More Exciting News on the Suovetaurilia

Professor Wickkiser’s class will be symbolically performing a sacrifice as described in the pages of Homer.

As promised, I have more information on the program for the Suovetaurilia which will occur in just over a week.  Professor Wickkiser’s Ancient Greek Religion and Magic class will begin the festivities with a reading, in English, from Book 1 of Homer’s Iliad.  This particular passage actually describes, in great detail, the process of an ancient Greek sacrifice.  It should be fun to hear some of the words of the oldest work of Western literature and see them symbolically re-enacted.  Additionally, I’m especially excited about this portion of the program because I will be playing the part of the priest from the Iliad. Following this reading, several students will then conduct a burning of the bones and fat from the animals, just as the ancients would have done.  What better way could there be to learn about the ancient world than to see its oldest and most fundamental rituals performed?  Don’t forget that this event is open to everybody.  Come join the fun and join me in getting into the spirit of the ancient world!


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Countdown to Wabash’s First Ever Suovetaurilia

An ancient image of a suovetaurilia, a type of Roman sacrifice of a lamb, pig, and bull.

The Classics Department and Eta Sigma Phi are about to end this school year with a bang.  In just under two weeks, on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 3:15pm we will be hosting a suovetaurilia.   This event has been the brainchild of Dr. Jeremy Hartnett for this past semester, and the whole campus is invited.

What exactly is a suovetaurilia, you might ask?  Well, it’s an ancient Roman sacrifice consisting of a lamb, a pig, and a bull.  For our purposes, however, it’ll probably be more like a barbeque.  The Classics Department and club will be serving meat from all three of these animals between two baseball games that are scheduled for that day.  Additionally, several of the classes taught by Professors Joe and Leslie Day and Professor Bronwen Wickkiser will be performing a symbolic ritual sacrifice, a reading of a hymn, and an explanation of Greek and Roman animal sacrifices.  More information on these events will be forthcoming in future blogs soon.

Anyone who is intrigued with this event so far needs to do just three things to prepare for it:

  1. Keep following my blogs for short descriptors of the schedule of events.
  2. Make room in his or her schedule on April 26.
  3. Remember Dr. Hartnett’s  saying that the Wabash Classics Department has a “pedagogy of self-immolation” and wonder just what that mentality may produce at Wabash’s first ever suovetaurilia.
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Classicist Wins Fulbright

The Fulbright program is one of the most prestigious post-graduate fellowships a United States citizen can earn.  It makes sense, then, that Wabash has put a renewed focus on helping young Wallies get into this program.  For these reasons, the Classics Department is proud to claim Sebastian Garren, class of 2014, as Wabash’s third Fulbright recipient since 2001.  Garren studied Classics at Wabash as a student and even spent the fall semester of his junior year at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (aka the CENTRO).  Needless to say, Garren is a very bright young man, and it is interesting to see how his Classical education helped him formulate and will help him execute his research in a field that seems totally separate from the ancient world: the Finnish education system.

Sebastian Garren, second from left, with several of his classmates from the CENTRO. Garren remains close to a number of his fellow Centristi.

In the summer prior to his senior year at Wabash, Garren became interested in pursuing a Fulbright fellowship to do research abroad.  Now, he has maintained a keen interest in education for some time, even revamping his fraternity’s scholarship program as its academic chair, and it made sense to Garren to study in this area.  Moreover, Garren’s time abroad in Rome actually helped him put his career interests in perspective, recognizing that Classics was not something to which he wanted to spend his entire life devoted.  Therefore, focusing on his educational interests, Garren sought to tackle a seemingly paradoxical issue on the modern scene of that field.  He wanted to know why Finland, which consistently ranks as the country with the best standardize test scores in the world, doesn’t even use standardized tests in their regular teaching regimen.  After formulating his research plan, Garren was approved by the Fulbright program to complete a Master’s thesis in educational communication at the Univeristy of Turku in Finland. While there, Garren will focus primarily on individual schools and what type of communication occurs between the different parts of these institutions (e.g. administrators, teachers, students) and affords Finland such success in this field.  In my interview with him, Garren mentioned that it seems as though the Finnish don’t necessarily reject standardized testing but that most communities tend to trust teachers to judge their students’ progress accurately and effectively.  Garren spoke fondly of the Finnish “no nonsense” mentality.

Garren and I agreed that his ability to see the connections between different aspects of the

Sebastian Garren in an olive tree during his time studying abroad in Italy.

Finnish culture comes from his study of the Classics.  The Classics faculty at Wabash have trained Garren to analyze cultures and to see how subjects often interconnect, as they do so often in Classics, itself an interdisciplinary field involving philosophy, history, and literature.  Garren also related to me that he’s a bit nervous about his Finnish language skills, but that here, too, Classics has prepared him well.  Referring to ancient Greek as his “arch-nemesis”, Garren admits that without his background in the structure of Classical languages, he would have an extremely difficult time learning Finnish, an apparently isolated language with few linguistic relatives.   All in all, Garren himself has best stated how his Classical background makes him an excellent Fulbright candidate.  In his personal statement in his Fulbright application, Garren explained that:

“My major studies in Latin and Greek may seem an unconventional approach to                             the discipline of education. But I think that a background in classical studies is a                           powerful primer for the discipline. Wrestling with the difficult and foundational                           languages of Latin and Greek, I have gained a facility with language, a rigorous work                   ethic, and experience analyzing and explaining diverse topics, from art to social history           to literature. When I studied abroad in Rome I continued to do these things                                    collaboratively, engaged with some of the most talented classicists of my college                          generation. With them, I started to see how our educations shaped our academic values.”

Sebastian Garren is yet another example of how the interdisciplinary structure of the Classics along with the extraordinary faculty assembled at Wabash College and the wide range of study abroad opportunities available to students of the Classics can really shape the department’s disciples to do just about anything.  We say congratulations and good luck to Sebastian, and welcome all those who wish to follow the Classical path to their own great destinations.  

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Classics Majors Dominate LSAT

For those wondering what one can do with a Classics major, the following link may be of interest.


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Dr. Bakker Delivers Annual Charles Lecture

Steve Charles has done an excellent write-up on this Tuesday’s Charles lecture.  Check out the link to find out more.

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Where Are They Now? Denver Wade’s Classical Adventures

Why are Wabash students often attracted to Classical studies?  I’ve been thinking about this very question as I continue my interviews with the Classics majors of the Class of 2010.  Today, I write about Denver Wade, who as a student doubled-majored in Classics and in history.  For him, the answer to this question involved both the different fields Classics encompasses and the quality of the Classics faculty here at the college.

Wade had always had a penchant for history, and he viewed Classics as its own type of historical study.  Furthermore, Wade had taken German in high school and proceeded to study Latin here at Wabash to fulfill his language requirement because, “It’s different.”  After sitting in Dr. Hartnett’s class for a while, Wade felt drawn in by his professor’s energy and enthusiasm for his field.  Also, as Wade progressed in his knowledge of the Classical languages, he began to think of translating as a “historical adventure.”  It struck him just how many languages trace their roots back to Latin and its literature, and he found it thrilling to read works in that original form.

Denver Wade, Classics major, Class of 2010

Fortunately for him, Wade was not alone on this “adventure.”  As I have written in the two previous blogs, he became close friends with fellow Classicists Mitch Brown and Seth Tichenor.  In fact, Brown and Wade were the only two Latin majors in their class.  They often met up and did their homework together, challenging each other on the themes of their studies, and pushing each other intellectually.  Wade made the point that they had to justify their ideas to one another, which created a very special academic environment among the undergraduates.  It helped, of course, that the College added the Classics library in their senior year, which Wade and his classmates viewed as their own “little clubhouse.”

In his junior year, Wade took his Classics adventure overseas, studying at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (CENTRO for short).  Here he made connection which, following his studies at Wabash, led him down a unique path.  While studying in Italy, Wade had met a team of Italians who played American football.  Based on this experience, Wade moved to Sicily and coached a team of the League of American Football for two years.  While there, his division was the highest ranked in Italy.  According to Wade, his experiences in Sicily were similar to those described in the John Grisham novel, Playing for Pizza.  In fact, the team mentioned in that book, the Panthers, were apparently rivals of Wade’s own team.  I was struck by how far-reaching an effect Wade’s Classical studies had on his immediate adventures after Wabash.

After returning to the United States, Wade decided he wanted to return to education, so he

Mitch Brown, left, and Denver Wade, center, receive the McClain Prize in Classics at their senior awards chapel in April 2010. Dr. Leslie Day joins them at right.

joined a selective program at the University of Mississippi, where he earned his Master’s and then was placed into a high-need school district.  Wade now teaches English and Latin and coaches weight-lifting at North Panola High School in Mississippi.  He really seems to enjoy his work.  He mentioned to me that teaching Latin is fun because it has not traditionally been taught there.  Wade has even had the privilege to take his class on field trips to the Classics Department at the University of Mississippi.  Overall, though, Wade enjoys his work because he can tell he is making a difference for his students, for whom education has not always been well-provided.

Finally, some of the greatest benefits to Wade of his Classical education are the unique relationships he has built.  First, Wade told me that, busy as the three of them are, Tichenor and Brown remain two of his very best friends.  Furthermore, they continue to inspire him with their own accomplishments.  Second, Wade, like so many other Classicists, feels a great admiration for the Classics faculty here at Wabash.  Wade can recall how the professors here “blew him out of the water” with their passion and knowledge of their field.  Wade even met up with Professors Joe and Leslie Day and Professor Kubiak over this past winter break and discussed some of current goings-on of the College and the department. These kinds of intimate relationships with one’s professors and peers are definitely a unique aspect of the Wabash man’s adventures in Classics.  What an exciting adventure it can be!

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