Text and Translation of the Latin Oration Delivered at Harvard

Delivered by Charlie Bridge (Class of 2011), a Classics Concentrator, at Harvard Commencement on May 27:

Rota Fortunae

Praeses Faust; Decani Professoresque sapientissimi; familiae, amici, et hospites honoratissimi; et tandem condiscipuli carissimi…salvete omnes!  Mihi voluptas magna atque honor altus est huius ceremoniae incipiendae in hoc theatro augusto Trecentensimo.  Nec solum conventum ultimum classis nostrae, anni duomillensimi et undecimi, sed etiam conventum trecentensimum et sexagensimum huius universitatis hodie celebramus. 

Hoc cum animadvertissem gaudebam, propter sensum singularem numeri trecenti et sexaginta.  Ne mihi quidem, litterarum antiquarum discipulo, latere potest orbem omnem in partes trecentas et sexaginta esse divisum.  Venit etiam in mentem orbis quidam praecipuus, qui vitas nostras hos quattuor annos rexit: Rota scilicet Fortunae Harvardiana.  Temporibus antiquis, rota signum erat levis mobilisque naturae fatorum – circuitus vel unus cladem felicissimis afferre atque miseros extollere potest.

Nos Harvardiani quoque mutationes fati permultas passi sumus.  Statim in anno primo repperimus custodem mensae Annenbergianae, Domnam, vel beneficium magnum vel iram inexpiabilem offerre posse, velut fortuna volebat (iram certe, si tesserarum nostrarum obliti eramus).  Prope anni illius finem, circuitus alius Rotae Fortunae decrevit domum ad quam delegati eramus.   Plurimi laetabantur, praesertim hi beatissimi qui in locum valde amoenum, Domum dico Dunsteriensem, sunt recepti.

Mox autem Rota Fortunae nos in ima desperationis saepe mersisse videbatur.  Horae somno deditae numerique nostri in Chimica Organica inferius inferiusque ceciderunt.  Universitas ipsa in malo rotae latere se invenit.  Sicut mercatus corruerunt, ita corruit dotatio nostra, olim amplissima, et nova aetas severitatis aderat.  Heu miserum indigne ientaculum calidum ademptum nobis!  Haud aliter aleatores in spectaculo illo televisifico “Rota Fortunae” subito “Perditi” fiunt.

Hoc tamen anno Rota in cursu secundo rursus volvit, atque fortunae nostrae meliores factae sunt.  Examinibus thesibusque perfectis, occupationibus (speremus!) inventis, et Yalensibus quater victis, advenimus ad tempus illud fortunatissimum – ver seniorum – et nunc hanc universitatem gratissimam deserere paramus.  Iter rotundum in Rota Fortunae Harvardiana confecimus, et hodie ubi incepimus, iterum pervenimus, eodem studio eademque materia infinita quae in congregationem primam in hoc ipso theatro attulimus.

Ne praetereamus tamen dictum Appi Claudi Caeci: “Faber est suae quisque fortunae.”  Etsi Fata impedimenta quaedam nobis coniecerunt, ea omnia superavimus adiutorio condiscipulorum familiarumque, doctrina professorum praeclarorum, et proprio labore constantiaque.  Rota Fortunae per summa Fati imaque unumquemque nostrum ferre continuabit, sed semper recordamini commutationes quas in vita nos ipsi faciemus nostro labore, et studio, et incitatione esse decernendas.  Progredimini igitur, collegae optimi, et efficite felicitatem vestram.

At nunc, amici, avete atque valete!


"Wheel of Fortune"

President Faust; wisest Deans and Professors; family, friends, and most honored guests; and finally, dearest classmates…welcome, all!  It is my great pleasure and high honor to begin the proceedings today in this venerable Tercentenary Theatre.  Not only do we celebrate today the final gathering of our class, of the year 2011, but also the 360th Commencement of this university.

I was glad when I noticed this, because of the unique significance of the number 360.  Not even I, a student of classical literature, could be unaware that a circle is divided into 360 parts.  I have in mind a very special kind of circle, which has guided our four years here: the Harvardian Wheel of Fortune.  In antiquity, the wheel was a symbol of the capricious and cyclical nature of the fates – a single spin could bring disaster upon the most fortunate and uplift the luckless.

As Harvardians, we too have endured the twists and turns of fate.  We discovered rather quickly in our first year that Domna, the guardian of Annenberg Hall, could bestow either great kindness or implacable wrath, according to fortune’s whim (certainly wrath, if we had forgotten our ID cards).  Near the end of that year, another spin of the wheel of fortune determined the house to which we had been assigned.  Most were elated, above all those blessed few who were welcomed into that most wonderful of places, Dunster House.

Soon, however, it often seemed that the Wheel of Fortune had plunged us into the depths of despair.  Our nightly hours of sleep and our grades in Orgo plummeted lower than ever.  Our fair university also found itself on the wrong side of the wheel.  Just as the markets collapsed, so did our endowment, once so mighty, and a new age of austerity was at hand.  Alas, poor hot breakfast, undeservingly wrenched away from us!  In just the same way, contestants on the “Wheel of Fortune” game show suddenly become “bankrupt.”

This year, however, the Wheel has continued to roll on its circular course, and our fortunes have taken a turn for the better once again.  With exams and theses completed, jobs (hopefully) found, and the Yalies vanquished for a fourth time, we have reached that most fortunate of times – senior spring – and now prepare to leave this dear university.  We have finished our cyclical journey on the Harvardian Wheel of Fortune, and we arrive today exactly where we began, with the same excitement and limitless potential that we brought to our first freshman gathering in this very location.

Let us not pass over, however, the axiom of Appius Claudius the Blind: “Each man is the artisan of his own fortune.”  While the fates have thrown some obstacles in our way, we have overcome them with the support of classmatesand family, with the wise instruction of our peerless faculty, and with our own hard work and persistence.  The Wheel of Fortune will continue to carry each one of us through the highs and lows of fate, but always remember that the changes we will make in the world will be determined by our hard work, our energy, and our passion.  Go forth, noble classmates, and make your own good fortune.

And now, friends, goodbye and farewell!

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The SCS Board is delighted to announce a new prize, which will be awarded for the first time in 2020. The Gruen Prize honors Erich S. Gruen, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.  It will be an essay prize for the best graduate student research on multiculturalism in the ancient Mediterranean, and submissions about any aspect of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange will be considered. 
View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 12/31/2019 - 11:04am by Helen Cullyer.

The SCS is pleased to announce the appointment of Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics. A detailed call for papers will be issued in early 2020, and a timetable for submissions will be provided. This themed issue is likely to appear as TAPA 153:1 in spring 2023.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Sun, 12/29/2019 - 7:32pm by Helen Cullyer.

SCS is pleased to be able to offer professional learning units (PLUs) to K-12 teachers in the District of Columbia who attend the AIA-SCS Annual Meeting from January 2-5 at the Marriott Marquis, Washington DC. Forms for PLUs will be available at the SCS booth in the exhibit hall.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sun, 12/29/2019 - 7:12pm by Helen Cullyer.

It might seem that Plato and Xenophon have little in common with heavy metal bands; however, they do share an admiration for those warlords of Laconia: the Spartans. In a word, each expressed a degree of laconophilia. What drew ancient philosophers and heavy metal bands alike to Sparta may be a feeling of disenchantment with their respective mainstreams. Socrates’ pupils were no doubt disillusioned with Athenian democracy following his execution in 399 BCE, and the Spartan alternative arguably inspired in Plato’s Republic and Xenophon’s Constitution of the Spartans was a type of escapist fantasy.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 12/27/2019 - 5:55am by Jeremy J. Swist.

The SCS Board is delighted to announce a new prize, which will be awarded for the first time in 2020. The Gruen Prize honors Erich S. Gruen, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.  It will be an essay prize for the best graduate student research on multiculturalism in the ancient Mediterranean, and submissions about any aspect of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange will be considered. 

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 12/23/2019 - 9:53am by Helen Cullyer.

The 2020 Annual Meeting is less than two weeks away.  Registration numbers continue to be strong, but we are still lagging behind with the reservations at the Renaissance hotel.  We understand that some attendees will opt to stay with local friends or find a less-expensive accommodation, but we rely on hotel reservations to secure the meeting space each year.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sat, 12/21/2019 - 7:03am by Helen Cullyer.

In November of 1897, a review of an English poetry collection titled The Flower of  the Mind was published in literary journal The Academy. In his review of Alice Meynell’s anthology of the great English poems, publisher Grant Richards ruminated on the difficulties, worth, and effects of anthologies as a genre:

Anthologies, these latter years, come thick as Vallombrosa…For the making of an anthology is not merely the prettiest of literary amusements, it is also a delicate and fine mode of criticism. To select is to judge; tacitly, but no less deliberately. Admission or exclusion becomes the last word of a patient investigation, in the course of which, tests for genius are devised, and many an established reputation fails to sustain the ordeal. A history of anthologies would be a curious chronicle of the slow but inevitable determination of greatness.

The invention of literary anthologies, canonical readings, and sourcebooks goes back to antiquity and debates over their construction are perhaps just as archaic. Within the history of western education, the genre is a result of ancient and then medieval teachers and religious figures who privileged the teaching of texts from Homer, Virgil, or Augustine for generations.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 12/20/2019 - 8:12am by Sarah E. Bond.

Special tours for AIA / SCS: January 2, 2020, 3:00-5:00 pm
Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt and Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum
701 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Woven Interiors (closing on Jan. 5), co-organized by The Textile Museum and Dumbarton Oaks, presents 45 exceptional interior textiles from the villas, palaces, churches, mosques, and humble homes of late antique and early medieval Egypt (300–1000). Join us for curator-led tours of the exhibition and for a preview of The Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center. Tours will rotate throughout the 2 hour period, so we hope you can join us as your schedules permit. Museum/tour admission free with conference badge or proof of AIA/SCS membership.

The GWUM-TM is located just 1.4 miles from the Marriott Marquis. In addition to walking or taking a taxi/Uber, visitors can use the Metro: from the Mt. Vernon Sq. Station, take the Yellow/Green Metro toward Branch Ave./Huntington, exit at the third stop at L’Enfant Plaza; transfer to Blue/Orange/Silver toward Franconia/Springfield/Vienna/Wiehle-Reston, and exit at the sixth stop at Foggy Bottom-GWU stop; the Museum is just 0.4 miles walk, two blocks east and one block south between H and G Sts. on 21st St. NW. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 12/19/2019 - 12:06pm by Erik Shell.

Latin Lexicography Summer School: 20–24 July, 2020

          The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Institute invites applications for its annual Latin Lexicography Summer School, which will take place in Munich from July 20 to 24, 2020. We welcome participation by researchers at any stage in their career whose work engages rigorously and critically with Latin vocabulary, whether in specific texts or across the entire corpus of ancient Latin. In addition to philology, relevant disciplines include intellectual history, epigraphy, linguistics, literary and textual criticism, medieval and Renaissance studies, philosophy, and theology. This year Prof. Wolfgang de Melo will be present as the scholar in residence.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/18/2019 - 2:38pm by Erik Shell.

The Fourteenth International Conference of the Taiwan Association of Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies (TACMRS)

23-24 October 2020
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Call for Papers

Food: Sacrificial, Spiritual, and Secular

Food, whether secular or spiritual, physical or metaphysical, human or nonhuman, has been an important issue throughout the history of this planet. Human history is a long story of appetitive contest with nature and the environment, while consumption is an empowering practice that involves struggle and sacrifice. The matter of food may illuminate or complicate histories of labor, leisure, science, production, ethical considerations, religious discourse and practices, and environmental concerns.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 12/18/2019 - 8:55am by Erik Shell.

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