Also, check out this mini-comic made just for the holiday Fontinālia, which is today by the way. It was a holiday in honor of the god Fons, whose name literally means fountain. The site of Rome had many springs to provide running water, but the Roman system of aqueducts and the many fountains it supplied took it to the next level. On this day, according to Varro, the Romans would toss garlands into fountains and wrap them around wells. In the mini-comic below, Secunda does her part to honor this revered god.
Exploring Secunda, Part II: The Story
Secunda the series is not so much one story, as many different stories. To be sure, we will always be following Secunda or Secunda Altera around, but every issue will have its own, self-contained story, and there is no over-arching plot connecting the issues. The only exception would be two-part stories which span two consecutive issues.
In each issue, you can expect a complete story with ups and downs and a satisfying resolution. Sometimes we will spend a whole issue with Secunda in the real world, sometimes an entire issue will be one of Secunda Altera’s many exploits. Other times we will bounce back and forth between reality and Secunda’s imagination. Still other times we will be told a story by one of the character and see it play out visually. Amid all the variety of tales told in the Secunda comics, one thing is certain: every issue will bring new and exciting stories told in fresh and compelling ways.
So we know how the stories are told, but what sort of material will be covered? Well, put simply, Secunda’s material focuses on the Myth and History of Rome, Greece, the Mediterranean at large, and plenty of other ancient lands and peoples. Think of Secunda as a romp through the ancient world with a focus on Classical antiquity and in particular Rome. As you read on to the issue summaries below, you will get a good sense of the breadth of the Secunda series.
It is important to note that, while much of Secunda is about our heroine’s imagination, it is very firmly rooted in historical 2nd century CE Rome. Often times, the historical details float around in the background, not having much effect on the story. Other times, the story itself is all about the historical details. The great thing is, each issue has a commentary which illuminates the historical and cultural content!
The Issue Summaries:
The first five issues of Secunda give a good taste of the range of themes and content you can expect from the series as a whole. Let’s take a look at each issue.
Issue I: Secunda’s Day Off
The first issue of Secunda really sets the tone
of the series as well as the “mechanics” of the series. By mechanics, I mean primarily the role imagination plays within the issues. In the latter half of this issue, Secunda’s imagination really comes to life, and we alternate between Secunda in the real world and Secunda Altera in the imaginary world. Every-day inconveniences become treacherous obstacles as our heroine pursues her goal.
Issue I starts out with Secunda fast asleep only to be awoken by her nanny Afra. It’s time for school. Reluctantly she rises and, gathering her homework, she heads off to class. Things get complicated, however, when a pesky dog takes an interest in her homework. Will she be able to rescue her homework from all manner of absurd circumstances?
Eventually she makes her way to class, where she struggles to stay awake while her teacher goes over some history lessons. A merchant selling toys just down the street catches Secunda’s attention. She enviously eyes a doll that is for sale, but, alas, she is stuck in class. After a quick nap and a rude awakening by teacher, Secunda finds the courage to go after the doll. Will she be able to escape class? Will she safely traverse the many obstacles of a busy Roman street? Will she acquire the doll she wants so dearly? Check out issue I to find out!
Issue II: Afra’s Tale
In issue II, Secunda is playing with her doll when she learns that Afra once had a very special doll of her own. Secunda’s curiosity is peaked and she demands Afra tell her about this mysterious doll of hers. Turns out the doll Afra is referring to is a very ancient figurine that has been passed down from generation to generation. Afra tells Secunda the story of this doll and its journey from one generation to the next, simultaneously telling the story of her ancestors and their travels north through Africa.
Beginning in the murky mythical past and slowly moving to historical times, Secunda and readers join Afra’s ancestors for many trials and tribulations as they seek a home and are ultimately enslaved by the Romans. Along the way, we observe how objects can take on a living history of their own, how cultures change and mix over time and space, and we get a thoughtful glimpse into Roman slavery.
Issue III: The Kids’ Table
Normally, we are told, wealthy Roman children would sit on chairs while their parents reclined on triclinia (dining couches for three); not so at the dinner party in issue III: these hosts have had special mini-triclinia made just for the kids! How cute! But it is the children’s conversation that interests us, not the couches. Quite bafflingly, one of the children—a girl named Olisipoea from Lusitania—does not know who Theseus is! The children begin telling the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but there’s a bit of confusion regarding some of the details, especially the conclusion to the tale that Secunda proposes…
In this issue, we explore not only the variations that can exist within a myth, but the variety of interpretations that exist for the myth. What’s more, thanks to Secunda’s wild imagination, we learn the living and personal nature of myths within a given culture. Like issue II, much of this issue is spent seeing the story unfold as the children tell it, periodically interrupted by debate or slaves delivering further courses.
Issues IV & V: Of Fire and Stone, Parts I & II
Issues IV and V comprise a two-part story. In a Scooby-Doo-like mystery adventure, we join Secunda Altera as she attempts to uncover the truth behind a series of child abductions on a lonely island in the middle of the Aegean. Perpetrated by what witnesses call a “creature of fire and stone” (Secunda Altera recons its a nymph or daemon of some sort…), the abductions began after a violent volcanic eruption at the center of the island. Secunda Altera, tossed to sea by a group of pirates, happens to wash up on the shore of this troubled island. Mistaken at first for a heroine sent by Athens to save them, Secunda Altera takes it upon herself to save the islanders and bring back their children.
Based not on any myth or historical event, the story told in issues IV & V represents the farthest astray from the historical that the Secunda comics series goes. Being the imaginings of Secunda, the tale is still couched in Classical lore and fits comfortably into that world. The greatest lesson these last two issues teach us is that we can have fun with the myths and histories of the Classical world. Ultimately, that is what the Secunda comics are all about: fun! Fun with Classics! Fun with bringing the ancient world to life! And most importantly: Fun with Latin!
What’s to Come:
Come back tomorrow for Exploring Secunda, Part III: A Latin Reader with a Modern Twist, where we will explore the many features of Secunda that make it a Latin learning tool like no other! Also, we will have another full page up, as well as more art, and perhaps even a video too!