History and Mission


The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) strives to maintain and enhance its position as the preeminent center for the study of the Greek world from antiquity to the present day.


The American School of Classical Studies at Athens advances knowledge of Greece in all periods, as well as other areas of the classical world, by training young scholars, sponsoring and promoting archaeological fieldwork, providing resources for scholarly work, and disseminating research. The ASCSA is also charged by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism with primary responsibility for all American archaeological research, and seeks to support the investigation, preservation, and presentation of Greece’s cultural heritage.


The study of Greece from antiquity to the present day is critical for understanding the civilizations, history and culture of the Mediterranean, Europe, and Western Asia. The ASCSA supports a multidisciplinary approach to Hellenic studies, encompassing the fields of archaeology, anthropology, the archaeological sciences, topography, architecture, epigraphy, numismatics, history, art, language, literature, philosophy, religion, and cultural studies. As an institution in Greece sponsored by a consortium of institutions of higher education in North America, the ASCSA makes its resources available to qualified scholars, promotes the highest standards of research and archaeological fieldwork, and shares the results of its work.  

History at a Glance

The School was founded in 1881 by a consortium of nine American universities in collaboration with leading businessmen. Built on land deeded by the Greek government, it was the first American overseas research center, and is now the largest, along with the American Academy in Rome. It is the largest of the 19 foreign institutes located in Athens. Today the School remains, as its founders envisioned, a privately funded, nonprofit educational institution, operating in Greece as a private cultural institution.

1882: First School class arrives in Athens
At present, the School has introduced six generations of graduate students to Greece and neighboring lands. Its alumni/ae form the backbone of classical scholarship in the United States: of living alumni/ae, approximately 95% have taught in American institutions of higher education at some point in their careers.

1882: School library opens
At first occupying a few shelves in a building shared with the Director's residence, and now numbering over 120,000 volumes as well as electronic resources, the School's Blegen Library is one of the most complete collections in the world for research in the civilization of ancient Greece.

1882: First School publication
Volume I of the Papers of the American School inaugurated a publishing program that has since produced over 200 volumes of archaeological and classical studies, and beginning in 1932, the quarterly Hesperia, one of the leading journals for scholars of the Greek world. The School's publications of finds from its excavations at the Agora and Corinth are essential reference tools for anyone excavating in the Mediterranean world.

1885: First woman student
Annie S. Peck, a University of Michigan graduate, is officially enrolled for 1885-1886.  A number of other women attend School activities during the 1880s and 1890s without being officially enrolled.

1886: First excavation
A one-year dig at the small town of Thorikos, near Athens, initiated the School's great tradition of archaeological exploration that continues to this day. In addition to its own excavations at Athens and Corinth, the School oversees all American archaeological exploration in Greece.

1890: First African American student
John Wesley Gilbert, a Brown University MA candidate, spends 1890-1891 at the School.  During his year in Greece, Gilbert takes part in the School’s excavations at ancient Eretria on the island of Euboea.

1896: Excavations begin at Ancient Corinth
The School's excavations at Corinth are one of the oldest continuing excavations in the world. The Corinth excavations have uncovered a vast Roman metropolis that for five centuries was one of the most important cities in the ancient Mediterranean world. The excavations also provide a training program that has given some of America's most distinguished archaeologists and classicists their start in the field. Today, the site of ancient Corinth not only serves the interests of archaeologists and researchers; under the management of the Greek Ministry of Culture, it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the site and to the museum, built by the School in 1931.

1926: The Gennadius Library opens
Beginning with the collection entrusted to the School by bibliophile John Gennadius, the Gennadius Library now houses over 113,000 volumes and electronic resources, comprising one of the world's most significant collections for the study of Hellenic civilization after the end of antiquity. The Library, always heavily used by Greek scholars in Byzantine, post-Byzantine, and modem Greek studies including Balkan, Ottoman, and eastern Mediterranean studies, attracts an increasing number of U.S. researchers as those fields expand in the U.S.

1931: Excavations begin at the Athenian Agora
The ongoing work by the School in the political and commercial center of Ancient Athens has rewritten the history of Athenian democracy as well as that of our own democratic institutions. With a museum and research center constructed on the site by the School in 1956, and landscaped in 1957 as one of Europe's first archaeological parks, the Agora, under the management of the Greek Ministry of Culture, is one of the most visited sites in Greece.

1992: Malcolm H. Wiener Archaeological Laboratory inaugurated
The establishment of the Wiener Laboratory opened a new chapter in archaeological exploration in Greece, permitting scholars to analyze human and animal skeletal material as well as flora, ceramic, and stone. It attracts a growing number of physical anthropologists to the School, and has helped transform the analysis of materials at the School excavations as well as other excavations throughout Greece.

2005: Cotsen Hall opened to the public for events
Named for its chief benefactor, Gennadius Library Board Chairman Lloyd E. Cotsen, Cotsen Hall serves the cultural and educational programs of the School with a state-of-the-art auditorium and also welcomes events organized by distinguished groups and individuals from the world of education, culture, and business.

2016: Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory for Archaeological Science opened
Thanks to the generosity of Malcolm H. Wiener, the School opens a new facility on the Athens campus dedicated to cutting-edge scientific research and analysis of excavated materials. One of its first major projects is the study of an unprecedented mass burial at Phaleron.

2018: Ioannis Makriyannis Wing holds first exhibition
The Ioannis Makriyannis Wing of the Gennadius Library opens with a series of General Makriyannis's paintings of the Greek War of Independence. Besides a state-of-the-art gallery, the new wing contains renovated interior space for research, seminars, and open-stack shelving for the Library’s unique holdings.

2017: First woman Director
Professor Jenifer Neils, formerly Chair of the Managing Committee (2012-2017), begins her five-year term as Director of the School. 

2020: Webinar program established
Due to the coronavirus, the School pivots to on-line presentations of its lectures and public programming which now reach thousands of viewers.

2021: Major renovation of Loring Hall 
Renovation project of  members’ residence now provides private bathrooms, air conditioning, sound-proof windows, and disability access for the first time.