Posted in Latin IX, Latin VIII

Sixteen days before the kalends of February

To-day we looked at another passage from the Life of Alfred to cement the ideas that we introduced last day, and to bring the question of language (and the Latin language in particular) into the matter.

We concluded by practising our endings in Conjuguemos.  Below are some notes to help you with your pensum (homework), which is to practise with Conjuguemos (with the activity called, Practise your endings!).

Nominative pronouns: ego (I), tū (you (sg.)), is (he/it), ea (she/it), id (it),  nōs (we), uōs (you (pl.)), eī (they (masc.)), eae (they (fem.)), ea (they (neut.)).

Vowel length:
The thematic vowel is naturally long (ā, ē).  It is shortened, however, when it precedes the endings , -t and -nt (as well as -m).  The reason for this is that these endings take a long time to say, so they steal from the vowel, so to speak, to prevent the word from becoming too long.  Thus, for example:

docēre, to teach
doceō, I teach
docēs, you teach
docet, he teaches
docēmus, we teach
docētis, you teach
docent, they teach

Vita Alfredi xxiii.

On a certain day, Alfred’s mother showed a certain Saxon book of poetry which she had in her hand to him and to his brothers, and said: I will give this volume to whichever of you can learn it faster.  Alfred was moved by these words—nay, by divine inspiration—and was attracted by the beauty of the illuminated initial of the book.  He replied to his mother as follows, preceding his brothers, who were his seniors in age, though not in grace: Will you truly give that book to one of us, who can most quickly understand and recite it before you?  At these words, she laughing and rejoicing said, I shall give it to him.  Then he went immediately, taking the book from her hand, went to his teacher, and read it.  Once he had read it, he took it back to his mother and recited it.

An illuminated initial letter E from a mediæval manuscript showing King Alfred the Great crowned and enthroned with a sceptre in his hand.
An illuminated initial letter E from a mediæval manuscript showing King Alfred the Great crowned and enthroned with a sceptre in his hand.


The Arval Brethren were one of eldest of the many priestly colleges of the religion of the Ancient Roman state, tending to the cult of dea Dia, a nature-goddess, and of the ancestors so as to ensure a good harvest. During the reign of the emperor Augustus, the college was used as a tool of imperial unity and control. The term ‘arval’ comes from ‘arvum’, which means ‘a ploughed field’, and reflects their agricultural origin.

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