Included here are a checklist for analyzing Latin prose style,  a guide to the Roman calendar, summaries of myths to accompany the exhibition “Picturing Narrative: Greek Mythology in the Visual Arts,” and an obituary of Cesare Questa.

Latin Prose Style Checklist

Prepared by Timothy J. Moore

Washington University in St. Louis

I.  Morphology and Orthography

  1. What choices has the author made between alternate forms and spelling (e.g., ere or erunt in the third plural perfect active indicative; is or es in the accusative plural 3rd declension)?
  2. Are any forms or spelling used which you might not expect in a prose author of this period (e.g., quum for cum, qui for quo)?

II.  Diction

  1. Are words or phrases used here which are rare elsewhere in this author? in this period? in this genre? in prose? in Latin?
  2. Are there words or phrases which seem to reflect the formulaic language of law, diplomacy, government, or religion?
  3. Are there words or phrases which seem archaic, poetic, or colloquial?
  4. Are any words or phrases repeated in the passage, or is diction deliberately varied?
  5. To what extent does the author use metaphorical expressions?
  6. Are any expressions particularly effective in their imagery?
  7. What words does the author choose to make transitions from one sentence to another?
  8. Does the author prefer abstract or concrete nouns?
  9. What choices has the author made between synonyms?

III.  Syntax

  1. What syntactical features stand out (e.g., historical infinitives, impersonal passives, repeated grammatical elements)?
  2. Which sentences are long, which short?
  3. How are the longer sentences constructed?
    1. Are clauses strung along paratactically, or hypotactically?
    2. How are clauses subordinated (e.g., with participles, or with conjunctions)?
    3. Which thoughts occur in the main clauses, which in subordinate clauses?
    4. Do the clauses follow one another by an easily comprehensible logic, or must the reader work to piece the sentences together?
    5. Are the sentences “periodic,” i.e., constructed in such as way that the reader/hearer is left in suspense until the end of the sentence?
    6. How are clauses arranged according to rhythm and length?
    7. Has the author placed the longest clauses last?
    8. Does the author show concern for the rhythm of phrases, especially the last phrase of each sentence (clausula)?
    9. Does the author use pairs, tricola, or other numbers of clauses?
    10. To what extent does the author use parallelism in arranging his clauses?
  4. Word order

    1. How are words, phrases, and clauses arranged for emphasis? Remember that the first and last positions in the sentence are most emphatic.
    2. What other effects has the author produced through manipulation of the order of words (e.g., juxtaposition of contrasting words, hyperbaton, chiasmus)?

IV.  General

  1. Does the passage provide echoes of previous authors in diction or phraseology? Do these echoes seem to be deliberate or unconscious?
  2. Has the author said only what is necessary to make his point (brevitas), or are unnecessary words, phrases and sentences added (copia)?
  3. Reported speech
    1. Which speeches in the passage are reported indirectly, which directly?
    2. To what extent are the syntax and diction of the speeches manipulated to characterize speakers?
  4. Aside from reported speeches, does the author provide the perspective of anyone besides himself (e.g., through descriptions of reactions)?
  5. Does the author use any rhetorical tropes (e.g., anaphora, apostrophe, asyndeton, zeugma)?

V.  What is the effect of all this?

last modified 6-16-2014 by

The Roman Calendar

Adjectival names of the months

Januarius, a, um

Februarius, a, um

Martius, a, um

Aprilis, e

Maius, a, um

Junius, a, um

Quin(c)tilius, e (before Julius Caesar’s reforms); Iulius, a, um (after Caesar’s reforms)

Sextilis, e (before 27 BCE); Augustus, a um (after 27 BCE)

September, bris, bre

October, bris, bre

November, bris, bre

December, bris, bre

Kalends, Nones, and Ides


Most months

March, May, July, October

Kalendae, arum (f. plural):



Nonae, arum (f. plural):



Idus, uum (f. plural):



In March, July, October, May:

The Ides are on the fifteenth day, the Nones the seventh; but all besides these have two days less for Nones and Ides.

Describing dates

  1. count inclusively backwards from next Kalends, Nones, or Ides
  2. write ante diem (ordinal number), (Kalendas, Nonas, or Idus), (adjectival name of month): all in accusative
  3. abbreviate a.d. (Roman numeral), (Kal., Non., or Id.), (abbr. name of month)
  4. for the day before Kalends, Nones or Idus: pridie + Kalendas, Nonas, or Idus, adjectival name of month

Converting Roman Dates to our own

For days before Nones and Ides:

Add one to date of Nones or Ides, then subtract number given.

For days before Kalends:

Add two to total number of days in month, then subtract number given.


ante diem duodecimum Kalendas Iulias

June 20th

a. d. iv Non. Iul.

July 4th

Idus Martiae

March 15th

pridie Nonas Septembres

September 4th

ante diem octavum Kalendas Ianuarias

December 25th

a. d. x Kalendas Maias

April 22nd


last modified June 16, 2014 by

Myth Summaries to accompany "Picturing Narrative: Greek Mythology in the Visual Arts"

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Fall 2014

Timothy J. Moore
Department of Classics
Washington University in St. Louis

The Trojan War

Eris, the goddess of strife, tossed a golden apple inscribed “for the most beautiful” into the midst of the other gods. Zeus, king of the gods, assigned to the Trojan prince Paris the task of awarding the apple. Three goddesses competed for the prize: Hera, queen of the gods; Athena, goddess of wisdom and war; and Aphrodite, goddess of love. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite when she promised him Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Helen, however, was married to the Greek king Menelaus, so when Paris abducted her a great Greek army, led by Menelaus’ brother Agamemnon, attacked Troy. War raged around the walls of Troy for ten years. Some of the events of the war are recounted in Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad. The epic includes scenes in which the gods themselves fight along with mortals.

  • One such scene may be presented on a vase painted by the Diosphos Painter (WU 3273).
  • Here is Homer’s account of a battle in which Athena helps the Greek hero Diomedes fight against the Ares, god of war (Iliad 5.835ff., translated by A.T. Murray).

The Iliad also includes a number of duels between individual warriors.

  • One of these may be portrayed on a vase painted by the C Painter (WU 3272).
  • Here Homer describes a duel between the Greek hero Ajax and the Trojan Hector (Iliad 7.206ff., translated by A.T. Murray).

The Greeks finally won the war through a trick. They built a large wooden horse, in which many warriors hid, and persuaded the Trojans that the horse was a gift to the gods and should be brought inside the city.

The Labors of Heracles

The most famous feats of Heracles, greatest of the Greek heroes, were a series of twelve labors. His first task was to slay a lion near the town of Nemea.

  • He accomplishes this task on a vase painted by the Athena Painter (WU 3279).

  • A chorus sings of the labors in Euripides’ tragedy Heracles (359ff., translated by E.P. Coleridge).

Heracles’ last labor was a symbolic conquest of death, foreshadowing his own transformation into a god: Heracles travelled to Hades and brought back Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the Underworld. 

  • A vase painted by the Long-Nose Painter (WU 3274) shows this final labor. 

  • The Roman philosopher and playwright Seneca describes the retrieval of Cerberus in his tragedy The Madness of Hercules (translated by Frank Justus Miller; scroll down to 782).

Theseus and the Minotaur

The opposite side of the same vase shows the Athenian hero Theseus fighting the half-man-half-bull minotaur.  When the Cretan king Minos failed to worship properly Poseidon, god of the sea, Poseidon made Minos’ wife fall in love with a bull.  The wife gave birth to the minotaur, whom Minos locked up in a great maze called the labrynth. Each year he forced the city of Athens to send youths and maidens to be sacrificed to the minotaur.  Theseus, heir to the throne of Athens, volunteered to be one of the doomed youths and slew the minotaur.

  • The Roman poet Ovid describes the imprisonment of the Minotaur and its death (Metamorphoses 8.152ff., translated by Brookes More)


Zeus abducted Europa, a woman from Phoenicia (modern Lebanon).  Not knowing what had happened to his daughter, Europa’s father order her brother, Cadmus, to find her.  During his search Cadmus encountered a dragon, which he slew.  Cadmus sowed the dragon’s teeth in the ground, and warriors sprouted forth.  The warriors fought each other.  With the few who survived, Cadmus founded the Greek city of Thebes. 


The hero Perseus was ordered to acquire the head of Medusa, a Gorgon.  Gorgons had hair of snakes.  They were so terrifying that anyone who looked upon them turned to stone.  Perseus, with help from the gods Athena and Hermes, succeeded in cutting off Medusa’s head and bringing it back. 

Apollo and Python

According to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, after Apollo was born to Leto and Zeus, Zeus’ jealous wife Hera created a dragon, Python, which tormented the land around Delphi.  Apollo slew the Python and made Delphi his most important sanctuary.

Hermes and Argus

When Hera discovered that Zeus had raped Io, either Zeus himself (to disguise his deed) or Hera (to punish her) turned Io into a cow.  Hera put Argus, a creature with 100 eyes, in charge of guarding Io.  Hermes, sent by Zeus to get rid of Argus, succeeded in putting all of Argus’ 100 eyes to sleep, either through playing an instrument or telling a story.  He then killed Argus so that Io could escape.


Orpheus’ singing and lyre playing were so remarkable that they could tame wild animals and even move stones.  When his new bride Eurydice died of a snake bite, Orpheus travelled to the underworld in the hopes of of bringing her back to life.  His song moved even Hades, the implacable god of the dead.  Hades granted that Eurydice could return to the upper world, on the condition that Orpheus not look back at her until they had both reached the world of the living.  Orpheus almost succeeded in his quest, but at the last minute he turned and looked, and Eurydice returned the the realm of the dead.  Heartbroken, Orpheus turned away from all women.  Women of Thrace, angry at being rejected, turned against Orpheus while they were engaged in ecstatic worship of Dionysus.  Because the loud sounds of their screams, drums, and wind instruments drowned out Orpheus’ voice and lyre, they were unmoved by his music, and they killed and beheaded him.  Orpheus’ head and lyre floated down a river in Thrace.  Even in death Orpheus’ mouth continued to say “Eurydice, Eurydice.”  

Coins in the Exhibition

Minted in Damascus (Macedon)
Silver Tetradrachm of Alexander III, 330–319 BC
John Max Wulfing Collection, Washington University in St. Louis
Obverse: Heracles, in a lion skin:
Reverse: Zeus

Minted in Naxos (Sicily)
Silver Drachma, c. 461–430 BC
John Max Wulfing Collection, Washington University in St. Louis
Obverse: Dionysus
Reverse: A squatting satyr

Minted in Rome (Roman Empire)
Bronze Dupondius, 145–161 AD
John Max Wulfing Collection, Washington University in St. Louis
Obverse: Faustina, wife of Marcus Aurelius
Reverse: Venus Genetrix

Obituary of Cesare Questa by Salvador Bartera

CESARE QUESTA (1934-2016)

Obituary by Salvador Bartera

It is with great sadness that I would like to inform the international community of the passing of Cesare Questa, Emeritus Professor of Latin at the University of Urbino, Italy. Cesare Questa was born in Milan in 1934. He died in Urbino.

Professor Questa’s contribution to the field of Latin studies is outstanding, and will continue to live for many years after his death. Questa began his career in Rome, where he was a student of E. Paratore. His first book, on the sources of Tacitus’ Annals, which he wrote in his twenties, is still referred to more than fifty years after its publication date. Although later he returned to his first love (L’Aquila a Due Teste (1998)), Questa was devoted to, and became known for, his studies on Plautus’ text, and in particular the intricacies of Plautine metrics. Among his many books, Numeri Innumeri (1984), Parerga Plautina (1985), Titi Macci Plauti Cantica (1995), and La Metrica di Plauto e Terenzio (2007) are still the main reference books for anyone who wishes to learn about Plautus’ language and style. Questa had also an immense passion for opera, and for the influence of the classical tradition on modern theater. His books Semiramide Redenta (1989) and Il Ratto dal Serraglio (1997) are a testimony to his passion and knowledge.

In Urbino, where Questa arrived in 1963, he founded a school that soon became known as one of the most important research centers for the study of Plautus’ text. During his “reign” (or perhaps he would prefer “principate”), and thanks to the collaboration of brilliant young scholars, “Questa’s School” has produced an impressive number of publications on Plautus, Terence, and Roman theater in general. Questa also founded the Centro Internazionale di Studi Plautini which, since 2001, has been publishing new critical editions of Plautus’ plays (Questa himself edited Casina (2001) and Bacchides (2008)), and since 1997 has organized an annual conference on individual plays of Plautus (eighteen volumes of Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates have been published between 1998 and 2015).

Questa was still working with all his energy on editing Plautus when his health began to decline in the last few months. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his dear friends and colleagues.

As one of the last (if not the last) student of Questa in Urbino, where he directed my thesis on Jesuit drama (one of his many side projects), I remember not only his impressive knowledge of all Latin literature, but in particular his continuous support for a young student who was trying to learn “il mestiere”. I will never forget the long hours spent at his home tirelessly working on the text, his constant watch always ready to correct my mistakes (quod di avertant!). Simply put, he knew everything. What he did for Urbino, where he built an impressive library of tens of thousands of volumes (probably the most comprehensive Plautine library in the world), and especially for the students who were lucky enough to be welcomed under his protection and guidance, cannot be properly expressed. He could be a difficult person, but those who knew him well could always recognize the irony under the terrifying façade of the Socio Nazionale of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.