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From Stonehenge to SamarkandAn Anthology of Archaeological Travel Writing$
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Brian Fagan

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195160918

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195160918.001.0001

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Greece Bespoiled

Greece Bespoiled

(p.48) Chapter Four Greece Bespoiled
From Stonehenge to Samarkand

Brian Fagan

Oxford University Press

The grand tour took the young and wealthy to Rome and Naples, but not as far as Greece, which had sunk into oblivion under its Byzantine emperors, who began to rule in A.D. 527. For seven hundred years Greece remained masked in obscurity as Crusaders, Venetians, and then Turks established princedoms and trading posts there. The Turks entered Athens in 1455 and turned the Parthenon and Acropolis into a fortress, transforming Greece into a rundown province of the Ottoman Empire. Worse yet, the ravages of wind, rain, and earthquake, of villagers seeking building stone and mortar, buried and eroded the ancient Greek temples and sculptures. Only a handful of intrepid artists and antiquarians came from Europe to sketch and collect before 1800, for Greek art and architecture were still little known or admired in the West, overshadowed as they were by the fashion for things Roman that dominated eighteenth-century taste. A small group of English connoisseurs financed the artists James Stuart and Nicholas Revett on a mission to record Greek art and architecture in 1755, and the first book in their multivolume Antiquities of Athens appeared in 1762. This, and other works, stimulated antiquarian interest, but in spite of such publications, few travelers ventured far off the familiar Italian track. The Parthenon was, of course, well known, but places like the oracle at Delphi, the temple of Poseidon at Sounion—at the time a pirates’ nest— and Olympia were little visited. In 1766, however, Richard Chandler, an Oxford academic, did visit Olympia, under the sponsorship of the Society of Dilettanti. The journey took him through overgrown fields of cotton shrubs, thistles, and licorice. Chandler had high expectations, but found himself in an insect-infested field of ruins: Early in the morning we crossed a shallow brook, and commenced our survey of the spot before us with a degree of expectation from which our disappointment on finding it almost naked received a considerable addition. The ruin, which we had seen in evening, we found to be the walls of the cell of a very large temple, standing many feet high and well-built, its stones all injured . . .

Keywords:   Byron, George Gordon, Lord (1788–1824)

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