Margaret SchedlerThursday, September 9, 2021
I stumbled upon Latin in the eighth grade when I wanted to study a new language. I had been studying French for many years and was ready to move on. Latin was intoxicating, as if the language emitted some fantastic, sticky scent, luring me in. Latin was poetic, everything a young romantic could hope for. I latched onto the vocab and the histories Mr. Rediker taught us. At the time, Mr. Rediker’s room was in the orange bowl. His room was always tinted yellow so that every time we entered his classroom, we entered into a whole new world, glowing with the ancients. I steadily rose through the ranks, finding myself most comfortable studying Hellenistic religion and mythology, and rather disliking the whole translating part. I read books like Miller’s Circe and The Song of Achilles, doing whatever I could to get myself closer to the aesthetic of antiquity. I loved the beauty of Roman mythology. I loved the petty gods, the tragic heroes, and the inescapable fates. Everything seemed to swirl around me, showing me the majesty (and enraging immaturity) of the ancient world.
Then the pandemic slithered its way into the then yellow halls of Altamont and the vision dropped away. I went through a period of time when I could not find comfort in Latin. I started to forget every story that had brought me comfort, and more importantly, every vocab word that had been drilled into my notebooks. This was no fault of Mr. Rediker’s but rather my own. I lost touch with Latin, and it lost touch with me.
At the end of my sophomore year, I made a pledge to myself to rekindle my love for Classics, so I signed up to take both Latin and Greek my junior year. The first day rolled around soon enough and I felt very insecure next to these former Latin students who knew so much more than I did. I worked hard the first week to remember the Greek alphabet and the sounds each letter made. I woke up earlier to study 15 minutes of transliteration, as seen in the title (Αγαιπα or Agape: the highest form of love). Even just in the first week, I noticed it becoming easier. It being the Greek experience. Mr. Crowe would play Greek music while we worked on transliterating Latin to Greek and somewhere in those moments, I could feel myself falling in love again. But this love was new. The languages inspire different feelings of love as I am sure language students at Altamont will understand. I love how Greek sounds and how the letters look as if you have just solved an impossible puzzle. And I love that I am learning a language that is actually spoken, an ‘alive’ language if you will (Latin students get too used to the idea of ‘dead’ languages).
But what cemented my love was something that Mr. Crowe said one afternoon. We had just finished listening to “Αστεριμου Φεγγαρι μου” (My Stars, My Moon from Phaedra) and some of us were talking amongst ourselves. Mr. Crowe suddenly broke into a story about Nancy de Grummond, his Early Roman Archeology professor at Florida State. In the story, college-era Mr. Crowe had recently found out he would be able to study in Greece. It was raining that day as he entered de Grummond’s office. “Red Rain” by Peter Gabriel was playing softly on the radio in the corner and his professor was smoking in the window, red light illuminating her face. Our classroom went silent, and I could feel all of us collectively understanding that this, this story was important. With smoke running from her lips, she spoke.
“Once you go to Greece, you never go back.” She was right. Mr. Crowe said that he would always love Latin, but that he loves Greek in a completely different way, in an all-consuming way.
That is what changed Classics for me. The ancient Greeks believed in loving something with the entirety of your soul and when it is time to move on from that beloved thing, you let it die. You let it die so that it is no longer a part of your being. I sometimes think of Classics like that. The time where I loved Latin with my whole soul is over now, and I don’t view it as a bad thing. It allows opportunity for new loves. I have entered a new era.
The study of Classics at Altamont is like a Venus flytrap. It lures specific people with the promise of immortality and antiquity. And as it closes its sticky jaws around you, you realize that you have no desire to escape. Slowly, you are digested without knowledge of it because of how sweet it smells. In the end, you do not realize what is happening until you have been swallowed down into its balmy belly. Then you notice it: your fibers have been weaved together into a bond that will not break. You have become Classics and Classics has become you.
To share your thoughts or feedback on this or anything you've seen in The Acta Diurna, to suggest story ideas, or to become a contributor, email MediaJournalism@AltamontSchool.org and copy Managing Editor Margaret Schedler at SchedlerM23@AltamontSchool.org.