I tell all my students about the importance of world travel if they wish to be truly educated. Education is far more than mere memory of facts. Education evolves feeling and sensing. While I am preparing to go back to Scotland soon and Burma for the first time at the end of the year, I was thinking about all the places that I had been...starting with Scotland nearly a half century ago.
On our last trip, my wife and I went to Ephesus to see the world famous ruins of a great city from Roman times. I'd been there 25-years ago and was amazed that only 20% of the ruins have been excavated leaving 80% to further amaze some people in the future. We had a private guide who lived near the ancient city. He took us to upper and lower Ephesus. We saw the building that was one governmental headquarters. We saw a two-story library and saw the actual amphitheater, which could hold 24,000 Roman citizens or about the same number of Turks who watched Elton John two millennia later.
I know a lot about Roman acoustics, stages, and marble décor of their amphitheaters. However, having taught history in general and also art history for years, I learned something in Ephesus that I didn't know. I merely called the means to enter and exit a theater passageways. This is a picture of a passageway or tunnel in a Roman coliseum, which is a very intricate linking system.
I understood the architectural design and how the flow of people was managed. Nevertheless, I never knew the name for these tunnel entrances and exits into the theaters or coliseums until my recent trip to Ephesus. The guide informed me about the Roman term. It should be mentioned that I had taken two years of Latin while in high school a half century ago. Nevertheless, those two years of Latin did not provide all the necessary vocabulary for this trip. It was obvious that I hadn't been taught enough in Mrs. Haynes' class.
In addition, I didn't learn the Latin name for passageway or tunnel while in class in college, graduate school, and post-graduate school. In fact, I didn't learn the Latin name in the 15-years of my teaching at the university level. There in Ephesus, I learned that the term for passageways came from the root Latin word vomitāre, which is the infinitive in Latin to vomit. Therefore, these passageways were designed to vomit people into and out of the theaters and coliseums. While I am 70-years old, I would have recalled that term readily over the past half century.
While my reader might miss the academic meaning of this issue of vomitāre, you must know that I am not the average professor, and I don't teach in an average way. I love words, events, and strange stories that provide or enable my students to learn and retain what they learn far beyond the day that they take a test in my class. If I am going to spend the time during a lecture discussing something, I want and expect them to remember the information when they enter the real world. Learning allows the student to more fully appreciate and understand the world in which he or she is living.
For example, Justinian, who was the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire for almost four decades from 527–565. Here is a mosaic of Justinian.
He was being pressured by his imperial aides to get married. They presented him with suggestions of marital partners...all of whom he rejected. He was the emperor after all. Now, most people familiar with that time period know this.
What most don't know is that Justinian picked his own bride to be. Her name was Theodora. There is a mosaic of Theodora.
She worked in Constantinople (today Istanbul) in an Eastern Empire circus. Now, most students will hear that information and, as they say, it will go in one ear and out the other...in some cases prior to a test. It isn't enough to get students to remember and retain important things. However, they need to know what is important. And if you teach important data, they will remember. However, the professor must remember what the term, circus, meant during Justinian's time. The circus back then included many activities not normally associated with our understanding of a circus. Circuses had houses of ill repute, brothels, bordellos, or whorehouses. Theodora was one of the best known of all the hookers in Constantinople.
Having said that, there is more to the story. Theodora was as good at thinking about the political world of the 6th century as she was in a brothel business. When some external warring group wanted to capture Constantinople, Justinian wanted to leave town and avoid the onslaught of the invading army. However, Theodora was not only brave but militarily brilliant. She told Justinian to stay and fight. Essentially, Theodore was telling her husband and emperor to man-up. Justinian did as Theodora suggested (okay, commanded) and won the battle to save Constantinople. Years later, when Justinian dies, Theodora continued as empress.
Back to Ephesus, which was a part of Justinian's Eastern Empire during his reign, the entrance and exits of the amphitheaters derived from the Latin... vomitāre meaning to vomit people into and out of the theater. Now, a question for you, how many of my student from now on will remember the Latin infinitive to vomit?
Finally, I assure you that the next time that you go to a football or baseball game and go through a passageway to your seat; you would remember the Latin term to get people into and out of their seats in ancient times. You also will remember Theodora, the hooker, and how she saved Constantinople and her husband's reign over the Eastern Empire.