We are now almost halfway through our final year Classics course on "Roman Popular Culture" (or "Cultures" as we have come to call it -- plural is a better representation of what we are actually taking about).
Doing a new final year course is always difficult, fun and a bit vertiginous. By which I mean you know in broad terms where you're going, but you never quite know exactly which turn you are going to take, or which particular text is going to be the most interesting ... or (same thing really) the most worth discussing.
You also learn lot (partly thanks to the students).
One question we want the students to reflect on is whether Roman plebs (Andrew Mitchell style) spoke different Latin from the toffs (the subject of Jim Adams latest block-buster that we are all reading).
The estimable James Clackson on Monday gave us in his lecture on the course a smart overview of popular Latin, and used as his logo the pictures from the bar of Salvius, above (and he directed us, inter alia, to the work of Peter Kruschwitz on the Latinity of popular inscriptions in Pompeii).
In fact, he referred to our earier discussions on this blog and wanted to make clear that the text was not such "bad Latin" as we had assumed. I can't summarise the whole argument, but I have to say that he was very clear that the phrase "duas est" was not so bad as we might have thought.
It's true that "duas est" in Latin LOOKS very bad Latin indeed (feminine plural accusative with singular verb 'to be' .. err hang on?), but try seeing "duas" as a Latin version of the Greek "dyas" (a pair, a double) -- and then the grammar is just fine.
But that's how the course has gone throughout. We're trying to work out what we might mean by "popular culture"..how far is the "popular culture" a shared culture (with elite culture marked off as different and "closed", even if the elite shared the popular -- if you see what I mean)? How far is there a stand-off between elite and non-elite? And how far can we recognise what that stand-off might mean?
Anyway .. that's what we are discussing Monday, Tuesday and Thursday all this term. (Hope students are enjoying as much as we are).