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Time lines and captions in the mail…and a medieval side-trip…

I did it! 83 revised time lines, copy, captions, and credits for all pictures, and a list of maps and illustrations all went to Norton at the end of last week. I need to get the images themselves to Norton by April 20, but I now have almost all of them on disk. (I’m still trying to chase down the rights-holder for those mummy faces.)

So I’ve spent a couple of happy days working on a beginning outline for Volume II. We have temporarily settled on a due date of May 2008 for the medieval history manuscript, which is going to be a push, especially if I finish up my dissertation this summer. However, I think it’s (semi) doable.

I’ve been reading Norman Cantor’s book Civilization of the Middle Ages, which is a revised and expanded edition of his classic Medieval History. In the first chapter I ran into this fascinating paragraph, which dovetails with my own thinking about Latin-based classical education (a different approach than the neo-classical methods which my mother and I have written extensively on). Cantor says:

“The Romans…believed in themselves as educators, as trainers of the next generation in a specific order of civilization. They developed a tough, aggressive educational system that took little notice of individual talents….There was no room for art or music within the system; all boys were forced to become little grammarians, since language and literature were, in fact, the whole of their curriculum. Higher education was simply higher studies in language. A society dominated by an aristocracy is one in which the rulers need to learn nothing but language; they do not need science or the arts, they do not need new knowledge of technology or sources of wealth, but they must communicate–they already have power, which they will exert through communication. Through narrow concentration the Romans did marvelous things with Latin–basically an awkward, inflexible language. They ignored the sciences, studied almost no mathematics and little history, but learned both written and oral Latin superbly well…..Later western systems were based on the Roman; educators read Cicero and Quintilian and found their model convincing and acceptable. It is a natural system for an aristocratic society, which needs to train its young people only to accept the power handed on to them–a similar system existed in Confucian China.” — Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, pp. 10-11

A fascinating observation. I prefer to design for my own children an education in which Latin is a tool for the greater understanding of the English language–but only a tool, not the center of the curriculum. The Romans, after all, could no longer survive as a civilization when the aristocrats no longer had artisans, peasants, and mercenaries to whom they could issue their orders.


Looking across the Tiber River towards the Vatican–a picture I took last year while in Italy.