Plague, Politics & Populism | Classical Athens as Parable for Modern Greece and Europe (Athens, Delphi, Paros, Delos, Mykonos)

Application Deadline: April 1

Drawing from ancient texts and modern scholarship, visits to archeological and cultural sites in Athens, Delphi and Delos, as well as private meetings with leading academics, business experts, NGOs, and government bodies, “Classical Athens as Parable for Modern Greece and Europe” course will explore how ancient and modern epidemics – specifically the Great Plague of Athens in 430 BC and COVID-19 Pandemic – expose the “fissures and fractures” that intensify and foment the economic and political consequences of their respective eras. In the case of fifth-century Athens, the plague ultimately cost the city-state a victory against Sparta, questioned the leadership of Pericles, and killed a third of the population amidst a climate rife with conspiracy theories, rising populism, and xenophobia. Events that seeded the decline of Athenian hegemony, and democracy. The comparison to similar patterns emerging today is inescapable, as is the expectation that COVID-19 will reshape history for decades to come. With profound economic and political uncertainty escalating, students will address contemporary challenges facing Greece and Europe, thrashed against the prism of Athenian antecedents.

During the first two weeks of “Classical Athens as Parable for Modern Greece and Europe”, students will consider the Great Plague’s impact on the political economy of Athens, from the accounts of Thucydides, Plato, Greek political thinkers and playwrights, as well as the scholarship of Bresson, Kelaidis, and Ober among others. During the second two weeks, these insights and arguments will be applied to analyzing how Greece continues battling COVID-19 against the backdrop of decades-long economic, political, and social crises. This will include examining (in non-technical terms) both the microeconomic impact on households, commerce, and governments, and macroeconomic impact on GDP, growth initiatives, and public policy. This framework will challenge students to synthesize all course resources, and advance their understanding of Greece and Europe’s role in the future of globalization.

Course Details


This course requires a minimum enrollment of 10, with a maximum enrollment of 20.


60 contact hours

Essential Information

The course starts and ends in Athens. Transportation between Athens and the rest of the course’s destinations, as well as during day excursions is included in the course fee.

Enrolled students will have access to detailed information prior to departure that will include directions to the Academic Center and other practical information about residing in Athens. CYA recommends the following websites for general information about Athens and Greece: and

IMPORTANT NOTE: This course involves extensive travel.  Be wary of overpacking.  Pack only what you can carry comfortably, because you will be required to check- in and out of accommodations for each stay/travel segment of this course. It will also be useful to bring with you travel-size cosmetics.


Students are housed within walking distance of the CYA Academic Center in either CYA student apartments located in the Pangrati neighborhood of central Athens or in hotel accommodations arranged by CYA. CYA apartments are simply furnished and equipped with a full kitchen and air-conditioned bedrooms; towels, linens and housekeeping service will be provided. Hotel accommodations will be in simple 2- or 3-star hotels, double- or triple-occupancy, with air-conditioned rooms.


The CYA Academic Center is located next to the Athens Marble Stadium and houses classrooms, the library, the student lounge and cafeteria, computer facilities (including wireless access for those students who choose to bring laptop computers), laundry facilities, and administrative offices. The Academic Center is accessible Monday-Thursday 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Friday 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.


When class is in Athens a full mid-day meal will be served weekdays in the CYA cafeteria between the hours of 12:00-3:00 p.m.  While traveling, breakfast will be offered at the Hotel.  A welcome and a farewell dinner are also included in the course fee.

Day-to-day Program & Itinerary

The day-to-day program and itinerary of the course are subject to change. Students are advised not to make plans for their free time or weekends in advance, as class schedules and site visits may be re-scheduled depending on local conditions.

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Application deadline:  April 1