If he had been just a kindly chap, nobody outside his family would have noticed

Letter: It isn't Latin the British lack

Sir: "Latin is a dead language, and we have enough trouble persuading children to speak English" (leading article, 8 October). Quite right, but should not British people be looking beyond the White Cliffs of Dover and realise that "out there" the vast majority of people do not have English as their mother tongue?

LETTER:Sad prophecy for failed school

From Mr Ray Hanks


Presented as part of the RSC/Allied Domecq Young Vic Season, Zenobia marks a unique collaboration between the RSC and the Young Vic. Nick Dear's comic play tells the story of the Queen of Palmyra (Penny Downie, right), who, after standing up to the Roman Empire, is hampered by ineffectual advisors - her commander-in-chief is in love and her son is a bookworm.

THE CRITICS : A triumph of teenage angst


The mystery of Apollo's hexameters

THE DOUBLE TONGUE by William Golding, Faber pounds 12.99

Time to think again



Long ago in ancient Rome when men and women dressed the same, things were simpler, but a lot less fun. The toga may have been a design classic, but it was a dodgy item to wear. What with the constant threat of exposure because of a bad fit around the shoulders, it's no wonder fashion evolved.

Scripts illuminated; BOOKS

THE ALPHABETIC LABYRINTH:The Letters in History and Imagination by Johanna Drucker Thames & Hudson £29.95

Letter: Having a ball at Covent Garden

Sir: I fear that David Lister ("Pavarotti repays fans' devotion", 14 April) implies that the Balcony at Covent Garden is miles away, yet cost £150; in fact, it is not distant but seats only 87 at that price and is always relatively expensive. My wife and I went to hear Un Ballo in Maschera for £29 each in that part of the amphitheatre that has 238 seats. Another part had 88 seats at £49.50 and a further 197 at £45.50. Earlier this week I saw Britten's Peter Grimes for £14.50, and very enjoyable it was too.

Film set in ancient Rome hits home at today's politicians

It is one of those films you go to expecting the worst. The posters give ample warning: overweight actors in togas gesticulating inanely, scantily clad actresses with saucy expressions showing off how "prosperous" - as the felicitous Italian phra se has it, they are in the chest department and, most embarrassing of all, the dreadful Leslie Nielson, he of the Naked Gun films, putting on his characteristic startled expression as he lies stripped to the waist in a Roman bath.

Numbers - 30

Today is the 30th of December.

You can't judge a book by looking at the telly: Sunday's television now offers a choice of reading, with BBC 1's Bookworm joining shows on Sky and ITV. Anthony Quinn watches, and wonders why

WITH THE BOOKER BINGO over for another year, you might have thought that television would heave a sigh of relief and wave cheerio to all that bookchat. The novel rarely seems comfortable being talked about on the box: it is invited into the studio rather as an elderly maiden aunt is ushered into a cocktail party. Everyone is very respectful, but you can almost feel the camera itching to move it along. Poetry is something different, a nerdy, bespectacled cousin that nobody wants to talk to - but it enjoys the advantage of being quotable, in a way that an excerpt from a novel does not.

Letter: Two thousand years, starting from when?

Sir: The end of the second millennium depends on the beginning of the first one, which is not a simple matter. The Christian scholar Dionysius Exiguus calculated in the sixth century that the Incarnation of Jesus was in AD1, the Conception on 25 March and the Nativity on 25 December. According to this system, which had been accepted since the ninth century, the second millennium would end on Christmas Eve, 2001 - though the year 1AD began on 1 January, which could bring the end of the millennium back to 31 December 2000.

Letter: Year 2000 is too late for new millennium

Sir: All your correspondents are wrong about when to start the new millennium bash (Letters, 1, 3 October). Both dates, 1 January 2000 or 2001, are far off the mark for the simple reason that the Christian world started counting their years from the birth of Christ, which was 1 AD or anno Domini - the first 'year of our Lord'.
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