Not many Latin students can boast of actually studying the ancient language in its homeland, but for nine students from Ms. Hestand’s IB Latin IV class, their spring break was going to be filled with gelato and sightseeing. For eight days, the students traveled to Italy in cooperation with the Paideia Institute to explore archaeological sites, some of which dated back to the Roman Empire, and read Latin text in the locations they described or were written.
“What drew me to this program was the itinerary and the idea of reading Latin in sitū so that my students could see and feel the connection between the ancient authors and the places they described,” explained Ms. Hestand.
On Friday, March 18th, the students met up with an additional chaperone, Erica Krause, and flew from the Philadelphia International Airport to their crossover flight in Frankfurt, Germany. Upon landing in sunny Naples, the class met with their tour guide from Paideia, Jim McGlone, a recent graduate of Harvard University who studied History and Classics. Afterwards, the students hiked up Mount Vesuvius and read text written by Pliny the Younger about Pompeii and Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 A.D.
The following day, students spent the majority of the day wandering through the ruins of Pompeii and reading the works of Statius and Petronius. In the evening, students visited the Naples Archaeological Museum and marvel at the towering marble statues and busts. Once the museum tour ended, the class traveled to Rome and checked into their rooms at the Villa Riari.
For the third day, students wore their best attire for walking and traveled to the Roman Forum, where they read selections from Cicero, Pliny the Elder, and Ovid. They passed by the remains of structures like the Arch of Titus, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Caesar, Temple of Vesta, and the Arch of Septimius Severus. Once they climbed to the top of the Palatine Hill, students read from Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita while overlooking all of Rome. After a brief period of free time, the students congregated at the Arch of Constantine and read some Martial, and once the translating was completed, the class went into the Colosseum. Inside, the students sat down on bricks and stones once used to seat thousands of Roman spectators. For this particular group of Latin-speaking students, the students sat down to read from Augustine, not to watch gladiatorial matches.
On the morning of the fourth day, the class visited the Capitoline Hill and Musei Capitolini, where they read more texts from, Poggius Bracciolini, Vergil, and Lord Byron (Byron was not Roman). In the evening, the group walked through the Campus Martius and eventually made its way to the famous Pantheon. Additional texts that were read were written by Aulus Gellius and Suetonius. However, the class also took the readings off the page and actually translated Latin inscriptions found on the Pantheon itself.
The next day, the group visited to one of the most popular attractions in the entire world, the Vatican. In the morning, students were ushered into the Vatican Museums and gazed at the lifelike paintings by Raphael. Within the courtyard, the students read from Vergil’s Aeneid and then proceeded into the Apostolic Palace, where thousands of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling paintings awaited them. The students then made their way into the Sistine Chapel and quietly observed in awe at the larger-than-life paintings of Michelangelo. The day ended with a tour of the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica and a walk through the square back to the hotel.
The following day, the students visited the Basilica Sancti Clementis, Circus Maximus, and read Jacopo da Voragine. However, nobody was prepared to walk through the giant ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, in which towers of bricks and sprawling green lawns provided a sudden peaceful environment in the bustling city of Rome. The group took this opportunity on the site to read some texts by Seneca and Ovid. Afterwards, the students walked to the Galleria Borghese, where the sculptures of Bernini and expansive, colorful paintings exceeded all expectations.
For the last day, the class visited the Villa of Hadrian in Tivoli (a small town on the outskirts of Rome) and read more from Pliny the Elder, before heading to the last stop on the trip, the Villa d’Este. At this attraction, intricate and complex water fountains gushed all around an elaborate garden located on a steep hill. No other view of the Italian countryside could compete with the one at the Villa d’Este, and the students passionately read from Statius as they completed their final text for the trip and returned to Philadelphia on Saturday, March 26th.
For Brian Davis (275), the trip was more than just a school event, stating, “I really enjoyed getting to experience the Roman world and culture firsthand. Getting to see unique architecture like in the great Baths of Caracalla and to climb Mt. Vesuvius brings a sense of closure to our Latin careers at Central.”
“Latin is a language much like any other. It’s the legacy of a society—a culture,” commented Natalie Bonilla (275). “The Italy trip gave me an opportunity to put a place and a few faces to the language I’ve been learning for four years.”
“As a Central student [the trip] was a way to explore different part of the world, to extend my horizon, and to experience something new,” remarked Jennifer Luu (275). “As a Latin student it was a way for me to mobilize the things I learn in class, applied it to the tangible world and experience something that I would not be able to in class.”
“I would have to say my favorite part of the trip was visiting St. Peter’s Square and Basilica in Vatican City,” said Neil McNair Jr. (275). “Seeing them in person was so magnificent and fascinating, and it was very cool to be in a separate state of its own!”
“Ancient Rome is the foundation for all of Western Civilization,” reflected Jim McGlone, the group’s guide. “Other empires, like the Etruscans, came to an end and barely left any legacy, but for various reasons, Rome’s mark on the European world managed to outlast the empire itself in the form of art, literature, and much more. Rome, as both an idea and a city, has remained prominent centuries after the empire disintegrated, and so Latin has remained at the heart of Western culture ever since! We can look to any period in history in the last 2,500 years, and find Latin being used for communication, religion, art, and philosophical reflection.
“The people of the past have so much to teach us! The literature they left helps us do that. Through reading Latin, we get to share the experiences and thoughts from long ago, and profit from them in our lives. For me, reading Latin has helped me become a better student, teacher, and friend. My relationship with the past through reading great literature, especially Latin, has helped me gain a better appreciation for beauty wherever it is found and all that life has to offer! I hope that all my students have the same experience.”
And it is safe to say that Ms. Hestand’s IB Latin IV students truly gained a Latin experience like no other in Central’s history.
Natan Yakov (275)
Photos courtesy of Ms. Hestand and her IB Latin IV class.