mihi nomen est… / by Anthony Gibbins

This year I have been beginning every Latin lesson the same way. Once everyone is settled and ready for the class, I stand at the front of the room and say salvete discipuli. The students respond salve magister (there is only one of me). Then, glancing around the room, they add with a smile salvete amici. In previous years, when we have performed only the first two steps, their enthusiasm for the process has fluctuated. Since adding the greeting to their friends they have become far more enthusiastic.

salve and salvete (and the reason for the two forms) is the first thing I show a new Latin class. I don’t tell them that it means Hello! or any such thing. It means Be Well! and the Romans (and many after them) used it as a greeting. Then we practise by moving around the room, shaking hands and saying Be Well! in English. How does it feel? It feels good. Then we do the same in Latin.

The second thing I show them is mihi nomen est…. They copy it into their books with the English written underneath each word;

mihi                 nomen             est…

to me               name               is

Without fail they immediately make three observations. 1) It’s not the same as English. We would say my not to me. 2) The word the appears to be missing. That is right, I say, Latin has no word for a or the. 3) The order of the words is different from that we use in English. Yes, I say, that is very often the case. I quickly show them quid est nomen tibi? then ask each one in turn his* name. If I let them know that quid means what they deduce that tibi means to you very quickly.

On today’s page, Claudia writes to Miranda that she met a certain fellow outside of the amphitheatre. No doubt their conversation went something like this;

Claudia: salve! ut vales?

Marcus: sat bene. sed balnea invenire non possum.

Claudia: ego te iuvare possum. scio ubi balnea sint.

Marcus: gratias tibi ago. quid est nomen tibi?

Claudia: mihi nomen est Claudia. quid est nomen tibi?

Marcus: mihi nomen est Marcus. salve Claudia!

Claudia: salve Marcus!

Claudia wrote in her letter nomen ei erat Marcus The name to him (ei) was Marcus.

* I teach at a single sex school.

Departing from the amphitheatre, I met a certain man who was not able to find the baths. I decided to help him. His name was Marcus.

The Lego model of Pompeii is housed in the Nicholson Museum of The University of Sydney, Australia. Entry to the museum is entirely free, and you may visit Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 4:30. The Nicholson is Australia’s oldest University museum and contains the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The Pompeii model was commissioned by the Nicholson and constructed by LEGO Professional Builder Ryan McNaught. It is the third such model the museum has exhibited, following the Colosseum and Acropolis.  The Colosseum was returned to McNaught and recently exhibited around Australia. The Acropolis was denoted by the Nicholson to the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The Pompeii model is estimated to include 190 000 bricks and took 420 hours to complete.