Big Love for a Small Country

Greece has a weird effect on people. For such a small country, it’s charm is immeasurable. One might find it odd that those who love Greece the most, aren’t even born in Greece. Today, we met such people.

There to meet us under the shadow of the Parthenon, was Dr. John Camp, Director of the Archaeological dig of the ancient Agora. He has been working at the site since1966! In his ever-engaging tone, he gave an amazingly insightful tour of the ancient Agora, one that only a Director could give. A moment’s walk away was the latest excavation site, where Dr. Camp and the other Archaeologists took the time to show the participants around, allowing them to even dig with them! They answered any questions the participants had, much to the participants’ bewilderment. Noah Duclos was highly enthusiastic. “It was such an amazing experience to meet with Dr. Camp and to hear about the archaeological project from the man who’s been doing that work for 50 years. His willingness to share his knowledge and give us a glimpse into the work they do there was an opportunity of a lifetime.”

As the day was packed, the group boarded the buses and headed to Kolonaki, where  the American School of Classical Studies is located.

It has close ties to the American College of Greece, as they are some of the oldest American educational institutions in Europe.

Founded in 1881, the American School of Classical Studies provides graduate students and scholars from affiliated North American colleges and universities a base for the advanced study of all aspects of Greek culture, from antiquity to the present day. It also contributes considerably to the dissemination of information about Greek history and archaeology to the Greek public, as well as to the international and Greek scholarly communities.

There to welcome the participants was George Orfanakos, Executive Director of the school. He explained the scope and mission of the institution, by presenting short videos of faculty and benefactors, most of whom were not of Greek descent. “They weren’t born Greek. They became Greek by choice,” is what Mr. Orfanakos told the participants. The love of Greek history, culture, and tradition is the driving force of the school and its people.

To showcase all that the school has to offer, the participants were split in to five groups, and rotated from location to location. The participants played a wonderful game with Gennadius Library’s director, Maria Georgopoulou, where they had to assemble a map of Greece. Participants also had the chance to see the Archives, where they were even shown the original notebook of Henry Schliemann, the pioneer of archaeology! Next, they visited the exhibition on Ioannis Makriyannis, one of the heroes of the Greek Revolution of 1821. Another fascinating part of the tour, was the rare books collection, which used to be part of the Blegen Library, but is now part of the Gennadius Library, where participants had the chance to see wonderful illustrations of books dating back to the 15th century.

Lastly, linking the archaeological dig at the Agora, which the school is closely connected to, participants had the once in a lifetime opportunity to go into the depths of the Wiener Laboratory, where American and international scholars of archaeological science in the eastern Mediterranean and adjacent areas are given the tools and resources to answer a variety of scientifically-based questions mainly in the fields of bioarchaeology, geoarchaeology, archaeobotany and zooarchaeology!

At the end of a full day of activities, participants were served a delicious lunch in the main hall. It was there that we caught up with Mr. Orfanakos, who was very pleased to receive the Heritage Greece program. “It was a great joy to have the Heritage Greece Program from the National Hellenic Society come and visit the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. It was extraordinary to see these kids come here and recognize that, although they were born Greek, they were not Greek by choice. That the people here at the American School, and those who established the school, who chose to become Greek, established this place to preserve, promote, protect Greece’s past, from 1881, straight through to today. So, I think there was a deep appreciation.

For me, the most important thing was the awareness we are building, and understanding that this place exists. To recognize the scope and work of this institution.

If there is one thing I hope they take away from this, is passion; it’s the passion that people can have to preserve a heritage, which sometimes isn’t even their own. Hopefully, in that way, Greek Americans and people that participate in the Heritage Greece Program, by seeing others appreciate Greece’s past and realizing that there is a future for it, will begin to realize just how blessed they are, being part of the omogenia and diaspora, and how important it is to carry that torch forward.”

Christian Roumelis thought, “it was interesting to be able to see all the history and how it shaped modern Greece”, with Noah reflecting, “seeing the work done by Americans and Greeks to preserve Greek history from the classical period to the modern era was a wonderful experience. My favorite thing was definitely seeing Schliemann’s journal from his discovery of Troy and Mycenae, because of how significant of a person and event that was.”

On the same day, the President of the American College of Greece, Dr. David G. Horner, graciously opened his house to the participants and peers of the program. A warm reception, as everyone who made this year’s program possible was there. The President made all the guests feel welcomed, as though part of the family, a family of which they are all now a part of. Lucas Bennett felt particularly welcomed.“I thought the Presidents reception was really inspiring. Being around successful Greek Americans who really want the best for me and want to support me later in life, made me feel really connected to my community.”

One of the Greek-Americans there, George Koskos, one of the founders of the NHS, was touched by all the aspiring Greek-Americans he saw. “The beautiful, handsome, young Greek-American students, have taken me, personally, to another level. I thought I have accomplished a lot in my life, but knowing full well what this program is doing for these students… it has, truly, taken me to another level.”

Food and good company brought laughter and mirth. In the beautiful summer sunset, it was a night to be remembered.


Dr. John Camp showing the participants around the excavation site of Stoa Poekile.


The American School of Classical Studies and the Heritage Greece Program!


A family photograph at the President’s Reception.

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