Greece: From the “Cradle of Democracy” to Today

June 2011


The purpose of this capstone course is twofold: 1) give students the opportunity to visit and experience the “cradle of Western civilization;” and 2) challenge them to re-examine that very same “classical” perception of Greece and the Greeks in light of Greece’s other rich heritages: Greece of the Byzantine Empire, Greece during its 350-year occupation by the Ottoman Turks, and modern Greece, that is, Greece since 1821.

Students will gain an appreciation of Greek classical, medieval and modern civilizations by traversing Greece and visiting ancient archeological sites, exploring Byzantine castles and monasteries, touring numerous museums and art galleries, wandering the streets of dozens of Greek cities, traveling to a few of Greece’s renowned islands, and meeting contemporary Greeks. Students will learn about Greek geography, history, society and culture.

While in Greece, students will attend lectures on various aspects of Greek civilization, participate in class visits to site locations, read assigned articles and books, and give two presentations during the course. Students will be asked to address such diverse issues as: the role of geography on Greek civilization; the impact of Catholic and Islamic rule on Greek culture; the use of myth, religion, and modern political philosophy to legitimize thought and deed; the challenge of modern city planning and living amidst archeological treasures; the impact of tourism on Greek society; and how Greeks view themselves and their past .

Course evaluation will consist of 1) attendance at all lectures and participation in discussions (20%), 2) class presentations (20%), 3) three short-answer exams (50%), and 4) completion of a journal containing lecture notes, comments and reflections (10%). The journal must also address in an explicit manner the intersection of Greece’s ancient, Byzantine, and modern heritages.

While in Greece we will explore the following themes:


  • Greek ancient and modern religion 
  • Greek mythology and theater 
  • Between history and legend 
  • Elements of the religious beliefs of ancient and modern Greeks 


  • Greek literature and ancient philosophy
  • Arts
  • Plastic art, pottery, architecture, painting 

Contemporary Greece

  • Economy
  • Political system
  • Customs
  • Society

Required Readings

  • Boatswain, T and Nicolson, C. A Traveller's History of Greece.
  • Hamilton, Edith. Mythology.
  • Leontis, Artemis, ed., Greece: A Traveler’s Literary Companion
  • Course Packet: Articles by Eleni Yaourlas, George Thomson; Timothy Gregory; John Petropoulos; Gregory Jusdanis; Peter Walcot; and other

The Class Presentations
At least six weeks prior to departure, students will receive two topics on which they will give presentations while in Greece. Students should research the topics prior to departure and be prepared to give a ten to fifteen minute presentation on each topic.

Required Pre-departure Course
All UNI students must register for the Greek Study Abroad Pre-Departure Course offered during the second half of the Spring semester


Day 1 Arrive in Athens and transfer to hotel 
Day 2 Athens  - Visit the Acropolis and City Tour
Day 3 Athens  - Visit the National Museum of Athens 
Day 4 Athens - Nafplion  - Visit the Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth, and the Mycenean Archeological site 
Day 5 Nafplion - Visit the Santuary of Asklepios and the Theater of Epidauros
Day 6 Nafplion - Monemvasia  - Visit the medieval city of Monemvasia
Day 7 Monemvasia - Kalamata  - Visit the Byzantine city of Mystras 
Day 8  Kalamata - Visit the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor in Pylos
Day 9 Kalamata - Olympia  - Visit the archeological site and museum of Ancient Olympia.
Day 10 Olympia - Ioannina - Visit the Lake of Ioannina (Limni Pambotis) and the small island of Nisi
Day 11 Ioannina - Thessaloniki - Visit the archeological site of Vergina
Day 12 Thessaloniki - Visit City Monuments
Day 13 Thessaloniki - Kalambaka  - Visit the monasteries of Meteora
Day 14 Kalambaka - Delphi - Visit the Sanctuary of Pythian Apollo and the archeological museum at Delphi
Day 15 Delphi - Athens - Visit the Monastery of Osios Loukas
Day 16 Athens - Crete  - Visit the archeological site of Knossos
Day 17 Crete  - Rethymnon
Day 18 Crete - Santorini 
Day 19-20 Santorini 
Day 21 Santorini - Athens 
Day 22 Athens 
Day 23 Depart Athens for the U.S. 

  ***The University of Northern Iowa reserves the right to change the itinerary at any time and for any reason, with or without notice.

Estimated Costs

The trip is estimated to cost approximately $5500. This estimate includes ALL in-country expenses and R/T airfare to Greece from the U.S. and tuition.


Registration is on a first come/first serve basis. The course is restricted to 20 students. A $250 non-refundable deposit should accompany your Registration Form to be considered for the course. This deposit will be credited toward the total cost of the program. You are responsible for any airline fees or other charges incurred. However, contact Professor Bruess before making any travel arrangments.

Make checks payable to University of Northern Iowa (please include your student ID number on the check) Mail to: Attn: Greek Study Tour, Department of History, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0701

Attention Non-UNI Students
If you are a student not attending UNI, or if you are not a student, please contact Professor Bruess at (319) 273-2752 or

Contacts us

The instructors for the course are Gregory Bruess and Isabela Varela. Professor Bruess is an associate professor in the department of History. He is a specialist in Orthodox Christianity and Modern Greek history. Since 1982, he has traveled extensively in Greece and has studied and conducted research there. Isabela Varela, a licensed Greek tour guide, is an expert on Greek archeological sites and ancient Greek art and culture and brings twenty years of tour leading experience to this course. She holds undergraduate degrees from the College of Tour Guides, Athens, Greece, and the University of Minnesota and graduate degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. 

For more information you can e-mail or call: 


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