Eresos valley

Greek Seminar on Ancient and Modern Greek Culture. Main Topic: “Eros – Love in Greek literature and life”.

On the island of Lesbos and in Sappho’s lovely village, Eresos.

Summer 2019 Program.

The seminar will be offered during one week, from 19 to 25 August 2019, in the shaded yard of the Paradise Studios, as part of a joint program organized by  the Alexandria Institute and the Greek Courses.

The seminar may be offered during additional weeks, if at least two participants express their interest.


The main language of instruction and conversation will be English. Thus, the selected Greek texts will be given in English translation. Knowing that many participants may know English as a foreign language, the teacher will speak slowly and clearly in order to be well understood, and he will encourage everyone to take part in the conversation. If needed, he may explain some points also in French.

After earlier arrangement, it will be possible to offer the seminar also in French or – for advanced students – in modern Greek.

Seminar content

Ancient Eresos

Remains on the ancient acropolis.

What were the attitudes of the ancient Greeks towards love, marriage and sexuality? What was the erotic life of gods and goddesses? What was the significance of Aphrodite as goddess of love, and of her divine attendant Eros? How free were women compared to men? Might the ancient experience of love, as expressed by ancient poets and writers, affect our thinking and our attitudes?

Such questions we will discuss through the study of important passages from ancient Greek epic and lyric poets, tragedians, comic playwrights, historians and philosophers, as well as vase paintings and sculptures. The idea is to understand the ancient and modern Greek spirit through the very words and artistic creations of Greek writers and artists.

We will give special attention to the poems of Sappho, who was born in the ancient city-state of Eresos. She was one of the greatest poets and song-writers of antiquity, and the first in European history who devoted a great part of her poetry to her own intimate feelings.

Sappho and Alcaeus. Vase detail.
Sappho and Alcaeus. Vase detail.

We will also read love poems by modern Greek poets and listen to love songs from the different musical traditions of modern Greece. Etymologies of some important Greek words used in European languages and a list of some useful phrases of modern Greek will complement our survey of Greek culture. If the members of our group already have a basic knowledge of modern Greek, we may read and speak in this language as well!

Good literature has dealt with the pleasures and problems of love, and has offered us valuable insights. In our meetings we will try to understand the experience of great poets and writers. Our conversation will proceed by question and answer, and we will encourage all members to contribute their ideas. Besides serving an educational purpose, our interactive seminar might also be seen as a collective search for what gives meaning to our own lives.

Nikos Dais is the teacher of the seminar (see

The Pythari monastery in Eresos.

Pythari Monastery in Eresos
Pythari Monastery in Eresos

The seminar will also involve:

  1. A visit to the archaeological museum of Eresos and a tour of the remains of the acropolis and the port of ancient Eresos. Also a presentation of life in the ancient city-state and of the unique system of direct democracy and its important differences from modern representative democracy.
  2. A visit to the beautiful valley of Eresos and its chapels, probably built at the sites of ancient shrines. This will be combined with the discussion of the poetry of Sappho, the legendary poetess who was born in ancient Eresos. The participants will be invited to respond and contribute their thoughts on Sappho’s poems.
  3. A visit to the impressive gorges of the Pythari monastery and its lake, followed by a stroll through the cobbled streets of the modern stone-built village of Eresos, situated four kilometres inland from the beach.
  4. A dinner at Skala or the upper village of Eresos, offered by the joint program.

The Four Topics of the Seminar

These are the four topics of the seminar. Please read the additional information provided on them below. The personal interests of the participants will be also taken into account.





In depth information on the topics of study
Sappho bust inscribed Sappho of Eresos
Sappho bust inscribed “Sappho of Eresos”. Roman copy of a 5th century BCE Greek original.


The seminar is addressed to the general public and does not require any prior knowledge. Its aim is to help the participants explore interesting aspects of ancient Greek and modern Greek culture, so that they can relate them to their own life. Participation is limited to adults, of all ages. University students are welcome.

Why Greece

Ancient Greece has been the basis of western civilization and democracy; a primary source of inspiration to the Renaissance, to the Enlightenment and to modern science. It can inspire everyone today.

The ancient Greeks laid the foundations of western poetry, tragedy and comedy, history, logic and philosophy, mathematics and geometry, architecture, physics and chemistry, biology and zoology, athletics and of so much more; they also invented politics, rhetoric and democracy. This is why all the above terms are ancient Greek and are still used today.

Modern Greece has become famous for its poetry, rich folklore, traditional music and dance. Also for its delicious cuisine and the hospitality of its people (and unfortunately for its economic crisis).

The Spirit of The Seminar

The seminar will be committed to historical truth, and will try to present some important aspects of Greek life and art. I will encourage you to read in advance each day’s material and participate in the conversation, raise questions, make comments, express thoughts and feelings. We will try to compare our experience to that of ancient people and enrich our vision of life.

We will try to create a friendly atmosphere and learn while having fun. Our aim will be to make learning a pleasure and combine it with holiday; to transform your stay in Eresos into a deeply satisfying experience. After each day’s lesson you will be free to enjoy the sea and the relaxed life of Eresos.

Eresos beach. Sea, sand and sun.
Sea, sand and sun!