Harvard Summer Program in Nafplio and Thessaloniki, Greece (Humanities)

Apply by: 
January 30, 2020

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!”

Migrations and Boundaries: Reconceptualizing Mobility in the Eastern Mediterranean and Beyond

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, as well as 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. This course will explore some of the major cultural traditions, their points of overlap, mutual influence, and strategic divergence at key points in the history of the region. The course will also analyze important political formations such as Ancient Athens and Rome, 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 political formations, epistemologies, and artistic traditions have shaped and been shaped by the movement of people in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.

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

Program Structure

This program explores some of the major cultural traditions, their points of overlap, mutual influence, and strategic divergence. In the courses, you 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 three sites of prime historical and symbolic significance: 

  • 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 program.

The course, seminar, and faculty information below is from the 2019 program. Updated information for 2020 will be posted in the fall.


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 counts as one full-year course (8 credits) of degree credit.

COMP S-107 Study Abroad in Greece: Migration and Boundaries—Reconceptionalizing Mobility in the Eastern Mediterranean and Beyond. (33279)

Nicolas Prevelakis
Dimiter G. Angelov
Emma Dench
Gregory Nagy
Michael Puett
Evridiki Georganteli
Panagiota Batsaki
Dimitris J. Kastritsis
Ilham Khuri-Makdisi
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Now in its nineteenth year, this 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

Week 1:

Borders, mobility, and migration in historical perspective (Nicolas Prevelakis)

This mini-seminar will provide a general framework in order to understand the topics of border, migration, and mobility. We will be asking the following questions: What is a border? How have borders been understood, and how have they functioned throughout the history of the region? To what extent did ancient city-states, empires, and modern nation-states have a different understanding of borders? Examining these questions will allow us to better understand the role of mobility and migration in the Eastern Mediterranean, from Antiquity to the current refugee crisis.


Greece and its History: Empires, Nations, Migrations (Dimitris Kastritsis)

The mini seminar introduces students to key themes for understanding the history of Greece and its people, which is largely one of empires and vast movements of people and ideas. We will begin with an introduction to the modern Greek state and its historical 'baggage', from antiquity to independence from the Ottoman Empire. In our second meeting, we will consider the role of empires in history and in the movement of people and ideas. In our third meeting, we will briefly examine the Ottoman Empire from which Greece was born, an empire which stretched from Asia to Europe and from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Finally, in our fourth meeting we will discuss the material heritage of the Ottomans and other medieval and early modern civilizations in Greece. The class will end with a short tour of some of the monuments in the old town of Nafplio.


Week 2:

Crossings of boundaries between social order and disorder in the East Mediterranean, from the Bronze Age to the era of Alexander (Gregory Nagy)

Boundaries between social order and disorder in the East Mediterranean were crossed in many different ways during a period lasting over a thousand years of prehistory and history as surveyed in this seminar. Of special interest are (1) the emergence of a hybrid Minoan / Mycenaean civilization in the second half of the second millennium BCE and (2) the intensification of Hellenic and non-Hellenic differentiations in the "dark" and then "archaic" and then "classical" ages of the first millennium BCE. The seminar will highlight evidence for (a) cultural fluidity, in the late "archaic" and early "classical" ages, involving Greeks living inside and outside the Persian Empire and (b) contested models, operating in the earlier "dark" ages, of civilization as transmitted by mobile artisans who were juridically immune as they crossed boundaries from one petty kingdom to another. Primary sources to be read will include selections, in English translation, from epic and from "wisdom" poetry, together with prose accounts by historians like Herodotus and Thucydides, as also by antiquarians like Pausanias. In such ancient Greek sources, as also in non-Greek counterparts, the modern reader will find moral problems being posed about dysfunctionalities experienced by gods as well as by humans in the heroic era of myths—as opposed to the functionalism of social orders as they existed in the "post-heroic" era of rituals that recapitulated the myths.

Rome and China: boundaries, identities and outsiders before the nation state (Emma Dench and Michael Puett)

The Roman and Han empires interacted only through intermediaries, and each had only a vague notion of the other, despite the fact that they were at their height at roughly the same time (between the 200's BCE and the 200's CE).   Comparing and contrasting these two ancient empires offers us great insight into the different ways in which boundaries, identities and migration were conceptualized before the formation of the nation state.   We will focus particularly on ancient conceptualizations of the world and of the extent of Han and Roman power within it, on notions and enactments of imperial communities, and on ideas about and behavior towards outsiders. 


Week 3:
Mobility and Identity in the Byzantine World (Dimiter Angelov)
This seminar examines the role of the movement of people and ideas for the formation of identities in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean. Mobility is approached both as a historical reality and an influential cultural construct. The focus lies on the world of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, the politically dominant power in the area until the Fourth Crusade. Why did migration and human movement feature so prominently in myths of origin? What did it mean to be a Roman and a Hellene in the Byzantine Middle Ages, and what were the assigned roles and identities of other communities that settled down in the medieval Balkans and Asia Minor through diaspora and migration?  How did people on the move—foreign visitors—relate to local political, ethnic, and religious identities? In what ways was human movement imagined in medieval fiction? The discussions of these and other questions will help us to explore the complex relationship between mobility and identity in Mediterranean history.


Via Egnatia: Mobility, Cultural Geographies, and Material Culture (Eurydice Georganteli)

The seminar explores the cultural geographies and extraordinary heritage of Via Egnatia, one of Europe’s oldest, longest, and most significant cultural routes, with particular focus on the city of Thessaloniki, once at the center of the 696 mile-long land artery. Created by the Romans in the 2nd century BCE, initially as a conduit for conquest and solidification of power, Egnatia developed over time into one of the most traveled routes of trade, warfare, diplomacy, pilgrimage, and cultural exchange, connecting western to southeastern Europe, and Europe to Asia and beyond. In the 1st century CE, the road became intertwined with St Paul’s travels and the first Christian communities in Europe, and from the 4th to the 15th century with the political and cultural trajectory of Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the West. In 1501 Egnatia in its entirety came under the Ottoman rule and remained as such until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the First Balkan War (1912-1913). Ancient and medieval sites, temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues dotted along the ancient route tell stories of conflict, migration, cross-cultural encounters, accommodation, and fertilization. Given that the seminar revolves around the theme of travel and mobility, it is only appropriate that we will travel, albeit within modern Thessaloniki, to work with two of the city’s most celebrated museum collections. A close-up study of select artifacts from the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Museum of Byzantine Culture will introduce participants to the spatial and historical trajectory of Egnatia through an art-historical and archaeological perspective. Mobility and spoliation of Egnatia’s treasures, culture and national identity, and the role of modern museums in the sharing of heritage are some of the issues that will also be addressed.


Week 4:

Migrants, Exiles, and Refugees in the Modern Eastern Mediterranean (Ilham Khuri-Makdisi)

The expansion of empire, and the unraveling of empire, have generated mass migrations. Our point of departure will be the break-up of the Ottoman empire and accompanying nation-state formation in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which created vast movements of people in the eastern Mediterranean. 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, growing nationalism, and the aftermath of the Balkan and World Wars, with particular emphasis on the exchange of populations following the Greek-Turkish war of 1920-22. We will then build on the insights drawn from philosophical and literary texts about hospitality, exile, and cosmopolitanism to grapple with the contemporary treatment of refugees as one of the crucial political and moral questions of our time.


Hospitality and Displacement (Yota Batsaki)

This seminar has been designed in dialogue with Professor Khuri-Makdisi course on Migrants and Refugees in the Modern Eastern Mediterranean. Beginning with the premise that the treatment of refugees is one of the crucial political and moral questions of our time, the seminars adopt a dual approach: they consider the right to asylum and hospitality from a variety of ethical, aesthetic, and philosophical perspectives; and they study the modern historical record of voluntary or forced displacement in the region with particular attention to the exchange of populations following the Greek-Turkish war of 1920-22 and the contemporary flow of refugees from the Middle East to Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece.

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 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.


Early application is strongly encouraged. Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline. 

You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two programs, you will be asked to rank your two applications in order of preference (first and second choice). Any applications submitted in excess of the maximum of two will be automatically withdrawn. You will be notified of your admissions status in each program by late February. 

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, audio or video submissions, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

The summer 2020 application will be available here in early December. Harvard College students applying for funding from the Office of Career Services (OCS): Please note that the OCS funding application is separate. OCS funding awards are tied to a specific program, and cannot be transferred to another program.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at summerabroad@summer.harvard.edu, or by telephone at (617) 998-9602.

Cost & Expenses

The program fee includes:

  • Tuition
  • Accommodations
  • Scheduled program activities
  • Some meals (the program will provide further details)

You will also need to budget for a number of expenses not covered by the program fee. The amounts listed below for these out-of-pocket expenses are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not noted here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including personal spending habits and currency exchange rates.

  • International airfare ($1,300 - $1,600)
  • Ground transportation ($100)
  • Meals ($500)
  • Personal expenditures, communications, course materials, and miscellaneous ($400)

If you have specific questions about personal budgeting, please contact the program directly.

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

Additional Information

Program directorS

Dimiter Angelov

Gregory Nagy

Program coordinatorS

Ilham Khuri-Makdisi

Nicolas Prevelakis​


  • Nicolas Prevelakis, PhD, Lecturer on Social Studies and Assistant Director of Curricular Development, Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University
  • Panagiota Batsaki, PhD, Executive Director of Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University
  • Dimiter G. Angelov, PhD, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History, Harvard University
  • Dimitris J. Kastritsis, PhD, Lecturer in History, University of St. Andrews
  • 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
  • Emma Dench, DPhil, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of Classics and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • Evridiki Georganteli, PhD, Lecturer on History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
  • Michael Puett, PhD, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History and Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
  • Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Northeastern University