The boys spend the year reading The Aeneid, Vergil's epic about the struggles of the hero Aeneas, a refugee from the Middle Eastern city of Troy who flees to Italy and becomes the ancestor of the Roman people. In lieu of a final exam, they combine their knowledge of Latin literature, Roman history, and archaeology with artistic and technological skills as they imagine themselves as tourists in the Roman Empire of the second century C.E., following the path of Aeneas as he makes his way across the Mediterranean.
In lieu of a final exam, they combine their knowledge of Latin literature, Roman history, and archaeology with artistic and technological skills as they imagine themselves as tourists in the Roman Empire of the second century C.E., following the path of Aeneas as he makes his way across the Mediterranean.
They use ORBIS, an online mapping tool created at Stanford University, to create an itinerary and calculate the time and expense that their ancient journey would take. Within a time limit of three months and a budget of 1,000 denarii, they need to visit as many important sites from The Aeneid as possible, beginning in Athens and ending in Rome. Along the way, they must send "postcards" home from each site, including a relevant passage in Latin, a description of how that place is important to the poem, and what it looked like in the second century.
Over the years, I've received a range of creative responses to this assignment, including postcards with scenes from the journey, scrapbooks with pictures of students Photoshopped into snapshots of ancient monuments, a handmade scroll with wooden book handles, and a box of souvenirs and knick-knacks from the journey. One student made a Facebook account for the journey of his imagined tourist, incorporating Latin hashtags and internet memes into his posts. I particularly treasure the contribution of one boy whose project was a series of letters, illustrated with watercolor paintings and (following a project he'd done freshman year in Latin II Honors) written in a style that imitated Roman cursive script.
As a final project, Mapping the Aeneid is a way for students to show off what they have learned over the year and apply it to their knowledge of the Roman world. To me, it exemplifies the goals of a Haverford education: the ability to integrate subject knowledge with skills, use art and technology to further an academic goal, and design a creative approach to a broad question. And if it gets them to think more carefully the next time they write home from vacation, so much the better!
- Dr. Andrew Fenton, Upper School Latin
- The Big Room Blog