History of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece

The Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece (CHS GR) was inaugurated in 2008 by way of a joint decision between the Provost and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Housed in the historic Iatrou building, formerly home to the municipal town hall of Nafplio, CHS GR began as an office of the Center of Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., and has evolved into a Harvard base of operations and twin institution to its counterpart in Washington, D.C. A joint American and Greek Executive Board supervises the Center. The Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece is Professor Ioannis Petropoulos of the Democritus University of Thrace.

When Professor Gregory Nagy was appointed Director of CHS DC in 2000 he tried to bring together Paul Mellon’s vision to "give a fresh impetus but also a new direction to the study of Greek and hence to its effect on our own age," and the Center’s mission to “rediscover the humanism of the Hellenic Greeks.” Professor Nagy decided to proceed with a series of vital changes that would prominently affect the Center’s operation. One of the most significant developments to that direction involved the Center’s international presence and profile. Internationalization was a key initiative for Harvard during the same period, as well as a paramount issue in the agenda of Harvard’s former Vice-Provost for International Affairs, Dr. Jorge Dominguez.

CHS GR utilizes the knowledge and expertise of Harvard’s faculty and research Centers and is a key part of Harvard’s continuing effort to expand its international presence. The Center serves as an important nexus for the network of international Centers operated by Harvard around the world, with the significant differentiation that from the very first moment it was organized, operated and developed by being accessible and free of charge to the general public and having two main and equally significant operational priorities: to offer to the Harvard community as well as to the Greek and wider global community. Other Harvard international offices can be found in Santiago, Chile; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Mumbai, India and Shanghai, China. More information on Harvard's international initiatives can be found on the Harvard Worldwide website.

Location and Facilities

Nafplio was chosen as a base of operation due to its proximity to some of the most celebrated archaeological sites in Greece (e.g. Mycenae, Mystras, Epidaurus, Olympia, etc.). Nafplio was the first capital of modern Greece after independence and was a major port during the Mycenaean period. Nafplio’s prominent role in the shaping of modern Greece and its enduring cultural significance make it an ideal setting for Harvard students as well as for visitors from Greece and across the globe.

In 2003, after the Mayor Mr. Panayiotis Anagnostaras’s proposal, the Nafplio Municipality decided to proceed with the renovation of the neoclassical Megaron Iatrou building, and to lease this historical building to the CHS. The Nafplio Municipality, the CHS in Washington D.C., Harvard University, the Department of Computer Science and Technology of the University of the Peloponnese, contractors, and architects, as well as other public and private participants, cooperated for an extended period of time on the renovation project, which was completed in the autumn of 2007. It is also worth mentioning the generous contributions by Captain Nikos Mazarakis and Captain Georgios Vernardakis, whose donations led to the establishment of CHS GR’s “Nikos Mazarakis Family” Lecture Hall and “Georgios D. Vernardakis Digital Library.”

Building and Facilities

The CHS GR is housed in the historic Megaron Iatrou. The Iatrou building is a spacious four-floor mansion located in the Old Town of Nafplio. The ground floor of the building consists of a vestibule and the “Nikos Mazarakis Family” Lecture Hall. This hall has been fully equipped for public events, lectures, seminars, and small conferences. The Center's equipment (videoconferencing system, multimedia station, video projector, wired and wireless microphones, Internet connectivity, laptops, recording equipment, etc.) allows instant interactive audiovisual communication to be made possible, to both the CHS in Washington and Harvard University as well as other institutions and organizations that share similar Information Technology capabilities.

On the second floor there is one staff office and the “Georgios D. Vernardakis Digital Library.” The “Georgios Vernardakis Digital Library” contains worktables and special client workstations with direct connections to Harvard University’s library system, providing visiting researchers access to text corpora, bibliographic databases, and online journals.

The third floor of the Iatrou building features the “Fellows Room”, where workshops and seminars are being held, as well as two staff offices. Lastly, the fourth floor consists of the Center’s attic space with a kitchenette, a small lounge, and access to a small terrace on the roof that offers spectacular view of the Palamidi fortress, Acronafplia and the Bourtzi.

The Center has evolved during the past years and continues to find new ways to involve the local community to its activities. In addition, it has expanded its activities and operation throughout Greece. In this context the CHS presence is growing with colleagues and associates working in Nafplio as well as in other locations, such as Athens, and Thessaloniki, and activities taking place in various parts of Greece.

CHS in Greece