Scansion – Simplified

Traditional Scansion is a silly practice, especially in how it’s notated…the info is already there!!! So before you think I’m nuts, how many possibilities are there in terms of quantity? Two (long and short).

WHY NOTATE BOTH!?!?!?!…………..(if not long, it’s SHORT!)

(see the demonstration video here)

As it turns out, we already have a system of notating long vowels, which gives us most of the long syllables anyway:

  • lūdī magistrī māne nocte pīstōrēs

“What about the other syllables,” you ask?  Now check this out, by underlining syllables long-by-position, we get the exact info provided by traditional Scansion, you won’t confuse syllable length with vowel length, AND you don’t have to print-off double-spaced text from just to scan above the words:

  • lūdī magistrī māne nocte pīstōrēs

Oh, and have you ever heard something like “Yeah, but don’t worry about the Caesura?”  Silly.  The Caesura breaks-up verse into manageable chunks – just the sort of practice that Educational Psychology encourages, in terms of cognitive processes.  Here’s the Caesura in action with our Scazon (Choliambic) verse from Martial:

  • lūdī magistrī //māne nocte pīstōrēs
    – Note that even with the possible substitutions in the first section, we are granted a respite, then return to a sort of home row (old typing term) and start over at the second half.

But wait, there’s more…simply pronounce the Latin with normal accentuation (penult if long, else antepenult) and you have the rhythm right there.  Scansion, verse, done.

Suggested new practices from “Day 1” of Latin:

  • Mark long vowels only
  • Underline long-by-position often (during sentence diagramming or other analytical activities)

Once you begin reading poetry:

  • USE the caesura


  • Emphasizes accentuation (thus, encouraging more attention to pronunciation)
  • Distinguishes vowel and syllable length (the double-consonant rule does NOT lengthen vowel, rather the syllable)
  • Establishes a solid foundation (instead of teaching quantity, accent, rhythm, and THEN the actual text at once)


  • This quote from an Appendix in Oxford’s reader best sums it up “If you have learnt to pronounce Latin correctly, you may be able to do this straight off and feel the rhythms for yourself”
  • One of the best cases for using macrons I’ve seen/heard yet
  • Follows Backwards Design concept (don’t fool yourself and treat Latin as though quantity and pronunciation doesn’t matter until year three or four – that’s just silly.  Rather, look at the end goal and objective and give students what they need to achieve beforehand.  Imagine beginning to read poetry without the need to think about quantity!).

3 thoughts on “Scansion – Simplified

  1. Pingback: Rhythmic Fluency | Magister P.

  2. Pingback: Rhythmic Fluency and Latin Poetry

  3. Pingback:—My New Vice | Magister P.

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