By Charlotte Schofield
On April 3rd Dies Romanus II, or Roman Day II in ancient Latin, took the Fitchburg State campus by storm with the Legion III Cyrenaica living history group, students and alumni of the Latin program reading ancient poetry and even a grand feast hosted by Holmes Dining Hall to end the night. First organized and hosted by Professor Daniel Sarefield two years ago, Roman Day was important for him to get students excited to learn about ancient civilizations. “I wanted to take the experiences we were learning in courses like Ancient Greece and Rome and the advanced Latin class out onto campus,” said Sarefield, “this allows other students and faculty to witness what life may have been like during the Roman Empire.”
The day started strong with a presentation of Arms & Armor by the Legion III of Cyrenaica living history group, co-commanded by veteran reenactors Andy Volpe and Quinton Johansen, with replica swords, full body gear and the knowledge of a Roman citizen’s life. “As living historians, we portray the ancient Roman Legion as it may have appeared in the 1st Century outside of Alexandria Egypt.” the members having a combined sixty years of experience researching and reconstructing this Flavian-era civilization. Volpe and Johansen were able to show the eager onlookers the shining armor and chainmail popularly used by the Romans for several hundred years, talk about the advances in literature and even fashion with their stylish yet highly sophisticated gladiator sandals. When asked by a student “How could someone kill a Roman if they were so advanced for their time?”, the co-commanders laughed and stated, “You couldn’t kill a Roman with any old armor and fighting techniques, as their greatest weapon was psychological on the battle field.”
Students and alumni of Sarefield’s advanced Latin course led readings of the poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, an influential Latin poet of the Roman Republic whose surviving works were studied over the course of the semester in order to better understand the ancient language. Senior at FSU Christopher Cornford has been an avid lover of the ancient language, having taken Latin 1 through 4 with Professor Sarefield, and was excited to read his translated text of Catullus’s Carmen. “I love taking Latin because it allows us to look into the culture of a past civilization. I feel the most creative freedom we have as individuals is the way we communicate with others, through arts and mainly through language.”
With the support from groups such as the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Endowment, the History & Political Science Department faculty for their research, the Dining Services Staff at Holmes Dining Hall for preparing a wonderful Roman feast, Professor Daniel Sarefield and many more, Roman Day II was an event to remember on campus. Although the event is bi-annual, Sarefield and many students are excited for the next Dies Romanus, a celebration of Rome’s ancient history at Fitchburg State University.
To learn more about Legion III Cyrenaica check out their Facebook page @LegionIIICyr.