WMU News

High-school Latin lovers to converge on WMU May 5

April 26, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Let the games begin.

That phrase will be uttered when nearly 500 Latin-loving high school students converge on Western Michigan University Friday, May 5, for "Ludi Occidentales MM," which means Western Games 2000, to prove that the venerable language of Latin is not dead.

According to Dr. Robert Griffin, professor of foreign languages and literature and organizer of the event, this year's games or "Ludi" mark the sixth observance of the biennial activity, which provides a fun, educational way for students to celebrate the study of Latin. The event, which begins at 9:30 a.m., doesn't feature games in the traditional competitive sense. Instead, the activities are meant to be entertaining and "exercise the mind."

"The Romans believed that recreation built the student physically, while education built the student mentally," says Griffin. "Education was supposed to exercise and recreate the mind."

A highlight of this year's games will be an appearance by Bernard Barcio, who will perform as Fabius, the Tribune, during the morning session. Barcio, a Latin professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, has brought Roman characters to life for more than 200 audiences in 25 states and Canada. Griffin says Barcio, who has been a regular feature at past games, is "as entertaining as he is enlightening."

The afternoon session will allow the students to get into the act by performing short "fabellae," or skits, done entirely in Latin. The skits, which are often satires of current events, are a clever way for the students to exhibit their knowledge and skill of Latin.

"In the last Ludi, we had a scene from the movie "Titanic" done in Latin, and it was hilarious," recalls Griffin. "The students are in costume and they are loads of fun as well as a real tribute to the teachers who have generated so high a level of language skill and interest."

The day's concluding event will feature Griffin himself leading a sing-along of "Ludi Tunes," -- well-known songs sung in Latin. This year, Griffin promises a rousing version of "Horatius Villam Habet," or "Old McDonald Had a Farm," with the familiar chorus of "ee-i-ee-i-o" intact.

A total of 12 schools from Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Portage and Vicksburg will participate. Only three schools attended the first Ludi in 1989 and Griffin says the event continues to grow in popularity every year.

"The growth truly shows that Latin is far from a 'dead' language," he says. "It is very much alive."

For more information, contact Griffin at (616) 387-3024.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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