The Classics department took 36 Sixth Form classicists to Sicily over Half Term for a packed programme that included four world heritage sites, two cathedrals, three ancient theatres and a host of exceptional Greek temples.
The trip was bookmarked by mosaics, beginning with the extraordinary Roman mosaics at the Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina which cover over 3500 square metres and depict scenes ranging from a huge hunting scene to children racing with pigeon-drawn chariots, Orpheus, and the unlikely bikini girls. It was concluded at the twelfth century Monreale Cathedral, similarly encased in golden mosaics, but these showing nearly all the stories from the Bible. Amazingly they included an image of St Thomas of Canterbury, influenced by the daughter of Henry II who had recently married the king of Sicily.
Between those highlights, they saw the exceptional Riace Warriors, the Greco-Roman theatre at Taormina overlooking Etna, and the beautifully remote site of Segesta, with its unfinished temple and Greek theatre, where an impromptu but enthusiastic rendering of ‘I vow to thee, my country’ may have puzzled the other visitors.
The most exceptional building was the Cathedral of Syracuse. Originally built as a temple to Athene, following the Sicilian victory over Carthage at Himera in 480BC. It became a Roman temple, then an early Christian church, which was captured by the Moors and turned into a mosque before returning to Christianity and being given a huge Baroque fronting. One sits among the original columns in the naos of a Greek temple feeling the weight of history all around.
At Syracuse the group boated round the Great Harbour where the Athenian fleet was destroyed in 413BC, and witnessed the marks of tools in the stone-quarries where the survivors were put to work. The huge theatre there was where Aeschylus produced his Persians.
The temple complexes of Agrigento and Selinunte, built deliberately to rival Athens in number as well as size, brought the grandeur of the ancient world to life, and provided a mass of excellent photos for the trip photo competition, which was won by: Oliver (B).