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Wisconsin Latin Convention

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“Veni vidi vici,” “Et tu, Brute,” and “Salve” are all phrases that were heard at this year’s Wisconsin Junior Classical League state convention in Madison. If you are even passingly familiar with Latin, you might know what some of these phrases mean.

But to say that this matters at all to any of the over 500 Latin scholars-in-making present is to deceive you. In reality, while the focus of the convention seemed to be academic, once the last scantron sheet was put down, these students were ready to fulfill their Roman idols’ partying antics to the max.

The convention is designed to be a meeting of Latin students from all over the state. The typical bigtime schools were there – Brookfield Academy, Homestead, Madison West, etc.- each fielding the maximum of 65 students . Smaller-name schools were present too, plus a homeschool group. This makes a total of 14 schools groups, adding to approximately 550 students. Unlike some other schools, West had only three delegates. The odds of winning in the contests were almost as daunting as those the Greeks faced at Thermopylae.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t tests. Four or five hours of testing made it clear that the convention wasn’t supposed to be all about fun and games. These tests were tough–they tested students on their knowledge of the rudiments of the Greek alphabet, a few things about roots in Latin, and whether or not it really was Brutus that stabbed Caesar in 44 B.C.

There was also the certamen, Latin for “contest,” a game that most closely resembles Family Feud: three teams of four players sit down at one table and fend off questions about Latin grammar, myth, and history more furiously than a Roman bestiarius faced with a ferocious lion in the coliseum. Having personally competed in the certamen, I can say that the competition was indeed no less intense than if the imperatorhimself was presiding over the games. “I’ve always enjoyed certamen, said Mitchell, a senior at Brookfield East, “whether [I] win or lose.” This seems to be the majority opinion, though there were a few who seemed to care mostly about victory.

The convention also includes an impromptu art contest, where students hope to mimic the ancient artistic prowess of the Roman greats through the mediums of unlimited cardboard, glitter and duct tape. Even more creative is the war machine contest. In this, the students build various Roman-imitation artillery pieces to fling projectiles the farthest distance they can. About this, Brookfield East’s war machine team was all laughs. “I think that our team should have definitely prepared farther ahead of time,” says Connor of Brookfield East, “[but] we didn’t get disqualified like some others.”

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To top it off, the hosts held a Roman-themed banquet, complete with bedsheet togas. Afterwards, the participants headed to a dance, showing their normal, high school side. This was the part that many students liked the best. Following that theme, DSHA senior Hallah Ahmad said that her favorite part of the convention was, “All the different schools coming together, and the students getting to meet each other.”

Ultimately, the convention was a lot of fun. Going to the award ceremony, and seeing one of the WJCL officials get a pie in the face was pretty fun. Fates willing, next year West will beat Brookfield Academy and Homestead in all the contests.

Valete, and may Olympus favor you!

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