Friday, December 5, 2008


"Caecelius est in tablino."

- the first sentence from the Latin textbook I had in Year 7.

I remember we studied Latin for one semester in Year 7. It was held in the second storey of the MacDonald building, a converted Camberwell mansion in the middle of the school. The walls were covered with dingy laminated photos of Rome, forums, theatres and Pompeii. And we studied from a book about this guy from Pompeii called Caecilius.

Caecilius lived in the town of Pompeii, shortly before Mt Vesuvius erupted. The book pretty much went through the daily adventures of Caecilius, his wife Marcella, and his son Quintus. The first thing I ever learnt in Latin was that Caecilius est in tablino. Later, I learnt that when he was in the tablino, he would bibit. Much later, I learnt that he'd also go into the scriptorium to scribit.

It's scary to think that I remember that much from a book I last read about fifteen years ago. But as I said, I really liked Latin. All in all, the best language I've ever been exposed to. It's so logical, so precise, so simple and completely dead. It's probably the reason I was so interested in Roman history when I was younger. 

We went to Pompeii today, and I walked through the same streets that Caecilius did all those years ago. I wandered through the theatre where he would've seen the plays, went in the amphitheatre where he would've seen the gladiator fights, and even when the brothel where lovely ladies would *ahem* bibit a bit of ol' Caecilius. 

It's remarkably well preserved. Unlike most ancient ruins, you don't need an active imagination to see it laid out in front of you. Most of it is still there. You can still see graffiti scratched on the walls, and signs painted on the streets. It's possible the best thing I've seen during this trip. 


Anonymous said...


I've just been reading through your travels, in reverse.

Turkey reminds me of happy days traveling with my family when I was a kid. Your piece on Troy was excellent. I don't know the classics but my parents and older sister do, they told me the stories when we were at the sites. Brought some of the books along, too.

I've never been to the Balkans. I can recommend a book - "My War Gone By, I Miss It So" by Anthony Lloyd.

You write like him. If you ever read it, you might want to think about that.

Have a good Christmas, wherever you end up will be the right place to be. You rarely get the freedom to make arbitrary decisions, I recommend you make as many as possible.

We stuffed Chelski, now let's celebrate tomorrow's defeat at the hands of Wigan.

Connolly's agent said...

Thanks mate. I've been thinking about that - I've hardly ever had the chance to make arbitrary decisions - and I really want to make the most of it. Never know when I'll have a time like this again.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are liking Pompeii and Italy. I sure Mr MacDonald would be very happy.

Your brother.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are liking Pompeii and Italy. I sure Mr MacDonald would be very happy.

Your brother.