With Caesar in Gaul

Allegra Forbes |

A Peek at Spending a Few Summer Weeks in Southern France, Latin texts in Hand.

 Somehow, even ruins are more beautiful in France. The Maison Carree in Nimes.
   Somehow, even ruins are more beautiful in France. The Maison Carree in Nimes.

[Editor’s note: We asked two alumni of the Caesar in Gaul program, Ben Driver and Brian Gross, to share with us something that would give people a feel for the Caesar in Gaul program. In any school with an A.P. program, much depends on teachers being able to teach adolescents Caesar, and teach him compellingly. This is no easy task. To make this easier, the Paideia Institute started its Caesar in Gaul program, which not only exposes participants to state-of-the-art Caesar scholarship, but gives them an opportunity to read Caesar with other highly dedicated Latinists. And above all, the course gives its participants real-life experiences — and stories for students — of the beauty of the nation that Caesar was instrumental in creating: modern France. The application deadline is March 1st.]

 

Ben Driver

“After a whirlwind tour of Paris — reading everything from Julius Caesar’s descriptions of the Parisii to medieval accounts of the city — we left for our first destination, Aix-en-Provence. We stayed at a hotel spa, named Hôtel Aquabella. Apparently the Paideia Institute believes that Latin teachers deserve to be spoiled for all the hard work they do!

 The Hotel Aquabella in Provence.The Hotel Aquabella in Provence.

 

“Upon our arrival we did another tour, all planned with relevant Latin readings. The hotel was our base of operations where we listened to lectures from the two wonderful professors. Topics ranged from the veracity of the Gallic Wars to Caesar’s use of intertextuality to Caesar as a man of letters. Some days a trip was planned. Proximate to Aix are both Nîmes and Arles.

 

 The amphitheater at Nimes.
 The amphitheater at Nimes.

“Our trip to Nîmes was remarkable, where we saw what is considered the best preserved amphitheater in France. The reading we did there was from Augustine’s Confessiones, wherein Augustine writes of his horror at the sights of the Colosseum:

“For as soon as he saw that blood, he drank in the inhuman cruelty of it: he could not turn away: he stared and stared, taking in the madness, having lost all awareness; he was turned on by the evil of the spectacle; he was drunk on the gory pleasure.” (6.8.13)
 CiG participants swimming beneath the Roman Pont du Gard.
 CiG participants swimming beneath the Roman Pont du Gard.

 

“We also took another day trip to the Pont du Gard and had the opportunity to luxuriate in the Gardon River.

 

“After our wonderful stay in Aix we were on the move to Lyon. In Lyon we had more amazing lectures and saw the wonderful Amphitheatre of Three Gauls with its accompanying archaeological museum. There, we translated the Lyon tablet alongside Tacitus’ rendering of Claudius’ speech. It was great to have the opportunity to compare and contrast the two with other Latin teachers.

 

 

 At the site of Alesia, where Vercingetorix made his final stand.
  At the site of Alesia, where Vercingetorix made his final stand.

“After Lyon we travelled to a number of different sites. Particularly notable was Bibracte, a very well preserved Gallic site in Burgundy. It was remarkable to see the actual remains of a Gallic site without a Roman settlement built on top of it. After this trip we spent an amazing night in Autun, formerly Augustodunum, where the inhabitants of Bibracte had moved after abandoning that oppidum. From there, we returned to Paris to return to the United States.”

 

 Studying on the TGV.
    Studying on the TGV.

 

Brian Gross

“Ben’s thorough account covers the amazing tours and learning opportunities of the trip’s itinerary, but there was so much more that filled the days. I think about all the conversations and experiences that were not advertised, but had deep resonance with me.

 PICTURE TITLE TEX

 

“I remember in the first few nights, staying up late in conversations about philology and philosophy. Arguing during lunches about where the best burgers come from, or creating pointless rankings just to argue. Receiving free counseling from the fine Paideia staff as I tried to disentangle my life from my work from my passions, and to examine them as separate things. Spending an evening walking through Paris speaking nothing but Latin (or Langlish, when words failed us or wine ruined us). Going on long runs around Aix-en-Provence and the countryside of Autun, where the stillness of the world could wash over me.

 

 Provence.
     Provence.

“Sipping coffee early in the morning in Autun, watching the sheep tread their well-worn paths until it was time for class. Exploring the small town of Autun until we stumbled into a Shakespearean play, being performed in an alleyway, hidden away from the world. Finding the very best sandwich shop in Lyon and insisting another person come with me, retracing each step, trying to take in all of the city, to get the exact same sandwich an hour later. Walking Paris the day after program ended, wondering if I would remember all the things that had happened and recognize all the things that had changed.”

 

 PICTURE TITLE TEX

 

Brian Gross

“The opportunity to learn from an expert in the field can be exhilarating. Learning from both Luca Grillo and Christopher Krebs was nothing short of practice-altering. Both professors, differing in their style and focus, demonstrated in their teaching how to engage students and share their zeal and knowledge. For someone with only a middling knowledge of Caesar’s writings, this course provided such a depth of knowledge and understanding in a relatively short time, dramatically improving my Latin, and developing a wholesome interest and curiosity in the area.

 

 PICTURE TITLE TEX

 

“Amid the tedium and drudgery of teaching Latin grammar basics in the last few years of teaching, I had been losing some fundamental passion that had been revitalized by the knowledge and interest of our professors, peers, and the Paideia staff. When I returned to the classroom, I was ready to teach Caesar and the Commentarii de Bello Gallico as living things.”

 

 You never know who you’ll run into in Gaul.
You never know who you’ll run into in Gaul.

 

Ben Driver

“This has to have been one of the greatest experiences in my Classical training. It is rare that you get to be amongst such a large group of Latin teachers. It is refreshing to see that so many of us are working so hard to do this work. The diversity of the participants’ backgrounds was stunning and humbling. I learned about Caesar, France, and my field of study, and everything in between. And, of course, it immensely helped me to teach my students the AP material. They did very well after all that I had learned.”

 

 PICTURE TITLE TEX

 

Brian Gross

“This was a unique opportunity that reconnected me with the field and improved my pedagogy. It has been an honor to work with and learn from so many passionate, dedicated Latin teachers so closely. Of course the chance to go to France would have been a life-changing experience all its own, but this trip offered so much more in so many different areas that I hardly believe it really happened.”

[Caesar in Gaul 2018 runs from July 21 — August 4. For more information, and to apply, visit the program’s webpage.]

Subscribe

Sign up to receive email updates about new articles

Allegra Forbes

In Medias Res is the online magazine for lovers of Latin and Greek, published by the Paideia Institute.

Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.