Colloquia Monacensia

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This elementary Roman school book is a bilingual set of model sentences and short dialogues on topics from daily life, meant, as the text itself tells us, to be memorized and repeated back to a teacher. It comes from a late antique text called Colloquia Monacensia, edited by G. Goetz in the Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum, vol. 3 [Leipzig: Teubner 1892] pp. 644-654 link. Translation by Christopher Francese.

Ante lucem vigilavi de somno;

I awoke at dawn.

surrexi de lecto, sedi, accepi pedules, caligas; calciavi me.

I got up from my bed, I sat on the chair, I picked up my socks, my shoes. I put them on.'

poposci aquam ad faciem;

I asked for water for my face.

lavo primo manus, deinde faciem lavi; extersi;

I wash my hands first, then I washed my face. I dried off.

The changes in tense here and elsewhere result from the desire to include examples of different tense forms.

deposui dormitoriam; accepi tunicam ad corpus;

I put away my sleeping clothes. I put my tunic on my body.

praecinxi me; unxi caput meum et pectinavi;

I put on my belt. I anointed my hair and combed it.

feci circa collum pallam; indui me superariam albam;

I put a cloak around my shoulders. I put on my white upper garment.

supra induo paenulam;

over it I put on my overcoat.

There is of course no suggestion that one went out wearing this much clothing; the author is trying to use all the main words for different types of garments.

processi de cubiculo cum paedagogo et cum nutrice salutare patrem et matrem;

I left my bedroom with my paedagogus and with my nurse to say good morning to my mother and father.

paedagogus: A child minder, usually and older and trusted male slave, charged with monitoring a youth's public behavior in the streets, at meals, etc., and escorting him to and from school.

ambos salutavi et osculatus sum; et sic descendi de domo.

I embraced and kissed them both. And thus I left the house.

Eo in scholam. introivi, dixi: Ave magister, et ipse me osculatus est, et resalutavit.

I go to school. I went in. I said: Greetings, teacher. And he greeted me in turn.

porrexit mihi puer meus scrinarius tabulas, thecam graphariam, praeductorium.

The slave who holds my book case gave me my writing tablet, my stylus box, and my ruler.

loco meo sedens deleo. praeduco ad praescriptum;

Sitting in my place, I smooth out the wax. I copy out the model sentence.

ut scripsi, ostendo magistro; emendavit, induxit;

After finishing I show it to my teacher. He corrected it, he marked it;

iubet me legere. iussus alio dedi.

he asks me to read it aloud. When asked to do so I gave the model sentence to another student.

I interpreted 15 as meaning 'Ordered/encouraged by another I surrendered/translated'; for 'alio' is ablative, unless it needs to be

amended to 'alii' normal non-Mediaeval Latin. (Brennus Legranus)

edisco interpretamenta, reddidi. sed statim dictavit mihi condiscipulus.

I learn translations by heart; I recited them from memory. But immediately a fellow student dictated a text to me.

Interpretamenta: I.e. model sentences and dialogues like these, and also bilingual word lists in Greek and Latin. (A.C. Dionisotti, JRS 72 [1982] 112).
Line 16 could be rendered 'I learn the interpretations (i.e. interlinear translations, Classical meaning, despite Dionisotti); I translate it back [into Latin]; but a schoolfellow has [already] recited it to me'. It seems that the system is to translate from the Latin, learn the translation, then translate back into Latin (not a system I favour, but quite frequent). Does this approach help with the tenses? (Brennus Legrannus).

Et tu, inquit, dicta mihi. dixi ei: Redde primo.

You too, dictate to me, he said. I said to him: First, you must recite from memory.

et dixit mihi: Non vidisti cum redderem prior te?

And he said to me: Didn’t you see when I was reciting from memory before you?

et dixi: Mentiris, non reddidisti. Non mentior.

You are lying, you did not recite. I am not lying.

Si verum dicis, dicto.

If you’re telling the truth, I will dictate to you.

inter haec iussu magistri surgunt pusilli ad subductum et syllabas praebuit eis unus de maioribus, alii ad subductorem ordine reddunt, nomina scribunt, versus scripserunt, et ego in prima classe dictatum excepi.

Meanwhile, at the request of the teacher, the smaller boys got up in two groups. One of the older boys gave one group of them syllables to spell; the others recited word lists in order to the assistant teacher. They print the words; they wrote lines of verse; and I, who am in the advanced class, was given a dictation exercise.

Deinde, ut sedimus, pertranseo commentaria, linguas, artem.

When we sat down I went through my word lists and my notes on grammar and style.

clamatus ad lectionem audio expositiones, sensus, personas.

Called up the head teacher to read aloud, I listened to his comments on narration, speech, and characterization.

interrogatus artificia respondi.

I was questioned about grammar, I gave my answers.

Ad quem, dixit. Quae pars orationis? declinavi genera nominum, partivi versum.

“To whom?” he said. “What part of speech?” I declined the different types of nouns, I analyzed a line of verse.

ut haec egimus, dimisit ad prandium.

When we had done these things, he let us out for lunch.

dimissus venio domi. muto, accipio candidum, olivas, caseum, caricas, nuces. bibo aquam frigidam. pransus revertor in scholam.

Having been let out, we go back home. I change, I take fresh bread, olives, cheese, dried figs, nuts. I drink cold water. After lunch I go back to school. I find the teacher rereading lessons. And he said: Begin from the beginning

invenio magistrum perlegentem, et dixit: Incipite ab initio.

I find the teacher rereading lessons. And he said: Begin from the beginning


  • A.C. Dionisotti, “From Ausonius’ Schooldays? A Schoolbook and Its Relatives,” Journal of Roman Studies 72 (1982), 83-125.
  • Kalle Korhonen, “On the Composition of the Hermeneumata Language Manuals,” Arctos 30 (1996), 101-119.
  • Rolando Ferri, “Il Latino dei Colloquia scholica,” in F. Bellandi and R. Ferri, eds., Aspetti della scuola nel mondo Romano (Amsterdam: Hakkert, 2008), 111-177.