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Literature / Ecce Romani

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Books II and III follow.
"Ecce! In pictura est puella, nomine Cornelia. Cornelia est puella Romana quae in Italia habitat..."note 
Opening lines of Ecce Romani I: Chapter One

Ecce Romaninote  is a series of Latin textbooks for high school students, teaching through stories, first published in 1971. The first two books follow the story of the Cornelius family, a family of Romans circa A.D. 80. The family includes Gaius, the father and a wealthy senator; Aurelia, his wife; Marcus and Cornelia, their children, and Sextus, who is not related, but whose widowed father is a good friend of Gaius, who in turn, is looking after Sextus while he stays in Asia. Other major characters are Davus, Cornelius's head slave and farm overseer, and Eucleides, the stereotypical ancient-Greek and slave-paedagogus of Marcus and Sextus. Oh, and Flavia, too.

The plot of the first book involves the Cornelius family returning to the city of Rome after Gaius gets recalled by the emperor to the Senate, and the second follows the things that happen to them there. The third book uses actual ancient Latin writings, so the plot ends at the end of the second book, which has a few pages (in English) describing what happens to the family.

The above description refers to the later US editions by Prentice Hall, which were published first in 2005. The series was originally published in 1971 by Oliver & Boyd of Edinburgh, Scotland, and was significantly different. It had six books, simple line-art illustrations, and some differences in the plot, though in the absence of the opportunity to directly compare Scottish and US editions it is not possible to be more specific. British schools, naturally, use the Scottish version.

Not to be confused with The Cambridge Latin Course, the equivalent Latin textbook in the UK.

This series provides examples of:

  • Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Rome is revealed to have been surprisingly technologically advanced and engineered to a very high standard, even when compared to 21'st century first world construction.
  • Artifact Title: The third book shares nothing in common with the first two other than being a Latin textbook.
  • Continuity Nod: In the second book, Sextus writes a letter to his father about some of the things that happened in the first book. Sextus being Sextus, it isn't exactly how the readers remembered it.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The writers needed someone to die before the end of the book in order to explain Roman funeral customs. The most likely character to die was Uncle Titus, Cornelius's brother. He fell and broke his hip, which killed him a few weeks later.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Many of the slaves and laborers are definitely not Roman.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The first book takes only a few days in story time, but is close to 20 chapters long and consumes about 9 months in the real world.
  • Female Success Is Family: Roman Family Values, being what they were, pretty much mandated this. Cornelia gets married in book 2.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Zig-zags; all females in the story can definitely spin wool, but cooking is exclusive to poor girls.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Davus seems like one, but you can't blame his irritability, being annoyed by Sextus constantly.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Most of Gaius' slaves seem happy with him as their master. When the Cornelii leave Baiae, they leave Davus in charge, the farm overseer, who is, in fact a slave (it is implied that they do this every year they leave Baiae back to Rome). Shortly after the Cornelii leave, a slave escapes, and Davus sends out teams of slaves to catch him and brand "FUG" on his forehead.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In the words of Acid Dragon on everything2:
    "The single most unfortunate thing about these texts is a character named Sextus. This, in and of itself, is not so bad. Romans were frequently named things like Quintus, and Sextus. That's five and six, simply. No, the unfortunate thing about Sextus is that he is an absolute pest. This, also, wouldn't be too bad, except that the Latin word for "annoying" is "molestus". Thus you have the character who is frequently referred to as "Sextus Molestus". Given the average maturity level of a freshman in high school, this means that the lecture is interrupted several times a class period by some unfortunate sot who can't hold his laughter back any longer."
  • Idiot Ball: Sextus can seemingly conjure it from thin air, and it appears to be magnetically attracted to him.
  • Large Ham: Uncle Titus. In the second book, he comes in late to the party already drunk, having already gotten smashed at a bar. He then proceeds to make very loud, extravagant drinking toasts and takes several gulps of alcohol before suddenly passing out.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Sextus, immediately after boasting about his bravery to Marcus because he climbed a tree, and taunting Cornelia and Flavia because he scared them, breaks the branch he was laying on and falls to the earth. Oh, and they told him to descend from the tree several times while he was mocking them.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Try to count the scenes where characters wear clothes other than togas/tunicas/stolas.
  • Moral Myopia: Talk of Gaius being a good and honorable man seems very out of place considering that he can be quite cruel to slaves.
    • Well, it is Ancient Rome, where this sort of stuff was more normal than it is now.
  • Multi-Volume Work: There are three volumes in the series. The third volume does not continue the story.
  • Never My Fault: Sextus includes this trope when he writes to his father.
  • Never Say "Die": Strangely played straight with Uncle Titus.
  • No Mouth: The artwork in the books isn't exactly of high quality.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Slaves can and will (and are) be punished or chastized for just about anything under the sun.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Sextus would describe recent events in his life as this.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sextus may actually have a reason for acting like a Jerkass. His father is doing business in Asia, while his mother was killed in Pompeii the previous year.
  • Plot Tumor: Volume I: The carriage gets stuck in a ditch for an awfully long time. Worsened, since, when put into practice as a class textbook where sessions are spaced apart and translating through the stories can take a while, the carriage remaining stuck can approach tedium or a Running Gag.
    Q:"Ubi est raeda?" A:"raeda in fossa"
    • As seen on a high school Latin Club t-shirt: 'nostra raeda in fossa adhuc haeret'note 
  • Put on a Bus: Flavia, for the entire course of the whole first book. She lives in Baiae, where the Cornelii live in the summer, and is never heard from again after the Cornelii leave. In the second book, she surfaces again when Cornelia receives a letter from her.
  • Quickly-Demoted Woman: Thanks to Patria Potestas, the Paterfamalias of a Roman family has absolute power over everyone in a house. As a result, Gaius always takes control from Aurelia whenever the two are together.
    • Actually, by the period in which these books are set, a wife did not usually become subject to her husband's patriapotestas, instead staying in her father's patriapotestas. She would still be expected to subordinate herself to her husband, but that has nothing to do with patriapotestas.
  • Quieter Than Silence: The chapter early on where Cornelia sneaks over to say goodbye to Flavia.
  • Rebellious Princess: Strangely, Flavia has more shades of this than Cornelia despite being a minor character.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Loads of it.
    • Uncle Titus is the hard-partying red oni to Gaius's strictly disciplined blue oni.
    • Sextus is the carefree red oni to Marcus's studious blue oni.
    • Cornelia is the demure blue oni to Flavia's vigorous red oni.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The backstory of Valerius has this.
  • Shout-Out: Euclides, to famous real-life Greek geometer Euclid.
  • Stern Teacher: Palaemon, Marcus and Sextus's secondary school teacher. Sextus, having fallen asleep in his class, gets sent home by him after refusing to extend his hand for it to be beaten. This is apparently a big deal, as it has "never happened before".
  • Took a Level in Badass: Wimpy as usual, Sextus goes back to the changing room at the public baths because the water's too hot, where sees a thief stealing his clothes and chases the guy halfway across the bath complex on slippery tiles, then pushes him into a frigidarium. Unfortunately, he goes right back to being a wimp after this chapter.
    • ...until the epilogue, where Sextus joins the military. We're told " Sextus... bravely died at age forty-nine trying to rally his panicked Legio IX".
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: When Sextus catches a thief attempting to steal clothes from the baths.
  • Weak-Willed: Sextus for most of story.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Not so much for the Cornelii as for Sextus, who had not been to Rome before the events of the story.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: Androcles and the Lion. The story ends with the same guy walking through downtown Rome with the same Lion.
  • Women's Mysteries: Brought up in the segments about Roman Religion. Of course, we don't know much about them.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Cornelia rightly fears incurring the wrath of her father, Gaius.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The robbers that Marcus dreams about were about to kill him before he woke up.
  • Writing Lines: Not so much a punishment as it is standard educational procedure.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Slaves have none of it at all, and they cannot defend themselves against abuse.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Aurelia. Cornelia is one in training.
  • You Are Number 6: Sextus. After all, it was Truth in Television.