens precibus ut contra intueri fas esset, ""Abi, nuntia"" inquit ""Romanis, caelestes ita velle ut mea Roma caput orbis terrarum sit; proinde rem militarem colant sciantque et ita posteris tradant nullas opes humanas armis Romanis resistere posse."" Haec" inquit "locutus sublimis abiit." (Ab Urbe Condita I.16.6-8)

[‘Citizens of Rome’, he [Julius Proculus] said, ‘Romulus, father of this city, having come down suddenly from heaven, came to meet me at today’s first light. As I stood there, filled with dread and full of reverence, asking in my prayers that it might be right for me to gaze upon his face, he said, “Go forth, announce to the Romans that heaven wishes it to be so: that my Rome shall be the head of the whole world; accordingly they should foster the art of warfare, and they should know and accordingly hand down to posterity that no human power can resist Roman might.” Having spoken these things,’ he said, ‘he ascended on high.’]

[obviously the translation was not included in the exam- I've given it here for those unfamiliar with the passages]

Explain how the themes and literary techniques in this extract illustrate Livy's approach to writing history. (5 marks)

This seems to me a slightly odd choice of passage to choose to discuss Livy's approach to history, especially in terms of literary techniques. I suppose the main technique here is characterisation, which tells us a few things about Livy's approach to writing history- he wanted to write something entertaining, but also morally improving, and felt quite comfortable including (or indeed inventing) stories of dubious truthfulness. The passage also shows an unashamed patriotism, another important element in Livy's approach to writing history.

sed te qui vivum casus, age fare vicissim,
attulerint. pelagine venis erroribus actus
an monitu divum? an quae te fortuna fatigat,
ut tristis sine sole domos, loca turbida, adires?'
Hac vice sermonum roseis Aurora quadrigis

iam medium aetherio cursu traiecerat axem;
et fors omne datum traherent per talia tempus,
sed comes admonuit breviterque adfata Sibylla est:
'nox ruit, Aenea; nos flendo ducimus horas.
hic locus est, partis ubi se via findit in ambas:
dextera quae Ditis magni sub moenia tendit,
hac iter Elysium nobis; at laeva malorum
exercet poenas et ad impia Tartara mittit.
'Deiphobus contra: 'ne saevi, magna sacerdos;
discedam, explebo numerum reddarque tenebris.
i decus, i, nostrum; melioribus utere fatis.
'tantum effatus, et in verbo vestigia torsit.
(Aeneid VI.531-547)

["But come, tell me what chance has brought you here alive. Do you come driven by the wanderings of the sea, or on the advice of the gods? Or what fortune torments you that you approach these sad halls without sun, these troubled places?"

While they were speaking, Dawn in her rosy chariot was crossing the middle of her airy course; and perhaps they would have spent all the time allowed them in such things, but the Sybil cautioned them and spoke briefly to them: "Night rushes on Aeneas; we spend hours in weeping. Here is the place where the road divides itself in two parts; on the right it stretches beneath the battlements of the mighty Dis- by this route lies our journey to Elysium. But the left hand side leads to punishment for the evil, and sends them down to unholy Tartareus."

Deiphobus in reply says: "Do not be angry, great priestess; I shall withdraw, I shall fill up my number, and I shall return to the darkness. Go! Go, our great glory: enjoy a better fate."

So much he spoke, and as he spoke he turned in his tracks.]

Explain how Virgil uses contrast in this extract to emphasise the significance of this point in Aeneas' journey. (7 marks)

Aeneas' journey is obviously an improtant theme in book VI, and one that we spent a lot of time talking about, but I wasn't quite sure what the examiners were getting at with the idea of contrast. There are a few different things to say about contrast in this passage (day/night, living/dead, Elysium/Tartarus), but to make that into an answer worth seven marks is (I think) a bit of a stretch.


Chrissy Sparkle said..., I really wish you hadn't posted this. Like, really really. Now I'm going to spend the next month thinking about all the things you've just told me I should have talked about, which I didn't in fact talk about. Ohhh dear.

Anonymous said...

there's no point worrying about it now- just focus on the next one. :-)

jeltzz said...

If the Livy extract had continued a little, there's the wonderful part where he expresses some cynicism about the claims of Julius Proculus, and the slightest undercurrent that perhaps Romulus was 'done away with' by a conspiracy.

That would have been good for some comment.

Mike Salter said...

Isn't it funny, you've chosen the two questions I thought were excellent! For the Virgil one, I thought there was bags you could talk about (breviter vs. omne...tempus, discedam vs. i...i, traherent vs. ruit, dextera (with its double meaning) vs. at laeva malorum, plus of course the partis...ambas comment and Deiphobus's "melioribus utere fatis" by contrast to his own wretched fate (the past of Troy vs. the future).

By contrast (if you'll pardon the pun), I thought the scansion question on that passage (6 b(i)(2)) was ridiculous, given that both of the lines referred to are pretty featureless, scansion-wise.

Anonymous said...

jeltzz, yes the ambiguity that Livy often includes is an important part of his approach to writing history. other occasions that spring to mind are his scepticism about the real father of Romulus and Remus, and then later about the story of them being reared by a wolf.

Mike, you make a good point, and after a bit more reflection maybe it's not such a stretch- though i'm still not sure that gives you much to say about Aeneas' journey. I guess i'll find out next week at marking.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Morrison, I am reading your blog from my new laptop, which my parents bought me because they felt bad for upsetting me and being so unsupportive of my studies. Thankyou for telling me to talk to to them! [alliteration] You can be just like the teacher in that old TV show, Top Of The Class.

PS: But I am not a spoilt princess. I still don't have a desk!

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