I had class in the Colosseum and the Pantheon, in the Forum, in the Circus Maximus, in gladiator barracks, in a tiny, cold Roman town in the mountains, and (my personal favorite) in an aqueduct. I took notes in every Doric temple in Sicily, Etruscan tombs, Pompeii, Greek theaters and Roman amphitheaters, an ancient quarry, ancient churches, more villas than I can count, and once even in a volcano. I could write pages about all the cool things I got to experience this semester, but I’ll focus here on a few highlights.
The first highlight is my absolute favorite site in Rome, the Pantheon. What a testament to Roman architecture and ingenuity! I have no words to adequately describe how it feels to stand in the dome of a monument constructed some 2,000 years ago that is still standing today. Not only did I get to learn about this site and the Piazza Navona in my Ancient City course, but we had an art history lecture discussing the importance of the Pantheon in relation to Renaissance and Baroque art. The Pantheon’s continuity and evolution of use shows how ancient monuments continue to be culturally relevant throughout the ages. And, let’s face it, the inscription that features Agrippa only adds to the allure: we all know he deserved a lot more credit than history gives him!
One of the more unique aspects of the ICCS is the inclusion of two week-long field trips, one to Sicily (by way of Paestum) and one to Campania. I loved both trips, but Sicily was truly amazing. The week there was filled with days where I swore the sites couldn’t possibly get any more impressive and breathtaking, and then was proved wrong repeatedly. In nine days, we stayed in a different hotel every night as we visited Paestum, Taormina, Siracusa, Ortigia, Morgantina, Agrigento, Selinunte, Segesta, Palermo, Cefalu, and Solunto, with an impressive culinary experience at every meal of every single day. Two words for you: Sicilian wine. Three more words for you: Sicilian olive oil. From a historical standpoint, I don’t think you can appreciate the influence of Hellenization until you’ve visited Sicily and seen the way the Greek and Roman elements intertwine.
I spent a majority of my Tuesdays this semester on a charter bus, exploring areas just outside the city of Rome. One memorable Tuesday was devoted to Vicovaro, hiking inside the Aqua Claudia. During my time at Indiana University Bloomington, I had the pleasure of taking Professor Bannon’s Ancient Roman Law course, in which we spent an entire unit talking about aqueducts and my final group project was on the Aqua Appia. While I had several other run-ins with aqueducts throughout the semester, my absolute favorite was the Aqua Claudia. Getting to walk along the channel that once transported water to Ancient Rome was an experience I’ll never forget. Cooler still, several of these aqueducts are still in use today—yet another way Ancient Rome weaves itself into modern civilization, playing a vital role in everyday life.
The true attraction of the classics for me, however, is human connection. Through studying ancient culture, I find myself relating to humans across a span of thousands of years, while also opening up doors for connections within the modern classics community. I spent this semester with thirty classics-obsessed people and I could not be more grateful. I am forever indebted to my fellow Centristi and professors for helping me learn and grow as a person and as a classicist. I am also grateful to the ICCS committee at Duke and all the staff at the Centro for helping me through this process and making Italy feel like home. Last, but not least, I’m thankful for the Pratt Traveling Fellowship that made this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a possibility for me, and to the Department of Classical Studies at Indiana University Bloomington for helping foster my love for the ancient world and for their continued support.