The Greek Nationality Room

137 Cathedral of Learning

Exact proportions, symmetry, and the skillful use of columns create an atmosphere in the Greek Classroom that suggests a classical Greek temple. In such a room, Greek civilization becomes a reality. Here, there are no broken statues, no chipped columns—a room in which Socrates and Plato might have taught.


The Greek Room, having recently celebrated its 82nd anniversary, was dedicated on November 7, 1941. The room is a tribute to ancient Greek architectural innovation and design—especially that of Athens in the 5th century B.C.E. John Travlos, the architect, imported Pentelic and Kokinara marble from Greece to pave the floor, frame the doorway, and create pilasters and Ionic fluted columns. The decorative process was lengthy and took over seven months to complete. The room was painted in earth tones by means of an ancient technique called encaustic painting, where pigment colors are mixed with hot beeswax. Decorative designs were added by Demetrios Kokotsis, an artist from Athens, and his nephew, Raymond Kokotzis, who laboriously painted all of the ornamental motifs by hand without the aid of stencils. Further embellishment was applied to the motifs in 22-carat gold leaf. The pieces that furnish the room are made of white oak and bear designs patterned on Greek vases. Carved into chairs reserved for professors and guests are the names of the great Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, while the students’ chairs are inscribed in Greek with the names of the twelve Greek islands and towns of their donors (Sparta, Athens, Smyrna, Chios, Vlahokerasia, Lesbos, Salamis, Byzantium, Icaria, Crete, Carpathos, Samos, Epirus, and Macedonia).

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