Monday, September 6, 2010

NLE Reading Materials

Finally, here are some reading suggestions for those of you preparing for the National Latin Exam. As mentioned in the Forum previously, the NLE tests more than the student's knowledge of Latin. It tests the student's knowledge of all things Roman and Classical. This means some history and mythology!

Most of you have probably had some ancient history and mythology, so there should not be too many surprises. To be fully prepared, however, I have limited the literature to two required books and two suggested books. These books were chosen because they not only provide the student with the appropriate material, but they also allow the student to read primary works from the time period about which they are learning.

(When at all possible, I think it best to stick to the primary sources, so we do not have to filter through the various interpretations offered by comtemporaries. We can read what the Romans had to to say and then with appropriate guidance decide for ourselves.)

First, I recommend reading The Aeneid by Vergil to brush up on mythology combined with some Roman history. You can read about historical Romans when Aeneas travels to the underworld. (N.B. There is always the Aeneid for Boys and Girls and The Story of Rome in the left-hand column, both of which are good for young readers).

Second, I recommend reading Metamorphoses by Ovid. This will certainly give you a crash course in Roman mythology, so take it slowly and enjoy the stories.

Finally, I suggest the older learner read Livy's The Rise of Rome, books 1-5 and the ambitious learner read The Literary History of Rome by J. Wight Duff. The first book was written by a historian of the 1st century BC, and the second book is written by a modern literary historian. These books should be carefully reviewed by the parent to decide if they are truly age-appropriate as age and maturity do not always go hand-in-hand.

If the student reads and studies these books with a parent or friend, the act will be fruitful. Keep in mind that there could be images of gods or goddesses on the exam, so pay attention to clues in your reading that would help identify deities on the NLE. For example, what does Neptune usually carry in his hand? What do you usually see on Mercury's feet (or sometimes head)?

Remember these are classics that even our Church Fathers had to sit through, so be patient and learn. Every era contains some wisdom.

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