“Δίδομαι, δίδοσαι, δίδοται, δί… uh… διδόμετα…”
“Διδόμεθα, Hannibal. That’s a theta, not a tau.”
Hannibal sighed. “Sosylos… can’t we carry on with the Anabasis?”
“The Anabasis? You think I’ll let you near Xenophon when you can’t conjugate δίδωμι?”
“But is that important? People’ll understand me. You understand me.”
“It’s not about being understood somehow. Even a peddler in the market can be understood somehow. I wouldn’t have to be here if it was just about that. It’s the details. Today, you learn to conjugate δίδωμι. You’ll learn to distinguish between tau and theta. Next year, we’ll read Plato. You’ll learn to distinguish between fine points of right and wrong, and one view and another. You father is chasing you around the fields to exercise your body. This is just as important. I’m chasing you round the Greek verbs to exercise your mind. You’re going to need both.”
“But why Greek? Can’t I exercise my mind with Punic?”
“No. Because, no offence, Punic is a language for peddlers. Your esteemed father saw that and gave me the task of getting some culture into your head. Now, again. Δίδομαι, δίδοσαι, δίδοται…”
We know next to nothing about Hannibal’s youth, save for one thing that I, personally, find very touching: He learned Greek, from a Spartan tutor called Sosylos who later followed him on his campaigns as a historian. When I did my Graecum at University and struggled with the Greek conjugations, especially δίδωμι, I often wondered whether there were any words Hannibal hated, too. I always thought it was funny that I understand not one but two languages, Greek and Latin, that Hannibal also spoke.
And of course, if you’re a Latin teacher, you’re so used to fifteen-year-olds with thin arms and legs and huge feet slouched on chairs in deep concentration, while still questioning every task you make them do.
Sosylos is ever so slightly based on the professor I learnt Greek from. Obviously. I barely refrained from putting him in a blue pullunder.
Quick sketch with a bit of watercolour.