In a scrum of blood-red togas and inflatable cheeseheads, Wisconsin mocked Massachusetts—in a language straight from the streets of Rome in the first century B.C. They spirit-warred with a wild mix of Latin and English, capped by one Wisconsinite’s verbal deathblow: “We have more cows than you!”
The UNLV field held about 1,300 hyped-up students in togas, tunics and gladiator duds (plus Wisconsin’s token “cow”). They represented middle and high school Latin clubs across the country and the National Junior Classical League’s network of 1,126 chapters and 46,730 passionate stewards of the ancient language and culture of classical Greece and Rome. In its 60th year, the weeklong gathering had students competing in the Certamen (“Latin Jeopardy!”), sharing creative projects and joking about all the historical inaccuracies in Disney’s Hercules. This final day was about feasting and happily screaming their heads off in a special march from the field to Cox Pavilion.
“This is definitely a coup for [Las Vegas],” says Sherry Jankowski, Nevada chair for the league and a Latin teacher at the Meadows School, one of three NJCL chapters in the Valley. “We’re not just training people to be linguists or philologists; we’re creating lifelong learners who have a real appreciation for not just the language but … who these ancient peoples were, the best we can understand through the long lens of time.”
Apparently, they would have gotten down to Kanye and Rihanna. The students translated “All of the Lights,” so learn some Latin and scream it out the next time you’re on the Strip: “Ecce lives omnes care/Fulgentes volo vos videntes/Ecce luces omnes care/Vides quod desit/Volo scire omnia/Adspicias luces omnes.”
For more about the classical revolution, go to njcl.org.