Thomas Saunders Evans writing Greek and Latin poetry by age 12

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ἑκηβόλος
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Thomas Saunders Evans writing Greek and Latin poetry by age 12

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:13 am

How were children instructed in Greek and Latin in the 18th and early 19th century that allowed them a degree of mastery of the language thzt challenges most of us now?
ἔνεγκόν μοι θήραν καὶ ποίησόν μοι ἐδέσματα καὶ φαγὼν εὐλογήσω σε ἐναντίον Κυρίου πρὸ τοῦ ἀποθανεῖν με.

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Re: Thomas Saunders Evans writing Greek and Latin poetry by age 12

Post by seneca2008 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:04 pm

I wonder how many actually achieved the success that Evans seems to have garnered? In any event if children are taught very little but Greek and Latin from an early age it is not surprising that some at least will gain mastery in some aspects of their study. Very few study versification nowadays and it has always seemed to me a pretty absurd use of one’s time. No doubt people really enjoy it. Perhaps it might aid one’s understanding but I am not prepared to put the effort in for what seems an uncertain reward. The resultant verses can be little more than pastiche as there is no living tradition to engage with. (Discuss?)

I read ancient languages because I find them beautiful. I also think that they are a splendid resource for thinking about the present. I think we have a much more nuanced approach to this subject than our forebears for all the technical mastery that some of them may have attained. I think that contemporary professional classicists are at least the equal of their 19th century predecessors.

All that time spent learning how to write verses could be more profitably spent engaging with Martindale or even Gadamer. I know others here will have different views. It depends what you want to get out of your study.

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Re: Thomas Saunders Evans writing Greek and Latin poetry by age 12

Post by Andriko » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:47 pm

ἑκηβόλος wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:13 am
How were children instructed in Greek and Latin in the 18th and early 19th century that allowed them a degree of mastery of the language thzt challenges most of us now?
Seeing as the younger brain is wired to learn languages much better than adult ones, I suspect that any child learning any language will gain relative fluency much easier than us, as well as the fact that in the 18th and 19th centuries there were fewer distractions, such as smart phones and TVs, and so what we call arduous learning might in those days be seen as a way to pass the time.

As for Seneca's suggestion that there is no living tradition, that is an interesting discussion - for example, I believe Latin is still used in the Catholic church, and was very much a living language across Europe until only a few hundred years ago (I think).

This is less so in the case of Greek, however, Katharevousa was an attempt to revive ancient forms, and there are things that have been translated into Ancient Greek (Harry Potter for example), and with the internet allowing wider interaction (this forum for example), one could argue that ancient languages have, in some cases, been resurrected.

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Re: Thomas Saunders Evans writing Greek and Latin poetry by age 12

Post by bpk » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:51 am

I am quite curious about their pedagogical method as well. If anyone can dig anything up I would definitely be interested.

At the same time, though, we see this across various academic fields. I remember hearing a story of a smart man (with a graduate degree) in his forties who had been sent an old textbook on logic/philosophy and was working through it. He called his friend who had sent it to him saying something like, "Man, this stuff is hard ... I mean, I'm getting it but it's hard!" His friend responded by telling him it was something like a 5th or 7th grade logic textbook from a century or two ago :)

I think there are a lot of reasons why children were much better at these things years ago.

Though I should also add that especially with language, as another poster said, children absorb it very quickly. I speak Koine Greek with my 1.5 year old and read Aesop's fables to him with a picture book and he already knows and can even say quite a few words (in toddler fashion of course). He'll say, κόραξ or ἀλώπηξ (as "dopeks") for the fable where the fox who convinces crow to drop meat or ἥλιος to tell me which one he wants to read (the sun and the wind). Kids pick up on these things so quickly it is remarkable!

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