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Eighth-grade Latin students at Spotsylvania Middle School are gearing up for another season of certamen, a trivia game about the Latin language and Roman culture.
Date published: 11/27/2002
QUOT SUNT duo et septem? What was the duty of the pontifex maximus in Rome? Who was the third Julio-Claudian emperor?
Don't know? Some students at Spotsylvania Middle School could tell you the answers. These questions are typical of those posed to some dedicated eighth-grade Latin students during after-school certamen practices.
Latin students have been playing certamen (pronounced care-tah-men), a team trivia game about the Latin language and Roman culture, for years, and Spotsylvania Middle School has recently become a force to be reckoned with among level-one teams.
"It was a status thing, " said David Winn, who teaches Latin at Spotsylvania Middle School and coaches the certamen team.
Private schools were always winning competitions, and "we were tired of being laughed at when other people came and took the trophies," he added.
Spotsylvania Middle School rose to the challenge to take first place in the state in 2000, second place in 2001 and third place in 2002.
Interested students meet after school one day a week to bone up on information that ranges from Latin grammar to Roman history to classical mythology.
The students use their knowledge in certamen tournaments held at schools around Virginia that culminate in the state finals at the University of Virginia in the spring.
Winn said he had more interest this year than ever before. He started with 32 students, and about 22 still attend practice regularly.
"They're great kids," Winn said. "They're really enthusiastic, and they love it."
Practices take place every Friday afternoon after school. They begin with a quiz, followed by an explanation of new material.
The practices end with a game of certamen, during which Winn follows the usual format of asking a toss-up question for all teams and then a bonus question for the team that correctly answers the toss-up.
"Kids love competition," Winn said. "A review game that involves competition is much more successful than standing up and blurting out terms."
The team's first competition of the school year will take place next month.
Winn will hold a tryout practice before the first competition to finalize the teams that will compete, he said.