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Literature / Cambridge Latin Course

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A series of Latin textbooks published by Cambridge University Press and designed for use in secondary schools. Due to the scarcity of Latin textbooks (driven by the fact that most schools don't teach Latin) it basically became the only one used in the UK for the past forty years, causing most former classics students to remember it. It even got a shout-out in Doctor Who.

Someone decided the best way to teach Latin was to write a set of stories in the language most of which link in an arc... sort of. This forms the main part of the course.

Not to be confused with Ecce Romani, the equivalent Latin textbook sometimes used in the US, published by Prentice Hall.

These textbooks provide examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Actius, the great actor, doesn't mind that his performance has been upstaged by a tightrope walker...because he's watching the tightrope walker too.
  • Arc Villain: Eutychus, the Alexandrian racketeer who only appears for a single chapter in Unit II.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Salvius and Rufilla are quite the dysfunctional couple. This is partly to demonstrate that he's a Contrasting Sequel Main Character when compared to Caecilius and Metella's relatively happy marriage.
  • Bad Boss: Salvius in general, especially when he executes a slave being sold to him because the slave is sick, and therefore "useless."
  • Based on a True Story: Chapter 8 tells the story of a real event, in which a gladiatorial games turned into a bloody melee between the citizens of Pompeii and Nuceria.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Salvius justifies his crimes against Cogidubnus by saying he's acting under orders from the Emperor. It's unclear if this is really the case, but it doesn't help him when his case comes to trial.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: Poppaea and Melissa in Unit I.
  • Big Bad: Salvius. (And Vesuvius as well, in a sense.)
  • Dangerously Close Shave: A barber accidentally cuts a customer when a young man comes into his shop and recites a dirty poem. Multus sanguis fluit.
  • Dirty Coward: Modestus and Belimicus.
  • Doomed Hometown: The first book is set in Pompeii.
  • Downer Ending: Everybody except Quintus and Clemens dies in the Mt. Vesuvius eruption, the end.
    • Happens more than once. Barbillus dies thanks to his crooked astrologer, without getting the chance to make amends with his estranged son Rufus. Then Cogidubnus dies and Salvius seizes power in Britannia, despite Quintus's best efforts, and Dumnorix's Heroic Sacrifice. It's rare to find a language learning course with a per capita body count higher than Game of Thrones, but there you go.
  • Draco in Leather Pants/Ron the Death Eater: In-universe. Cephalus writes a letter to Cogidubnus which downplays his own guilt in the assassination plot while exaggerating Memor's.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Belimicus decides to go out with as much dignity as possible, hurling a dagger into Salvius just before dying of poison. Unfortunately, it doesn't kill him.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Occurs in "The Debate", with the elegant, cultured Greeks being Elves and the soldiering, engineering Romans being Dwarves:
    Quintus: [The Romans] are the strongest. We triumph over the ferocious barbarians. We have the largest empire.
    Alexander: We Greeks are creators. You look at Greek statues, you read Greek books, and listen to Greek rhetors.
  • Fat and Skinny: Modestus and Strythio, the comic-relief legionaries.
  • Flashback: Book 2 provided a not only a flashback of Clemens' time in between Britannia and Pompeii but a flashback inside this flashback.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Again, the first book takes place in Pompeii.
  • Forging the Will: Salvius pulls this when Cogidubnus dies.
  • Frame-Up: Salvius makes Cogidubnus out to be a traitor.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Emperor, if Salvius really was acting under his orders.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Domicilia est anus.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Belimicus decides to denounce Salvius's crimes upon realizing the latter means to kill him, but Salvius reveals that he's already poisoned him.
  • His Name Is...: When confronted by Cogidubnus, Memor attempts to name Salvius as the one behind the assassination attempt, but Salvius cuts him off and places Cogidubnus under house arrest.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Caecilius family, Salvius, Cogidubnus...
  • Idiot Ball: When Salvius claims Cogidubnus to be a traitor, Agricola becomes enraged and sends out soldiers to imprison Cogidubnus and crush his regime. After they leave, he calms down and asks Salvius for actual evidence of wrongdoing by Cogidubnus. The text draws attention to the fact that he didn't ask these questions before sending out the soldiers.
  • Love Triangle: Bulbus loves Vilbia, Vilbia wants Modestus...
  • Miles Gloriosus: Modestus.
  • Out of Focus: Quintus drifts out of the limelight as protagonist as the stories focus increasingly on Salvius's antics. After safely reaching Agricola's camp in Stage 26, he doesn't show up again until Salvius's trial 14 chapters later.
  • Pet the Dog: Cephalus tries to prevent Quintus from drinking the poison meant for Cogidubnus, even though this blows the plot and leads directly to his own death. Though this is possibly what he wanted to happen.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Salvius is of the opinion that Pompeians and the British are all deceitful.
  • Prayer of Malice: Defixiones thrown into the holy spring at Aquae Sulis.
  • Put on a Bus: Clemens leaves the series toward the end of book 2... by staying in Alexandria to run his glass shop. It's looking more like a Long Bus Trip now, though.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Agricola and Salvius both fire these at each other after Quintus reveals the truth.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Bulbus curses Modestus for stealing Vilbia.
  • The Starscream: Salvius betrays and usurps Cogidubnus, either out of ambition or under orders from the Emperor. Belemicus then turns against Salvius when he finds himself dissatisfied with his reward for helping him.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Cephalus writes a letter to Cogidubnus explaining Memor's role in the assassination plot. Cogidubnus receives it just after Cephalus dies.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Quintus starts out as kind of a loser. As the series continues, he ends up killing alligators in Book 2, thwarting poison plots in Book 3, and prosecuting against Salvius in a Roman court in Book 4.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Caecilius was a real moneylender who actually lived in pre-Vesuvius Pompeii, his real life wife was called Metella, their son was called Quintus, and quite a few of the anecdotes in the book are based on the writings that he left behind. But Caecilius actually died in an earthquake 10 years before the destruction of Pompeii.
    • Given a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Shout-Out near the end of Book 1, mentioning the earthquake but changing the actual happening a little - Iulius asks why Caecilius wasn't scared of the enormous cloud and ashes, and he replies, "'iamprīdem terra tremuit. iamprīdem tremōrēs vīllās et mūrōs dēlēvērunt. sed larēs vīllam meam et familiam meam servāvērunt." ("a long time ago, the ground shook. A long time ago, the tremors destroyed houses and walls. But the household gods saved my family and my house.")
    • The Vilbia curse is actually real. It was one of the many curses that was tossed into the spring at Aquae Sulis (known to you and me as Bath) and is one of the more famous of them.
      • One theory is that the Vilbia curse is actually a misspelling/miscarving of "fibula", meaning amulet, rather than referring to an actual person.
    • Salvius and his wife, Rufilla, were real people, too.
    • Also real was Lucius Marcius Memor, from the third book.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Lucius Caecilius Iucundus is a rich banker and tax collector who enjoys a good dirty joke, takes his son to the baths for his birthday, and is out of his mind with worry when separated from his family during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
  • Wham Line: "That will is false. I wrote it, not Cogidubnus."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Grumio. Kind of. The obvious answer is that he died in Vesuvius... but the book never clarifies. He just kind of disappears after the first story in Stage 12.
    • One of the workbooks reveals that Grumio survived. He abandoned Caecelius and his family and eventually escaped to Britannia, but ended up fleeing there after finding out one of the people he abandoned, Quintus, was coming to visit.
  • You Are Already Dead: Said by Salvius to Belimicus after serving him poisoned food.