Return to Random Access
CO 77.3 [Spring 2000], pp. 116-118: Ancient Origins, Chad Kieffer's HTML Converter, Lectiones; Films for the Humanities: Ancient Civilizations of the Mediterranean, Classical Mythology, Great Myths of Greece & Rome; World Book: Ancient Greece and Romans.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
The ephemeral nature of software became all too real to me
again a few months ago when I wrote about the Ancient Origins
CD from Piranha Interactive (see CO 77 : 27). No
sooner had I done so when they went out of business. Fortunately,
someone has scooped up their remaining inventory and is making
it available at heavily discounted prices while supplies last.
To see if you can still get in on a good deal, contact Kernel
Software via their web site (www.kernelsoftware.com). Thanks
to Dennis Rayl, of Trinity School in Bloomington, MN, for chasing
them down and notifying me.
Another follow-up to my last column comes from Chad Kieffer, a Classics major at the University of Arkansas (with previous degrees in German and Computer Science!). As an addition to my list of free downloadable software, he tells me that he has created a web-based program which allows you to load a textual passage and easily add hypertext notes linked to each word. It will even do an automatic look-up for you from either Perseus' lexicon and morphological database (www.perseus.tufts.edu) or Whitaker's online "Words" tools (users.erols.com/whitaker/wordsdoc. htm), depending on your preference. Texts can be in Latin, German, or Greek (Beta Code or SMK Athenian). The program, instructions, and demo samples can be found at www.geocities.com/ckieffe/ program. html.
Finally, in my discussion of oral Latin tools last time, I men-tioned the CD version of the Artes Latinae text series (Levels One and Two), published by Bolchazy-Carducci (see also CO 73 : 99, CO 76 : 19). They have now just re-leased a supplement to those two CDs, which puts the material from their companion Graded Readers (one for each level) onto CD, using the multimedia format created by Transparent Language. This allows you to have the "sententi-ae" (over 1,000 in all) read aloud, as well as receiving any or all of the support notes on grammar, syntax, and translation. There is also a reference section on basic Latin grammar and a set of games that can be used to test your memory of the Latin. Lectiones is available on a hybrid (Windows/Mac) CD for $30. For more information, contact Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1000 Brown St. Unit 101, Wauconda IL 60084; tel. 8003926453; web: www. bolchazy. com.
"Films for the Humanities" Makes CDs
I recently received a nice bundle of multimedia CDs from Films
for the Humanities and Sciences (FHS). They have continued to
evolve from their start in educational films to videos-and now
Ancient Civilizations of the Mediterranean (1995, 1997) is a very well-designed collection of material about the origins of all of the major early civilizations in the Mediterranean, including Phoenicia, Egypt, Carthage, Etruria, Greece, and Rome. Using a sea-faring metaphor and a map of the area, the user can go to visit any one of these places during their heydays. The cursor actually turns into a sailing ship, and the sail raises whenever it passes over an "active" site. As you might expect, those civilizations with less archaeological evidence, such as Phoenicia and Carthage, receive less attention, since the descriptive material is always connected to images. Each section is organized into several logical topics, such as "Everyday Life," "The Economy," and "Architecture." The graphic design is attractive, but most of the images of sites and artifacts are surprisingly small, leaving plenty of room for verbal descriptions. Button icons are well conceived, and hyperlinks are color-coded, depending on whether they are connected to the "personages" glossary (somewhat limited), the "technical terms" glossary (much more detailed), or other sections on the disk. A help section is well written and can be called up at any time with the "?" key. One thing I do find frustrating is that, when you are finished with a section, you are forced to go all the way back to the start up screen, instead of returning to the main map.
Bulfinch Updated with Video Clips
Another high-quality CD from FHS is called Classical Mythology:
History, Legends, and Influences (1999). Developed by Bride
Digital Classics, it contains much less artwork or images than
you might expect, but rather depends mostly on text and video.
The text includes substantial portions of Bulfinch's Mythology,
which appears to be in the public domain these days, and a number
of translations of appropriate Latin sources, mostly Pseudo-Apollodorus,
with a few from Ovid, Homer, and Hesiod. The emphasis here is
on creation myths. Supplementary sections include a simplified
map of the Aegean area, a glossary of names (about 100), and a
genealogical chart of the gods (again, mostly creation-based).
These are available as side icons most of the time, but there
are actually very few hyperlinks within the texts.
The video section contains about 20 video clips on specific issues of analysis in mythology. These are one- to two-minute mini-lectures given by major authorities in the field-Gregory Nagy (Harvard), Mary Lekfowitz (Wellesley), and Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Oxford)-in a casual, office setting. (These video pieces are also available as a separate 30-minute videocassette.) There is also a "background" section with 15 short articles on "Historical Issues," "Myth Analysis," and "Bibliographies." The design of the CD is elegant and very professional, but it does not have the depth of visual material that one might expect. It certainly could prove useful, though, as one of a group of reference materials for students making an initial foray into classical mythology.
Taking a Different Tack Entirely
FHS has another CD on mythology that, by its title, might
sound like a close copy of the last one, but it has a distinctly
different approach. Mythology: The Great Myths of Greece and
Rome (1996) is more of a visual and informational database
on mythology, and it is tightly interlinked throughout. Top-level
material is organized into four areas: Gods, Myths, Voyages, and
Places. The first and second sections concentrate on the Olympians,
but the myths attached to them-some-times several per god-inevitably
involve many other mythological characters. Virtually all mentions
of proper names are linked to an index, and the index icon allows
you to look up any other names that you are curious about. The
visual design and images of this program are exceptional. Most
of the imagery of the gods is taken from Renaissance art, and
it is deftly arranged and manipulated with special effects. A
constant reverie of instrumental background music accompanies
you through the program (unless you want to turn off the speakers),
and many of the stories are narrated.
The Voyages section highlights the sagas of Ulysses, Aeneas, Jason, and Heracles (with a puzzling mix of Roman and Greek names here). These are first summarized briefly by an animated human actor while the journeys are drawn out on a map. Then, any of the specially marked stopovers can be chosen for more explanation. The Places section provides a map of Greece and Italy with many significant towns and areas marked for possible investigation. If I had to choose between the two mythology CDs, I am sure I would take this one.
For more information on Ancient Civilizations of the Mediterranean ($149, Windows or Mac), Classical Mythology ($149, Windows/Mac hybrid), and Mythology: The Great Myths of Greece and Rome ($149, Windows only), contact Films for the Humanities and Sciences, PO Box 2053, Princeton NJ 085432053; tel. 8002575126; Web: www.films.com.
World Book Encyclopedia Marches On
I have fond recollections of the World Book Encyclopedia-one
of the first generally affordable encyclopedias of the 1950s and
60s-being given away on game shows and even by grocery stores
as prizes (one volume per month). Indeed, using it provided my
first introduction to doing anything like real research for an
essay, learning how to summarize, paraphrase, and integrate, rather
than simply copying.
Well, the folks at World Book are still at it, and they are keeping up with the tenor of the times by appealing to those inquiring young minds with individually packaged and colorfully illustrated mini-encyclopedias on popular topics for children, in both book and CD form. Along with offerings on Rain Forests and The Solar System, there are packages on Ancient Greece and the Romans.
Many teachers will be happy to hear that these CD-books are definitely geared toward a middle-school audience. Text is presented in manageable bits, and the graphics are in something of a cartoon style. Seven topics are presented on the Ancient Greece CD: City on the Hill (Athens), A Place in Time (history), At the Oracle (popular questions), The Write Stuff (alphabet), Ancient Odyssey (a short synopsis of Homer), Olympic Challenge (quiz), The State of Things (empire maps of Athens and Sparta). Throughout the CD there are references to pages in the book for more information. The book covers some of the same topics and more, but goes into more detail (within the limits of 40 pages). Illustrations and photos are well arranged and attractive. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur is used as a sample myth for in-depth study.
The Romans CD-book follows a very similar format and highlights the city of Rome and the story of Romulus and Remus. Overall, the CDs provide activities that help students apply and test what they have learned from the book.
These new mini-encyclopedias are also still affordably priced at $14.95 each. They are available from L&L Enterprises, 2408 Dawson Ln., Algonquin IL 60102; tel. 800426 5357; web: members.aol.com/LandL800.
Remember, if you find something new and interesting in "classical computing," drop me a note (or an e-mail) so I can spread the word.
Return to Random Access Archives List