In the Spring semester of 2007, the department offered a study abroad course for the students to explore the history, monuments and culture of ancient Greece. Given the interdisciplinary nature of Classics and the several faculty interested in aspects of this culture, the course was offered in conjunction with the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Classics from the University of Winnipeg. In total, thirty-three students and seven faculty left for a three week adventure to Athens and beyond.
After landing in Athens the students got a few days to acclimate to the time difference, the climate and a new culture. It allowed us to wander around the city and immerse ourselves in the ancient material, like the Parthenon, or visiting the Pnyx, seat of the ancient Athenian democracy. The museums and sites of Athens provided the prime objects of study, but the purpose of the course was also to experience Greece in all its glory – this included looking at Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian, Ottoman and modern Greece. The latter was especially enjoyed by the students as they explored Athens as a great European metropolis. The shopping, the language, the food – the whole trip provided an unparalleled opportunity for the students to experience life in a different culture.
From Athens we made several trips to famous areas near the city, like the silver mines of Laurion, source of Athens’ wealth, and the famous temple of Poseidon at Sounion. We then left Athens and headed north to Delphi, seat of the ancient oracle and great sanctuary of Apollo. We then headed south to Olympia, seat of the ancient Olympic games, across the mountains to Sparta, home of the great warriors of antiquity, and then to the old capital of Nauplion, which acted as a base to explore the Argolid, looking at ancient sites like Mycenae, Epidauros and Corinth. We were lucky enough to have several guest speakers at this point with Prof. Glen Bugh talking to the students about the history and defensive structures of Medieval Greece and Dr. Guy Sanders, director of the excavations at Corinth, providing a tour of the ancient site.
We then returned to Athens and after a day or two, finished all souvenir shopping needed, and then left for home, having been in Greece for three weeks. You can’t begin to understand a culture until you’ve been to the land itself and seen firsthand the monuments and places studied in class. All of the students have described this as the trip of a lifetime, having exceeded all of their educational and personal aspirations. As a department, we believe that these trips form an integral part of a students’ education and more are planned for the future. Whether it’s Greece or some other land important to the ancient or medieval world (Italy, Turkey, Egypt, France, England, etc.) we will continue to do everything we can to make history come alive. Stay tuned and keep checking here for updates on the next adventure. Go see the slide show for pictures of our adventure.