The Last Chapter

By Elizabeth McCulley and Elizabeth Lauderdale

Today was our last full day in Greece, but our schedule was still as jam-packed as ever! We left our hotel early in the morning to visit a place close to Professor Salowey’s Heart, The American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

We received the warmest welcome from Dr. Dylan Rogers, the Assistant Director of the ASCSA. He took us over to Loring Hall and explained the programs and some of the history of the American School, including their five current excavations. We hope some of our Hollins students will join them someday!

Dr. Vogeikoff-Brogan telling us more about the history of the library

Next, we visited the Gennadius Library. The Archivist, Dr. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, guided us through some of the records, including the travel journals of Heinrich Schliemann, Edward Lear’s watercolor studies, and the work of Ava Palmer, all of which we were able to relate to as travelers of Greece ourselves.

Schliemann’s journals and supplementary material
National Geographic images from the Delphic Festival set up by Ava Palmer Sikelianos and her husband, a famous Greek poet
A group shot of us outside the Gennadius Library

Then we were given a tour of the Wiener Laboratory and their facilities, which were updated in 2016, by Dr. Dimitris Michailidis. There we saw how science and classical studies collaborate to create a fuller picture of life in the ancient world, including examining skeletons (both human and animal) and dirt samples to determine diet, living conditions, and circumstances around death.

In the Weiner Lab

From there, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch and great conversation with residents, professors, and staff of the American School in Loring Hall.

After lunch, most of us chose to hike to the top of Lykavittos Hill, which is the highest point in Athens at 227 meters above the city and has the best view yet. We were able to see past sites that we visited earlier, including the Panathenaic Stadium, The Acropolis, the Olympieion, and Philopappos Hill, which we visited on our very first day in Athens, all the way to Aegina.

We made it!

A few of us met up with a representative from Nine Lives Greece, an organization that feeds and waters stray cats around Athens regularly as well as spaying and neutering and providing veterinary care and love. This organization has vastly improved the health and quality of life for a great number of Athenian stray cats by reducing the overall population and providing care. We walked to four different sites around the Acropolis, where we fed upwards of thirty cats!

This is Handsome and we love her!
Cats following the food-bearer

Nine Lives would appreciate any help that you can provide, including adopting cats, giving donations, or sponsoring the spaying or neutering of a cat of your choosing on February 1st. Here are links to their website and Facebook page:

We appreciate everyone who has enriched our education by making this journey possible for us and for helping us along the way. Thank you especially to Professors Salowey and Richter for taking us and for making this experience such an enjoyable one! We hope for safe travels tomorrow for everyone as we journey back to our destinations and a good spring semester for everyone! We know that this we be a trip we all remember for the rest of our lives.

Thank you also to everyone who has followed our journey on this blog! We hope it’s been as exciting for you to read as it was for us to experience!

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Penultimate Day in Athens

By Mariah Abshire & Christina Mashishi

After a free day full of relaxation and shopping, our group is back together and taking Athens by storm… Hollins style. We began our morning at the foot of a living relic dating to antiquity. This olive tree is 1500 years old!

Today was round two at the National Archeological Museum. Instead of focusing on artistic skills and practices of Ancient Greece, we discussed ancient art’s ability to express narratives.

The first stop was at the female kore statue. What is so important about her is that she is one of only four kore that are funerary markers and not votive. Many male scholars love to claim that this kore is simply a product of overly grieved parents. However, Professor Salowey expanded this argument to the class, suggesting the kore might have instead stood as symbol of the bravery and sacrifice of young women who protected and fought for Attica.

Another striking statue was the bronze horse and young jockey. This statue was retrieved in pieces from a ship wreck in Euboea. Here was a great example of strong emotional expression and dynamic movement of the Hellenistic period.

Before breaking off to wonder on our own, we moved through the extensive vase collection. What’s interesting about Attica vases is that, the clay is more iron-based and so the pottery comes out more red than pottery from other Greek regions. The museum even displayed a mock burial, so that viewers could imagine how vases were kept with the dead.

Vases were not only used for funerary purposes, though. They depicted various events from antiquity, some even show dancing and marital ceremonies.

Our next stop was the ancient site of Kerameikos. Kerameikos was apart of the ancient city of Athens and contains a fountain house, the city gates, the Eridanos river and the famous cemetery.

Near the fountain house of Kerameikos, we listened to Julianna’s ongoing research of sacred spaces. She shared with us her observations on how spirituality plays a big factor in visiting these sites and looking at artifacts. We look forward to Julianna’s research furthering into a senior thesis.

Athenians were not the only people buried at this cemetery, foreign diplomats and traders are found here. We also visited the museum on site that contains the original grave markers that would’ve been found in the cemetery.

We ended our day immersing ourselves in our cultural crossroads theme. We had a lovely lunch inspired by Mediterranean Jewish cuisine.

Tomorrow marks our final full day in Greece. Stay tuned to see what final adventure awaits!

The Return of the Queens

by Zoey James and Emma Moore

After a dark and stormy night, the skies cleared and we set sail for the port of Piraeus. Not only did it signal the end of our 11 day trip across the Grecian countryside and coastal regions, but also signaled the closing of our J-Term.

Aegina from the ferry
Chris, Staren, Zoey, Elizabeth L., and Amanda on the ferry

Once we arrived, we visited the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus to view the unique collection of Neoclassical reliefs and bronze statues. The port of Piraeus in particular is known for being one of the most democratic parts of Athens, both in an antiquity and today. It was a large multicultural center for metics in the fifth and sixth centuries, and is a hotbed of leftist activity today. In many ways, it is a fitting place for us to begin the last leg of our trip; Piraeus is both an ancient and modern cultural crossroads, and incapsulates the ideals of our journey.

The Archaeological Museum of Piraeus
The class posing in front of the museum

Found in a shipwreck off the coast, the Roman neoclassical reliefs we examined are evidence of of how Romans came to Greece to study and copy works of art for profit. It is suspected that the copy of the Amazonomachy (pictured below) is styled after the inside of the shield of the cult statue of Athena that once stood in the Parthenon.


The number of full-bodied classical bronze statues is slim, with only twelve known of today. Upon their discovery, this cache of three statues increased the supply by 33%! These were found in a box while the city was creating a new sewer system. The bronze kouros is the earliest surviving bronze statue, dating back to around 520 BCE.


The Athena statue on display is very detailed and one of the most compassionate depictions of the war goddess. Aside from being distinct in features, she’s also unique for her style of dress, the type of helmet she’s wearing, and the emotion expressed in her posture.


There were also two statues of Artemis, the first emphasizing her feminine qualities, and the second likely taken from one of her sanctuaries.

Artemis #1
Artemis #2

This museum is unique for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most prevalent is the way it portrays the port of Piraeus. This museum shows us the duality of the art, weapons, and everyday goods of the ancient Athenians. In funerary reliefs we see the combination of wealth, cultural exchange, and grief. In the bronze statues we see the balance of femininity and masculinity. It’s the balance which created the ancient city of Piraeus and Athens, and what creates them today.

The quote below, featured in the museum (and also well known by all of Professor DeGroot’s “Imagined Cities” seminar), seemed fitting for our study of antiquities and the glimpses it gives us into the lives of those who made this journey across Greece thousands of years before us.

The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags…

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

After the museum, we ate at a wonderful pizzeria and retired to our bedrooms. Tomorrow there won’t be a blog entry because the class is having a well deserved break. But we’ll be back on the 27th!

On the 14th we visited a Refugee Center, and we’ve been mentioned in a post by one of the chairs of the foundation!

γεια σας!

Exploring Aegina

By: Christine Sears and Staren Henry

Hiking up Mt. Oros

Today was our first full day on the island of Aegina. We started out by hiking through the mud and rocky ground up Mount Oros (which means mountain, so it’s Mt. Mountain) to the Temple Zeus Elaionas.

Walking up to the Temple site

Mt. Oros

There isn’t much left of the original building, but we do have accounts from Pindar that solidify the usage of the site, probably from the sixth century BCE onwards. Altars to Zeus are typically found high up on mountain tops, especially ones that storm clouds frequently pass over. Aegina only has one natural spring on the entirety of the island, so temple was dedicated in the hopes that Zeus would give them water. Due to the fact that his symbol was the lightning bolt he was also connected with the weather and rain.

What little remains of the Temple of Zeus Elanios

The trail leading up to the site has been there for millennia – in fact, this trail has some of the earliest mile markers ever found. There are eight other trails up the mountain that are also based off of ones used in antiquity. Water continues to be the most expensive resource on Aegina to this day.

The church on the site of the temple

The site was also used as a place for meat distribution, with the remains of a stoa found full of dining rooms. It is unknown when the temple went out of use – the Church that stands there today was built from the stones of the stoa.

Temple of Athena Aphaia

Once we managed to climb back down the mountainside, we drove to the Temple of Athena Aphaia. Aphaia (from the Ancient Greek word φαίνω [phaino], meaning “appear”, though in this case it means “vanish”) was an Archaic goddess who later became equated with Athena. In the myth, she was captured by Cretan sailors, but she escaped and hid (supposedly in a cave just beyond the temple). When she emerged, she vanished into the air, supposedly being taken up to the gods.

The cave where Aphaia emerged from and then vanished, just a few feet away from her temple

Both pediments (though not onsite today) featured scenes from two separate Trojan wars, and were created in two different time periods. The Western pediment (which features the Homeric Trojan war with Ajax) was built in the Archaic period, while the Eastern pediment (which features Heracles battle against the Trojan king Laomedon) was rebuilt in the Classical period, likely due to damage caused to that side of the temple in a natural disaster.

Valerie presenting on the Temple of Athena Aphaia

Valerie talked to us about how the original excavators, C.R. Cockerell and Otto von Stackelberg, took a page out of their friend (and our bitterest enemy) Lord Elgin’s book and stole all the pedimental sculptures and brought them back to Munich. To this day Greece is still trying to recover the artifacts, but unlike with the Elgin Marbles, Cockerell and Stackelberg actually sold the sculptures to the king of Bavaria, adding an extra wrinkle to argument.

Temple of Athena Aphaia, western side

The group arranged in the style of a Pedimental Sculpture

We then headed to a lunch of fresh seafood beside the ocean, and the Professors freed us for the rest of the day to explore the island for ourselves. Some of us purchased pistachios and other pistachio products, as Aegina is lauded as having some of the best in the world. Tomorrow we return to Athens, and our journey through the Peloponnesus and the island of Aegina comes to an end!

The Wheels on the Bus!

By Pria Jackson and Amanda Orndorff

Today was a big travel day! We began at the Environmental Museum of Stymphalia. We learned that Greece, like Virginia, has Karstic Phenomenon, where the limestone slowly dissolves. We talked a bit about the myth of Herakles and the Stymphalian Birds, which is one of Professor Salowey’s area of expertise. In her dissertation, she wrote that Herakles’ defeat of the birds—who were associated with the destructive waters of the Stymphalian lake—was a poetic record of Mycenaean control of the water through irrigation and other techniques. 

Professor Salowey, expert

The museum also held many examples of flora and fauna native to Greece. There were many interactive exhibits, including bird drawings and river pioneering. 

Our Stymphalian Birds
Elizabeth and the fish
The original pioneers

After the indoor exhibits, we hiked to the ancient site of Stymphalia. The mixture of nature trail and archeological site is a new type of museum for Greece and we loved it! When we got to the site itself, we were able to climb through the ruins of the temple of (probably) Athena. Professor Richter pointed out the crocus buds growing all across the cliff side from which you can grow Saffron! 

Crocus buds

We had an excellent view of the lake from the foundations but since some of the site was flooded, we had the head back to the bus.

The lake
Free goat horns

The bus took us to the other end of the hiking trail where the only completely Frankish built church in Greece stands in ruins.

Among the ruins we found many treasures including goat horns, one discarded boot, a quarter of a plastic mannequin, and more pretty wildflowers. Unfortunately, we did not find the grave of the headless German rumored to be buried there.

 Some of the spolia in the ruins suggested that the blocks used to build this church were once part of a temple of Artemis! We clambered about for a bit to the barking of many herding dogs before continuing on our journey. 

Then we drove back to Athens! 

Once we arrived back in our beloved city we immediately left Athens! 

We boarded a ferry at the Port of Piraeus, the largest passenger port in Europe. A hour long ferry ride took us to Aegina where we’ll be for the next two nights! We are staying at a quaint little seaside hotel that we bought out. Literally, we are the only ones here. We have all the rooms. We dub this hotel, Hollinsassia, the newest Greek neighborhood! Our own little slice of Greek paradise.

A Day at Mycenae and Epidaurus

By Lilly and Claire

We boarded the bus this morning to make our way to Mycenae. On the way, we stopped at an orange stand on the side of the road and bought a huge sack of oranges for just 3 euros! We snacked on the oranges later in the day, and they were some of the best oranges any of us have ever tasted.

Faith presented straight away at Mycenae on the Lion Gate, the entrance to the site which represents the power of the civilization. The gate was built around 1250 BCE, and the structure is still standing, making for a very impressive entrance even though the lions no longer have their heads.

The first thing we saw as we walked through the gate was Grave Circle A, which had 6 grave shafts. The wall of the civilization had been expanded to keep the grave circle within its walls, probably to protect the graves from being looted. Grave Circle A is also where the Mask of Agamemnon, which we saw in Athens, was found. Right near Grave Circle A, we saw the ruins of houses and of a cult center.

The only way archeologists distinguish between the houses and the cult center is by the objects that were found within. In the cult center, they found strange clay icons and coiled snakes, which indicated that it was indeed a cult center. We later saw these coiled snakes and clay icons in the museum.

We hiked up the hill to find the palace. We identified the foundation as the palace because we could identify the presence of a megaron and great court. This palace was destroyed by an earthquake.

Water at the bottom of the cistern

Behind the palace is a secret cistern, which was built in order to provide the site with a source of drinkable water in case they were invaded and an enemy took control over the spring. We hiked down the slippery stairs of the cistern, an archeologically enforced cave. We had to use the flashlights on our phone in order to see where we were going because it got so dark!

After we were all safely out of the cistern, we visited a tholos right near the museum. We then went to the museum, where we were able to see goods excavated from the site, as well as some replicas of artifacts that were taken to the Archeological Museum at Athens.

The group poses at the bottom of the Tholos near the museum.

Then we went to the Tholos of Atreus, the largest Tholos we had seen yet. This Tholos is the best preserve of its type, dating to round 1350 BCE. The size of this Tholos is also very impressive, with the top stone of the entrance weighing as much as a 747 plane!

On our way to lunch, we passed The Belle Helene, a historic hotel where Schliemann, the excavator of Mycenae, once stayed. The Belle Helene has also housed several famous people over the years, including Virginia Woolf, Willliam Faulkner, and JK Rowling. 

After lunch we went to Epidaurus, where we first visited the theatre and heard from Christine, who presented on ancient Greek Theatre. We learned that the theatre is perfectly symmetrical and designed for prime acoustics, so that all 14,000 people sitting in the theatre could hear the play. Christine ended her presentation with a performance of Medea’s monologue, a shocking piece where Medea reveals her plan to kill her ow children in an act of revenge.

As we walked to the site of the healing cult, we saw a beautiful rainbow over the remains. Elizabeth presented on the Healing Cult of Asklepios and the healing practices that took place on the site. She told us about the myth of Asklepios as well as some of the healing practices, which varied from dreams of snakes biting one’s shoulder to early surgeries. We actually got to see some ancient surgical tools at the museum on site, as well as marble votives and statues.

It was a beautiful and insightful day at these ancient sites, leaving us all ready for a nap on the busride back to Nafplion. 

A Day in Sparta

By Carley Grudzinski and Vanessa Taylor

Statue in Sparta

We woke up in Sparta after staying the night in the fabulous Menelaion Hotel, and we were all ready to see what the city had to offer.

View of the stadium and mountains from the Spartan Acropolis
Students climbing on history!

First we went to the city’s ancient acropolis. This archaeological site was unique in that we were actually able to interact with the ancient structures. Some members of the group even climbed onto old column drums and walls. Usually the buildings are roped off and heavily guarded, but we were the only people in sight, and it made the experience even more personal and less second-hand.

The site itself confuses archaeologists; subjects like the location of the agora and the potential movement of the parts of the theatre are constantly being debated.

An interesting fact that we learned from Professor Salowey is that when archaeologists want to excavate, they need to buy the land. This means that any trees that are present need to be purchased from the farmer who owns them. Not only does this explain why there are so many trees in the middle of various ancient structures, but also how these sites/structures play a role in everyday Greek life, and economy.

Olives continue to be a huge part of Greek economy. Our group learned about the many uses of olives at the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil.

Olive oil grinder

At the museum, students interacted with displays that showed us how the olives were ground up to produce olive oil or other goods such as soap. We also learned how the production of these goods has evolved since ancient times, and how the ancients used olive oil for many things other than cooking.

The uses of olive oil.

Afterwards, everyone got a chance to wander around the hub of Sparta, eat lunch, and do some shopping, before we loaded back onto the bus to go to Nafplio, where we will spend the next two nights.

Group at acropolis

A Day in Mystras

By Preston Thym and Mary Daley

Today we said farewell to the hotel in Pylos and headed to the archeological site of Mystras. This site was originally built around 1249 by William of Villehardouin and was later conquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks, and then the Venetians. The site has been pretty much abandoned since 1832, leaving these gorgeous stone ruins. There are a few churches still standing, and the church of St. Maria is still occupied by a few nuns and has an active sanctuary.

Outside of the sanctuary, we got to meet some new furry friends.

Early Christian monasteries were mostly built on the countryside. It was a practice for monks to be separate from the noise and distractions of the main city spaces. Emperor Theodosios the first passed a legislation banning monasteries from cities. The founding of monasteries within urban areas began in the 6th century.

Professor Salowey described the mosaics on the ceilings and walls depicting biblical narratives that were well known and also relatable stories visually presented in consideration for those who visited the church but could not read.

Going to this Byzantine site helped connect to our academic theme of “East Meets West” as the influences here were most definitely eastern.

After visiting the site, we went to a wonderful cafe in Mystras where we experienced some local food and the crop of the area: Oranges.

After settling in at the hotel, Zoe James led us in an engaging presentation on heteronormativity and gender roles in ancient writings and ancient times.


By Faith Herrington and Valerie Sargeant

We began our day with an early start, as we left the seaside town of Kyparssissia and headed to the ancient site of Pylos. Despite the rain everyone was in good spirits as we headed to explore a new site. Lucky for us the “Palace of Nestor” an ancient Mycenaean administrative building that sits in a prime location on top of a hill, is a covered site so everyone stayed nice and dry. We had the chance to learn about the architecture and history of the structure, with its central megaron and muiltipe story design it was incredibly architecturally advanced. We also learned about how the destruction of the palace was purposeful and that they used the olive oil store rooms to fule the fire and destruction of the complex. Although we are unsure of the reason for the collapse of the Mycanean civilization it was probably due to the culmination of events including: invading sea peoples, civil unrest, drought, and famine.

There was also an education center on the site that allowed us to explore what the rooms at Nestor would have felt like in antiquity which was very interesting. In the exhibit we discussed more about archeological excavation processes and how they have changed throughout the years to try to protect the artifacts. We walked to the Tholos tomb which was just a few meters away from the site of the palace. This beehive shaped tomb was raided in antiquity but serves as a good representation of Tholos tombs that were commonly used by the Mycenaean people. Despite the muddy ground we were able to explore the structure and a near by active dig site of a shaft grave. Which really gave us a good idea of how modern day excavations are run.

After visiting the Tholos tomb and shaft grave we went to the nearby museum of Pylos which had items that were excavated from the palace of Nestor and other nearby Mycenaean sites. The museum used the pattern of the megaron in its rooms and in the floor in order to echo the site that the objects came from. It was a small museum but had a great collection of very significant objects including Linear B tablets and large Mycenaean storage vessels. We had an excellent presentation from Elizabeth Lauderdale on Linear B, the language the Mycenaeans used to record administrative information. Elizabeth gave us worksheets so we could figure out how to write our names in Linear B which was a fun interactive way to learn about the script. We continued to walk through the museum and explore the collection of pottery and wall paintings until we had to leave.

We drove to the modern city of Pylos where we will spend the night. It a cute city on the bay of Navarinon.

After having some time for lunch we regrouped to learn about some of the significant battles that have occurred in the bay of Navarinon. Professor Richter told the story of the battle during the Greek war of independence between the British, French and Russians and the ottomans. In which the British forces defeated the ottomans and helped Greece win independence. We also learned about the battle of Sphacteria during the Peloponnesian war in 425 BCE in which the Spartans were defeated by the Athenians. After visiting the Tholos tomb and shaft grave we went to the nearby museum of Pylos which had items that were excavated from the palace of Nestor and other nearby Mycenaean sites. The museum used the pattern of the megaron in its rooms and in the floor in order to echo the site that the objects came from. It was a small museum but had a great collection of very significant objects including Linear B tablets and large Mycenaean storage vessels. We had an excellent presentation from Elizabeth Lauderdale on Linear B, the language the Mycenaeans used to record administrative information. Elizabeth gave us worksheets so we could figure out how to write our names in Linear B which was a fun interactive way to learn about the script. We continued to walk through the museum and explore the collection of pottery and wall paintings until we had to leave. We drove to the modern city of Pylos where we will spend the night. It a cute city on the bay of Navarinon. After having some time for lunch we regrouped to learn about some of the significant battles that have occurred in the bay of Navarinon. Professor richter told the story of the battle during the Greek war of independence between the British, French and Russians and the ottomans. In which the British forces defeated the ottomans and helped Greece win independence. We also learned about the battle of Sphacteria during the Peloponnesian war in 425 BCE in which the Spartans were defeated by the Athenians. After the discussion we walked to a local cafe and reflected on the time we have spent in Greece so far. We look forward to visiting Sparta tomorrow and are grateful for the wonderful time we had in Pylos.

The Great Greek Road Trip

By Kate and Jules

We were sent off from Delphi with a gorgeous fiery sunrise, which made up for the early wake up call. It would be about four and a half hours to our next site, with a stop at a delicious, off the beaten path bakery mid-way. We stocked up on tiropita and sweets for a lunch out on the plateia at Olympia. Much to our delight, Olympia hosted us with upwards of seven furry friends who were excited to show us around. I suspect they were happy to have the group of us treat them with pastries and pets. They even enjoyed Pria’s presentation on wildfires in Greece, sitting near the Olympic stadium looking out at the hill of Kronos. We learned much about the kinds of festival activities and games that took place her for a millennia of ancient history. We even had a footrace of our own (congrats to our victorious winner, sorry we didn’t have an olive wreath to give you)!

We also saw on sight the old temple to Hera and the magnificent doric temple to Zeus, amongst a garden of column drums and statue bases. Inside the museum we saw some of the most discussed works in art history classes at Hollins with Professor Salowey. This included the temple pediments depicting the moment before the chariot race between Pelops and Oenomaus on the east, and a centauromachy on the west; as well as metopes of the 12 labors of Herakles that became canonical here. Also, the kind image of Hermes with the baby Dionysus, which may be the original or a roman copy, the argument continues!

After this stimulating experience, we’ve checked into our hotel in Kyparissia and looking forward to sunset by the sea.