“Who Doesn’t Belong Anywhere, Has a Chance Everywhere”: The Formative Years of Emilie Haspels in Greece.


Filiz Songu studied archaeology in Izmir and Ankara. As an independent scholar, she works for the Allard Pierson in Amsterdam and is a staff member of the Plakari Archaeological Project in Southern Euboia. She just completed her biographical research into the life and work of Dutch archaeologist Emilie Haspels. In her contribution to From the Archivist’s Notebook, she discusses Haspels’s early formative years in pre-WW II Greece, and the challenges she and other women archaeologists of her time met in a male-dominated field. Since Haspels worked with many foreign archaeological schools in Greece, Songu’s essay is literally a “Who’s Who” of foreign archaeology in interwar Greece.

Caroline Henriëtte Emilie Haspels (1894–1980) was a prominent classical archaeologist in the Netherlands in the decades after WW II. She was the first female professor of Archaeology at the University of Amsterdam and the first female director of the Allard Pierson Museum. Most scholars know her from her study The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments (1971), which is still a reference work on the rock-cut monuments in the Phrygian Highlands in central Turkey. For another group of academicians, Emilie Haspels is known for her other classic publication, Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi (1936).

One may wonder what the connection is between these two widely differing fields of specialization. When I started my biographical research into the life and work of Emilie Haspels, my original focus was on her pioneering fieldwork in Turkey. However, when I dug deeper into her personal documents, I discovered more about other significant periods of her life. Her archive provided glimpses of, for instance, her time in Shanghai in 1925–26, and her enforced stay in Istanbul during WW II. It shows how the twists and turns of history affected both her private and her academic life. Key to understanding her archaeological carrier is what I like to call her “Greek period.” The years she spent in Greece in the 1930s doing her PhD research appear to be her formative years as an archaeologist. With the field experience and special skills she acquired in Greece, she paved the way, perhaps unconsciously, to the Phrygian Highlands, which became her life’s work. It was also during her Greek period that she started to build up a wide international network. Haspels’s personal documents and correspondence in various Dutch archives provide complementary information about the scholarly community in pre-WW II Athens and connect with the writings in Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan’s blog.

Becoming an Archaeologist

Haspels’s Greek period started in the spring of 1929 with her arrival in Athens as a foreign member of the French School. A little about her academic background may be useful here. Haspels had studied Classics at the University of Amsterdam between 1912 and 1923. She minored in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology, attending Jan Six’s classes.

Emilie Haspels as a student at the University of Amsterdam, ca. 1920. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

After her graduation, she taught Latin and Ancient Greek in secondary and high schools in the Netherlands. However, she was determined to continue doing archaeological research, preferably on Greek pottery. In 1928, she started her PhD at the University of Utrecht under the supervision of Carl W. Vollgraff. She earned a scholarship to study at a university abroad, followed by what was meant to be a six-month stay in Greece. She chose to go to Oxford, where she studied with Sir John Beazley and also attended classes given by John L. Myres, Stanley Casson, Marcus N. Tod, and Gilbert Murray. Beazley took it upon himself to become her mentor. After leaving Oxford, she maintained intensive correspondence with him. In his letters, he encouraged Haspels in her research on Greek pottery and advised her whom to contact and where to publish her articles.

Letter from John Beazley to Emilie Haspels, September 7, 1929. Source: Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

The French School at Athens and Foreign Excavations

After two semesters at Oxford, Haspels’s scholarship allowed her to spend six months in Greece. At the time, the Netherlands did not have research facilities in Athens. Haspels therefore had no choice other than to follow in the footsteps of previous Dutch scholars, mostly classicists, who traditionally entered the French School as membres étrangers. Her supervisor, Vollgraff, a former foreign member, had made a request to the French School. This was not to her liking, and in one of her letters to a Dutch colleague she complained:

“I’m really not in the mood for the French School! The German Institute has Buschor and the British School has Prof. Ashmole, who according to Prof. B[eazley] will be of great use to me. At the French School? … Nobody. ‘And where are the French people when they are in Athens? You never see them in the museums,’ according to Prof. B[eazley].”

Haspels to G. van Hoorn, December 12, 1928 (University Library Utrecht, Special Collections, Collection Van Hoorn).

However, she soon changed her mind: she was content with the accommodation and research facilities provided by the French School. She felt “welcome to participate in English, German and French excavations all over Greece,” as she later noted in her memoirs about her fieldwork and expeditions in Turkey (Berndt 2012, p. 11).

Haspels had her first fieldwork experience in the spring of 1929 at the British School’s excavations of the prehistoric site of Thermi on Lesbos under the direction of Winifred Lamb. (On Lamb, see David W. J. Gill, Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator, 2018.) She was initially involved in the field photography and pottery analysis, but when she came back the following year she supervised her own trench.

Haspels at Thermi, Lesbos 1930. Source: Haspels Family Archive.
Haspels with Richard W. Hutchinson, Thermi 1930. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

Her six-month period in Greece appeared to be the prelude to a much longer stay, thanks to another scholarship as well as paid assignments for the French School. After Thermi, she joined two more British projects. In 1930–1933, she worked during two campaigns with Humfry G.G. Payne (1902-1936) at the Heraion in Perachora (Corinthia). In 1932 she worked briefly with Walter A. Heurtley’s team on Ithaca studying the pottery. In Samos, she joined the German excavations at the Heraion (1931 and 1932) directed by Ernst Buschor (1886-1961). The British and German excavation directors did not allow her to participate in the publications, but did give her permission to publish semi-scientific articles about their projects for the Dutch periodicals Hermeneus and Bulletin Antieke Beschaving (e.g., see Haspels 1933 and Haspels 1934).

Haspels in Perachora, 1930-1933. Text on reverse of photo: “Yanni, Payne, Emilie, Blakeway. Excavations Perachora (washing sherds).” Source: Haspels Family Archive.

The situation with the French School was different. As a foreign member, she was given more responsibilities and chances to participate not only in the School’s excavations, but also in the publications. At the French School’s excavation on Delos, where she worked regularly between 1930 and 1935, the director Joseph Chamonard allowed her to publish pottery from the earlier excavations in the Apollo sanctuary. The other French project she was involved in was on Thasos, where she excavated between 1931 and 1934, the final year as field director. The director, Pierre Devambez, asked her to study and publish the Archaic pottery. She was also allowed to write an article about the excavations for The Illustrated London News in 1932.

The Illustrated London News, September 3, 1932.

Connecting Link

Haspels went from one project to another and stayed in Athens for only short periods of time. When in Athens, she studied pottery at the National Museum, and also used the opportunity to socialize with the members of the other foreign schools. Working with different foreign teams put her in a unique position to bring these members together. In her memoirs, she mentions how she took the French to the monthly tea at the American School, which was one of the reasons why Mme. Roussel, wife of the director of the French School, called her the “connecting link between the institutes” (Berndt 2012, p. 12–13). Though she did not follow the academic program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she did participate in some of its activities:

“It was a fortunate coincidence that at that time the extensive excavation of the Agora at Athens was taken in hand by the American School; the new group of excavators were eager to make acquaintance with the members of other schools and encouraged us to come to the dig and see their findings.”

Berndt 2012, p. 12.

It is here that her lifelong friendship with Lucy Talcott and Gladys Davidson Weinberg began, as her correspondence during and after WW II shows.

In Athens she also participated in Wilhelm Dörpfeld’s city walks:

“At that time we suddenly heard that Dörpfeld was going to give lecture tours on the Acropolis. This was an incredible experience, it made one feel as if we actually lived in the times of Schliemann, profiting by the wisdom of Schliemann’s architect-excavator of Troy.”

Berndt 2012, p. 12.
Dörpfeld’s tour on the Acropolis. Haspels standing on the right, holding an umbrella, Dörpfeld standing in the middle of the group and pointing, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

In one of her letters to her sister in the Netherlands, she commented on Dörpfeld’s late years. (About Dörpfeld and his theories being challenged by younger scholars, see also “On the Trail of the “German Model”: ASCSA and DAI, 1881-1918.”)

“Remember I talked about that famous old professor, Dörpfeld, we were told about in high school? Well, he wanted to organize a trip with a group to Ithaca and Leukas. The trip was canceled because only one [person] signed up: not one single German, for example. How pathetic it is to grow old!”

Emilie to C. Haspels, September 14, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

During her stay in Athens she also enjoyed the cultural life. She mentions, for example, attending a concert “directed by [Dimitri] Mitropoulos, then still at Athens” (Berndt 2012, p. 13). In her archive there is a photo that has only a brief note on the back, saying that it was taken during a recording session of folk singing in Athens in 1930. In this photo, we see the French linguist, Hubert Octave Pernot (1870-1946), professor of Modern Greek, who was leading a project to create a permanent record of modern Greek folk songs. To his left is an unnamed woman, whom I think is musicologist Melpo Logotheti-Merlier, founder of the Musical Folklore Archives, which is now the oldest section of the Center for Asia Minor Studies. She is known to have assisted Pernot in the abovementioned project.

Hubert Octave Pernot and Melpo Logotheti-Merlier in Athens. Haspels standing at the back, looking to the side. Text on reverse: “Barracks in Athens. 1930. With Prof. Pernot, for recording folk-songs on gramophone.” Source: Haspels Family Archive.

All this may seem interesting and exciting, and shows how intensive and productive her years in Greece were. However, the absence of a Dutch institute in Athens distressed her. In one of her reports to the University of Utrecht, she described her situation as follows:

“Of course, at each excavation you have different functions because each excavation has different demands; but because of my studies, I’ve usually been occupied with the vases. […] I can’t underestimate how big an advantage it’s been for me being Dutch, as I’ve been able to join all these different excavations by the various schools: who doesn’t belong anywhere, has a chance everywhere. On the other hand, I do see the disadvantage of not belonging anywhere.”

Report for Philological Society at Utrecht, 1932, Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

End of Greek period

In 1935, Haspels submitted her PhD thesis titled Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig (“Contribution to the study of Attic black-figure”). The following year she published a more extended version in English under the title Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi. This study received many positive reviews written by, for example, Gisela M.A. Richter and T.B.L. Webster. Renowned French pottery expert Charles Dugas (1885-1957) not only praised Haspels’s research methods and outcomes, but also called attention to the unusual character of this endeavor: it was written in English by a Dutch female archaeologist from Oxford who had become a foreign member of the French School at Athens, which published it  (Dugas 1937, p. 40). Dugas also used his review to advise the French School to take Haspels as an example and open its doors to female researchers and accept larger numbers of French women into scientific research. The highest recognition, I believe, came two decades later. Beazley in the ‘Instructions for Use’ to his Attic Black-figure Vase-painters (1956) referred to Haspels’s research on lekythoi in the following manner:

“One of the largest classes of black-figure vase, the lekythos, has been thoroughly studied by Miss Haspels in her fine work Attic Black-figured Lekythoi. I have not reproduced her list. I have made additions; and especially if I had much to add, I have not hesitated to repeat what is there, following no hard and fast rule; but if a vase does not appear in my pages, it should be sought in Miss Haspels’s index.”

Beazley 1956: pp. iix-ix

The completion of her PhD research marks the end of her Greek period. Very soon afterward, a new phase in her life would start. Her field experience and pottery expertise made her the best candidate for another French project, this time in Turkey. Albert Gabriel (1883-1972), director of the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, asked her to direct the excavations at Midas City in Anatolia. Here, she conducted five campaigns between 1937 and 1939, when WW II broke out, trapping her in Turkey, where she was forced to remain for six years.

Although she started to work in Turkey, she kept in touch with scholars she had met in Oxford and Athens. She corresponded with Beazley regularly, even during WW II. In his letters to Haspels, Beazley informed her about his ongoing research, once in a while colored with news of a more personal nature, for instance about his wife’s volunteer work for British soldiers: “My wife has invented a woolen garment for the forces and has sent out over 2500. It bears the classical name of Kredemnon” (Letter from Beazley to Haspels, September 6, 1942). (See also M. Alden, “Mrs Beazley’s Kredemnon: Homeric Comforts for the Troops, 1939-45” in Costume 44:1, 2010, pp. 106–109.) Her friendship with Winifred Lamb, who conducted fieldwork between 1935 and 1937 in Kusura Höyük, became stronger. A recurring topic was their exchange of experiences of working in Turkey.

It was most probably Lamb who introduced Haspels to Francis H. Bacon, who was also known as “Uncle Bacon.” (On Bacon, read also “Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles.”) The earliest correspondence between them is from 1937, some years before Bacon’s death, when Haspels started to conduct excavations at Midas City. Together with this letter, Bacon shared some photographs that he took during his visits to Athens in 1930 and 1931. One shows their mutual friend Winifred Lamb “in Athens Museum workshop,” two others are portraits of Wilhelm Dörpfeld taken “in my room at Grande Bretagne,” and one is of Sophia Schliemann “in her house at Phaleron.”

Photographs taken by Francis H. Bacon in Athens in 1930 and 1931, from left to right: Winifred Lamb, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Sophia Schliemann. Source: Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

When WW II ended, Haspels returned to the Netherlands, and soon became a professor at the University of Amsterdam. Now that she had tenure, she could finally start her own field project. Between 1946 and 1958, she organized four survey expeditions to the Phrygian Highlands. During her excavations at Midas City, she came to realize that this was still a largely unexplored region. It was a terrain where she could make a name for herself, but it also appealed to the romantic side of her. As she would later observe in her monograph: “I had to record what I found, I am the last of the travelers” (Haspels 1971: viii). Finally, she belonged somewhere.

Although her Phrygian research dominated the rest of her academic life and a good part of her retirement, she did not lose her connection with Greece and Athens. She traveled regularly to Greece, and organized and guided excursions for Dutch students. In 1956, she was invited to join the ceremonies marking the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos.

Opening session of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the American School held in the garden of the Gennadius Library, as part of the ceremonies of the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos. Haspels can be traced sitting right in front of the photographer standing in the middle (red arrow). Source: ASCSA, Athenian Agora Excavations Archive (#2003.01.0032).

She continued to visit Athens, often before and after her expeditions in Turkey. In her personal documents, she mentions that during these visits she was asked to help classify and date pottery from the Agora excavations. Her correspondence with Lucy Talcott includes this photo of Attic lekythoi found during the Agora excavations. On the back is typewritten information, to which Talcott added a handwritten, personal message: “C.H.E.H.! How we have been working for you! L.T.”


Beazley, J. D. 1956. Attic Black-figure Vase-Painters, Oxford.
Berndt, D. (ed.) 2012. Emilie Haspels. I am the Last of the Travelers: Midas City Excavations and Surveys in the Highlands of Phrygia. With Contributions by Halet Çambel, Istanbul.
Dugas, C. 1937. “Une étude de céramique grecque,” Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé 56, pp. 37-40.
Haspels, C. H. E. 1933. “Bij ons op Ithaka,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.1, pp. 7–13.
—————————1934. “Bij ons op Samos,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.10, pp. 159–166.
—————————1935. Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig, Nijkerk.
—————————1936. Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi, Paris.
—————————1971. The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments, Princeton.
Songu, F. 2019. “Emilie Haspels’ Griekse jaren,” Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, vol. 60, pp. 47–53.

“Mr. Lo”: The First Chinese Student at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1933.

In the late 1990s, a few years after I was appointed Archivist of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School), Robert (Bob) Bridges, the Secretary of the School, brought to the Archives a Chinese metallic vase to be saved because it was part of our institutional history. Bob said that the bearer of the gift was a former student of the School from the 1930s, who had visited Greece and the School in the 1980s. Underneath the vase, Bob had pasted the donor’s professional card to make sure that his identity was not lost. The print on the card read: Luo Niansheng, Professor [and] Research Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and scribbled on it: Lo Maote student of the American School in the academic year of 1933-1934.

The vase that Luo Niansheng (Mao-Te Lo) gave to the School in the 1980s, as a token of remembrance. ASCSA Archives.

Luo Niansheng’s business card underneath the vase. ASCSA Archives.

The School’s Directory in Louis E. Lord’s History of the American School of Classical Studies (1947) lists the following information for “Mr. Lo”:

LO, MAO TE 1933-1934 – Tern., Chinese Educational Mission, 1360 Madison Street, Washington, D. C, or 317 College Avenue, Ithaca, New York; Per., Yu-Tai-Huan Company, Lo-Chwan-Tsing, Ese-Chung-Hsien, Sze-Chuan, China. A.B., Ohio State University, 1931.

About the same time that Bob delivered Niansheng’s present to the Archives, I met Richard (Dick) Howland, a former Chair of the School’s Managing Committee (1965-1975) and a student of the School from 1933 to 1938. Howland was in his late eighties when he visited the Archives carrying another important gift: his photographic collection from the time he was a student at the School. As Howland reminisced and identified people in the photos, we stumbled upon a few showing a Chinese man either alone or with other School students: Howland identified him as “Mr. Lo.”

Sidney Gould, Richard (Dick) Howland, Martin H. Johnson, Mao-Te Lo, Olympia 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

Richard Howland, 1996. Photo: ASCSA Archives, Richard Howland Papers.

In addition to the photos, Howland also delivered a bundle of letters he had written to his family during his first year in Greece in 1933-1934. There I found a few brief references to the elusive “Mr. Lo.”

“Two more new men have come – a fellow named Martin Johnson, from Williams, who is very congenial, and with whom I am rooming on the trip, and Sidney Gould, from Yale.  There is also a Chinese, who recently came, so in all there will be 4 men on the trip, and 9 girls, – besides the 2 profs” wrote Howland on October 5, 1933.

Several months later, on April 11, 1934, somewhat puzzled Howland mentioned Mr. Lo again: “… we had to go to tea at Mr. Lo’s, to meet his German wife, whom he had married last summer and only recently had come to Athens.  She speaks no English or Chinese, and he little German.”


Many years passed before I again became interested in Mr. Lo. In 2016, the School received an EU grant to digitize several archival collections, including Richard Howland’s photographs. While creating metadata for the Howland photos, I stumbled again upon Mr. Lo. Curious about him, I ran several fruitless Google searches for the name “Mao-Te Lo.” Absorbed by the need to complete the EU project in time, I did not persist, and more importantly, I did not run any searches for the other name printed on the business card with the Chinese vase: Luo Niansheng. Had I done so, as my good friend John W. I. Lee, Professor of History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, did recently, I would have found that Luo Niansheng (1904-1990) had an illustrious career in China as a translator of ancient Greek authors. According to the Wikipedia entry, he was also honored for his work by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1987.

On another webpage, “Greek-China Relations,” I read that the Premier of the People’s Republic of China Zhou Enlai (1954-1976) “gave Luo Niansheng the order to write the first ancient Greek-Chinese dictionary.” More recently, Alexander Beecroft in an essay titled “Comparisons of Greece and China” included Niansheng in the list of scholars who had translated ancient Greek authors into Chinese: “Another Chinese scholar with training in the Western classics, Luo Niansheng, published the major works of Greek drama gradually over a period from the 1930s through the 1960s; his prose translation of the Iliad was completed after his death in 1990 by Wilson Wong and published only in 1994.”

Two Chinese scholars, Rongnü Chen and Lingling Zhao, in another essay, titled “Translation and the Canon of Greek Tragedy in Chinese Literature,” elaborated further about Niansheng’s work: “After Yang’s first Chinese translation, Niansheng Luo finished in 1939 (published in 1947) the second Chinese translation of the play [Prometheus Bound] from the original Greek… Luo’s translation was extensive and included a prologue by himself as the translator… the main text of the play, and 141 annotations and four appendices. It can be said that Luo’s translation was a landmark event in the introduction of not only Greek tragedy, but Western literature to the Chinese canon of literature” (Comparative Literature and Culture 16:6, 2014).

In an article, titled ‘Classics in China,” about the establishment of the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC) in Changchun, William Brashear made a special note of Niansheng’s major contribution toward the spread of classics in China: “Prof. Luo Niansheng, for example, who studied at Ohio, Columbia and Cornell universities in the 1930s, was recently cited by the Greek government for his translation of ancient Greek literature into Chinese. Many of his translations have been performed on China’s stages. Also, Prof. Luo has written scholarly articles on Greek drama and just completed a dictionary of classical Greek and Chinese” (The Classical Journal 86:1, 1990, pp. 73-78). Brashear must have referred to the visit of Greek Prime-Minister Andreas Papandreou to Beijing in April 1986, followed by the visit to Athens of Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang.

Thirty-three years later, in November 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping, while on an official visit to Greece, published an article in Kathimerini, titled “Let Wisdom of Ancient Civilizations Shine through the Future.” After paying homage to Nikos Kazantzakis, who had written about his travels to China (1935 and 1957), President Jinping singled out Luo Niansheng of all Chinese scholars for his studies of ancient Greece. “A renowned Chinese scholar and translator, is remembered for his life-long dedication to the translation and research of Greek literature and for his important contribution to furthering our friendship, a legacy carried on by his son and granddaughter.”


Niansheng’s prominence in Chinese culture, especially his role in the advancement of comparative literature between Greece and China and his early association with the American School, made me think it was time to take a closer look at the School’s administrative records. A first search through Applications proved disappointing since Mao-Te Lo’s application to the School was missing; however, I was fortunate to discover a duplicate in the files of Edward D. Perry, Professor of Classics at Columbia and Secretary of the School’s Managing Committee.

Mao-Te Lo’s application to the ASCSA, 1933. ASCSA Archives.

The application provides much information about Lo’s family and educational background. Born in Szechuan, on May 29, 1905 (unlike the Wikipedia entry where Niansheng’s birthday is given as July 12, 1904), the son of Chin-Chen Lo, he had studied at Tsing-Hua University (1927-1929) before coming to the U.S. in 1929. He was enrolled first at the Ohio State University (1929-1931) where he received his B.A., and then briefly at Columbia (1931), before going to Cornell University (1932-1933). According to the application, his studies in the U.S. were supported by a five-year scholarship (1929-1934) from his alma mater, the Tsing-Hua University (his spelling).

A web search to find more about Tsinghua University proved very rewarding because it answered my first question: What was a Chinese student doing in the U.S. at a time when international studies were not that common? I copy from Wikipedia’s entry about the Early History of Tsinghua University:

“Tsinghua University was established in Beijing [in 1911], during a tumultuous period of national upheaval and conflicts with foreign powers which culminated in the Boxer Rebellion, an uprising against foreign influence in China. After the suppression of the revolt by a foreign alliance including the United States, the ruling Qing dynasty was required to pay indemnities to alliance members. US Secretary of State John Hay suggested that the US$30 million Boxer indemnity allotted to the United States was excessive. After much negotiation with Qing ambassador Liang Cheng, US President Theodore Roosevelt obtained approval from the United States Congress in 1909 to reduce the indemnity payment by $10.8 million, on the condition that the funds would be used as scholarships for Chinese students to study in the United States. Using this fund, the Tsinghua College (清華學堂; Qīnghuá Xuétáng) was established in Beijing, on 29 April 1911 on the site of a former royal garden to serve as a preparatory school for students the government planned to send to the United States.”

Built in 1917, the Grand Auditorium with its Jeffersonian architectural design is a centerpiece of the old campus at Tsinghua University. Source: Wikimedia Commons (photo: Stephen W. McNamara).

“Mr. Lo” must have gone to the U.S. as part of the so-called Boxer Indemnity Scholarship program, which aimed at improving the relationship between the two countries. Of course, the ultimate goal behind that program was to create an influential group of American-educated-Chinese leaders who would support U.S. policies in China. From 1909 to 1929, the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program sent around 1,300 Chinese students to study in America, which also led to the creation of the China Institute in New York in 1926. The majority of the Chinese students looked for placements in universities that supported Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine and Commerce, with MIT being a favorable destination. Mao-Te Lo’s pursuit of classics must have been exceptional.

Mao-Te Lo, 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

On January 26, 1933, enrolled at Cornell University, “Mr. Lo” addressed a letter to Samuel E. Bassett, the School’s Chair of Admissions and Fellowships, asking whether he was eligible to “enter the American School at Athens or not, with only a first degree and about two years of graduate work” (ASCSA Archives, Samuel E. Bassett Papers, box 1, folder 2). Bassett must have forwarded Lo’s letter to Perry, whose reply to Lo is not preserved, but it must not have been very encouraging. At risk of not being accepted at the School, Lo addressed a passionate letter to Perry stating that:

“To enter that classical school is vitally important for me. I can never secure another opportunity going to Greece in my life, if I fail this time. And I will never close my eyes when I die, without seeing the golden Mycenae” (ASCSA AdmRec, box 311/6 folder 3, Lo to Perry, March 13, 1933).

In the same letter, he provided more information about how he came to study the classics: “under the influence of Milton and Shelly, I first turned my attention to Greek literature.” He already knew that his future life would “chiefly be spent in translating and imitating this great literature directly from the Greek; instead of from the modern language as we used to do in my country,” implying that the ancient Greek authors were known in China only through western translations.

Suspecting reluctance in the acceptance of his application by the American School and following Eugene Andrews’s advice -Andrews, professor of Classics at Cornell, was a student at the School in 1895-1896- “Mr. Lo” went to see Perry in New York in early April 1933. He carried with him his Chinese translation of Euripides’s Iphigeneia. A year later, Perry would fondly reminisce about Lo’s visit to Columbia: “I often have to laugh when I think of the time when he gravely handed [LaRue] van Hook and me copies of his Chinese translation of the Iphigenia in Tauris as an erudition specimen. Not a muscle in his indicated the keen enjoyment he must have had over our evident mystification” (AdmRec 311/4, folder 9, Perry to Capps, April 19, 1934).

Soon after Lo’s visit, Perry dispatched a letter to Edward Capps at Princeton. “You have not returned to me the correspondence with the young Chinaman, Mr. Mao-Te Lo, concerning his admission to the School, which I sent you several weeks ago… He appears to be a very intelligent young man, who might, I think, properly admitted to the School as an Associate Member. His command of English is fairly good, but not as good as I expected to find it…” Perry scrawled on April 3, 1933.

Eight weeks later, Lo’s acceptance to the School was still up in the air with his original application lost somewhere between New York, Princeton, and Athens (Perry had asked Capps to mail it to Richard Stillwell, the School’s Director), and Mr. Lo agonizing about his admission. However, a comment in Perry’s letter to Capps (May 22, 1933) suggests that it wasn’t only “Mr. Lo” pushing for his acceptance. “Frankly, I doubt if he gets as much profit from admission to the School as he seems to expect, but the Chinese Gov’t seems entirely willing to have him go, so that is his and their affair,” wrote a somewhat skeptical Perry. On June 3, Perry wrote again to Capps, implying that Stillwell had not received Lo’s application and was reluctant to admit him to the School. “From Stillwell’s letter I judge that possibly you had not sent him Mao-Te Lo’s original application. What am I to do about the matter now? Lo is sailing on the Europa, June 16.”

Lo’s problems were not only with the American School but also with the Greek Consulate in New York, which would grant him only a three-month visa to Greece. Perry armed Lo with a strong introduction letter that he could use “on the way to Greece as well as on his arrival at Athens.” Perry was afraid that Lo’s extreme politeness (“painfully polite”) might not open doors for him. Capps, more concerned about Lo’s limited visa, wrote to the Greek Consul-General “asking that this be modified by a communication to Athens, on the ground that it will not do for the Greek Government to limit the period of residence of any of our students” (AdmRec, box 311/4 folder 8, Capps to Perry, June 19, 1933). The Greek Consul-General reassured Capps that Lo would not have any problem extending his visa once in Greece (Capps to Perry, June 21, 1933).

After spending three months in Europe, where he must have met and married his German wife, Lo sailed from Brindisi to Piraeus at the end of September. There were eight first-year students altogether, five women and three men. Oscar Broneer, Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the School, led most of the trips. Thomas Means (1889-1961) of Bowdoin College was that year’s Annual professor.

Mary Elizabeth Barton, Janet Morgan, Lillian Libman, Winifred Ruter, Oscar Broneer, Mao Te Lo, Richard H. Howland, Constance Gavares, Dorothy Traquair, and Mrs. Means, 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

Means’s report for the fall semester is our best source of information for “Mr. Lo’s” progress at the School. As with many non-native English speakers studying classics in American universities (myself included), “Mr. Lo [was] fighting on two fronts, English and Greek.” Means further added that “with his [Lo’s] permission, I am receiving and correcting, in advance of class conferences, his translations into English from the Greek especially assigned to him.” Notwithstanding the language issue, Means acknowledged Mr. Lo’s “good mind, probably one much better than we realize.” He found him pleasant, “more mature than that of the others… making very considerable progress… working indefatigably.” “He has my respect,” concluded Means (AdmRec 1001/1 folder 7, Means to Stillwell, January 25, 1934).

Thomas Means, ASCSA Annual Professor, 1933-1934. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

We owe the best description of “Mr. Lo” to Winifred L. Ruter (later Merckel), a graduate of Hunter College, who was the Fellow in Greek Language, Literature, and History in 1933-1934. In a letter she sent to Perry about the School trips, she described some of Lo’s difficulties during the trips, how his donkey once ran away with him, or was lost for over an hour another time at Lycosoura, or how he was startled by a huge tortoise. Not to mention that some of his fellow students, the younger ones, were occasionally “heartless to him.” But, despite his adventures, Lo was determined “to get all the advantages to be derived from his work here. He works on Greek literature like a little Trojan… studying the Oedipus Tyrannus” with the help of Means (AdmRec, box 311/4 folder 9, Feb. 8, 1934).

Mao-Te Lo riding a donkey, 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

In writing to Capps on April 12, 1934, at the conclusion of the School’s academic year, Perry described a letter he had received from Lo (unfortunately, not preserved) “as a fine specimen of true courtesy.” Before leaving from Greece, Lo submitted his required School paper, titled “Oedipodeia: A chronological sketch of the original source material of Greek and Latin Tragedy, submitted as a “School Paper” at the American School of Classical Studies.”

Aside from the immaturity of his younger fellow students, Lo was lucky to have encountered before, and during his year in Greece, educators such as Edward Perry and Thomas Means, who, putting aside any western prejudices, did not deprive Mao-Te Lo from experiencing Greece at first hand.

Martin H. Johnson, Lillian Libman, Richard H. Howland, Mao Te Lo, Mr. and Mrs. Means at lunch in Nemea. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

In “Essays about Greece,” Lo wrote about his Greek experience. The essays are in Chinese, but I was able to read one thanks to the translation of Huizhong Zheng, a graduate student of John Lee at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In it, Lo writes about his School trips and encourages his fellow Chinese to visit Greece if they want to read some “living books,” referring to the works of the ancient Greek authors.


In 1986, while Luo Niansheng was still alive, the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing mounted the first public performance of Oedipus King, adapted and co-directed by Luo Jinlin, a classical scholar and the son of Niansheng. “In the summer of the same year, per invitation from the European Cultural Center of Delphi, the academy took the adaptation to both Delphi and Athens” (Shouhua Qi, Adapting Western Classics for the Chinese Stage, New York 2019). It must have been the same year that Mao-Te Lo or Luo Niansheng returned to Greece after half a century to watch his son staging the very same play he had translated at the American School in 1934. I don’t know the exact year he visited the School, but it must have been that summer.

Thirty-plus years later, in 2018, an older Luo Jinlin would stage an adaptation of Aristophanes’ Birds at the National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing. The play was the NCPA’s first in-house production of an ancient Greek com­edy. The production of The Birds was based on Luo Niansheng’s translation of 1954. (For a video, see Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ in Beijing: Blending Greek drama with Chinese culture.)

“The Birds” at the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing. Photo: via NCPA and CGTN.

Luo Tong, Luo Jinlin’s daughter and Luo Niansheng’s granddaughter, who was the co-director of the Birds, said in an interview: “It was my grandfather’s wish to promote ancient Greek plays among the Chinese audience. By understanding a different culture, we can take a broader view of the whole world” (China Daily, April 2, 2018).

Chinese dramatist Luo Jinlin (left) and his daughter Luo Tong (right). Source: China Daily (April 2, 2018).

Author’s Note: Without Mao-Te Lo’s and Richard H. Howland’s gifts to the School, I would not have been able to write about Luo Niansheng’s Greek experience at the American School in 1933-1934.

Mr. and Mrs. Cincinnatus in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Spetses


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. 

G. Dorys, Abdul-Hamid intime, Paris 1901.

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.

Ellie and Anastasios Adossides, Paris 1910s. Source: Adosidoy 2016.

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.[1] 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).

Commissioner Edward Capps posing on the balcony of the ARC headquarters, 1918-1919. ASCSA Archives.

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.



Back view of the Adossides farm on the island of Spetses, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers (#1023).

Front view of Adossides’s villa in Spetses, as it is today (under different ownership). Source: Courtesy of Phokion Potamianos.

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 Villa Zsolnay was used as the headquarters of the ARC in Kavala, 1918-1919. Source: Oakley et al. 1920.

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. 

The Villa Modiano in Thessaloniki, today.

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.”[2]

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 Adossides with young Homer Thompson in Spetses, 1931. Thompson would later become Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations in 1947. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers (#1026).

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).

Eleutherios Venizelos, Ellie and Anastasios Adossides in Spetses, 1928. Source: Adosidoy 2016.

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.  

Bessie Adossides in Spetses, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers (#0284).

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.  

Anastasios and Ellie Adossides with their eldest son Kostakis, early 1910s. Source: Adosidoy 2016.

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.    

The Adossides bench in the Athenian Agora (before and after cleaning). Photo: Judith Levine.

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/.


[1] 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.  

[2] 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.  

On the Trail of the “German Model”: ASCSA and DAI, 1881-1918

Founded in 1881, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA or the School) was the third foreign archaeological school to be established in Greece and followed the French and German models. For the first thirty years, the activities of the American School were closely intertwined with those of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens (DAI or German Institute hereafter) and the Austrian Archaeological Institute of Athens (Austrian Institute or Station hereafter).

Eloquent testimony to their informal relationship is found in the ASCSA Annual Reports (AR) from 1887 onwards, where the directors of the American School repeatedly extended their profound gratitude to Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld, Director of the German Institute (1887-1912), Paul Wolters, Second Secretary of the German Institute (1887-1900), and Adolf Wilhelm, Secretary of the Austrian Institute (1898-1905), for allowing American students to attend their weekly seminars and archaeological excursions. Only occasionally, would the ASCSA similarly express its gratitude to a French or British colleague.  In fact, the ASCSA relied so heavily on the German Institute that it delayed developing an independent academic program of its own until Dӧrpfeld stopped offering his lectures and tours in 1908.

In order to reconstruct the early decades of the School’s history and its relationship to the German Institute, in addition to the Annual Reports, I have also relied on a second type of primary source: personal correspondence and diaries.  Both are rare, however.  Unlike official documents that have a greater chance of survival (sometimes in more than one copy) the preservation of family correspondence is a matter of luck. Of the 200 men and women who attended the School’s academic program from 1881 to 1918, the outgoing letters of fewer than a dozen members have survived, and of those only the letters of few have found their way back to the School’s Archives.

By nature, each type of source provides the researcher with different kinds of information, even if both sources refer to the same people or events.  Official reports are formal and, to a certain extent, sanitized documents that deliver the governing body’s mindset. I, personally, find private correspondence a more insightful source, although it can be subjective and overstated; nevertheless, it is the best thing that a historian has at his/her disposal for reconstructing the past because its testimonies offer contemporary perspectives.  At a time when cell phones, text messages, and social media were not available, a letter was the only way for reporting one’s activities and also for expressing one’s feelings.  Glimpses, for example, at the private correspondence of Nellie M. Reed, student of the School in 1895-1896, reveal a continuous stream of informal American-German gatherings during that year, otherwise undocumented in the Annual Reports.

In 2016, I was invited to participate in a conference that explored the early history of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. I used that event as an opportunity to study and re-write the “German chapter” in the history of the American School.[1]  The narrative explores the catalysts that brought these two groups together and asks: Was it simply the vibrant and charismatic personality of Dӧrpfeld, who for three decades dominated the archaeological community of Athens, that was responsible for the rapprochement of the two institutions in the closing decades of the 19th century, or did the School’s close ties with the German and Austrian institutes reflect a larger educational trend that prevailed in American academic circles in the second half of the 19th century?

Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld and Adolf Wilhelm in the Annual Reports

For many years the directors of the American School expressed their gratitude to Dӧrpfeld and Wilhelm for allowing the School’s students to attend their weekly lectures, as well as participate in the archaeological excursions that Dӧrpfeld led twice a year. “He began his lectures on Saturday, the 10th of last October, and invited us to attend that and all his later lectures on every Saturday through the autumn and winter. I need not state how precious was this privilege, and how stimulating and suggestive we have found his lectures” acknowledged Director Charles Waldstein in his AR for 1891-1892. Ten years later, Director Rufus B. Richardson, at the end of his ten-year directorship at the American School thanked Dӧrpfeld and Wilhelm, noting that “these eminent specialists have by their kindness and generosity become, for all practical purposes, members of our faculty.”  More than 15 years later, another director, Bert Hodge Hill would state in his Annual Report for 1908-1909:

“To hear him on Saturday afternoons has for so long been one of the great advantages of a student’s residence in Athens that it is difficult to conceive of the year’s work without his lectures. We shall wait long for another lecturer who can speak on the subject of Athenian topography with the authority, lucidity, and charm of Prof. Dӧrpfeld.”

Wilhelm Dörpfeld, 1900.

The American students were also required to attend the lectures of Adolf Wilhelm (1864-1950) of the Austrian Archaeological Station at the Epigraphical Museum.  “… and [he] invited our students to join him (along with several of the German students). This they did, and thus enjoyed the guidance of a scholar who has few equals in reading and explaining inscriptions,” reported Director Rufus B. Richardson in 1895. In fact, the Annual Professors of the American School would frequently give up their lectures at the Epigraphical Museum and surrender the field to Dr. Wilhelm “who was doing it better than I could hope to do” admitted J. R. S. Sterrett, one of the two visiting professors in 1896-1897. Four years later, in 1900-1901, the American students formed the largest part of Dr. Wilhelm’s class.

Adolf Wilhelm, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Francis H. Bacon Papers.

In addition to attending Dӧrpfeld’s Saturday talks and Wilhelm’s epigraphy courses, the students of the American School also had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Paul Wolters, the Deputy Secretary of the German Institute, lecturing on sculpture every other Wednesday (ASCSA Archives, Annual Report 1895-96, 22).  Wolters (1858-1936) was later appointed professor of archaeology at the University of Würzburg (1900-1908), and in 1908 he succeeded Adolf Furtwängler at the University of Munich.

“A Prophet Piercing the Future”: Private Accounts of Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld

The information one gets about Dӧrpfeld and the others from the Annual Reports reveals the School’s high regard both for their generosity to the students and the quality of these lectures.  From the private letters, we glean something very different, however.  We catch valuable glimpses of their personalities and physical appearance.

I was blown away by the amount of detail that went into one’s letters when distance was real and not virtual, photography was expensive, and indoor photography a process with unreliable results. These letters are a good source of information for studying the social fabric, interaction, and shifting relations among the members of the archaeological community in Athens, but only part of them has so far been transcribed. Unfortunately, reading, transcribing, and editing personal letters or diaries is a laborious and time-consuming task, and one that is usually not rewarded with instant gratification.

Nellie Marie Reed (1872-1957), a graduate of Cornell University, attended the ASCSA in 1895-1896. Twice a week she wrote long letters to her mother and brother about her life in Athens. It was her first time away from home, and she wanted to share with her family every moment of her Greek experience. In her case, it might well be said that each of her descriptions is worth a thousand images.

“Yesterday afternoon we all went to Dr. Dӧrpfeld’s lecture which lasted from 2-5 on the spot… He speaks exquisite German, clearly and slowly, and I was more than happy to be able to understand everything, though of course it was hard work and very tiring. He is a fine man, about medium height, a rather light moustache, an exceedingly pleasant face, and exceptionally beautiful hands” wrote Nellie to her mother on November 10, 1895.

Nellie M. Reed, ca. 1895. ASCSA Archives, Nellie M. Reed Papers.

No image could have portrayed Dӧrpfeld’s commanding presence better than another of her descriptions after having attended the Open Meeting of the German Institute: “He simply demolishes with one blow the opponents who hold different views and proves the strength of his own. He is magnificent in his simplicity and modesty” (Reed to her family, March 1, 1896). And when she writes to her mother that he “sounded like a prophet piercing the future,” I suspect that she was repeating verbatim the comments of some senior archaeologist (Reed to her family, December 15, 1895). Little did she know that many of Dӧrpfeld’s theories would eventually fail the test of time.

Simple, charming, and genius are three characterizations of Dӧrpfeld that are repeated in people’s private correspondence. Four years later, in 1899, a young Ida C. Thallon (she would later marry the School’s Director Bert Hodge Hill) would also describe Dӧrpfeld as “the loveliest, most charming man imaginable, as simple and unaffected as possible and you would never think from his manner that he is about the biggest celebrity in his line” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, November 6-7, 1899).

Ida Thallon, ca. 1899. ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers.

It is also worth sharing the account of Theodore W. Heermance (1872-1905), who had attended Dӧrpfeld’s lectures first as a student, in 1894-1896, and almost a decade later, as a peer when he became Director of the American School (1903-1905). We do not have any descriptions from his student years but the one from 1903 is telling enough. After attending one of Dӧrpfeld’s lectures on the Old Athena temple, Heermance, still full of respect for the master, remarked in one of his letters:

“He did not finish, though he talked over 2 ½ hours. It was a masterly presentation of his argument, and yet I now count myself among his opponents having been converted from being an adherent a year ago… I was hoping he would have some new arguments…, but there was nothing he said yesterday which he has not already printed” (ASCSA Archives, Theodore W. Heermance Papers, box 2, folder 9, Heermance to his mother, January 18, 1903 (letter #27).

Theodore Woolsey Heermance, ca. 1903.

Heermance belonged to a new generation of American archaeologists ready to take the torch from Dӧrpfeld.  However, when he heard that Dӧrpfeld considered leaving Athens because he had been offered a position in the Berlin Museum, he admitted to his mother: “Athens without D. would hardly seem the same place. Everything has revolved about him as a center for so long” (ASCSA Archives, Theodore W. Heermance Papers, box 2, folder 9, Heermance to his mother, February 15, 1903 (letter #31).

Heermance would not live long enough -he died prematurely from typhoid fever in 1905- to see the “darling” of the American archaeological community falling off the pedestal after his retirement because of his growing intolerance to the views of younger scholars –such as William Bell Dinsmoor and their famed debate over the different phases of the Parthenon.

The Peloponnesian and Island Trips: Official and Private Accounts

Today the American School is famous for its vigorous on-site academic program which includes five archaeological excursions throughout Greece and one or two outside the country. What is not widely known is that the School did not really develop its independent academic program until the first decade of the 20th century, after Dӧrpfeld retired from lecturing in 1908. Although the directors of the School would lead small bike trips in the Greek countryside, the real excitement for the American students was to participate in Dӧrpfeld’s Peloponnesian tour and the more famous “Inselreise.”

“Nearly every member of the School proposes to share in part the tour conducted by him through Peloponnesus, and to take the whole of his Island Tour. As these tours occupy about a month, it may seem like breaking up the School, but it would be most unwise, in my judgment, to deter our students in any way from sharing this great privilege… I am most happy to have then all go, and shall go with them,” wrote director Richardson in his AR for 1894-1895.

What is also not mentioned in the official reports but comes up in the private letters is that women were discouraged by Dӧrpfeld from participating in the Peloponnesian trip because of its rough conditions which included sleeping in tents or poorly kept inns, but were encouraged to join the island trip because it offered boat cabins and hot meals.

Dӧrpfeld’s Peloponnesian Trip, ca. 1895. ASCSA Archives, Theodore W. Heermance Papers.

Ruth Emerson and Nellie Reed were among the 62 participants in the “Inselreise” of 1896. Ruth Emerson’s hand-drawn itinerary complements Nellie Reed’s account of the trip.  From Nellie’s descriptions, one gathers that the island trip attracted most of the archaeological and diplomatic community of Athens (although the French archaeologists almost never joined any of Dӧrpfeld’s trips), as well as members of the newly founded American School of Classical Studies in Rome. Even “Mr. Schliemann’s son Agamemnon took the trip” noted Nellie in one of her letters (Reed to her family, May 15, 1896).  We are very lucky to have these letters for without them we would have not known the extent, frequency, and composition of some of the American-German/Austrian social gatherings.  Attracting a younger crowd, these so-called “Kneipe evenings,” frequently included Hans von Fritze, Albert Schiff, and Wilhelm Wilberg (1872-1956), with whom Nellie appeared to have fallen in love (ASCSA Archives, Nellie M. Reed Papers, box 1, Reed to her family, May 16, 1896). Wilberg, an accomplished architect, would participate for many years in the Austrian excavations at Ephesus (1899-1908, 1911 and 1913), before becoming the Director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute at Athens (1912-1921).


The Inselreise of 1896. ASCSA Archives, Ruth Emerson Papers.

The itinerary of the Inselreise, 1896. ASCSA Archives, Ruth Emerson Papers.

To Ida Thallon, who took part in the Inselreise of 1900, we owe a wonderful description of Baron Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen (1864-1947), who was excavating at Thera. “[…] he is very rich and interested in archaeology and does it at his own expense… The baron is delightful, exactly like a man in a play or a book, but which I never thought really grew in ordinary life. Rather plump with a curly beard… He was the soul of hospitality; we had all sorts of good things to eat, sweet chocolate, loukoumi, biscuits, bottled soda and cognac, […] such a jovial funny man, we all are devoted to him. He has done fine work in his excavation and has just gotten under full swing for this season” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, May 8, 1900 [letter #77]).

Unlike Nellie, who was positively disposed to German culture, Ida was snobbish and critical of her German travel companions during both trips. In Olympia, she described them as “funny… with the most awful clothes and lack of collars and shaggy appearances, [as] queer as anything you ever saw”(ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, April 22, 1900 [letter #71]). As for the Germans of the Inselreise only Georg Karo (1872-1963) escaped Ida’s snide comments.  In presenting some of her fellow travelers to her mother Ida scribbled: “One Mr. Karo was born in Italy (German parents) but was more like an Englishman, spoke exactly like one without the suspicion of accent and acted and looked like one, a very brilliant man and knew lots; also a great ladies’ man” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, May 13, 1900 [letter #79]).

The Difficult 1910s

Georg Karo. Source: DAI Berlin, Archiv der Zentrale.

Karo with his cosmopolitan manners and fluency in languages would also favorably impress William Bell Dinsmoor’s young bride, Zillah. (About Zillah Pierce Dinsmoor (1886-1960), see also “Letters from a New Home: Early 20th Century Athens Through the Eyes of Zillah Dinsmoor.”) Her letters describe enjoyable lunches and elaborate multi-national dinners at the German Institute with Karo as host.[2] “Mr. Karo, of course, speaks anything and everything perfectly” admiringly noted Zillah to her mother on January 10th, 1912. (Suggested reading: “Expat Feasts in Athens on the Eve of the Balkan Wars.“) Zillah’s glowing reports of Karo’s social gatherings would, however, not last long. The day she heard about the sinking of the Lusitania, she refused with a sharp written rebuke to attend a dinner organized by Karo.  And he replied to the Dinsmoors that “henceforth he will have nothing to do with them.” He would recognize Dinsmoor in his scientific capacity but no further (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, box 4, diary no. 7, December 20, 1914 – August 7, 1915, entry for May 10, 1915).

Bert Hodge Hill and Carl W. Blegen, Director and Secretary of the School respectively, would continue, of all the staff and students of the foreign schools, to attend the open meetings of the German School during the Great War until 1916, when the Institute was entrusted to the Greek Ministry of Education (Marchand 1996, 248). “In the evening we all (except Swift) went down to German School to Karos [sic]. Only Germans there besides us” scribbled Blegen on his personal diary on January 26, 1915.  A month before, on Winkelmann’s day, Dec. 9, 1914, and a few months after Germany had gone into war with most European countries, the German Archaeological Institute had honored Bert Hodge Hill by making him a corresponding member (ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers, box 33). Earlier in the year, Dinsmoor had also been elected a corresponding member of the Institute. Both Hill and Dinsmoor had no problem accepting and retaining their memberships “in spite of the October 3, 1914 ‘Aufruf an die Kulturwelt’, a very nationalistic manifesto, which was signed by many German academics” (Dyson 2016, 229).  Finally, as late as November 7, 1916, Blegen and Karo would meet at the National Archaeological Museum to compare sherds from Tiryns and Korakou (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, box 4, diary no. 9, November 1, 1916 – April 1, 1917, entry for November 7, 1916).

 “Germanophilia,” Independent Research, and the Expansion of Knowledge

Having examined the situation on the ground in Greece, I now would like to return to my original question: What was responsible for this remarkable phase of “Germanophilia” during the early decades of the ASCSA’s existence?  For starters, there can be no doubt that personal agency played a major role. Dӧrpfeld’s charismatic personality, his eloquence, and the ability to excite his audience are all well attested. To this we could add the loss of the Delphi excavation to the French in the early 1890s.  Losing Delphi appears to have nurtured some anti-French feelings among the members of the American School (Lord 1947, 58-62). (On losing the Delphi excavation, see “The American Dream to Excavate Delphi or How the Oracle Vexed the Americans (1879-1891).”)

Besides the obvious, what led me to look deeper into the issue of “Germanophilia” was the apparent ease with which the students of the American School attended Dӧrpfeld’s and Wilhelm’s lectures.  Profiling the School’s early directors and professors also produced interesting results. Of the first ten ASCSA directors, eight had spent anywhere from a semester to several years in Germany, and six had received their Ph.D. from a German university. The same is true for the first two chairs of the School’s Managing Committee, John Williams White (1881-1887), Professor at Harvard, and Thomas Day Seymour (1887-1901), Professor at Yale. (White spent several years in Germany (1871-1877) studying classics at the University of Berlin, while Seymour studied classical philology for two years (1870-1872) in Leipzig and Berlin.) Of the first seventeen annual visiting professors, I have evidence that twelve matriculated at German universities. There could well be more, as in the case of White whose German experience was suppressed in his American obituaries of 1917, as well as the fact that he had been honored by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1904.

ASCSA Directors and Annual Professors educated in Germany.

While trying to understand why so many American classicists were matriculating in Germany, and not in England or France, for example, I came across a significant body of literature concerning the “German Model” of education in America in the late 19th century.  And it was not just the long tradition and excellence of German universities in the field of classics that made Germany the main destination for young American classicists. There is evidence that “ultimately some nine or ten thousand Americans matriculated in German Universities between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War” (Turner and Bernard 1993, 88, note 5).

In the decades after the American Civil War, higher education in the U.S. experienced profound change.  Before the War, American colleges resembled high schools where students learned classical languages, rhetoric, simple mathematics, and religion. Recitation tested by regular examinations was the primary method of teaching. For about three decades after the Civil War, American colleges frequently sent their presidents and faculty to Germany with one mission, to study the German University. Germany was considered the Camelot of erudition (Turner 1999, 26; McCaughey 1974, 264-265). (For a more recent study of the educational pilgrimages that Americans paid to Germany in the 19th century, see Werner 2013. Werner also discusses the practice of establishing well-connected American colonies in Germany, which allowed the U.S. students to study in more than one university). On many occasions, German universities would serve as extensions of the American ones, as is the case of the “Yale-Leipzig-Gӧttingen network” (Werner 2013, 6). In addition to bringing back Wissenschaft, the Americans imported from Germany the concept of independent research and the flexible curriculum. American educators, however, would take independent research one step further by creating the graduate school, which did not exist in the German universities of the 19th century, thus giving birth to a new type of school: the research university.

Although Johns Hopkins is usually credited as being the first research university in the United States, places like Cornell and the University of Michigan were the forerunners of reforms in American education (Turner and Bernard 1993). Even more important from my perspective, however, is the fact that modern historians of education such as James Turner and Lawrence Veysey identify the American School of Classical Studies as the first American research institute in the humanities (Turner 1999, 298, especially note 4).

Discovering Nero’s Inscription: A Case in Point

I would like to illustrate this dynamic with an example from Cornell University because one of my main sources for this paper, Nellie M. Reed, graduated from there.  Cornell’s first president and “perhaps the most significant of the university builders in the United States,” Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), was one of the biggest proponents of the new research university (Turner and Bernard 2000, 225).  The year Nellie was in Athens (1895-1896) there were two more people from Cornell in town: visiting professor Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1854-1927) and student Eugene Plumb Andrews (1866-1957). Wheeler was a Professor of Comparative Philology at Cornell and later became president of the University of California (1899-1919). He was also a product of the “German model,” having received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1885 after several years of study at German universities. Both Nellie and Eugene had taken many classes from him at Cornell, and Nellie Reed was thus an indirect product of the “German model,” which explains her deep admiration for the German/Austrian archaeological community of Athens. Andrews’s story is even more interesting because his academic work in 1895-1896 is proof of the new kind of scholarship that American universities were producing by the end of the 19th century.

Here is how Andrews described his experience with Dӧrpfeld that led to a major discovery:

“One cold afternoon in December [1895] a group of shivering men and women followed a lecturer in and out among the blocks of marble that strew the Acropolis of Athens… It was an illustrated lecture on the Parthenon, with the Parthenon itself for illustration—one of the outdoor archaeological lectures which Dr. Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld of the German Institute gives every Saturday afternoon during the winter… We were gathered before the east front of the temple. The large holes, explained the lecturer, once served to hold great metal shields in place against the marble… Between the shields groups of metal letters were fastened, as these nail-holes that dot the spaces show, but what the letters were, or what they spelled, is not known.”

Dӧrpfeld concluded his Parthenon lecture by saying that it was possible “to determine from the relative positions of the holes what the letters were, and thus to recover the inscription. Such things have been done, and it is time that this was done” (Andrews 1897).

The new desire for independent research that universities such as Cornell and research institutes such as the American School were imbuing in their students, combined with Dӧrpfeld’s keen observations led Andrews to take up the call and suspend himself from the east side of the Parthenon. From this rather precarious position, he discovered Emperor Nero’s effaced inscription, which shed new light on the history of Athens.

Eugene Andrews suspended from the east side of the Parthenon, 1896. Source: The Century Illustrated Magazine 54, 1897, p. 301.

Despite his remarkable discovery, Andrews never published the inscription because it was connected with Nero. “The inscription proved to be a dedication to Nero, whereat I’m much disgusted,” he wrote to his sister two days after having presented the results of his discovery to the Open Meeting of February 21st at the American School. Even half a century later, in 1952, Andrews would confide “I felt no elation at having torn from the Parthenon its shameful character” (Carroll 1982, 7). Finally, it was Sterling Dow who deciphered the remainder of the inscription from Andrews’s squeezes in 1972. (For a publication and commentary on the inscription, see Carroll 1982.)

Coming of Age

After 1900 one discerns a subtle shift in the curriculum vitae of the directors and professors of the American School, which no longer include years or even semesters in German Universities. Once the reformation of the American University created a series of new graduate schools, the flow of American students to German universities was significantly reduced.  They would still go to Germany but during sabbatical leaves, not while in graduate school. Already from the first decade of the 20th century, we see a new generation of American graduate students arriving in Athens, intellectually confident, and better prepared than their predecessors. Some, but not all, would attend the lectures of Rudolph Heberdey on Archaic Sculpture, Georg Karo on “Smaller Antiquities,” and Anton von Premerstein on Epigraphy.  And some would get bored:

“Once on shipboard, we joined a group of fourteen German scholars led by Dr. Karo, director of DAI, and Dr. Wilberg, Director of the Austrian School. I had earlier met most of these men in one way or another and so we often practiced exchanges of stilted conversation… On April 6, we landed at Candia and spent the whole day in the museum trying to concentrate on Karo’s painfully detailed discussions, mostly of vases and minor objects. By way of a change, on Monday Wilberg led us through the huge palace of Knossos, but his method proved nearly as boring…,” wrote one of the School’s students, Emerson H. Swift, in 1912-1913 (Swift 1975, 38).

By 1910 the American School had already built its own, independent academic program, and private testimonia attest to a growing tendency to interact more with the neighboring British School. In fact, it was Hill, not Karo, who would take over Dӧrpfeld’s Athenian walks and establish the American School’s own tradition of on-site lectures by the likes of Oscar Broneer, William Dinsmoor, and Eugene Vanderpool. Moreover, where in the 1890s the American School looked up to the German Institute for guidance, by the 1900s there were signs that the situation had reversed. In 1907, Dӧrpfeld after consulting with Karo announced to the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin that they had no objection to accepting women archaeologists in Athens following the successful paradigm of the American and British Schools, which not only accepted women into their academic program but even allowed them to direct excavations.[3] Two years later (1909-1910), Margarete Bieber would be one of the four recipients of the travel fellowship yearly awarded by the German Archaeological Institute for work in Greece and Italy (Bonfante 1996, 159).

Despite how the Dinsmoors reacted to the sinking of the Lusitania, there is no strong evidence in the School’s Archives to support the idea that WWI created a breach in the relations of the two institutions.  It is clear that Karo continued to enjoy the friendship of Hill and Blegen after the war. But their bond was one formed before the outbreak of the hostilities.  At the same time, there is also no evidence that the two institutions re-established their close, pre-war ties after 1918.  Charles Waldstein, the Jewish-American Director of the American School who had acquired his Ph.D. from Heidelberg and whose family had emigrated from Austria, would go as far as to change his name to Walston at the end of the Great War, so as not to be imagined a German.  Perhaps even more telling, when the American School organized its own island cruise in 1923, there were no German students or professors among the many participants, unlike the cruises of the 1890s and early 1900s. (See “All Aboard”. Cruising the Aegean in 1923.”)


I am most grateful to Ann Townsend and Mary Townsend Bartholomew, granddaughters of Nellie Reed, for depositing faithful transcriptions of Reed’s letters to her family at the ASCSA Archives in 2010. I also thank them for allowing me to quote from Nellie’s letters. Reed’s letters are an invaluable source of information for a period that is otherwise poorly represented in the School’s Archives.

[1] The paper was published in Die Abteilung Athen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts und die Aktivitäten Deutscher Archäologen in Griechenland 1874-1933, ed. K. Sporn and A. Kankeleit, Berlin 2019, pp. 253-267.

[2] For a thorough presentation of Karo’s life, Lindenlauf 2015; Additional information can be found in Marchand 1996, 244-245, 247-248, 254-255; Davis 2010; and “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”

[3] I thank Dr. Alexandra Kankeleit for sharing with me the letter that Dӧrpfeld addressed to the General Secretary of the Royal Archaeological Institute in Berlin (Kaiserlich Deutches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin), on February 25, 1907.


E. P. Andrews, 1897. “How a Riddle of the Parthenon was Unraveled,” The Century Magazine 54.2 (June 1897), 301-309.

L. Bonfante, 1996. “Bieber Margarete (1879-1978),” in Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology, ed. N. Thomson de Grummond, London, 159-160.

K. K. Carroll, 1982. “The Parthenon Inscription,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Monographs 9, Durham, North Carolina.

J. L. Davis, 2010. “That Special Atmosphere Outside of National Boundaries. Three Jewish Directors and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens,” ASAtene 87, 133-145

S. L. Dyson, 1998. Ancient Marbles to American Shores. Classical Archaeology in the United States, Philadelphia.

A. Lindenlauf, 2015. “Georg Heinrich Karo: ‘Gelehrter und Verteidiger Deutschen Geistes’,” JdI 130, 259-354.

L. E. Lord, 1947. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1882-1942. An Intercollegiate Project, Cambridge, Mass.

S. L. Marchand, 1996. Down from Olympus. Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970, Princeton.

R. A. McCaughey, 1974. “The Transformation of American Academic Life: Harvard University 1821-1892,” Perspectives in American History 8, 239-332.

V. Mitsopoulos-Leon, 2004. “Adolf Wilhelm und das Österreichische Archäologische Institut,” in Αττικαί Επιγραφαί. Πρακτικά συμποσίου εις μνήμην Adolf Wilhelm (1864-1950), ed. A. Matthaiou, Athens, 1-6.

E. H. Swift, 1975. Youthful Rambles on the Trail of the Classics, 1912-1915, Gilroy, California.

J. C. Turner, 1999. The Liberal Education of Charles Eliot Norton, Baltimore.

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The Agora Benches


Judith Robinson Levine has a high fashion design degree from Les Écoles de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, France. She worked for 12 years in film and still photography in France as a stylist and a costume designer. Currently, she is a photo stylist specializing in package photography and, in her spare time, she does interior design and a variety of special projects for private clients and non-profits. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her husband Daniel Levine, Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Arkansas, whom she has assisted during his ASCSA Summer Session directorships in Greece.

In 2008 Daniel and I spent spring semester in Greece. I spent a lot of time in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter) researching the history of the School’s Summer Sessions. In studying old logbooks and Annual Reports, I was fascinated by the WW II years and the story of Anastasios Adossides, Administrator and Business Manager of the Athenian Agora Excavations from 1931 to 1942. He and his wife Elie, who was active with the Red Cross, were responsible for making sure that the School was occupied by the Swiss and Swedish Red Cross commissions to Greece during the war; thus they ensured that the School’s property in Kolonaki could never be confiscated by the Germans (Meritt 1984, p. 17).

Jack Davis in an essay titled “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism” noted about Adossides and Edward Capps, Chair of the School’s Managing Committee: “The careers of two individuals exemplify the sorts of ties forged between ASCSA members and influential Greek statesmen, and the resulting benefits to the School. The first is Anastasios Adossides (1873–1942), administrator of Samos in 1914–1915, a member of the provisional government of Venizelos in Thessaloniki in 1917, governor of Macedonia in 1918–1919, prefect of the Cyclades and Samos in the early 1920s, and subsequently the business manager of the Athenian Agora and consultant to the ASCSA (1931–1942)… Their personal relationship was valuable to the School during the negotiations between the ASCSA and the Greek government that established the legal groundwork for the inception of excavations of the Athenian Agora in 1931” (Davis 2013, p. 16). Sylvie Dumont in her recent publication of Vrysaki: A Neighborhood Lost in Search for the Athenian Agora (Princeton 2020) has dedicated an entire chapter on Adossides’s role in the expropriation of the land where the ancient Agora once stood (pp. 63-73). Read the rest of this entry »