Well, that was quick.
Brian Beyer received his MAT from Rutgers Classics in winter 2007. And in fall 2008 Yale University Press will publish his master’s thesis, an edition of Book III of Eutropius’s Breviarium of Roman history, aimed at the introductory Latin student.
Beyer’s work aims to solve an age-old problem in Latin pedagogy, namely, to supply the beginning Latin student with his/her first “real” Latin text after a semester and a half or a year’s introductory work on forms and grammar.
To address this issue, Beyer has pressed into service Eutropius, a fourth century AD summarizer of Roman history. In just ten books, Eutropius’ Breviarium historiae Romanae somehow manages to cover the story of Rome in a clear and accessible style from Romulus and Remus to the accession of the emperor Valens in AD 361.
Book III of the Breviarium covers the period of Roman history that students often find most interesting—the Second Punic War. In Beyer’s edition of this book—entitled War with Hannibal: Authentic Latin Prose for the Beginning Student—Eutropius’s narrative is presented with no adaptations or omissions past the (digressive) first sentence.
“Eutropius writes in good, standard classical Latin,”, points out UNC-Charlotte’s Dale Grote in the Preface to Beyer’s work, “so we don’t have to undo what we taught our students. His style is lucid and simple, without being insultingly juvenile. It challenges the emerging Latin students without annihilating their confidence, as Cicero does more often than not. Beyer supplements the readings with generous notes, which deftly point out the way without eliminating the little bit of pain that’s necessary to leave students a sense of accomplishment when they’ve worked things out.”
Brian Beyer’s first degree was in English, from Rutgers College. There he was a witness to history. “While an undergrad I took courses with [RU Classics professors] Palmer Bovie during his last semester at Rutgers, and Lowell Edmunds during his first.” T. Corey Brennan advised the MAT thesis.
Beyer currently teaches Latin in central New Jersey at Montgomery High School (“where we have over 120 incoming Latin students next year!”). Previously he taught Latin at Princeton High School, as part of the New Jersey Department of Education’s World Languages Model Program. He also taught English at Birmingham High School in Los Angeles in the Humanitas program.
While earning his MAT in Latin in the RU Classics department, Brian Beyer played an invaluable role as the Interlibrary Loan borrowing coordinator for Rutgers University Libraries. He lives in Highland Park NJ with his wife and three children.
But wait, there’s more.
A question about using the Breviarium as a school text. Why didn’t someone think of this before? Well, they did. In the history of modern European education, Eutropius long held prime position as a Latin student’s first brush with a “real” author.
“The Breviarium“, explains Beyer, “enjoyed a publication history from the eighteenth through the early twentieth century comparable to or greater than almost any other Latin text read in schools. In 1902, for example, there were no fewer than fourteen different editions of the Breviarium in print in the United States and Britain.”
“Furthermore,” he continues, “a number of editions of Eutropius enjoyed continuous reprints throughout the first half of the twentieth century. It was not until the late 1950s (a time when there was a new emphasis on introducing increasingly adult-age Latin students to Cicero and similar writers as soon as possible) that the last school edition of the Breviarium finally went out of print.”
So what are the particular strengths of Beyer’s edition, over and above the quite inspired decision to adopt Eutropius as a text? The careful and conscientious exploitation of the (many) early editions to arrive at a definitive commentary on Eutropius III; the interface with currently standard Latin textbooks and commentaries; the expert addition of macra to show quantities of each and every word in the text (harder than it sounds, since even the ultimate reference sources are divided on select problems); the wholly original vocabulary list with expert definitions of crucial words; useful maps and relevant illustrations—the list goes on.