GFS classics students “correct” history

Schools March 5, 2014 0 Comments

Students in Germantown Friends School’s Latin History class spotted a mistake in an article published in Archaeology magazine, submitted a Letter to the Editor and saw the fruits of their labor when it appeared in the next issue.

Students in Germantown Friends School’s Latin History class spotted a mistake in an article published in Archaeology magazine, submitted a Letter to the Editor and saw the fruits of their labor when it appeared in the next issue.

Classics students at Germantown Friends School can now include “published writer” among their accomplishments.

The sophomores in Jim Barron’s Latin History class read an article in the January/February 2014 issue of Archaeology magazine about the start of the Second Punic War (218-202 B.C.), in which the author presented the Romans as the aggressors and blamed them for the start of the war.

The students immediately recognized that the author’s assignation of blame to Rome was incorrect: According to Polybius, the Carthaginian forces, lead by Hannibal, attacked Saguntum in early 219 B.C., despite a Roman ultimatum advising them against it. (It wasn’t until eight months after Hannibal first attacked Saguntum that the Romans sent troops to defend the city in 218 B.C.)

At the suggestion of Barron, the students submitted a Letter to the Editor, which – to their delight – was printed in the March/April 2014 issue of Archaeology!

“The whole class was pretty excited when it got published,” said Addie McKenzie ’16. “We were satisfied that our knowledge of Ancient Rome had proven useful outside of the classroom. The ten of us put a great effort into constructing [our response] We were enthusiastic about being able to spot real errors based on what we have learned so far this year.”

Adds Julian Ballard ’16: “This experience seems to reinforce the idea that whoever is recording history is almost always the one who is portrayed in the writing as the good guy, or ‘victor.’ It’s interesting to speculate about how many instances of history we study that were written by a victors.”

At GFS, Latin History is taught concurrently with Latin III, so the students have four history and four Latin classes each week. The history they study is learned in conjunction with reading Latin texts that are related to – and coordinated with – their historical studies.

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