What kind of man is it who can conquer the world? Caesar, granted, was a brilliant strategist, military commander, and a shrewd politician, but to examine him purely at this level is to ignore the many psychological complexities of his character. Here is a man who, when captured by pirates, had the arrogance to demand a higher ransom for his person and then treated his captors with contempt. Here is a man who, when in a winter camp in Gaul, composed both a book on Latin style and wrote a tragedy in Greek.
A few notes ought to be mentioned first on what Making Caesar Fun Again! is and what it is not. It is not meant to be a pre-packaged, pick-me-up-and-go unit on Caesar so much as it is an essay on a different way to approach Caesar. Caesar is more than the attack on the Helvetii, the crossing into Britain, and the defeat of the Germans. He is also a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a rhetorician. Making Caesar Fun Again uses several concrete lessons and ideas to provide a creative approach to teaching both Caesar's life and his De Bello Gallico that explore these facets of Caesar's mind.
The project also explores ways of using military organization, discipline, and rewards in a class to give a broader Caesarean experience to the student. It argues for a shift of focus away from traditionally selected passages to those which are more modern and interesting to today's student. These passages are accompanied by practical project ideas that can be used by both language and culture teachers.
Caesar was originally taught in intermediate Latin classes because his clear, well-organized, and plain prose made him an ideal candidate for students' first exposure to authentic Latin literature. He was, along with Cicero and Vergil, a staple author in several Latin textbook series, including Jenney and Latin for Americans. In the recent revolution against grammar-first textbooks, however, Caesar seems to have become a casualty. The Ecce Romani series includes almost no Caesar. Neither does the Oxford Latin Course. This may be because the passages traditionally picked by older textbook series bore modern students and teachers.
The idea behind Making Caesar Fun Again! is just that - to restore interest in Caesar and his being taught at the intermediate level. Careful selection of Caesar passages can satisfy the original intent of his inclusion at the intermediate level (easy to read prose with predictable vocabulary) while providing interesting and more relevant reading material to modern students. Added to this base reading material is a skin of classroom materials and atmosphere that provide a more immersive and enjoyable Caesarian experience.
The passages selected for this project do not include extended reading on battles or tactical strategy. War and the military are certainly a vital part both of Roman culture and our own (action movies, toys, and video games with war themes are popular modern entertainment), but less interesting to read about in Latin than passages on Celtic culture, accounts of heroism, or persuasive speeches. Making Caesar Fun Again! argues that such material is better presented (and more interesting) in English.
The project includes a suggested outline for a three week Caesar unit and includes three complete packages ready for classroom use. Each of these packages is subdivided into a teacher's section and a student's section. The teacher's section includes instructions on use, background information, notes on grammar that appear in the selection, and activities to do in class. The student's section includes the passage in Latin, comprehension questions, worksheets, and handouts. All sections and handouts are clearly marked on the header of each page.
The Making Caesar Fun Again project meets the goals for classical language learning (as outlined in Standards for Classical Language Learning, American Classical League, 1997) in the following manner:
Back to Gilbert