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Festival of the Ancient World

Amo, amas, amat – this is many grown-ups’ memory of learning Latin. Following a request to create a parents’ Latin class, HCH’s resident classicists, Adam and Katie, joined forces with leading classical theatre company The Actors of Dionysus and the Form Seven tutors to offer a day-long celebration of classics on Sunday 7 May.

Parents experienced the tables being turned and were taught Latin by their children. It was incredible to see more than thirty pupils from the Middle Years attending school on a Sunday to learn more about Greek and Roman art, cookery and politics.

The parents

For adults, the day centred on a series of Latin lessons designed to give an introduction to the intricacies of the language. The aim was to teach enough material in a day so that parents could advise their children on homework, but also to give a taster for the complexity and beauty of Latin. But, there is a twist: the 18 parents in the class were taught partly by their own children. Pupils from Years 5 to 7 prepared short lessons and worksheets.

The “assistant teachers” were:

• Ana, Julie, Lily, Louis, Mariam, Philippe, Robin and Zacharie from Year 5
• Byron, Jeanne and Thane from Year 6
• Albert and Zoe from Year 7

Katie awarded a merit to Zoe 7 for translating several sentences of Latin in front of the parents, on the spot and sight unseen.

The children

While their parents were getting down to some serious Latin study in the classroom, some of the children enjoyed three interactive workshops with Form Seven tutors Brenda, Emmanuelle and Adam.

The day started with an art workshop with Brenda, using two different techniques to create designs for Greek urns, inspired by mythology.

Next, the children learned about Roman food with Emmanuelle: all were relieved when poached snails and stuffed dormouse, both favourites from the fourth century cookbook of Apicius, were off the menu. This was an interactive workshop that involved preparing Italian-inspired dishes for lunch for everyone.

The third and final session for the children was with Adam, staging a mock court case based on the real life murder trial of Titus Annius Milo described in Cicero’s famous speech Pro Milone.

Greek Tragedy workshop

Meanwhile, a keen group of actors spent the day with Tamsin Shasha, a renowned actress and theatre director, who specialises in modern interpretations of classical Greek drama. The group explored movement and power dynamics. After lunch, the children prepared an impromptu yet powerful performance of the opening scene from Trojan Women by Euripides; Tamsin’s highly physical style of directing brought these 2000-year-old words to life.