“Mapping Rome’s Destiny: Space, Time and Travel in Vergil’s Aeneid” – a Laidlaw Internship Project

For my Laidlaw Internship, I was studying the Aeneid and the way that time, space and travel are presented in the poem. The research part of my programme lasted for ten weeks, most of which I spent up in St Andrews looking through the secondary literature on Vergil.

Early on, I realized that I had to be selective about what I read. The Aeneid was the text by which the Romans defined themselves after the collapse of the Republic, and by which scholars of the period at times defined them too. What that means is that the amount of writing on the subject is huge. Too much to read in a lifetime. Part of the challenge of this internship was having the restraint not to get distracted.

The positive side of this, however, was that the amount of freedom I was granted for this project was incredible. To be able to spend ten weeks focusing on one topic without other commitments was unlike anything I’ve experienced at Undergraduate level so far. Likewise, the level of funding (with an additional grant for books) meant that I could afford to stay in St Andrews over the summer, buy my own copy of key texts, and make full use of the library resources. This internship really does give you the opportunity to take your time and further your own ideas, without the pressure of being graded on your work.

My topic was all about journeys, and the difficulties of carrying on when the end seems out of reach. The obstacle that Aeneas faces when he is told to found his new, great city is that he does not know where this city will be. His directions tell him to go west, but how far west, he doesn’t know. The third book of the poem was central to my project, as this is the section in which Aeneas is forced to use trial and error in order to determine if each land he reaches is the right one. For Aeneas, the journey is as much psychological as it is physical. The gods will not just pick him up and take him to Italy— he has to prove himself worthy by navigating his people there by means of his own determination, keeping the big picture in mind in order to achieve his potential.

The leadership weekends that I attended as part of the Internship picked up on a lot of these points about uncertainty and perseverance. As someone who would never normally volunteer for any kind of public-speaking role, the idea that I would have to lead a group and receive feedback on my style was nerve-wracking to say the least. These events do put you out of your comfort zone, but by the second weekend I can honestly say that I felt much more at ease both leading team and presenting to a group. Everyone at these sessions is in the same position; the support from other interns was one of the best things about the programme in general.   

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to really test myself, both academically and at the leadership events. I am especially thankful to Dr Nikoletta Manioti for all of her help and support, to the CAPOD team for bringing the leadership weekends together, and to Lord Laidlaw for making the Internship possible. I would advise anyone thinking about applying to the programme to do it—you won’t regret it!

Katrina Drayton

Katrina Drayton, Classics and English 4th year

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