By author: Christopher Bungard
Product Code: 8792
ISBN: 978-0-86516-879-4
Availability: In stock
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Explore the world of ancient drama—entirely in Latin! Using just over one-hundred unique Latin words, this Explore Latin reader offers an immersive introduction to the theater, particularly comedy, of Greece and Rome. Discover the connections between theater and religion; consider how architecture could enhance theatrical productions; meet some ancient playwrights as well as the stock characters that appear in their work. Copious color photographs support the Latin text, helping to make information readily comprehensible to novice learners.

The topics introduced in Explore Latin: Ludi Scaenici, of interest in their own right, also prepare readers to transition to more complex Latin in the Encounter Latin novella series.

Special Features

  • Fifty full color images
  • Introduction describing ways to use this reader
  • A Latin-to-English glossary listing all inflected forms used in the text along with standard dictionary entries
  • An index of labeled vocabulary


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Review by: Eric Dugdale, Classical Outlook Vol. 98, No. 3 - October 1, 2023

This is the second book in Bolchazy-Carducci’s new Explore Latin series of readers. The goal of this book, according to its back cover, is to allow the reader to “explore the world of ancient drama – entirely in Latin!” It does this by pairing simple Latin sentences with accompanying illustrations.

First, the illustrations. The book boasts more than fifty color illustrations. Nearly half of them are full page. The interplay between image and text draws in the reader and supports active learning. For example, on p. 12 the text indicates that there are two Muses of the theater: Melpomene, the Muse of tragedies, and Thalia, the Muse of comedies, adding that they both have masks. Most readers’ next step will naturally be to look at the illustration, a detail from a Roman sarcophagus, to identify which of the two female figures holding masks is Melpomene, and which Thalia. The difference between the masks in this relief is subtle, requiring careful scrutiny. However, students – and some teachers, too – may not know enough about theatrical costuming to recognize the high-girdled belt (??st??) that helps identify Melpomene. A drawback of the economy of this series is that additional information is not given to help make sense of the illustrations. Although image credits are listed at the back of the book, these are often limited to a brief title and licensing acknowledgement, with details of provenance, museum collection, and dating of the object usually missing. This makes it hard for teachers to tell students more about the fascinating visual evidence presented, which ranges from Athenian black-figure pottery to the fanciful reimagining of a Roman festival by Victorian painter Lawrence Alma- Tadema.

Second, the text. Concision, simplicity, and repetition are among its chief virtues. With an average of three or four sentences per page, printed in a large font size and surrounded with ample white space, this book won’t intimidate today’s students. Sentences are typically short and build on each other, with sign-posting making clear what topic is being covered. Pages 7 and 8, for example, present the settings for Roman festivals. The opening sentence reads: Romani ludos in circis vel in foro faciunt. Two further sentences on p. 7 describe the forum and its many temples. Page 8 moves on to race tracks, noting that there are many race tracks in Rome, with the Circus Maximus being the biggest, then rounds out with: Romani Ludos Romanos in Circo Maximo et in foro faciunt. The next page of text goes on to explain that the Ludi Romani are a festival held in honor of Jupiter, sky god and king of the gods. Each section naturally leads into the next. The text also frequently points to accompanying illustrations: In hac pictura . . . Hoc theatrum est in Syria, etc. Inconsistency in the use of present and past tenses (e.g., Terentius Africus est. Terentius servus erat on p. 44) is unlikely to bother readers.

The introduction notes that the book uses “103 unique Latin words (excluding proper nouns).” Some will already be familiar to many readers. Others, especially words related to the theater (histrio, persona, scaena, frons, etc.) will likely be new. A Latin-to-English glossary defines all words, though some are accidentally omitted (e.g., tibicen is omitted, though tibicina is listed; the neuter loca found on p. 2 fails to make it in, though locus does). Inflected forms are included below the standard dictionary entry, helpfully indented, along with an indication of each form’s function in the sentence (e.g., subject or object) and its translation. A second list provides an index of all vocabulary used to label images. Virtually every image contains labels in Latin, many with accompanying arrows. These often help explain the meaning of a Latin word (e.g., the label aedes, aedis, f. in a photograph of the forum has an arrow pointing to a temple), eliminating the need to look up the word in the back of the book. Others (e.g., the label litterae Graecae on a Byzantine manuscript) help readers understand the illustration. These aids make it easy for readers to figure out the meaning of the Latin text.

The series also aims to introduce readers to a broader cultural context. In this it succeeds admirably. Students will come away with an understanding of the festival context of Roman theater and its religious associations, the varied settings of performance, including the main architectural elements of Greek and Roman theaters, aspects of performance such as costuming, masks, and music, biographical sketches of the main Roman playwrights (with Menander included as well), and overviews of the stock character types found in Roman comedy. That so much is conveyed through a simple text written in the target language is a remarkable achievement. Ludi Scaenici would work well as a classroom text or as an independent reader.

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