BSA Summer School

The British School at Athens will be hosting their 45th Annual Course for Undergraduates from 20th August – 9th September 2017. The intensive three week residential course will tour Athens, Attica Central Greece and the Peloponnese. Course details and application form are available from the BSA website.

The School of Classics has funds (the Mitford fund) available to help support students who would like to participate. Further details and closing dates will be announced shortly.

Please contact Prof Rebecca Sweetman with any queries about the BSA summer school.

Athens cityscape
Athens cityscape from the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Athens, Greece.
(Mstyslav Chernov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

“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

“Mad, Drunk, Diseased, or simply In Love?” – a Laidlaw Internship Project

During the summer I undertook the Laidlaw Internship in Research and Leadership, and spent ten weeks working on my own research. My project was titled: “Mad, Drunk, Diseased, or simply In Love?”, and it was a cross-cultural exploration of imagery used in love poetry from 1300BC to the present day, and from East to West. Originally, I had only chosen to examine imagery within Ancient Greek lyric poetry, the Latin love elegists, and the Sufi poet Rumi, but this later expanded to include Ancient Egyptian poetry, British poetry from Shakespeare, and contemporary British poetry, as well as other Persian authors. Similarly, I identified a greater number of motifs than previously anticipated: madness, disease, drunkenness, light or sight, fire, death or destruction, war and slavery. After I had selected the specific authors, and texts, which I was going to include in my study, I translated the Latin and Ancient Greek texts, and then proceeded to compile every instance of each motif together, so that I could explore how these motifs were being used, and evaluate the difference in usages, and prevalence, between each culture.

Disease, for example, was used as a motif in a number of ways. Firstly, the idea of disease was conveyed through love metaphorically consuming the body, which was especially manifest from the vocabulary which was used to describe this, (e.g. ‘edo’ – to eat), and the reference to body parts (e.g. ‘medulla’ – marrow, ‘ossa’ – bones, and ‘pectora’ – heart). Secondly, this was illustrated in the description of love as a wound, which connects with the motif of love being depicted as war, and the analogy of Love to a bee, which is used very ironically in a poem where Cupid complains about the pain caused by a bee sting. Thirdly, love is described as a disease, by virtue of the effects and symptoms caused by being in love. This is represented, most famously, in Sappho’s poem 51, and Catullus’ imitation of this, poem 31, where she describes how at the sight of her lover, she suffers from a loss of speech and sight, feels a flame run through her, has ringing ears, and becomes pale. However, there are many other instances of this, which also include other symptoms: sleeplessness, loss of appetite, sweating, feverish, and becoming haggard or woe-begone. This is also reinforced verbally through the use of very suggestive vocabulary: ‘semimortua’ – half-dead, ‘perdo’ – to destroy, lose, waste’ and ‘dolor’ – grief. Moreover, love is even explicitly referred to as an illness: ‘pestem perniciem’, ‘taetrum…morbum’ and ‘νόσος’ ‘ἀνία’ ‘πολύφιλτρος’, but one which, mostly, has no cure: ‘φάρμακον’ ‘ἔγχριστος’ ‘ἐπίπαστος’. However, in cases of love-sickness, or unrequited love, the presence of the object of your love is, in fact, the cure, as I discovered in the poetry of Rumi, and the Ancient Egyptian poetry, amongst others: “just telling me ‘here she is’ is my cure”.

Disease was one of the few motifs which was prevalent in every single culture, presumably because it was a part of everyday life for all, and so it is an example of love imagery transcending all boundaries of time and culture.  On the other hand, motifs such as war and slavery were primarily poignant in Latin elegiac poetry, which can be explained by the prominence of these factors in their society. Nevertheless, these same circumstances were also prevalent for the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians, which indicates that the motifs of war and slavery were developed to a greater extent by the Latin love elegists.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience of conducting my own research project, which allowed me a great amount of flexibility and independence, and from which I honed several skills. As part of the internship your findings have to be presented in poster format, together with a short report, and attendance at two leadership weekends is mandatory; however, I hope to evaluate my data further from a cross-cultural perspective, and write an article for publishing later this year.

Elinor Bushell, Classics 4th year

The Iris Project Literacy through Latin Scheme at St Andrews

irissmalllogoThe School of Classics at the University of St Andrews is delighted to begin the Iris Project Literary through Latin Scheme for 2016-17. This year, we have 8 student volunteers who will visit local primary schools in Fife, Scotland, to teach P6 and P7 pupils Latin, Classical culture and ancient mythology.

This year, we are excited to be working with Torbain Primary School, Thornton Primary School (both in the Kirkcaldy area) and Rimbleton Primary School (Glenrothes). A wide range of P6 and P7 pupils (aged 9-12 years old) will participate in the Iris Project Latin classes, which our student volunteers will teach in pairs on a weekly basis for four weeks each semester.

The School of Classics would like to thank all of our student volunteers for participating in the Iris Project Literacy through Latin scheme this year.

The Iris Project at St Andrews

The School of Classics at St Andrews has been running the Iris Project Literacy through Latin teaching scheme since 2012. During this time, we have worked with more than ten local primary state-schools in the Fife area to introduce their pupils to Latin and Classical culture, enabling them to experience the the wonders of studying the ancient world.

More than 15 third-year and fourth-year undergraduate Honours students have participated in Iris Project, giving them valuable work experience in teaching, outreach and access work, and working with children and young people. This year, we have expanded the student volunteer base by opening up the opportunity to our postgraduate students and we have two PhD students among our cohort of volunteers. Our student volunteers from the School of Classics make the Iris Project work organised by the University of St Andrews possible. Many students volunteer for Iris Project work because they are considering a career in teaching in HE, FE colleges or the primary and/or secondary school sector; others volunteer because they are passionate about Latin and Classics and want to make sure that state-school pupils get to experience and enjoy these subjects as much as they do.

IRIS project volunteers 2012-2013

The History of the Iris Project

The Iris Project  is an educational charity which promotes access to classics in state schools across the UK. It is based at the Iris Project Classics Centre at Cheney School, Oxford. The project was founded by Dr Lorna Robinson, who has also produced an excellent text-book Telling Tales in Latin designed to introduce children to Latin through the study of mythology.

The Iris Project was the first organisation to run a scheme delivering Latin as part of the national literacy curriculum. This award-winning project introduces the nuts and bolts of Latin grammar, and demonstrates the connections between Latin and English; in this way, it instils a fascination for learning languages.

The project started life as a pilot in east London and east Oxford a decade ago. The first school to participate in the Iris Project was Benthal Primary School in Hackney, London, where two classes of Year 5 pupils (9-10 years old) participated in the scheme. By 2007, 20 state-schools in London were participating in the scheme. Since then, it has expanded to include many schools across London and Oxford, as well as schools in Swansea, Reading, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews. Internationally, we have provided guidance for schools in South Africa and New York to set up this scheme.

How it works

This project enables students from universities to deliver a year long introductory Latin course to pupils in primary schools. The project enables children in state-schools to learn Latin, Classics and ancient mythology, subjects which they would almost certainly not have access to without participation in the project.

Pupils are introduced to Latin using a series of lesson plans which incorporate hands-on activities and storytelling to give them a basic grounding in English and Latin grammar, and a taste of Latin myths and culture.

The Benefits of the Iris Project

The benefits of access to Latin and ancient culture in an educational environment include:

  • Improving literacy skills
  • Greater language awareness and enhanced language abilities
  • Stimulation of creative thinking
  • Introduction to ancient history, culture and mythology
  • Increased confidence

Learning Latin also benefits pupils’ capacity and study of a wide range of other subjects taught by primary and secondary schools (including English, History and Science) through the improvement of literacy skills, the stimulation of creative and critical thinking and enhanced language abilities.

As one of our previous student volunteers at St Andrews has commented, “The Iris Project is a fantastic initiative, invaluable to its learners, its student teachers and to Latin.”

By: Dr Crystal Addey, teaching fellow & schools contact.

The Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship Programme in Research and Leadership 2017

laidlaw internships

The Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship Programme in Research and Leadership is an exciting opportunity which aims to equip students with the skills and values to become leaders in their chosen occupations beyond University.

Students will design, pursue and report on a research question with an academic in their School during the summer vacation in 2017.  They will also complete two Leadership weekends in March and October 2017.

The summer project should last between 8-10 weeks for which interns will be paid a weekly stipend of £400. All elements of the programme are compulsory including the Leadership weekends.

This award is open to matriculated undergraduate students in their penultimate year of study.

Please see the Laidlaw webpage for more information.

The School of Classics has a strong record of undergraduate summer internships over the last few years. If you are interested in applying please contact a member of staff to discuss possible research topics. Please submit applications by 2 December 2016.

Spotlight on… Ruaraidh Maciver


Salvete omnes! I’m Ruaraidh Maciver, and I am the current School of Classics president. I am a third year Ancient and Mediaeval History student, and very much look forward to getting to know you all as the year goes on!

In my time here, I have taken modules in Classical Studies, Ancient History and Greek. I was also the Class Rep for Ancient History in my first and second years, as well as the careers representative for the department at the same time. My primary aim for this year is to further improve student representation and inclusivity in the school. As Classics President, I act as the student representative for the School of Classics on several committees, so please do get in touch if you have any problems!

My own area of particular interest is political and military history of early Imperial Rome, and the Empire’s gradual transformation in the Late Antique period.

Outside of academia, I am involved in numerous societies and clubs. This year I am the Co-Editor in Chief for the St Andrews Economist, having previously been a regional editor and writer. I was also actively involved in the Investment Society here, being a regional analyst and frequently composing regional macroeconomic reports. I have a keen interest in archaeology, having been on several digs, and am also a part of the Student Archaeological Society here, having served as the Classics rep in my first year. I am also a Christian, and regularly attend Christian Union events as well!

I hope you all have a fantastic year, and if you ever want to talk, do not hesitate to email me or say hello if you see me around town!

Ruaraidh Maciver

Classics joins BA (International Honours) Joint Degree Programme

By: Rebecca Sweetman

BA International Honours graduating cohort 2016
BA International Honours graduating cohort 2016

The University of St Andrews and College of William and Mary, Williamsburg VA have recently announced that their Schools of Classics are to become part of the Joint BA International Honours degree.  The BA (International Honours) is a four-year undergraduate degree that combines the best of the Scottish and American educational experience.

Classical Studies students in the joint degree programme will benefit from the integration of the breadth offered by a William & Mary liberal arts education and the depth offered from a St Andrews degree. The departments have complementary strengths in the ancient languages, ancient history, and archaeology. In combination, students are able to craft a flexible program that allows them to investigate the cultures of the Mediterranean world in great depth.

  • For example, this joint degree will allow students to pursue coursework in Etruscan archaeology and Egyptology (in William and Mary) as well as modules in Late Antique and Bronze Age Archaeology (in St Andrews): that’s an unusual combination that would be hard to find in any single department.
  • It will allow Greek and Latin language students a more flexible degree, one which can be tailored more to their varying needs by providing a wider range of levels between the two universities (including intermediate-level teaching which is not available currently in St Andrews at subhonours).
  • Undertaking a Classics degree in both campuses will also allow students a wider range of postgraduate opportunities in the North American and UK: this programme will be the only one that bridges both systems, and students who have been through it will have the unique advantage of knowing the UK and US systems well when they come to make postgraduate applications.

Joint Degree students will be able to experience opportunities offered by William & Mary such as conferences and internships as well as opportunities for travel to and integrated study of the ancient world as offered by St Andrews. While one of these opportunities would be considered a bonus in any degree offered by a Classics School, to have such a wide range on the Joint Degree is an enviable USP. From September 2017 the universities will be accepting their first cohort of Classical Studies students (normally 3 per university). In the same year Film Studies will also be available for the first time as part of the Joint Degree programme adding to the existing four subjects, Economics, English, History and International Relations. The addition of Classical Studies and Film will enhance the programme and make it an even more flexible experience.