Excitement was in the air as all eighteen of us (sixteen students and two professors) boarded the international flight to Italy. After several weeks of studying the ancient perceptions of Sicily, particularly through the lenses of Vergil’s Aeneid and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, we were all thrilled to get to see some of these ancient monuments and regions for ourselves. Personally, I was most excited to see the temples and their integration into the fabric and architecture of modern Sicily. Since I have been taking an advanced archaeology seminar on the preservation of ancient sites and the moral and practical difficulties that come into play in tense situations, such as at the site of Palmyra (recently retaken from IS) and the construction of dams in Turkey (such as the one near the ancient city of Zeugma).
Beyond these interests though, I was particularly thrilled to explore the Sicily of the Aeneid. We spent a large amount of time in class leading up to the trip exploring the implications of this saga both on the Roman Empire of Augustus and the modern region of Sicily. For example, in Book V of the Aeneid, Vergil describes the foundation of a new city of Trojans, named after their fellow Trojan patriarch, Acestes. This city can be traced through the history of the island, through many different names: Acestes, Egesta (Thucydides), and Segesta (modern). I love this type of connection of the ancient to the modern and was looking forward to finding similar threads of Sicilian ancient history woven into the culture we would be experiencing.