Mr. and Mrs. Cincinnatus in Athens, Thessaloniki, and SpetsesPosted: September 4, 2020
BY JACK L. DAVIS
Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here writes extensively about a Greek couple, Anastasios and Ellie Adossides, once prominent and influential at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, but now largely forgotten.
If ever a husband and wife deserved special honors from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter, the ASCSA or the School), it would be Anastasios and Ellie Hatzilazarou Adossides. Both Anastasios and Ellie spent most of their lives in the public eye, in the service of Greece, and, in his case, also of the ASCSA. Yet neither is commemorated at our Kolonaki campus, despite the fact that Anastasios and Ellie protected it, and he ultimately gave his life for the School. On Anastasios’s death in 1942, his dear friends from the Athenian Agora Excavations and Athens College, Homer Thompson, Lucy Talcott, and Homer Davis, wrote:
“There can be no substitute for the autobiography that modesty forbade [ Anastasios] writing, the book which might more than any other have interpreted to Europe and to America the Greece of the last quarter-century (The Philhellene 2: 3-4, pp. 3-5).”
The three continued: “The American Minister to Greece [Lincoln MacVeagh], himself a New Englander, has called Adossides the most conscientious person he has ever known, and claims that no New England conscience ever approached his.” From the Greek side, Eleutherios Venizelos said publicly of Anastasios that in his political career he had met very few men of equal courage and frankness.
Both Anastasios and Ellie led exciting lives in tumultuous times, lives of a sort that are difficult today to imagine. Anastasios, born in 1873 into a distinguished Ottoman family, began his adventures as a young man in Constantinople. His father served the Porte both as Prince of Samos and as Governor of Crete. His troubles began in 1901, when, while working as a journalist, he published under the pen name “Georges Dorys” a scathing biography of the Ottoman sultan titled Abdul-Hamid intime. Anastasios was home when a trusted Albanian servant informed him that police had surrounded the house. Dressed in the uniform of a French officer he managed to escape by a back door. Then, with help from relatives in the Russian consulate, he made his way to a French ship anchored in the harbor, only to learn there was cholera on board.
Paradoxically, cholera was his salvation. The police were afraid to board. When the shipboard doctor became ill, he assumed his duties, and, after quarantine in Marseille, he resumed his career as a journalist in Paris.
In 1907, Adossides married Ellie, whom he had met in Athens. Ellie had been born in Thessaloniki in 1878 into a noble family, was tutored at home, and subsequently was sent to school in Germany and Switzerland. Her own adventures began when her life became intertwined in the politics of Eleftherios Venizelos and his Liberal movement.
The American School as an Athenian Institution
The roles played by Anastasios and Ellie in the history of the ASCSA reflect the embeddedness of our institution in the social and political life of Athens in the years before and after WW I. Despite noble principles, the ASCSA had been slow to become an Athenian institution, rather than one that served an American clientele in Athens. The School had been founded on the model of similar colonial institutions, its goal to emulate German and French schools in Athens, to make its mark as a cultural powerhouse, and to train American post-graduate Classics students.
It was not until the directorship of Bert Hodge Hill and the chairmanship of Edward Capps that the ASCSA began to think about repaying Greece for the hospitality that it had then already enjoyed for more than a quarter-century. One must, in fact, look closely to find references to Greeks, (other than the ancients) in the early history of the ASCSA. As anyone who reads Lord’s A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 1882-1942: An Intercollegiate Project will know, that book is largely a triumphalist narrative in praise of American men. Women are scarce, Blacks nearly absent. Greeks, wraithlike, fade in and out. Lord similarly attributed the success of the ASCSA to its three-pronged administration, power shared between a director in Athens, the Managing Committee, and a Board of Trustees (p. vii).
But Greek friends on the ground also played important roles, as did U.S. diplomats. That is clear. The School interacted with important figures in Athenian political and archaeological circles in its early years, and these relationships are signs of what was to come. Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis together with Foreign Minister Stephanos Dragoumis (father of Ion, and subject of this fall’s exhibition, “Ion Dragoumis: Between East and West,” by the Archives Department of the ASCSA in the Makrygiannis Wing of the Gennadius Library) made possible a gift of land in Kolonaki where the Main Building of the School was built. Support from Reverend Michael Kalopothakes (1825-1911), the American educated founder of the Evangelical Church in Athens, and his family was critical in the early days, especially in the years before the Kolonaki campus was established. (About the Kalopothakes family, see also Jack L. Davis, “Archives from the Trash: The Multidimensional Annie Smith Peck, Mountaineer, Suffragette, Classicist.”) The King and Queen of Greece were enthusiastic about the ASCSA and attended its first Open Meeting (1886-87). So were Heinrich and Sophia Schliemann and Panagiotis (Panagis) Kavvadias, General Ephor of Antiquities and Secretary of the Archaeological Society at Athens, who was named honorary Professor of Archaeology at the ASCSA in 1891.
These were important steps toward director William Watson Goodwin’s vision, as quoted by Lord (p. 36):
“I have felt that it was a good thing for the new school to make itself felt as a social power in Athens … If we had come here and simply gone to work quietly with our students and books, letting society alone, we would have been no more regarded than one of the missionary schools.”
Such a mission was difficult to pursue with consistency, however, so long as directors in Athens were annual appointees. All that would change with the arrival of Bert Hodge Hill, whose long term in office (1906-1927), coupled with the political acumen of Edward Capps, chairman of the Managing Committee, would build a complex network of social and political relations enmeshing the School and Greece, one that was enormously beneficial for both parties. Capps and Hill’s relationships with Anastasios and Ellie Adossides would, moreover, change the face of the ASCSA forever.
The Adossides Family Travels North
When the Adossides family first entered the consciousness of the leadership of the ASCSA is unclear, but strong ties between them, Bert Hodge Hill, Edward Capps, and Carl Blegen were clearly created in the immediate wake of the First World War. It was then that Capps led a mission of the American Red Cross (ARC) to provide aid to Eastern Macedonia, following the imposition of an unconditional truce between the Entente and Bulgaria. Adossides was already known to Hill, and had already discussed the purchase of property north of Souidias (Speusippou at the time) with him, the land where Loring Hall and the Gennadius Library were eventually built (Hill to Adossides, 12/25 February 1918, a signed draft of letter in English, presumably sent in Greek) (ASCSA Archives, GenRec 101/1, folder 1).
Venizelos had brought Greece into WW I indirectly by establishing a rival government in Thessaloniki, while King Constantine and the parliament in Athens maintained a position of neutrality. Anastasios, who had enjoyed the trust of Venizelos since meeting him first in Crete in 1908, was summoned to Thessaloniki in September 1916, where he soon assumed the post of Governor General of Macedonia. Ellie and her children had remained behind in Spetses in a rural sanctuary they had purchased in 1907 near Chora. This farm served as a family retreat until the Second World War, and was known to members of the ASCSA, who visited in the 1930s.
On Spetses, Ellie and her children found themselves increasingly threatened by anti-Venizelists in the fall of 1916. She felt particularly unsafe after police raided her house, and day after day waited, hoping her husband would find a way to bring the family north. Finally, “one night with the moon shining in a clear sky, an unknown ship approached with its lights out. As it came closer, the silhouette of a destroyer was illuminated by moonlight.” Ellie rushed to the shore, shouting “Are you British or French?” The ship was French and Anastasios was on board. Ellie was given a half-hour to make the children ready, then the destroyer dodged blockades to reach Thessaloniki, “there where the Ethnos, with Venizelos at its head, ventured to create ‘Greater Greece’ of the two continents and five seas.“
The Bonds Are Forged
Once in Thessaloniki, Ellie found herself organizing aid for Greek troops fighting with the French and British of the Entente. Then, after an armistice with Bulgaria in September 1918, she focused on supplying aid to those in eastern Macedonia and Thrace who had suffered greatly under the Bulgarian occupation.
The condition of Greek military hospitals was deplorable, and nurses were few. Venizelos’s government strove to rectify the problem, and he didn’t want to depend on allies for a solution. Ellie, her sister Eirini, and a Greek nurse trained in France, began to create trauma centers out of virtually nothing. By the start of May 1917, these field hospitals were ready for the major battle of Ravine, on the West Bank of the Axios River near Kilkis. The Allies emerged victors. Ellie was there to witness.
Greek troops were poised to move against Austria next when Bulgaria agreed to an unconditional truce on September 19, 1918. Greece now confronted a different human catastrophe. The Bulgarian army left a trail of destruction in the wake of its retreat, while thousands of Greek hostages had been taken to Bulgaria as slave laborers.
Ellie called on Penelope Delta and the Greek Red Cross for help, and the American Red Cross soon followed, on the initiative of George Horton, American Consul in Thessaloniki. The French general in command of the Allied forces, Louis Franchet Espèrey, agreed that Ellie, Delta, and Alexander Zannas, Delta’s son-in-law, would travel to Bulgaria to examine the hostage situation. The group departed for Drama, the first leg of their journey, on November 1, 1918.
The American Red Cross, under the command of Capps, reached Thessaloniki by train a week later, on November 7, 1918. On their arrival, Capps and Hill headed for the Villa Modiano, in the coastal strip of mansions east of the White Tower. They were lodged there, while Blegen and others in the American group retreated to rooms that had been rented for them by the Serbian Commission of the American Red Cross. Two days later the party had lunch at the Villa Modiano and Anastasios promised to provide a small steamer bound for Kavalla, one of his own automobiles, and six commandeered oxcarts. On the 16th of November the Americans left for Kavalla on the SS. Hellespontos with 35 tons of supplies. The following day, Capps and Major Barnes met Ellie and Zannas in Drama, and headed by train to Xanthi (Delta had fallen ill and stayed behind). In Xanthi, at the railway station, the Greeks met resistance from the Bulgarian military.
The following day the Greek-American party presented its papers to the Bulgarian military governor of Xanthi, who repeatedly claimed that he could not guarantee the safety of the Greeks if they went further. Major Barnes then exploded, thumped his fist on a table, and shouted: “I will telegraph President Wilson.” Capps and his contingent set up relief headquarters by the train station in Xanthi, while Ellie and Zannas headed for Sofia, where they secured the release of a significant number of Greek hostages.
The American Red Cross Mission continued to enjoy support from Anastasios throughout the remainder of its mission, dining again at the Villa Modiano on April 9, 1919, with Anastasios’s sister Hélène in attendance.
Anastasios publicly proclaimed his appreciation for the help of the American Red Cross:
“I desire to express to the American people the profound sentiments and unfailing gratitude of Greece and especially of the eastern Macedonian population for the magnificent work which the American Red Cross has done for our nation… Into Macedonia, which a traitor king had delivered to the Bulgarians, who in three years occupation starved, sacked, and robbed the inhabitants and left the country in desolation, the American Red Cross came as soon as she was delivered to bestow upon her kindness, security, and a new life (Adossides to the American Red Cross, published in the Washington Herald, May 26, 1919).”
The Circle Is Unbroken
The relationships born in Macedonia remained unbroken, even by death. Accounts preserved in the Archives of the ASCSA not only record past friendships, but also challenge us to rethink our practices today.
Ellie maintained warm ties with Blegen until the end. As he was completing his publication of Pylos, she would write to him from a clinic in Kifissia. “I am going to send you a little article about my first meeting with Venizelos that I have written – it may interest you. I have almost finished dictating my memoirs and feel very much relieved that it is over. It seems that we have suffered the pains and pangs of authorship together – you say your big work nears completion – I certainly do not compare my efforts with yours. My kindest thoughts and wishes and greatly looking forward to your return and once more see my ray of sunshine coming through my door” (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, Ellie to Blegen, February 28, 1969, box 9, folder 1).
Ellie’s memoirs were not, in the end, published until 2016, and then by her grandson under the title “Εξήντα χρόνια ελληνικής ζωής.”
By a twist of fate, Capps was appointed by President Wilson as U.S. envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Greece and Montenegro, and served from 1920 to 1921. In that position, he continued to serve the interests of Greece, but particularly those of the Venizelists.
Capps was also Minister when Prince Alexander suddenly died from an infected monkey-bite at Tatoi, the royal summer palace (October 25, 1920). The return to power of his father Constantine, who had been in exile since June 1918, led to a plebiscite that resulted in Venizelos’s fall from power in the autumn of 1920. Formal diplomatic relations between Greece and the United States were suspended on December 6, 1920. Capps’s attitudes are clear from his memoranda to the U.S. State Department: he expressed sympathy for the government of Venizelos and antipathy towards Constantine and the government of Prime Minister Dimitris Rallis. His main objective was to force the government of King Constantine to recognize legislation enacted under King Alexander. Only then should normal relations between the two countries be restored.
Earlier in the fall of 1920, Capps had taken the brash action of summoning to Piraeus, without authorization from the U.S. State Department, a destroyer as a threat of force in the face of anti-Venizelist riots in Athens. He had also been chastened by the State Department for improperly trying to influence Greek elections in Venizelos’s favor with an interview in a Greek newspaper.
Capps was a recess appointment by Wilson, and he was not renewed by President Harding. Yet, out of office, he continued to lobby for Greek and Venizelist affairs in the U.S., attempting to secure for Greece the $33,000,000 balance on a war loan negotiated with Venizelos (New York Times November 19, 1922).
From 1923-1928, while Venizelos was out of power, Anastasios devoted himself tirelessly to the Refugee Settlement Commission as its Secretary, charged with accommodating the hundreds of thousands of Asia Minor Greeks arriving in the wake of the Treaty of Lausanne. He found comfort at his farm on Spetses. Anastasios had, in fact, come to imagine himself as a Greek Cincinnatus, according to Ellie, preferring a rural life except when called upon to serve his nation.
Anastasios resigned from the Refugee Settlement Commission early in 1929 after accepting Capps’s offer that he become business manager for the Agora Excavations. Venizelos was back in power. Adossides’s contribution to the Agora Excavations is well-known. Sylvie Dumont has recently written (Vrysaki, p. 64): “It is undeniable that from the moment the School secured the services of Anastasios Adossides in 1928 the expropriation process accelerated. The completion of negotiations can be attributed in large part to his relationship to Eleutherios Venizelos.”
His friends from the Agora wrote in The Philhellene (p. 4): “Adossides’ devotion to the Agora was the more remarkable in that he had no very deep personal interest either in the process of exploration or in its artistic and historical products. He found his satisfaction partly out of an intellectual conviction that the job was worth doing, and partly out of watching the pleasure of his colleagues, for which he was in so large a measure responsible.” His success lay in convincing Venizelos of the worth of the project, informally already in 1928 in the course of a visit by Venizelos and Konstantinos Gondikas, Minister of Education, to the Adossides farm on Spetses (ASCSA Archives, ADM REC 202/1, Folder 8, Adossides to Capps, October 30, 1928).
By 1939, as the principal work of expropriating properties in the Agora neared completion and war loomed in Europe, Capps, in his final year as Chairman of the Managing Committee, made another proposal: he offered Anastasios a position as business manager for the entire school — a job he assumed in May, 1940. He moved his base to Kolonaki. Meanwhile, when the Italian invasion of Greece was announced in the fall of 1940, and soldiers were mobilized on Spetses, Ellie left with them for Epirus. As an agent of the Greek Red Cross, she, principally with her sister Eirini and her daughter Bessie, established field hospitals at the Albanian front. The ASCSA provided supplies and the ambulance “Iaso,” driven by Rodney Young, a story told by Susan Heuck Allen in her book Classical Spies through the eyes of Ellie’s daughter-in-law Clio.
From 1940-1942, Anastasios devoted himself 100% to the welfare of the ASCSA (in what was meant to be a half-time job). He put financial accounts in order, looked to secure insurance for the School’s buildings, and saw to the protection against theft of property in Kolonaki, Corinth, and the Agora. In the early months of the Nazi occupation Anastasios took great satisfaction in selling Decauville railway track at Corinth to the German army at twice market value — particularly when he learned that, at Philippi, the German army had simply confiscated it from the French School (ASCSA Archives, ADM REC 804/5, folder 5, Adossides to Lord, October 12, 1941).
As conditions under the Occupation worsened, Anastasios continued to send detailed reports to America, reports that were positively Thucydidean: “As for next winter, which will probably not bring the end of the war, we dare not think of it, because the general opinion is that the majority of the Greek people will not live to see it … even the well-to-do are now in want. I often happen to meet old friends in the street and [do] not welcome them at first, they are so changed and emaciated from want of food. Many of these, rich and poor, who get swollen and die of avitaminosis (ASCSA Archives, ADM REC 804/5, folder 1, Adossides to Lord, March 9, 1942).”
Since returning from the Epirote front, Ellie had been working at the Marasleion School, in an impromptu hospital established for wounded soldiers, and to shelter Cretans whom the Germans would not allow to be repatriated.
1942 was a annus horribilis for the Adossides family. Their daughter Bessie was condemned to death by the Italians (she later was pardoned). Their son Kostakis (Clio’s husband) died in a plane crash in Gaza. Their son Alexandros was taken hostage by EAM, the communist National Liberation Party of Greece.
The couple continued to care for others. Anastasios opened a soup kitchen for School employees with food contributed by the Red Cross. But perhaps Ellie and Anastasios’s greatest accomplishment occurred in the summer of 1942. Through their connections with the Red Cross, they safeguarded the Kolonaki property of both the American and British schools from confiscation by installing Swedish and Swiss Red Cross contingents in their properties.
A letter from Gorham P. Stevens and Eugene Vanderpool to Louis Lord announced Anastasios’s death on October 9, 1942, at Evangelismos Hospital. He had long suffered from advanced diabetes and a stomach ulcer, both aggravated by malnutrition. He had chosen not to live at the School and instead walked to Kolonaki from his home in Psychiko. Among his last words were instructions for the continued welfare of the ASCSA.
Anastasios was honored in the 1950s with a bench in the Agora and an olive tree (see J. Levine, The Agora Benches). He and Ellie deserve more.
An Athenian American School Today
Director Goodwin wrote: “I have felt that it was a good thing for the new school to make itself felt as a social power in Athens …”. What contributions can and should the ASCSA make to Greece today? It would be a gross understatement to say that much has changed since 1918. The ASCSA would hardly be in a position to contribute significant aid in the case of a civil emergency, as it did in 1918-1919 and 1939-1940. It thus seems good from time to time to rethink our relationship with Greece: What do we do that repays the generosity our host, its successive governments, and its citizens have displayed toward the ASCSA for nearly a century and a half?
With the passing of Capps’s generation, the ASCSA increasingly distanced itself from Greek politics, both during the rule of the junta in the late 1960s and in the turbulent years of the reborn democracy, when anti-Americanism ran rampant. The foreign schools were still being attacked in the early 1980s on the grounds that they were colonial outposts. Nor is possible to imagine the ASCSA as a voice in Greek politics today, and that seems for the best.
In the wake of WW I, however, there were already those who believed the School could play a role in the promotion of worldwide peace, and the ASCSA today serves that function still. In 1919, the “International Institute of Education,” which recently celebrated its centennial, brought Greek students to the U.S. and supported lectures by Americans at the University of Athens. An annually appointed professor at the ASCSA was intended to contribute to this program. Today the School continues to play a role in similar cultural exchanges through its participation in the Fulbright Program, in the Council of Overseas Research Centers, through its own Coulson-Cross program of fellowships for Greek and Turkish scholars, and in education more generally through the Association of American Colleges of Greece.
Thankfully, 140 years after its foundation, the ASCSA’s longstanding mission as cultural provider has also found common ground with its commitment to serve Greece and its people, and its doors have been opened to a broader constituency. The Internet in particular has allowed the ASCSA to share the resources of its libraries, excavations, and archives, not only with its members and others in North America, but with Greek scholars, students, and laity. Large parts of its collections, including records from the Athenian Agora excavations, are now freely available online. Both of its physical libraries have been accessible to scholars of all nationalities for nearly four decades. The Wiener Laboratory of the ASCSA is providing scholarships and facilities to young Greek scholars, regardless of their institutional affiliation. Many of the School’s publications are available online. Its journal, Hesperia, has Greeks on its advisory board and is receptive to submissions from scholars who are neither Americans nor ASCSA members.
New economic and social realities, rather than technological innovations, have, of course, been the force driving many of these changes. In recent decades, particularly since the entrance of Greece into the European Community, relations of power between Greece and the United States have become more balanced, and many patron-client relationships that once existed have collapsed or are rapidly becoming irrelevant. Greece does not now depend on the goodwill or mutual interests of the U.S. to defend its borders or, so much as it once did, to build its economy. In great part, such concerns powered the earlier networks that bound the ASCSA to Greek politicians and politics. At the same time, world-class archaeological research facilities now exist in Greece, in many cases setting Greek archaeologists on an equal or superior footing to their counterparts in North America. It is in this context that genuine academic and intellectual collaborations between scholars from the ASCSA and their Greek counterparts blossom.
The ASCSA will, I think, continue to redefine its place in the new world systems and global economies that inform 21st-century particularities. It is a strong, diverse institution, which has rich resources to share. I like to think that would please Anastasios and Ellie.
Adosidoy, Ellie A. Εξήντα χρόνια ελληνικής ζωής, Morrisville, NC, 2016.
Allen, Susan. Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II, Ann Arbor, 2013.
Davis, Jack L. “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism, in Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece, edited by Jack L. Davis and Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Hesperia 82 (2103), pp. 15-48.
Dumont, Sylvie. Vrysaki: A Neighborhood Lost in Search of the Athenian Agora, Princeton, 2020.
Oakley, H. S., C. Barry, R. W. Adams, J. Lemon, and C. B. Gilmore. In Macedonia, Chicago 1920.
Sakka, Niki. “The Excavation of the Ancient Agora of Athens: The Politics of Commissioning and Managing the Project, in A Singular Antiquity: Archaeology and Hellenic Identity in Twentieth-Century Greece, edited by Dimitris Damaskos and Dimitris Plantzos, Athens, 2008, pp. 111-124.
United States Department of State/Papers Relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. III, 1920, Greece, pp. 705-717 (=http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/FRUS/.
 Anastasios’s sister, Eleni (Hélène) had married Frederick, a grand-nephew of Frank Calvert, U.S. consul at the Dardanelles in 1889, and she could have been known to Hill through his relations with the Schliemanns, Francis H. Bacon, George Horton, and Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld.
 The preface is dated 1958, though from her letter to Blegen it seems that she was still writing in 1969. No copy of her remembrance of Venizelos is preserved either in the ASCSA or in Cincinnati. Blegen died in 1972, two years after receiving her letter, in Evangelismos hospital where Anastasios had passed away three decades earlier, next to the School to which they were both devoted.