Parts of the Body (April 2018)

Partēs Corporis!

Inside this issue: a conversational Latin monster-guessing game, anatomical votive offerings, the doctor Galen, medical terms with fascinating origins, and more!

Email us to suggest a topic for a future issue! 


Bonus Feature: Classic Ascanius Body Parts Teaching Materials!
Body Parts terms have been a favorite topic for Ascanius for quite some time. We were excited to develop the new activities for this issue, but we couldn’t resist sharing these two “oldies-but-goodies” as well!  Enjoy!

A. “Joe Body Parts”

Materials:Joe Body Parts

  • “Joe Body Parts” Materials:

    • “Joe Body Parts” large copy (Print in color on cardstock and cut out each shape.)
    • “Joe Body Parts” student handout (One copy per student)
    • “Joe Body Parts” answer key
  • gum adhesive (“sticky tak”)
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • white paper


  1. Hand out each of the large pieces of Joe Body Parts, along with a small piece of gum adhesive or tape, to the students so that each student has at least one body part. Invite one student at a time to the board to piece the body together. It may be helpful to begin with the students who have the larger pieces (caput and pectus) and then build the body off of those pieces. Help the students figure out where each body part belongs in the diagram. As each body piece is placed on the board, pronounce the Latin word out loud and have the students repeat it.
  2. When Joe Body Parts has been assembled on the board, give the students scissors and the “Joe Body Parts” student handout. Instruct them to cut out the individual pieces of Joe Body Parts and assemble him using the diagram on the board as an example. When the students have correctly assembled him, provide them with the white paper and glue sticks and instruct them to glue the pieces down on the paper.

*The activity “Joe Body Parts” is adapted from a similar activity presented by Susan Senechal.

B. Card Game: Body Parts Terms

Play Concentration, Go-Fish, or Old Maid with this Body Parts Terms card game.  It has been used since some of our earliest LatinSummer programs and is ready for you to print, cut, and play!


Main Feature: Two New Lesson Plans
Each issue will feature two lesson or activity ideas: one related to the Latin language, and one related to Classical Studies (Greek or Roman culture, mythology, or history).

1. LATIN LESSON I:  Create-a-Monster Game

Introduction: In this lesson, students will create monsters and then describe them in Latin to partners, who will try to draw them based on the description.

Objectives: Students will be able to describe a monster in Latin, using terms for basic parts of the body.


  • Plain paper
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Copies of Meum Monstrum (a guide for describing the monster in Latin)

Special Concerns: Classes with more Latin experience can have a more challenging conversational experience. Ask students to use different colors for different parts or to include greater numbers of parts. 


  1. Give each student a piece of plain paper and instruct the class to invent their own monsters by drawing them on paper. Let them know that afterwards they will describe their monster to a partner, who will have to try to draw the monster.
  2. Students find partners from across the room and keep their pictures hidden from view by using a folder or binder. The students describe the monsters to each other in Latin, using the guide if needed. The partner attempts to draw the monster based on the description.
  3. Students show each other their drawings. It is fun to see how accurate the drawings are!

2. CULTURE LESSON: Anatomical Votive Offeringsmanus

Introduction: In this lesson, students will read about ancient Roman anatomical votive offerings. They will
then try their hand at creating some clay models of their own.

Objectives: Students will be able to explain the purposes behind anatomical votive offerings. They will leave with an increased understanding that every ancient artifact has a story.



  1. Hook students’ interest by showing them the three photos in the Introduction Slides. Don’t tell the students what the models are. Instead, let them react to the photos and make some guesses about the purpose.
  2. Next, explain that the parts were anatomical votive offerings and have the class do one of the readings to learn more. 
  3. After the reading, students will pretend to be craftsmen. Each student will make an anatomical votive offering. We suggest that students be instructed to choose from a list such as the one below:
    • Eyes, nose, mouth, ears, head, arm, hand, fingers, heart, stomach, intestines, leg, foot, and toes
  4. In addition to molding the part, they should invent a story for the person requesting the votive: Why did the person want to make an offering using that particular body part? Was it for a physical ailment, or was it for something more symbolic? In the end, what happened? Did the person get better, or did the ailment continue? What happened next? Students should write this information on an index card.
  5. After all the parts are finished, put them all in a “pit” (the box). Now, the class will imagine the purpose behind each clay votive. The teacher should take one clay body part out and show it to the class. One or two students can share guesses as to the purpose behind it. Finally, the student who crafted that item can share the “real” story he or she created.
  6. Hold a discussion to close the activity. The goal is for students to leave class with a greater appreciation for the “less exciting” artifacts of antiquity. In a museum, it can be easy to focus most of our attention on the big, famous items while hurrying past display cases full of the smaller, mundane items of daily life. They may not look like much, but each item has a story of its own in the life of a real person. We will never know their stories, but we can imagine what they might have been. Here are some suggested questions for discussion:
    • What do these votive offerings tell us about the ancient Romans? What do they leave us wondering?
    • Is it important for scholars to study these kinds of artifacts? Why or why not?
    • Pretend that a civilization thousands of years from now is trying to learn what daily life was like in the United States in the early 21st century. What kinds of everyday items in our modern world would provide some information about our society but would also bring about some questions? (Imagine that very little writing about the items has survived, as is the case with the votive offerings.)


Online Resource:
Each issue will feature a new or popular online resource that could prove useful for Latin and Classical Studies instruction. We aim to stay current so that you can wow your students with how “with-it” you are when it comes to technology!

Arnold’s Glossary of Anatomy

This glossary from The University of Sydney provides the Latin and Greek origins of hundreds of anatomical terms. Send students on a hunt for the origins of specific terms, or simply let them browse the glossary and discover meanings they find interesting. Either way, it’s great for students to see what a huge number of anatomical terms are derived from Latin and Greek!


Featured Word: “Corpus” and Medical Terms Galore!
Each issue will feature a challenging English word that we encourage you and your students to explore together. The English word will always come from one or more Latin words. 

Corpus is the Latin word for body and is also used unchanged in English metaphorically for “a body of work.”  English gets many great words from “corpus” such as “corps” (a body of people as in the Marine corps); “corpse” (a dead body); corporeal (having a body as opposed to being spirit); and “corpulent” (having a large body).  The Latin legal phrase “habeas corpus” (may you have the body) is the right for a person not to be detained by the police unless he or she has been brought before a court and officially charged with a crime.

Most anatomical terms used in medicine today derive from Latin or Greek words.  Some body parts were given the same Latin or Greek name for that part, some were given metaphorical names because the body part resembles something else, while others were named for mythological characters. A lot of body parts have very interesting stories behind them.

Body parts that are the same or similar as the Latin:

  • Femur (thigh bone) from the Latin word femur (thigh)
  • Humerus (bone from shoulder to elbow) from the Latin word “umerus” (shoulder)
  • Risorius (a facial muscle involved in smiling) from the Latin word “ridēre” (to smile)

Body parts that are metaphors from Latin words:

  • Fossa (hollow area in a bone) from the Latin word for ditch
  • Tibia (one of the leg bones below the knee) from the Latin word for flute
  • Fibula (also a leg bone below the knee) from the Latin word for brooch or pin
  • Patella (knee cap) from the Latin word for bowl
  • Dura mater (tough outermost membrane protecting the brain and spinal cord) which is Latin for “hard mother” and pia mater (the delicate innermost membrane around the brain and spinal cord) which is Latin for “tender mother”

Body parts from mythology:

  • The Atlas vertebra is the one that is at the very top of the spine and supports the skull similar to Atlas holding up the world.
  • The iris in our eyes comes from Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, who was Hera’s messenger.
  • The hippocampus in our brains (an area that plays an important role in memory) resembles a seahorse and Poseidon was often depicted as riding in a chariot pulled by hippocampi.
  • The Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone) is an informal name for a body part and was inspired by the story of Achilles having one part of his body that was vulnerable to a fatal would, his heel, because his mother dipped his entire body except his heel in the river Styx when he was a baby, thereby giving most of his body immortality.
  • Another informal name for a body part is the Cupid’s bow, the top edge of the top lip that resembles a bow.

Some body parts have more complicated stories behind their naming. The sacrum, for instance, located at the bottom of the spine, was given the Latin word for “sacred” because it was the bone given in sacrifices.  Some sources tell us that when sacrificing an animal, the sacrum was the last bone to burn, and was thought to have contained the spirit of the animal and thus be considered “sacred.”

Interesting article:


Famous Roman: Galen
Each issue will feature a famous individual or group from Greek or Roman history whom you may wish to explore with your students. 

Many of the names for our body parts were established by Galen in Roman times. Galen (Claudius Galenus) was a Greek physician who lived in the Roman Empire from approximately 129 A.D. to 210 A.D.  He was born in Pergamum (which is in modern-day Turkey) and is thought to have died in Rome. Galen was originally trained to be a philosopher, but his father had a dream that the healing god Asclepius told him to give his son a medical education.  Galen started his medical practice at the temple to Asclepius in his town, healing and comforting the sick. After his father died, he travelled throughout the empire and learned various medical practices from the places he visited. Galen dissected pigs and monkeys to better understand human anatomy (dissection of human cadavers was prohibited at the time).  He even performed surgeries, such as the repair of cataracts. Galen eventually became the personal physician to the emperors Commodus and Septimius Severus. His works were influential for well over a thousand years and covered every aspect of human anatomy and disease. He was known for connecting the mind and the body and famously wrote the “the best doctor was also a philosopher.”


Random Find: Teacher Created Resources Human Skeleton Magnetic Accents
Many items being sold today do not directly connect to Latin and Classical Studies, but with a little effort, we can adapt them to serve our purposes. This section explores these types of objects. 

Human Skeleton Magnetic Accents

This forty-piece magnet set includes fifteen bones and twenty-five labels. When assembled, the skeleton is about 33″ tall.  The product description says the set can “decorate and educate.”


  1. Once the skeleton is assembled and labeled, ask students to research the Latin and Greek origins of the terms on the labels. The glossary listed in this issue’s Online Resource section would be a perfect tool for this!
  2. Divide students into teams and hold a race to see which team can label the skeleton the fastest. It must be accurate in order for them to win.


Is Latin helpful for a career in medicine?
Here is what several medical professionals had to say about how Latin has helped them.

“In middle school I began taking French to fulfill my language requirements. A few months into French two, conjugating verbs and speaking in an unfamiliar accent in front of a classroom of peers was humiliating. I decided to switch to Latin for the sole purpose that “no one speaks Latin.” Little did I know, I had been, and continue to, speak a little Latin everyday! Derivatives! I would go on to major in Biology and pursue nursing school. Latin would help me with my vocabulary and in my studies, especially so in Anatomy and Physiology. I now work as a Registered Nurse in an Intensive Care Unit that specializes in Neurosurgery. The medical jargon that pervades operative notes from Neurosurgeons are full of Latin derivatives: words related to positioning (abduction), anatomy (foramen ovale, posterior fossa), to order sets (early AMBULATION- isn’t ambulo one of the first verbs so many of us learned to conjugate?!) I am often able to “translate” the operative notes thanks much in part to my knowledge of Latin and its derivatives.”
-Kristina Knode Sheldon

“Latin is the reason Anatomy was my best class in medical school. All the body parts are named in Latin, which was supremely helpful in learning where different muscles are located and where they attach.”
– Dr. Paul Sandhu

“People have always been impressed (and sometimes a bit envious) that I took five years of Latin prior to medical school!”
– Dr. Elizabeth Tanner