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 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 will reside in Nafplio and Thessaloniki, visiting many archaeological, historical, and cultural sites along the way. The program will also travel to Athens and ancient Olympia for a three-day trip 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 in four 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
- Athens, the capital of modern Greece and the heart of the powerful civilization of Ancient Greece
To learn more, visit the Greece program website and watch a video about the program.
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 Nafplio, Thessaloniki, 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
Nicolas Prevelakis, PhD, Lecturer on Social Studies and Assistant Director of Curricular Development, Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University
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.
There are no prerequisites for this course and its seminars.
2020 Course seminars
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.
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.
Waiting for the Barbarians: Power, Identity, and Communication (Dimiter Angelov)
Fear of the barbarians permeated the mentality of the Byzantines, the Greek-speaking Romans of the Middle Ages. The mini seminar explores ways in which this apprehension affected collective self-perception and perception of the other. What were the preconceived notions about the other and how much did the inhabitants of medieval Constantinople know about the peoples and geography of the world? Particular attention is paid to the role of public communication. What were the authorized and informal ways in which news traveled from the capital to the provinces and back? Why was there so much rumor and hearsay disseminated both among the barbarians and the emperor’s own subjects? We will explore these questions in informal seminar discussion based on select primary texts.
‘All is translation and every bit of us is lost in it’: from and into Greek, in and on Greece (Anna Stavrakopoulou)
This seminar explores the role of translation as movement between languages and cultures, running parallel to willing or forced geographic relocations. We will examine translations by and for well-known Greek poets, focusing on C. P. Cavafy, George Seferis and Kiki Dimoula, by considering how translation contributes to the shaping of a national literary canon, how chance events might determine the global reception of a poet and whether the international acclaim might have an impact on national appreciation. We will also be reading some theoretical texts (Walter Benjamin, Edward Said, George Seferis), asking questions pertaining to translation and its decisive side-effects in the shaping of languages, cultures and national identities.
Knowledge in Motion in the Eastern Mediterranean (Sahar Bazzaz)
In recent years, scholars have emphasized the intimate relationship between science and empire. This seminar considers a largely under-examined area of empire/science studies namely, the Ottoman empire—an imperial formation whose history and periodization does not align with European or North American models. We will focus specifically on scientific expeditions as a way of thinking about how knowledge moves.
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'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 Nafplio, we stay at 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 Thessaloniki, we are accommodated at the 5-star Mediterranean Palace, which is centrally located, offering the chance to explore and engage with the city. Classes take place within the hotel.
- In Olympia, accommodations are provided at Hotel Europa. Classes and dinners take place within the hotel.
- In Athens, we stay at Amalia Hotel, located at the very heart of the Greek capital, close to the Parliament and the Acropolis.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost & Expenses
The program fee includes:
- 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. Note that expense categories–especially airfare–may be subject to significant fluctuations.
- 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.