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"Ecce! In pictura est puella, nomine Cornelia. Cornelia est puella Romana quae in Italia habitat...[1] "
Opening lines of Ecce Romani I: Chapter One

Ecce Romani[2] is a series of Latin textbooks for high school students, teaching through stories, first published in 1971. The first two books follow the story of the Cornelius family, a family of Romans circa A.D. 80. The family includes Gaius, the father and a wealthy senator; Aurelia, his wife; Marcus and Cornelia, their children, and Sextus, who is not related, but whose widowed father is a good friend of Gaius, who in turn, is looking after Sextus while he stays in Asia. Other major characters are Davus, Cornelius's head slave and farm overseer, and Eucleides, the stereotypical ancient-Greek and slave-paedagogus of Marcus and Sextus. Oh, and Flavia, too.

The plot of the first book involves the Cornelius family returning to the city of Rome after Gaius gets recalled by the emperor to the Senate, and the second follows the things that happen to them in Rome. The third book uses actual ancient Latin writings, so the plot ends at the end of the second book, which has a few pages (in English) describing what happens to the family.

Not to be confused with The Cambridge Latin Course, the equivalent Latin textbook in the UK.

Examples of Ecce Romani include:
  • The Alcoholic: Uncle Titus
  • Continuity Nod: In the second book, Sextus writes a letter to his father about some of the things that happened in the first book. Sextus being Sextus, it isn't exactly how the readers remembered it.
  • Cowardly Lion: Sextus, in combination with Jerkass.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The writers needed someone to die before the end of the book in order to explain Roman funeral customs. The most likely character to die was Uncle Titus, Cornelius's brother. He fell and broke his hip, which killed him a few weeks later.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Davus seems like one, but you can't blame his irritability, being annoyed by Sextus constantly.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Most of Gaius' slaves seem happy with him as their master. When the Cornelii leave Baiae, they leave Davus in charge, the farm overseer, who is, in fact a slave (it is implied that they do this every year they leave Baiae back to Rome). Shortly after the Cornelii leave, a slave escapes, and Davus sends out teams of slaves to catch him and brand "FUG" on his forehead.
  • Having a Gay Old Time: In the words of Acid Dragon on everything2:

 "The single most unfortunate thing about these texts is a character named Sextus. This, in and of itself, is not so bad. Romans were frequently named things like Quintus, and Sextus. That's five and six, simply. No, the unfortunate thing about Sextus is that he is an absolute pest. This, also, wouldn't be too bad, except that the Latin word for "annoying" is "molestus". Thus you have the character who is frequently referred to as "Sextus Molestus". Given the average maturity level of a freshman in high school, this means that the lecture is interrupted several times a class period by some unfortunate sot who can't hold his laughter back any longer."

  • Jerkass: Sextus
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Sextus, immediately after boasting about his bravery to Marcus because he climbed a tree, and taunting Cornelia and Flavia because he scared them, breaks the branch he was laying on and falls to the earth. Oh, and they told him to descend from the tree several times while he was mocking them.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sextus may actually have a reason for acting like a Jerkass. His father is doing business in Asia, while his mother was killed in Pompeii the previous year.
  • Plot Tumor: Volume I: They spend most of the latter part with the carriage stuck in the ditch, and won't let the reader forget it.

 "raeda in fossā"

  • Put on a Bus: Flavia, for the entire course of the whole first book. She lives in Baiae, where the Cornelii live in the summer, and is never heard from again after the Cornelii leave. In the second book, she surfaces again when Cornelia receives a letter from her.
  • Stern Teacher: Palaemon, Marcus and Sextus's secondary school teacher. Sextus, having fallen asleep in his class, gets sent home by him after refusing to extend his hand for it to be beaten. This is apparently a big deal, as it has "never happened before."
  • Took a Level In Badass: Wimpy as usual, Sextus goes back to the changing room at the public baths because the water's too hot, where sees a thief stealing his clothes and chases the guy halfway across the bath complex on slippery tiles, then pushes him into a frigidarium. Unfortunately, he goes right back to being a wimp after this chapter.

Notes

  1. "Look! In the picture is a girl named Cornelia. Cornelia is a Roman girl who lives in Italy..."
  2. "Look, Romans!" or "Behold, Romans!"
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