Roman resurrection: Classics become cool

Department hosts event to spark interest in culture

By Kayla Reeves

An ancient Roman comedy and other Latin activities will kick off the weekend for a group of high school students celebrating ancient Roman culture. Baylor’s Classics Department is having its ninth annual Latin Day from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

Undergraduate students will provide Latin-themed activities for about 200 high schoolers from across Texas, but the day can be enjoyed by anyone, said Dan Hanchey, assistant professor of classics.

A comedic play written by Plautus and directed by Dr. David White, professor in the classics department, is expected to be the most popular event, Hanchey said.

Alexandria, La., senior Stephen Margheim is playing the lead in this year’s play.

His character Pseudolus is a tricky slave who hoodwinks a slave dealer to woo the woman his master has fallen in love with, Margheim said.

There is also a Broadway play and a movie, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” based on the story, he said.

The play is in English and will show at 1:15 p.m. today in the Marrs-McLean Science Building, room 100. The play is free and open to the public.

The events of the annual Latin Day are put on by students in the classics department, but not necessarily classics majors, Margheim said.

Students range from freshmen to fifth-year seniors.

The play does not require auditions. Students can read through the script and choose roles based on their personal level of commitment and how much time they have to learn lines and practice.

“It’s really easygoing, and it’s tons of fun to get on stage as a collegiate student,” Margheim said.

Another event will include viewing Latin-related advertisements created by high school students for a contest. Faculty members will vote for a winner.

This year, one of those advertisements is based on the popular Dos Equis commercials featuring “the most interesting man in the world,” but changed to “the most interesting language in the world,” Hanchey said.

There will also be a Certamen competition, modeled off Jeopardy. Certamen means ‘competition.’

“It’s always funny because students and teachers will take it pretty seriously. There will be fierce competition,” Hanchey said.

He said there is also a national Certamen championship, and one member on the recent national championship team participated in Baylor’s Latin Day Certamen as a student two years ago.

The day will include Latin songs for students to learn, a tour of campus and lunch at Penland for the high schoolers.

Hanchey and Margheim agreed that Latin Day is beneficial to everyone who participates.

“It’s definitely helpful for the kids,” Margheim said. “They get to see that there are normal human beings who take Latin seriously, and [who] are not massive nerds and not weird. And for Baylor, it’s a chance to have our own influence to revitalize high school Latin programs, and people generally enjoy it.”

Hanchey said he believes there is a value in studying Latin because of the wide range of topics involved.

“You get a chance to study culture, history, politics, religion, art, language and literature all at once,” he said, “and so much of our culture is based on ancient Rome.”

But the classics department wants to show the high schoolers more than just Latin language and history, Hanchey said.

“We want to educate the students about Latin, about Baylor, about Baylor classics, about what experience they could have if they came here,” Hanchey said. “We also want them to have fun and see there’s a community feeling in studying Latin.”