History & Plans

Adapted from the annual report of Jenny Rallens, the past-president of the Oxford Latinitas project

 

Res parva concordia crescit

The Oxford Latinitas Project is a community of scholars and students at the University of Oxford dedicated to study of the Classical humanities through Latin. The Project was founded in Michaelmas 2017 by students and scholars from Oxford University and the Accademia Vivarium Novum. Over the course of this past year, the Latinitas Project has grown organically into something of a wider movement for renewal in humanities education and has acquired an international reputation. For the kindness and enthusiasm from so many who have made all of this possible, we want to say a sincere and heartfelt thank you.

Societas Oxoniensis Latinitatis est discipulorum et humanarum artium studiosorum sodalitas, quae hisce disciplinis Latine studere et tradere sibi proposuit. Societas nostra mense Septembri anni 2017 sub aegide Universitatis Oxoniensis et Academiae Vivari Novi condita est. Unius modo anni spatio societas nostra paene sponte vel numine quodam crevisse ita quidem visa est, ut eius pondus atque momentum in humanioribus, quae dicuntur, studiis provehendis, iam a nonnullis diversis in terris agnoscatur. Pro quibus benevolentiae monumentis gratias imo ex corde agimus.

The Project began with friendship. We first convened as a handful of friends who liked nothing better than gathering to read Seneca and Cassiodorus in our Oxford garden or singing Vergil and Horace on frosty walks after dinner at the Accademia in Rome. The official scholae and conventicula of the academic year 2017-18 grew organically out of the preceding two years of such friendship: Saturday mornings consumed with Cicero amongst commonplace books and coffee mugs spread out over our living-room floor, simple dinners in our home where we would sing poetry and discuss classical education, weekly coffee shop or skype gatherings in pairs and trios and, eventually, unofficial Orberg and Latin literature reading groups held in college, in response to the request to share a little of what we had so generously received.

In amicitia societas nostra fundata est. Primum enim, amicorum quippe coetus, qui quidem nihil suavius, nihil iucundius aestimabamus quam colloqui unaque Senecam vel Cassiodorum sedentes in hortis oxoniensibus legere, aut Vergilium vel Horatium in silvis latinis per amica silentia lunae canere, convenimus. Primae igitur scholae et conventicula huius peracti anni ex iisce familiaribus conviviis orta sunt: ex diebus festis qui in legendo Ciceronis opera, inter libros et potiones calidas integri, in hortis vel in exedris, consumebantur; e cenis ubi cantuum et poeseos sale non minus cibi quam animi condiebantur; aut e colloquis in thermopoliis vel per computatrii album habitis cum improba distantia coram amicos alloqui prohibebat; denique vero ex scholis Latinae linguae, quas, aliis potulantibus atque exhortantibus ut aliquid ex iis, quae per studia nostra nacnti eramus, partiremus, methodo Ioannis illius Orbergii, in collegiis Oxoniensibus recitare coepimus.

Although the people who formed and lead the Project this year come from a variety of backgrounds, each of us had been shaped irrevocably, in childhood or adolescence, by some form of what is often called a ‘liberal arts’ or ‘classical’ education. We had each experienced education conceived, in the end, as love, and tasted the joy and friendship native to scholarship thus understood, as portrayed by Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, and countless others. Formed by these, we already shared the inkling that study in the Ivory Tower should not only bear the fruit of journal articles and monographs, but of wisdom, virtue, and consolation, for the pressing social and philosophical needs of our time.

Qui societatem statuimus ac ducimus, quamquam diversis omnino ex orbis regionibus oriundi, omnes tamen sumus educati illis artibus quae liberales vocantur. Omnes enim experti sumus genus quodam institutionis quod ad amorem tendit inque amore fundatur, et beatitudinem amicitiamque, quam iste studendi mos praestat, degustaveramus. Quasi scintillam igitur in animis nostris, eam sententiam fovebamus: studiorum fructus non esse modo symbolas ac libros, sed sapientiam, virtutem, et solamen ad nostri temporis pericula subeunda et superanda.

Our paths crossed in Rome at the Accademia Vivarium Novum, where we have all been students. In Vivarium, we found an expression of humanities higher education, consonant with the best of our previous liberal arts experiences, but realized to a deeper degree. Vivarium is a place where many of the most beautiful practices and principles of Renaissance, medieval, and classical education have been preserved: where classical Latin and Greek are still spoken, where friendship is nurtured by communal living, where endless conversations flow from the classrooms to the dinner table to spontaneous astronomy lessons in the garden.

Undique igitur terrarum orti, nota diu bene corda, Romam in Academiam Vivari Novi convenimus. Ibi locum invenimus ubi multa instituta, quibus ab antiquis temporibus per aetatem quae dicitur media usque ad nostrum tempus homines educati sunt, servabantur: etenim  et graeca et latina lingua etiam nunc ibi in colloquis usurpatur, quae colloquia ex scholis sine intermissione quasi fluere ad convivia videntur, necnon interdum in necopinatas acroases, dum sidera aspiciuntur et de astronomia disceptatur, deveniunt.

Those of us who subsequently found ourselves in or near Oxford hoped to continue our scholarship in such a spirit, to keep some of these practices alive, and to share them. Thus, throughout the 2016-17 school year we all continued to meet on Tuesdays, when Professor Gregory Hutchinson hosted informal colloquia over lunch, on Fridays to read Familia Romana together and, monthly or termly, to join with friends from outside Oxford for longer days of readings, singing, and spending time together. After a year of such informal meetings, and continued requests from participants for more, we worked with Vivarium and Oxford to found the Oxford Latinitas Project. Our hope was to establish a more permanent and mutually beneficial relationship between Oxford and Vivarium.

Qui deinde Oxonii vel in propinquas regiones venimus, simili animo voluimus pergere studia nostra colere, eaque, quae in academia didiceramus, et continuare et communicare. Itaque ab autumnno anni 2016 coepimus diebus Martis convenire, tum quidem Professor Gregorius Hutchinson colloquia latina proponebat inter prandium; diebus autem Veneris librum, cui index Familia Romana, legebamus. Denique semel in mense, si negotia sinebant, amicos ex aliis terris quoque inter nos recipiebamus, ut litteras simul et amicitiam coleremus. Postquam vero per unum annum ita perrexissemus, multis quidem maiora flagitantibus, et Academia Vivari novi et Universitas Oxoniensi coeptis faventibus, nostram Societatem Oxoniensis Latinitatis secundo numine constituimus.

Subsequently, throughout 2017-18, the regular teaching work of our Project grew to include three or four weekly classes by the end of the year. Professor Hutchinson continued his Tuesday conversation group, and we divided our Friday Orberg classes into three levels to accommodate a growing number of students with a wide range of abilities. We added Lumen Litterarum, classes in which we read and discussed a selection of Latin texts, on Wednesdays for more advanced participants. Due to interest outside Oxford, we decided to add Saturday classes in Hilary and Trinity, where we practiced rhetorical exercises drawn from ancient progymnasmata.

Anno scholastico qui ab anno 2017 ad 2018 duravit, nostrae societatis docendi labores ita aucti sunt, ut ante finem anni tres quattuorve lectiones singulis hebdomadibus haberentur. Professor Hutchinson perrexit ducere sua colloquia diebus Martis habita, scholasque latinas in tres gradus sunt divisa ut singulis qui earum partem capere volebant aptae essent. Ceterum et lectiones quas Lumen Litterarum vocavimus, provectioribus discipulis destinatae, diebus Mercurii additae sunt, in quibus locos ex operibus latine scriptis excerptos legebamus iisdemque excussis inter nos de eorum sensu vel utilitate disputabamus. Denique, quoniam alii qui non Oxonii versabantur nostras sessiones frequentare cupiebant, additae sunt et diebus Saturni lectiones.

In addition to our weekly events, at least once or twice a term we hosted study days devoted to readings from various texts, discussions, rhetorical exercises, singing, and merriment, usually based upon a theme, such as Pectus coluisse per artes, Amor, or Humanitas. Our hope for these days was not only to provide an opportunity to exercise spoken Latin, but especially to study the academic theme under discussion and to cultivate friendships and relationships between like-minded students and professors. These study days were attended by participants from around England, including students and professors from Cambridge, Durham, KCL, UCL, Leeds, and Warwick.

Quibus solitis negotiis accedebant quoque maiores studiorum conventus, quos propemodum semel in mense constituimus, quibus praeter occassionem exercitandi linguam id imprimis quaerebamus, ut in unum locum cogeremus mentes animosque similes ut argumentum, quod haud parvi ponderis aestimabamus, una pervestigarent atque excuterent atque amicitiae scintilla communium studiorum fomite in flammam exardesceret.

Other activities of the society this past year have included: teaching local school children Latin through the Iris Project, leading a study day at Harrow School, and various speaking engagements in which leaders of the project have spoken under the aegis of the OLP at conferences in France, Latvia, Italy, Spain, Israel, Austria, the UK, and the US.  The highlight of our year was a study abroad week at the Accademia Vivarium Novum, in which 30 students and teachers from five different British universities and two American institutions participated in poetry classes, reading and rhetoric classes, writing classes, daily singing, and a guided tour of Ostia in Latin. Our hope was that the participants would be able to experience something of the Vivarian spirit which inspires our study in Oxford; from the feedback of the participants, this hope seems to have been fulfilled.

Alia quae hoc praeterito anno egimus haec sunt: pueros qui ludos in urbe Oxoniensi frequentant, ope illius incepti cui nomen Iris est, latine docuimus; Collegium Harroviense visitavimus ut diem studiis dicatum apud eos duceremus. Ceterum nonnulli societatis participes pro ea et de ea in acroasibus et colloquis diversis in orbis regionibus habitis verba fecere, ut puta in Gallia, Letonia, Italia, Hispania, Israel, Britannia, et Civitatatibus foederatibus. Verum inter omnia quae acta a nobis hoc anno sunt illud ducimus maxime dignum alboque lapillo signandum: quod per triginta circiter discipulos ex diversis universitatibus britannicis et americanis Romam inque Villam Falconeriam, quae sedes Academiae Vivari Novi est, duximus, ut per unam septimanam scholis latinis de litteris, poetica, rhetorica, inter alia, interessent, necnon ut antiquum portum Ostiae visitarent. Sperabamus etenim posse nos hoc itinere efficere ut participes vel breviter spiritum et mores Vivari Novi, quibus et nostra Societas operatur, experirentur. Quae de “Septimana Latina”, ut hoc iter vocare voluimus, dicta ab ipsis participibus sunt satis clare monstrant quo successu tota res acta sit.

The Oxford Latinitas Project on a study day at Harrow School

The Oxford Latinitas Project leading a study day at Harrow School

This coming year we will continue to run our Oxford-based readings, classes, and conventicula. We are adding a few events, including reading/singing through the whole Aeneid aloud together, a weekly seminar for advanced grammar drills, a Saturday series on Cicero’s Pro Archia Poeta and Disputationes Tusculanae, all, of course, conducted entirely in Latin. We are also delighted to have begun cultivating Greek in a similar way with a weekly classes at the Ioannou Centre.

Hoc praesenti anno pergemus iam constitutas scholas, lectiones et coventicula ducere, quibus vero nonnulla adiicientur, ut puta sessionem qua integram Vergili Aeneida legemus et cantabimus, et cursum grammatices, dsicipulis qui primo Litteris Humanioribus student destinatum, omnino latine habebitur. Ceterum hoc anno et linguam graecam scholis diebus Martis recitatis, colere coepimus. Speramus quoque nos posse una cum Oxoniensi Universitate et Academia Vivari consociatis viribus operam navare ut foedus iciatur quo liceat discipulis oxoniensibus aliquot menses Romae in Villa Falconeria, et invicem vivariensibus aliquot menses Oxonii degere.

We also hope to be able to work closely with Oxford academics and the Vivarium Novum magistri to establish an ‘Oxford-Vivarium Exchange’, and in general work to nurture mutually beneficial cross-pollination between Oxford and Vivarium, carrying on a long historical tradition of humanist endeavors sustained by fruitful relationships between Italy and Oxford.

In universum volumus ita operari ut quasi pons sit societas nostra quo altera alterius institutionis bonis fruatur et utraque aliquo modo locupletetur, quandoquidem commerciis inter Oxoniensem universitatem et italicas academias nonnulla incepta ad artes et litteras fovendas natae sunt et bonos equidem fructus tulerunt. Huius anni “Septimana Latina” habebitur Romae a die 9 ad 16 mensis Martii, et in votis est quoque hospitio accipere Vivarienses Oxonii ut acroases, concertum vel seminarium apud nos habeant.

Here on our website, we hope to make our work better known, to continue to practice our Latin together on a common platform, and to find like-minded friends around the world. The Humaniora Studia portion of the website will contain non-academic articles, in Latin and other languages, that bring the beauty and goodness we find in our research to bear on the real world, in the hope that we can provide encouragement, or joy, or wisdom, to the non-specialist reader.

Ceterum in hac sede retiali invenies quoque sectionem cui “Humaniora Studia” est titulus, hic erunt commentarii societatis nostrae, quibus conabimur scriptis, symbolis vel dissertatiunculis singulis septimanis latine vel alis linguis editis, aliquid pulchri et boni ex iis rebus quibus studemus cum eis partiri qui non sunt harum rerum periti.

As regards the future, we look forward to maintaining and developing our programming in Oxford and Vivarium. As we do so, we continue to be grateful for the successes of this past year. We are humbled by the kindness we have been shown, by the friendship amongst the members of the Project, and by the encouragement of many people around the world who care so deeply about the revival of the humane letters. We have also been touched and alarmed by the need and hunger that has been articulated both by students at home and further afield, on the one hand for a revival of fluency in ancient languages and, on the other, for a study of Classics and humane letters that does not divorce rigorous and excellent scholarship from the love and community for which our technocratic age so deeply thirsts.

Quod ad futurum attinet, praeter ea quae dicta sunt, non sunt nobis consilia certa atque fixa, adeo enim grati sumus propter necopinatam bonitatem quam felicissimi invenimus, itaque speramus fore ut potius quam fines certos persequamur, admiremur providentiam qua ad bona ducimur. Cum enim consideramus animo omnia dona quae iam accepimus, non potest quin humiliter agnoscamus fortunam nostram gratiasque agamus pro sancto illo amicitiae vincula quo membra societatis coniungimur et vere conspiramus, pro auxilio et solacio multorum amicorum circum orbem terrarum qui nostris favent coeptis atque ex corde curant ut litterarum cultus denuo repullulascat. Denique et illud adiciendum est, quod commoti sumus necnon aliquanto solliciti propter necessitatem immo famem quam animadvertimus nonnullos discipulos magistrosque et in Britannia et vere totum circum orbem sentire, hinc ut linguae antiquae efficacioribus rationibus, sclicet loquendo, scribendo, legendo colantur, hinc vero ut divortium illud inter severa studia litterarum et vitam ipsam communem atque amicitiam illam, quae vitae studiorumque communibus fundamentis et finibus cum caritate et benevolentia sancitur, resanetur.