Conquest of the Latin Games

William Fewox

Photo courtesy of Susan Brodersen

Some may have noticed that in lieu of Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, Jacksonville University’s campus was treated to a Roman Invasion.

What’s more, it would have been easy to see that all said invaders were between the ages of 11 and 18. JU hosted the North Florida Regional Latin Games this past weekend; a competition aimed at students in middle school and high school who are studying Latin and the cultures of Greece and the Roman Empire. The games, which were held on Feb. 4, were a day long event, consisting of Roman-themed costume contests, sporting events such as foot and chariot races, art contests, Latin exams and Jeopardy-style trivia.

It was considered an honor for JU this year, as it was the school’s very first time playing host to the games. A press release was written prior to the event by the university’s own Dr. Cheryl Sowder, an art history professor who acted as a Campus Coordinator for the days activities. At the end, the press release said, “Jacksonville University is proud to serve as the platform for this caliber of local educational achievement.”

Not only was hosting the games an honor in of itself, it also proved an opportunity for JU to recruit new students. Students and parents who had time to spare throughout the course of the day were treated to a tour of the campus.

“It was a chance to allow these high school students to receive college experience ahead of the game,” Sowder said.

The games started as most American events do, with the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course, given the nature of the games, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited entirely in Latin.

To further tie the games to their ancient inspirations, the modern calendar was suspended for the day; participants found themselves not in the year 2012, but 2765 ab urbe condita, temporarily revitalizing the same calendar used by the ancient Romans. The games themselves were very competitive, but never unfriendly; students from the competing schools came up with several creative projects outside the academic and athletic events such as monopoly-style board games, water color paintings, lamp shades, mosaics, home-made period costumes and house of cards styled as famous Roman monuments to showcase their understanding and mastery of the Latin language and the classical culture of ancient Greece and Rome.

“[The games] give students who study Latin a more hands-on experience through the projects showcased at the games,” Sowder said.

Some JU students, mainly those taking Sowder’s classes, served as guides during the day’s events, prepared to assist any of the participants or officials of the games who got lost over the course of the day. Some even assisted with the judging of the various costume and art projects. However, none were available for comment due to their involvement with the games.

“[I was] very pleased to see students from [my] Roman art classes at the events,” Sowder said.