Taught course

The City

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens · National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Entry requirements

This programme is addressed to anyone with an interest in archaeology and particularly in the formation of the ancient Greek city-state.

Months of entry

September, February

Course content

This programme aims to acquaint participants with the "core" of classical civilization, which is the foundation of western culture, through monuments and by introducing the concepts of the ideal citizen, democracy, and philosophical thought as reflected theoretically and practically in ancient Greek religion.

Programme Description

An Itinerary from Past to Future: The city

Lesson 1 Why is the Classical modern and useful?
In this lesson, issues of use and value of the Classical Greek legacy in contemporary life are addressed. The impact of the Classical Greek legacy on modern society is assessed in terms of its usefulness, its dynamics and its misuse. A great number of ideas and practices conceived and elaborated in Ancient Greece continue to play an important role in modern life. Classical antiquity remains on the other hand active in modern life as a fund of human experience and inspiration. There is an interactive approach of modern writers, poets, artists, actors, cinematographers, sportsmen and others to the Classical heritage, who reform or study inherited images and ideas of the past and use them as vehicles with which to express modern experiences and quests. A characteristic case is the tradition of ancient Greek theatre as space and function.

Lesson 2 The Greek city – state. Development and Structure
The Greek city-state was a singular political structure and became the nucleus of ancient Greek life. There were hundreds of city-states in Ancient Greece and its colonies. They consisted of an urban center with a more or less restricted rural area around it. Despite of differences, life in all city states was based on an essential common principle: Their citizens were all active in common affairs and at the same time responsible of the fate of their city. It is the function of this principle that led to the birth of democracy in Greece. In this lesson students will study the major institutions of the Greek city-states, the state sanctuaries, the Agora (center of political life), the Council, the Assembly of citizen, the courts, the various officers, the army, but also the alliances, leagues and hegemonies of city-states. Many of these institutions were inherited to the modern world.

Lesson 3 The Greek city – state. City planning and architecture
The urban center of the city-state was the theatre of common life in Ancient Greece. Space was foreseen in every city for the veneration of the patron gods of the city and for political and economic activity. Special buildings were developed for the meetings of deputies or the citizen, for archives, for sports and so on. Many of these structures became typical for the housing of democratic institutions, as for example the parliament buildings, the theaters and the stadia. Since the 7th century BC an urban planning concept, which organised the layout of cities into a system of separate public and private space traversed by straight roads and streets, developed gradually in Greece, especially in colonies, where the city was organized from its beginning. The roads and streets intersected each other at right angles, creating equal plots for private dwelling. So town planning came to reflect the feeling of equity in the Greek city. The more complex town planning of Hellenistic cities is also discussed.

Lesson 4 Greek Mythology: Gods and Heroes
Religion had a decisive role in Greek political life. All decisions for common activity and life were taken in the name of the gods. Each city had one or more patron gods. Also heroes, immortalized men of divine ancestry, played an important role in the life of city-states. They were also thought as protecting cities or different places in Greece. Gods and heroes were often used in the political propaganda of the city-states. Theseus for example expressed the identity of the Athenians and Heracles did the same for Dorians. This lesson examines myths of gods and heroes related to the identity and the policy of Greek cities. The mythical characters of Greek mythology continue to be used broadly as symbols of ideas and actions in our days: Best example Europe on the Bull as symbol of the European Union.

Lesson 5 Meaning and Values of private life through ages
This unit examines various aspects of the daily lives of ancient Greeks, namely all stages of their lives, birth, childhood, adulthood, marriage, old age, death, as well as ways of making a living in antiquity. The study of the finds of antiquity that come to light, we know customs and traditions that have been preserved and consolidated in the Greek world over the years. Specifically, vases, sculptures, written sources and other archaeological finds outline the profile of the ancient Greek husband, family man, citizen, and therefore the profile of ancient Greek society. The unit also examines how many of the lifestyles of ancient Greeks survive with stunning continuity in modern society.

Case Studies

This section discusses the study of five archaeological sites that combine the image of the ancient city, of temples and theaters in Ancient Greece. On the basis of texts and audiovisual material (videos + photos), the reader is guided to the area: following an electronic tour he learns more on each monument but also gets an overview of the historical context of the site. Participants can, also, watch interviews with professors and experts in the field of archaeology, that animate the excavation and the subsequent restoration of the archaeological sites. These case studies provide participants with the practical knowledge complementary to the theoretical aspects already explored in previous units. In that way, participants feel part of this archaeological journey.

Lesson 1 Athens
These are applicable in Athens, considering separately the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the site of Sounion in Attica.

Lesson 2 Epidavros
The following case study is Ancient Epidavros, the sacred space of the Healing God Asclepius and finally the Ancient Messene.

Lesson 3 Ancient Olympia and Ancient Elis
Subsequent study area is Ancient Olympia, Ancient Elis, under control of which stood the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, where the Olympic Games took place.

Lesson 4 Ancient Messene
The final case study is Ancient Messene one of the best preserved examples of an ancient Greek city.

Fees and funding

UK students

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
2 months

Course contact details

Admissions Office