Caroline Bristow, Director of the Cambridge School Classics Project
The new edition of the Cambridge Latin Course (CLC) has been a long time coming, but we hope it will be worth the wait. Consisting of four books, the new edition will cover the vast majority of GCSE language content by the middle of Book IV, with the latter half of the book helping students transition to reading authentic classical Latin texts. Caecilius may still be in horto, but a lot has changed for everyone’s favourite Pompeian banker.
The language scheme of the CLC was highly engineered from its conception; every word, phrase, and grammatical concept placed with precision for maximum impact. Altering such a scheme has been a daunting task; change a single word in Book I and effects might be felt in Book IV! Despite this we have worked hard to make changes we know are important to teachers. For example, the explanation of the ablative with prepositions is now in Stage 11 and the earlier, heavily scaffolded introduction of the indirect statement. Vocabulary lists have also been reviewed to prioritise GCSE lists, alongside common Latin words.
Each Practising the Language section now uses another, shorter story accompanied by questions to consolidate the language features introduced in the Stage. The types of exercises previously found in Practising the language have become Reviewing the language, which is now found at the back of the book. For more information about changes to the language teaching scheme take a look at our blog.
The CLC has always placed the Latin language firmly in its historical context. This equips students with the necessary skills to successfully read and interrogate Latin literature and authors later in their studies and provides an excellent foundation for examination success.
In addition to ancient languages, Classics departments often also teach Ancient History or Classical Civilisation. Departments with these subjects at KS4 and KS5 do not always have additional curriculum time at KS3 to build the necessary skills for these courses however, and so opportunities to develop skills of historical investigation are increasingly important.
In keeping with good practice in history teaching, the cultural background in each Stage is now shaped around an Enquiry Question which students can consider as they read the material and might form the basis for larger projects or assessed work. These are accompanied by Thinking Points, smaller questions and tasks which provide opportunities to check student understanding and challenge them to use higher order skills to engage with the content they have just encountered.
We have also introduced ‘talking heads’ to lead students through the material. These figures – some well-known characters from the stories, others more background voices – provide different views on the content.
These characters and their stories have always been the real strength of the Cambridge Latin Course. During our visits to schools pupils told us that their enthusiasm for the ancient world has led them to wonder what life was like for the people who are not as well represented in their textbooks. They wanted to hear more from the enslaved characters; asked for more LGBTQIA+ representation; and had questions about the ethnicities and cultures of the Roman world.
The new edition still has its familiar characters and overarching storyline but with improved representation of women, people of colour, those with disabilities and those enslaved by the Romans. Book I is still based in the Pompeian household of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, whose son Quintus travels to Britain and Egypt in Books II and III and becomes embroiled in the plotting of Gaius Salvius Liberalis. Book IV brings the series to Rome for its conclusion and the comeuppance of Salvius.
Into this familiar plot we have introduced new characters and stories. We are delighted to welcome Caecilius and Metella’s daughter, (Caecilia) Lucia, to the new edition. Lucia allows us to explore the lives of Roman girls and issues specific to their experience, such as arranged marriage and political disenfranchisement, as well as offering a new viewpoint on events. Lucia continues as a narrative voice alongside her brother in Books II, III and IV.
The artifex Clara also replaces Celer in Book I. We first meet Clara in Stage 3, when Caecilius employs her to spruce up his dining room and she acts as our ‘guide’ around the Roman forum in Stage 4’s cultural background material.
Some of the changes I am most pleased with, however, are not where material is brand new, but where we have reimagined familiar stories and faces. The story vēnālīcius must be one of the most discussed of the entire CLC. In the new edition, this story has been replaced with ōrnātrīx in which Melissa’s point of view is centred instead of the men haggling over her like a piece of property. In this story, and throughout the books, the tropes of the “loyal” or “hard working” slave are avoided in favour of an approach we hope will facilitate more critical analysis from students.
The character of Barbillus has played an important role since the first edition; he offers hospitality to Quintus in Alexandria and his tragic deathbed wish to reconcile with his son is the reason Quintus ends up in Britain. The new edition brings this character into the story much earlier – we first meet him in Stage 2 – to help support the transition to Book II and beyond.
The character was originally inspired by Tiberius Claudius Barbillus, an astrologer living in Alexandria during the first century AD. The historical Barbillus’ father was Greco-Egyptian and his mother may have been a member of the royal family of the Greco-Iranian Kingdom of Commagene. Despite these multicultural origins, the character in the CLC was drawn with essentially European features. In the new edition, however, he has been re-drawn to reflect the Greco-Syrian-Egyptian heritage of the real Barbillus.
The creation of the new edition of the Cambridge Latin Course has been a collaboration between the members of the Cambridge School Classics Project and our community. I hope that together we have succeeded in creating a textbook series which meets the needs of modern classrooms while preserving the things which have made it so successful for over 50 years.
For more information about the Cambridge Latin Course, including upcoming CPD and teaching support, please visit the Cambridge School School Classics Project website.
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Caroline is the Director of the Cambridge School Classics Project, a long running Classics education project based in the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. Previous to this she was the Classics and Religious Studies Subject Specialist at OCR. She has taught a variety of subjects in the UK state sector at GCSE, AS and A Level, including Classical Civilisation, Classical Greek, Religious Studies, Philosophy and Anthropology.