Harvard Summer Program in Greece

June 24 to July 30, 2017

It’s been great, Greece. The most wonderful five weeks I've ever spent and far far better than anything I’d ever imagined before leaving the US. I’ll be back!

People and ideas on the move in the Eastern Mediterranean, antiquity to the present

This interdisciplinary seminar in comparative cultural studies explores the interaction of people and ideas in the Eastern Mediterranean, from antiquity to the present. Taught by a team of scholars with a long record of collaborative research in the area, the course brings together historical, literary, philosophical, and linguistic approaches that are complemented by close encounters with the material culture of the region.

You reside in Nafplio, Olympia, and Thessaloniki, visiting many archaeological, historical, and cultural sites along the way. 

In the discourse of cultural origins, the eastern Mediterranean holds a seminal place. The arts and sciences, history, philosophy and theology, all have long traditions of cultivation and dissemination in the region. Geographical and environmental factors, not least the unique connectivity supplied by millennia of Mediterranean seafaring, have shaped the transfer of ideas and people across material and symbolic borders.

This is the space of the initial flourishing and later preservation and transmission of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome; but also the birthplace of three major monotheistic traditions.

The exchange of ideas and populations, often voluntary, at other times violent and forced, has been a persistent feature of the histories of the region.

Program Structure

This program explores some of the major cultural traditions, their points of overlap, mutual influence, and strategic divergence. In the courses, you will analyze important political formations, such as the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, attempts at modernization in the late Ottoman empire, and the rise of nation states in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Balkans and the Middle East. At the heart of our inquiry will be the ways in which the region’s political formations, epistemologies, and artistic traditions have shaped the contemporary features of the Eastern Mediterranean and, more broadly, the world we live in.

Due to its location and the wealth of the historical, artistic, and archaeological record, Greece enables an exceptionally fruitful study of these topics. The program takes place in the symbolic historical sites: 

  • Nafplio, the first capital of the modern Greek state
  • Olympia, the ancient center of cult and athletic competition
  • Cosmopolitan Thessaloniki, the most important city in Northern Greece, and the second biggest urban center of three empires, under the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans

To learn more, visit the Greece program website and watch a video about the 2015 program.


For this course and its seminars, there are no prerequisites required.

All seminars are in English, and you are always surrounded by proficient users of the English language. You will have the opportunity to pick up some Greek, if you wish. Practice your skills during meetings with the coordinators, interactions with Greek students and faculty, and through immersion in the towns and experiences of Olympia, Nafplio, and other sites around Greece.

COMP S-107 Study Abroad in Greece: Cross-Cultural Contact between East and West from Ancient Times to the Present ( 33279)

Nicolas Prevelakis
Dimiter G. Angelov
Panagiota Batsaki
Dimitris J. Kastritsis
Ilham Khuri-Makdisi
Emma Dench
Gregory Nagy
Anna Stavrakopoulou
Sahar Bazzaz

8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Focusing on the eastern Mediterranean, this course undertakes a diachronic examination of models of empire (Athenian, Byzantine, Ottoman), concluding with questions of nineteenth-century European and modern colonialism and postcolonialism. Particular emphasis is paid to legacies of Hellenism, and to the challenges and possibilities of cross-cultural interaction. The aim is to expose students to historical, philosophical, literary, and political models for studying this interaction.

Now in its fifteenth year, the five-week course consists of eight interrelated seminars. Each week-long seminar meets daily (Monday through Thursday), for a total of four two-hour periods. Seminars run in pairs over the first four weeks of the course; students write two short response papers (two pages) per week. The fifth week is devoted to the writing of the final ten-page paper. Students are contacted about book purchases and preparatory reading in late spring; other material is available online and through access to Harvard digital resources. Seminar topics are listed below.

Prerequisite: none.

Course Seminars

1. Movements, ideas, and identities in historical perspective (Sahar Bazzaz and Nicolas Prevelakis)

This seminar will introduce the main themes of the course by discussing some fundamental theories and concepts. In particular, we will be asking the following questions: What is the relationship between political formations, identities, movements of people and forms of knowledge? What is the impact of nationalism, imperialism, and capitalism, on these relations? What insights can we draw from the past in order to make sense of these questions in today’s globalized world? We will be covering mostly theoretical approaches to these questions, as well as insights from different disciplines. 

2. The Eastern Mediterranean (Sahar Bazzaz/Nicolas Prevelakis)

This seminar will connect the theoretical discussion of the first seminar to the Greek and broadly Mediterranean context. We will discuss the relevance of the Mediterranean as an analytical category; the main continuities and ruptures in the eastern Mediterranean geographical space; the ways in which the Greek past has been appropriated in art, literature, and politics. We will also discuss how these themes have been instrumental in the creation of the modern Greek nation-state, and how studying them can help us make sense of current issues in the region. 

3.  Reinventing Athens through the ages (Gregory Nagy)

The classical view of Athens in the 5th century BCE as a model for the evolution of democracy, philosophy, theater, and athleticism is traced both backward and forward in time, with the help of relevant passages, read in translation, that are carefully selected from the following ancient texts: the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, six dramas (three from Aeschylus, two from Sophocles, one from Aristophanes), Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plutarch’s Alcibiades. The seminar will contrast the positive contributions of Athens with a variety of negative perceptions centering on this city-state’s experiences with imperialism and corruption. 

Of special interest will be a set of selected passages showing situations where the State seems to be interfering with the personal lives of its citizens.

4. Romulus’ Asylum: Outcasts, exiles, immigrants and the ideology and practice of the Roman empire (Emma Dench)

In the popular imagination, the greatness of the Roman empire is usually attributed in equal measure to the Romans’ military might and the stiff upper lip of their better commanders and emperors. In this seminar, conducted in what was once the Roman imperial province of Achaea, we delve into the Romans’ own beliefs and questions about their origins, ideologies and practices of Roman rule that include great emphasis on the co-option of peoples, ideas and things, and reflections by Roman subjects on the advantages and costs of becoming embroiled in the Roman imperial project.  

5. People and ideas on the move in the Byzantine world (Dimiter Angelov)

The medieval eastern Mediterranean saw a series of human and intellectual diasporas, which provided the matrix for the emergence of the modern world.  The Byzantine Empire kept contracting and came into ever closer contact with its Mediterranean neighbors in Europe, the Levant, and North Africa. The seminar explores issues, such as migration and foundation legends, the movement of people to and from imperial centers, and the transfer of ancient ideas and texts from the Greek East to the western European and the Islamic World.

6. The early Ottoman empire: Imagining a new society in the late medieval Mediterranean (Dimitri Kastritsis)

The Ottoman Empire was created gradually, in a politically fragmented but increasingly globalized world. The Ottomans' claim to fame was the expansion of the realm of Islam into new lands. Their capital became Constantinople, whose fall to a Muslim army was thought to have been predicted by the Prophet Muhammad himself. By the sixteenth century, they had created a distinctive culture, which by their own admission was of a hybrid nature. How it was created, and by whom, is much less clear. This course will explore the process through a variety of textual and other sources. These have been selected to show the wide range of people and ideas involved, and their often substantial movement across space, time, and social boundaries.

7. Traveling puppets: From the multiethnic imperial center to a national capital (Anna Stavrakopoulou)

The shadow theatre came to the eastern Mediterranean following the Silk Road, all the way from China. The Ottoman Sultan Selim II brought it to Constantinople from Cairo, following the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. By the time Ottoman Karagoz, so named for its central character, reached Greek audiences in the nineteenth century, the golden age of this art form had already passed. However, it found new life in Karaghiozis, the style of Greek puppetry which it inspired and which flourished during the late 19th century. Our exploration focuses on the sets of characters that formed the casts of the two traditions, since these figures elucidate the different societies they were called to entertain.

8. Migrants, exiles, and refugees in the modern Eastern Mediterranean (Ilham Khuri-Makdisi and Yota Batsaki)

The Eastern Mediterranean has witnessed large movements of displaced people. Many of these movements have been the result of economic pressures or ambitions; others were precipitated by imperial expansion or nationalist resistance; by conflict and war. Focusing on key city-ports (Smyrna, Thessaloniki, Alexandria, Beirut, Athens) the course will analyze pivotal moments in the (voluntary or forced) exchange of people and ideas in the region against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Ottoman modernization efforts, nation-state formation in the region, and the aftermath of the Balkan and World Wars. Case studies will include the exchange of populations following the Greek-Turkish war of 1920-22; waves of immigration from and to Greece at various points in the twentieth century; and the contemporary flow of refugees from the Middle East to Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece.  While engaging closely with the historical record, the course will also explore how artistic media (literature, music, photography, film) have captured the pain and possibility of exile and diaspora.

Where You Live and Study

This program takes place in close proximity to some of the most celebrated archaeological sites in Greece and the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies. Your studies will be enhanced by this rich setting, as well as by excursions throughout the country. 

I believe I echo a unanimous sentiment when I say that each of us took away something from Olympia that was unique and intensely personal and enriching, be it an appreciation for the classics or Greek sculpture and poetry, a better understanding of the Balkans or of the imperial and urban encounter, or just a compendium of Greek swear words, pet rocks, sand, and Mediterranean salt. It was fabulous.


You share double-occupancy rooms. Buffet breakfast is offered in all hotels, while dinner is provided either in the hotel or in local restaurants and tavernas. You make your own arrangements for lunch. All the hotels provide a free wireless Internet connection in every room.

  • In Nafplio, we stay at Park Hotel. Classes take place at the state-of-the-art facilities of the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, located on the Nafplio waterfront, whose Greek branch was recently inaugurated in 2008.
  • In Olympia, accommodations are provided at Hotel Europa. Classes take place in a fully equipped seminar room—including video projector, printer, computer, and Internet access—within the hotel. 
  • In Thessaloniki, we stay at City Hotel. The hotel is centrally located, offering the chance to explore and engage with the city.

How to Apply

Before applying, review How to Apply.

To apply to the 2017 Study Abroad Program in Greece, complete the application available through online services in early December.

All application materials are due January 26, 2017. You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.

Online application components

  1. A statement of interest in the program that includes information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not required) 
  2. Letter(s) of recommendation from a current or recent teacher or advisor
    • Harvard College applicants: Submit one recommendation
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit two letters of recommendation so program staff can learn about your academic background and preparation for this program
    • The letter(s) can be submitted either via mail to the Study Abroad Office (Harvard Summer School, Room 312, 51 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138) or e-mailed as a PDF directly from the recommender to summergreece@chs.harvard.edu.    
  3. Transcripts
    • Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university
  4. A $50 nonrefundable application fee

Note: Interviews may be requested.


The program fee includes tuition, accommodation, scheduled excursions and activities, as well as some breakfasts and dinners.  

In addition to the program fee, you are responsible for:

  • International airfare
  • Passports and visas (if the latter is needed)
  • Immunizations and health insurance fees
  • Lunches
  • Personal expenditures, including laundry, cell phone charges, and personal excursions

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options. 

Additional Information

Program director

Nicolas Prevelakis

  • Sahar Bazzaz, PhD, Associate Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross
  • Anna Stavrakopoulou, PhD, Assistant Professor of Drama, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Emma Dench, DPhil, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of Classics, Harvard University
  • Gregory Nagy, PhD, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University
  • Dimiter G. Angelov, PhD, Associate of the Department of History, Harvard University
  • Panagiota Batsaki, PhD, Executive Director of Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University
  • Dimitris J. Kastritsis, PhD, Lecturer in History, University of St. Andrews
  • Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Northeastern University
  • Nicolas Prevelakis, PhD, Lecturer on Social Studies and Assistant Director of Curricular Development, Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University