The Forum Romanun videos are now available through the NLE's YouTube Channel.
Forum Romanum presents news from the ancient world as it happens. Each show takes place on a particular date in Roman history. Forum opens with the Quaestio Hodierna, designed to cue the audience to that show's theme. Following this question comes the Quid Novi segment announcing the day's top story.
The next segment features a related topic, either an editorial or an interview with a persona notanda.
After the news comes the weather (Tempestas Hodierna). This segment is actually meant to be a geography lesson, emphasizing locations around the Mediterranean relevant to the show's top story. The answer to the Quaestio Hodierna is then given, followed by the Dictum Hodiernum (also based on the feature story). The show closes with a quick review of the top story and a brief valediction by the host of Forum Romanum.
The basic format will remain the same: a significant moment in Roman history provides the dramatic context for a news program, entirely in Latin, with anchorman Favonius (Donohue), reporter Julia Pauli (Amy High), and weatherman Aulus Serenus (Wallace Ragan) providing commentary and cultural elucidation. The new scripts promise a much wider variety of personae and topics, including: Roman cooking with persona notands Marcus Apicius, Roman marriage and women's issues, magic and superstition with arch-poisoner Locusta, and ancient athletics with an interview of a descendant of the famous athlete, Milo of Croton.
The programs have been very well received, fulfilling an important need for teachers who wish more oral Latin in the curriculum. The colloquial nature of the show demonstrates how Latin can be a living language, bringing vividly to life the Roman world through lively dialogue and visual effects.
Forum Romanum is presented entirely in Latin, though some English subtitles and vocabulary words appear on screen to establish context and aid comprehension. The purpose of the show is to present Latin as a language by allowing the audience to hear spoken Latin, featured within a realistic and relevant context. To achieve the show's goal (showing Latin as a language in a realistic, spoken context), it was imperative not to resort to vocabulary list-dependent, "textbookish" sentences, but instead to employ lively colloquial elements of the Latin language. While it is likely that few will comprehend every word, it is hoped that many students will understand many words and, more important, most will be able to follow the main points of each story.
Forum Romanum is not intended to be an exercise in oral Latin, it is intended to be a Latin show. If it were an exercise in oral Latin, it would be far too difficult for most students. View it primarily as a show, allowing the students to take from it what they can. Perhaps the best idea is to approach Forum Romanum on several levels. With a first year Latin class, the show should be used as a chance to hear the sounds of Latin, and perhaps to pick up a few stray vocabulary terms. With a second year class the same goals apply. In addition, students should try to get the gist of the story. For advanced students, again these same goals are fine, but students should try to pick out individual phrases and expressions, perhaps even some rhetorical devices and historical/mythological allusions. As an instnictional too], a suggested strategy is to (1) view the show the first time straight through without preparation, (2) hand out copies of scripts for study and review, (3) view the show a second time. (Optionally, the show may again be viewed a third time, pausing and rewinding to pick out vocabulary, expressions, etc.)
These sample materials are review copies and not final materials, so your feedback is welcome.
2004 by John Donohue