About the Program
In the discourse of cultural origins, the eastern Mediterranean holds a seminal place. The arts and sciences, history, philosophy, and theology all have long cultivation and dissemination traditions 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 place of the initial flourishing and later preservation and transmission of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations and 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 region’s histories. This course will explore some of the major cultural traditions, their points of overlap, mutual influence, and divergence at critical points in the history of the region. The course will also analyze important political formations such as Ancient Athens, the Kingdom of Macedonia and the Hellenistic commonwealth, the Roman, 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, religious and artistic traditions have shaped and been shaped by the movement of people in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.
You will reside in Thessaloniki and Nafplio, visiting many iconic historical and cultural sites along the way. The program will also travel to Ancient Olympia and Athens and offer additional weekend excursions to visit sites and museums of major importance.
Due to its location and the wealth of the historical, artistic, and archaeological record, Greece enables an exceptionally fruitful study of the seminar topics. The program takes place mainly in two sites of prime historical and symbolic significance:
- Cosmopolitan Thessaloniki, the most important city in northern Greece, and the second largest urban center of three empires, under the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans
- Nafplio, the first capital of the modern Greek state
For additional information, visit the Greece program website and watch the video from its last iteration. You can also read about the program’s joyful anniversary of a 20-year milestone since its first iteration back in 2002, which was celebrated in summer 2021 by bringing together virtually the program’s broad community (alumni, fellows, guests, and associates).
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 Thessaloniki, 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
Dimiter Angelov, PhD, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History, Harvard University
Yota Batsaki, PhD, Executive Director of Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University
Sahar Bazzaz, PhD, Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross
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
Eurydice Georganteli, PhD, Lecturer in Art History and Numismatics, Harvard University
Dimitri Kastritsis, PhD, Associate Librarian in Global Studies and Development, University of Virginia
Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Northeastern University
Gregory Nagy, PhD, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
Michael Puett, PhD, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History and Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
Jake Ransohoff, PhD, Mary Seeger O’Boyle Postdoctoral Fellow, Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton University
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.
There are no prerequisites for this course and its seminars.
2024 Course Seminars
Week 1, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia
Eurydice Georganteli, From Zeus to Sabetay Sevi: Religion, Art, and Public Life in Southeastern Europe
This seminar explores South-Eastern Europe as a rich palimpsest of religious and linguistic practices through the study of art and architecture from antiquity to the early modern period. Mobility and migration have shaped rituals, languages, and cultural geographies and resulted in remarkable heritage sites and visual art from the Bosporus to the Adriatic Sea. The sacred precinct at Olympia, the Parthenon in Athens, the rock reliefs at Philippi, the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul, the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, and the Dubrovnik Synagogue are some of the examples we will consider, to unpack legacies of creation, destruction, and reconfiguration of sacred space and works of art. These legacies remain central to national and regional politics and aesthetics and permeate ongoing conversations about migration, mobility, and citizenship in 21st-century Europe.
Gregory Nagy, Crossings of Boundaries in the East Mediterranean and further East, from the Bronze Age onward
Boundaries in the East Mediterranean and further East are crossed in many different ways during a vast period of prehistory and history as surveyed in this seminar. Of special interest for me are (1) narratives, stemming from the late Bronze Age and the early “Dark Age” dating respectively from the end of the second millennium BCE and the early first millennium BCE, about migrations and displacements of Greek and non-Greek populations and (2) narratives, stemming from later times, especially around the middle of the first millennium BCE, involving Greeks and non-Greeks in the era of the Persian Empire and beyond. Here is a brief syllabus tied to secondary sources (mostly essays), containing special references to ancient primary sources that are paraphrased in these secondary sources. During the discussion, I will present for our analysis some small samplings of relevant Greek passages, all translated into English.
Week 2, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia
Dimiter Angelov and Jake Ransohoff, Eye of the World: Byzantium and Its Legacy
The Eastern Roman Empire, which today we call “Byzantine,” was centered for over one millennium (330-1453) on the city of Constantinople, known in the Middle Ageas as the “eye of the world.” This mini-seminar approaches Byzantium as the focal point and historical bridge between worlds—between East and West, antiquity and modernity—by exploring intriguing questions of power, identity, mobility, and inclusion. Who were the Romans, the Greeks, and the barbarians? How did Byzantine cities become a successful melting pot of peoples and traditions? In what ways did Byzantium’s political and religious culture spread into Eastern Europe and Russia? And how was Byzantium invented as a historical category in the modern period? Thessaloniki, Byzantium’s second main city, provides an ideal and inspiring setting for this exciting investigation.
Dimitri Kastritsis, Greece and its History: Empires, Nations, Migrations
This 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. Then we will consider the role of empires in history and in the movement of people and ideas. We will briefly examine the Ottoman Empire from which Greece was born, an empire which stretched from Europe to Asia and Africa and from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Finally, we will discuss some of the cultural heritage of the Ottomans and other medieval and early modern civilizations in Greece, and how this has been viewed and presented at different times.
Week 3, Nafplion, the Peloponnese
Emma Dench, The Roman Empire
Comparison with the Han Empire highlights some of the distinctive features of the Roman Empire. Together, we will delve into and analyze some fascinating examples of what Roman rulers and subjects of the Roman Empire themselves shared about their perspectives on empire. In particular, we will consider how the Romans understood imperial territories and their boundaries, how Roman rulers and subjects talked about governance, leadership, and rule, how rulers and subjects conceptualized and experienced their multicultural world, and differentiated between populations, and finally how bandits, pirates and nomads challenged many of the social, political, and economic ideals of the Roman world.
Michael Puett, The Han Empire
Our discussion of the Han Empire will be developed in comparison with the Roman Empire. The two empires were rough contemporaries: the Han empire (202 BCE-220 CE) coincides chronologically with the peak of Roman overseas expansion and the height of Roman imperial power. In comparison with the Roman empire, we will explore how the Han understood rulership and governance, how they construed the rise of empire vis-à-vis the forms of governance that existed in the past, and how they thought of themselves in relationship to the world outside.
Week 4, Nafplion, the Peloponnese
Yota Batsaki, Strangers at Home
This seminar focuses on displacement and belonging in our damaged world from theoretical, historical, visual, and literary perspectives. This year is the centennial of the Treaty of Lausanne, prompted by the humanitarian crisis of more than one million people displaced by the Balkan Wars and the Greek-Turkish War (1919-1922). The treaty was the first internationally mandated exchange of populations, uprooting the Muslims of mainland Greece and the Orthodox populations of Anatolia from their homes based on religion, and without possibility of return. Taking this historical milestone as our point of departure, we will explore the knotty ethics of hospitality; the violence that goes into the building of the ‘imagined community’ of the nation; the fallacy of purity and the elusive nature of belonging.
Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Migrants, Exiles, and Refugees in the Modern Eastern Mediterranean
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.
Where You'll 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.
You share double-occupancy rooms in hotels located at the center of each city that you visit in the program. 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 Thessaloniki, we stay at Park Hotel. The hotel is centrally located, offering the chance to explore and engage with the city.
- In Nafplio, we stay at another Park Hotel. Classes take place at the state-of-the-art facilities of the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece, inaugurated in 2008 and located on the Nafplio waterfront.
- In Olympia, accommodations are provided at Hotel Europa.
- In Athens, we stay at Amalia Hotel, located at the very heart of the Greek capital, close to the Parliament and the Acropolis.
To apply, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student
- Be in good academic standing
Students enrolled at any accredited university are welcome to apply. See the How to Apply page for more information.
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 in early March.
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, etc.)
Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program. Please note that this program requires letter(s) of recommendation as part of the online application process, which must be submitted by the application deadline. Apply early to ensure that your recommender has time to submit your letter(s).
Be sure to read about the funding options available for Harvard Summer School Study Abroad programs.
If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at email@example.com.
Cost & Expenses
The program fee includes:
- Scheduled program activities
- Some meals (the program will provide further details)
- Harvard Summer School health insurance plan
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. Note that expense categories–especially airfare–may be subject to significant fluctuations.
- International airfare ($1,600 – $2,000)
- Ground transportation ($200)
- Meals ($600)
- Personal expenditures, communications, course materials, and miscellaneous ($250)
If you have specific questions about personal budgeting, please contact the program directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options.