The recent discovery of a head of Hermes in central Athens brought to mind another herm (one of the best of its kind), which was stolen from Greece almost ninety years ago. (A herm is a stone pillar with a sculpted head and genitals. In ancient Greece, herms were thought to have an apotropaic function and were placed at crossings, borders, and in front of houses or public buildings.)

I pick up the story in September 1932, when Richard Stillwell (1899-1982) returned to Athens after two months of vacation in America. A Princeton graduate and an architect by training, Stillwell had been appointed the new Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1932-1935). He was no stranger to Greece or the American School (ASCSA or the School hereafter). As Fellow in Architecture in 1924, he had learned “the skills and rigors of archaeological fieldwork in the excavations at Corinth”; and as Professor of Architecture (1928-1931) he would begin a “long series of architectural studies which would form one of his major contributions to the field” (Shear 1983). In 1931-1932 Stillwell was Assistant Director during Rhys Carpenter’s last year in charge of the School. Starting with Stillwell the School introduced a new model of administration: new directors would learn the ropes by serving as assistant directors during the previous year. (This model was abandoned in the late 1960s, when it became increasingly difficult for incoming directors to extend leaves of absence from universities.)

ASCSA Director Richard (Dick) Stillwell and architect W. Stuart Thompson at the opening ceremony of the Corinth Museum, 1934. ASCSA Archives, Corinth Excavations.

Less than a month into his new position, Stillwell was confronted with a serious problem that had real potential to tarnish the School’s reputation in Greece. One of its students, Ralph Brewster, had committed a serious crime, involving the theft of a herm from the island of Siphnos, which he then smuggled out of the country. Although the crime had occupied the front pages of several Greek newspapers, it was only brought to Stillwell’s attention by Georg Karo (1872-1963), the Director of the German Archaeological Institute. Stillwell related the news to his predecessor, Rhys Carpenter, on October 2, 1932: “Karo called this afternoon, and as he was leaving told the following tale. Apparently, Brewster turned up at Siphnos last summer and tried to negotiate the purchase of one of the archaic Herms in the museum there. The scholarch, in charge, naturally refused, and later the herm was actually stolen, under what circumstances I do not know. The Greek authorities suspect Brewster of having had a hand in the matter.”

Why was Karo the one conveying the bad news to Stillwell? Brewster was an unusual student. Born in Florence in 1904 to an American father (Christopher Henry Brewster) and a German mother (Elisabeth von Hildebrand), he spoke fluent English, German, French and Italian, and traveled with ease in Europe. The Brewsters owned a former medieval convent in Florence dedicated to San Francesco di Paola (which remains in the family’s possession today). “It was here that his grandfather, the sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand, lived and worked and created a center of European culture where such visitors as Richard and Cosima Wagner, Clara Schumann, Ethel Smythe, Henry James, William Ewart Gladstone, and Bernard Berenson came and went,” as Harry Brewster (1909-1999), Ralph’s younger brother, recounted many years later in Out of Florence. Karo, also a Florentine, knew the Brewster family well and it is quite possible that young Ralph applied to the American School with his encouragement.  

Unlike other student applications for the academic year 1931-1932, which were submitted by October 1931, Ralph did not apply until March 2, 1932. In his application, he listed the schools where he had studied: King’s College, London (Oct. 1925 – Jan. 1926; Oct. 1928 – June 1929), the University of Berlin (1929-1931), and the University of Göttingen (1931-1932). It is unclear if he graduated from any of these schools; however, when he filled out his application, Brewster stated that he was planning “to attain a Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Göttingen in December 1932.” He had joined the American School to acquire “practical experience in excavations and especially information for my dissertation.” Under the heading “languages” he noted that he spoke, read, and wrote German, French, and Italian “like a native.” In addition, his application says that he spoke Modern Greek fluently, which for a foreign student was as rare then as it is today (ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 108/1, folder 14).

Ralph Henry Brewster, ca. 1930s. Source: Index-Culture_Gay and Gay Boys in Budapest.

Brewster appears to have been a rolling stone who invested very little time as a student of the School. Soon after his application, he became ill and “spent some time in the German School where they looked after him He then disappeared but was known to have been keeping company with some very shady Greeks… Nevertheless he slunk into the G[erman] School once or twice to get some things he had left there. Karo is very anxious, on account of his personal liking for the boy, and his long acquaintance with the boy’s family to get in touch with him, and if he is innocent of the theft, or of complicity in it to have him cleared” (ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 1001/1, folder 4, Stillwell relating his meeting with Karo to Carpenter, October 2, 1932).

Karo had already alerted museums in Germany to be on the lookout for a herm, and, if it showed up, to return the stolen property to Greece. He encouraged Stillwell to do the same, in case the stele appeared in America, which prompted Stillwell’s letter to Carpenter.  In the meantime, Oscar Broneer, Professor of Archaeology at the ASCSA, had already informed Konstantinos Kourouniotis, the Director of the Archaeological Service, that Brewster had not been a real member of the School. Brewster did not live on the School’s premises and had only been engaged in the Corinth excavations for a few days.

A few months later, Carpenter replied to Stillwell that he was “πολύ ευχαριστημένος [very pleased] to hear that Brewster’s herm was seized, and not Brewster,” concluding that this was also the end of Brewster’s archaeological career in Greece. Indeed, we know from another source that Brewster was denied entrance to Greece for several years. Karo had managed to save Brewster’s skin by coming to “an understanding with the Greek authorities that they would wipe the matter out if the herm could be located and returned” (ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 1001/1, folder 4, Stillwell to Carpenter, October 2, 1932).

A Youthful Misdemeanor?

The Siphnos herm, Source: Leka 2000.

The herm that was stolen by Brewster now belongs to the collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Greece. It was listed among the new acquisitions of the Museum for the years 1930-1932: “ανήκει εις τη συλλογήν Σίφνου, οπόθεν κλαπείσα, απεδόθη ημίν εξ Ιταλίας (it belongs to the Siphnos collection from which it was stolen, and was returned to us from Italy)” (ArchEph 1939-1941, p. 12, no. 43). According to archaeologist Euridice Lekka, who in 2000 published an article about this small herm (NAM 3728), “it is the most famous sculpture from the island of Siphnos and the best-preserved hermaic stele of the Archaic period” (end of 6th century B.C.). It was found in the Castle (Κάστρο) of the island at the end of the 19th century by Alfred Schiff (1863-1939) and Ernst Curtius (1814-1896), but was considered lost for years. Its first publication in 1931, by the young German archaeologist Reinhard Lullies (1907-1985), was based on notes, drawings, and photos taken by Schiff and Curtius. In hindsight, I wonder whether Brewster and Lullies had known each other from Berlin. Brewster might have read a copy of Lullies’s dissertation on the typology of herms [Die Typen der griechischen Herme, Kόnigsberg, Prussia 1931], which remarked that the beautiful Siphnos stele was missing. Although Karo presented the theft of the stele as a youthful misdemeanor, under the bad influence of “some shady Greeks,” I am less inclined to believe that it was an act triggered by youthful enthusiasm and carelessness.

In a post-mortem publication of Lawrence Durrell’s notes, titled Lawrence Durrell’s Endpapers and Inklings 1933-1988, the famous English writer, who knew Brewster, recounted the Siphnos theft as follows:

“When he [Brewster] was a student in Austria, he went down and spent a summer in the islands –he spoke good Greek- in a caïque. And in Siphnos one afternoon they [who else?] found the museum wide open and the guardian asleep under a tree. He just said, ‘Go on, have a look around.’ So Ralph looked around and there was a beautiful little statue of a Pan lying on its back among the nettles of the garden, completely untended. And Ralph, who suffered from cupidity like us all, picked it up and put it in a shopping basket and carried it back to the caïque and took off with it to Austria. Well, nothing was heard of this loss for a little while, but the curator must‘ve noticed it was missing and unluckily for Ralph, they suddenly discovered it was one of the most celebrated examples of its period… They traced it to this youthful criminal… He probably risked a prison sentence, and he had to return the thing. Well, he returned it and was blackmarked and couldn’t go to Greece for five years after that. But when the sixth year came he managed to get a visa and he went back and in passing Siphnos again, out of curiosity, he called in to have a look at the museum and said ‘Oh well, they must’ve taken it to Athens’. Then he went outside in the garden and there it was in the same place, lying in the bushes when he’d found it first. On its back.”

Comparing Karo’s and Brewster’s (via Durrell’s pen) accounts of the theft, one realizes that Brewster’s version is fabricated and highly embellished, especially its last part. Brewster could not have seen the stele again on Siphnos upon his return to Greece (if he ever returned), because the stele remained in Athens at the Archaeological Museum after its repatriation from Italy. With his version of the story Brewster tried to exonerate himself: the Greeks did not really care about the herm, which would have been better appreciated in a European museum.

6,000 Beards

Today Brewster is better known as the author of a provocative book about Mount Athos. That same summer that he traveled to the Cyclades, he also organized a trip to the Holy Mountain together with a Greek friend of his, Iorgos (Brewster’s spelling). Apparently, he made the decision to visit Mount Athos after he heard an Italian archaeologist, “Dr. L.” say: “But of course there are women on Mount Athos! How would it be possible for six thousand men to live together without a single woman? I visited the monastery of Lavra last year, and I am sure that the under-secretary, at any rate, is a woman disguised as a monk. I made a photograph of him: there can hardly be any doubt, ‘You have only to look at his face –her face’.” Brewster does not name the Italian archaeologist except for his initial, but there is little doubt that he was referring to Doro Levi (1898-1991).

The 1935 edition.

Brewster published his personal experiences on Mount Athos in 1935, in a book titled The 6,000 Beards of Athos. The book sold out within a short time, and was reissued in 1939. Sixty years later, in 1999, The 6,000 Beards was republished, with an introduction by the President of the “Venice in Peril” fund, Jonathan Keates.  It is an odd book, a mixture of travelogue tinted with sensational revelations.  Historian and retired diplomat, Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith, has called it a “curiosity, which strangely is in print.”

“The book departs from the norm in that, largely through the experiences of Yiorgos [Iorgos], it touches on the question of homosexuality on the Holy Mountain. Brewster himself was homosexual. His book is mildly shocking if it is true, and shocking in another way if it not true,” Llewellyn-Smith concluded in his review. (For more about books concerning Mount Athos, see M. Llewellyn Smith, Mount Athos. Perceptions of the Holy Mountain.) 

In addition to being a colorful and provocative writer, Brewster was also a good photographer. The photos he took while on Mount Athos are impressive, both his landscapes and portraits. While only a small number of them were featured in The 6,000 Beards, Brewster published a larger selection to accompany an article he wrote for The Geographical Magazine (February 1936), titled “Athos: the Holy Mountain.”

Monk and Iorgos. Source: The 6,000 Beards of Athos, London 1939.

One of the monks that “Dr. L.” probably thought “it was a woman disguised as a monk.” Source: The 6,000 Beards of Athos, London 1939.

Living at the Edge

Following the success of The 6,000 Beards, Brewster published another travel chronicle in 1939, The Island of Zeus: Wanderings in Crete, about his journey to the island (most likely in 1932).   The book was reviewed by British classicist H.D. F. Kitto, who was rather unimpressed. “Mr. Brewster’s publishers tell us that his book on Athos ‘swept like wildfire through the sophisticated drawing-rooms of Mayfair’ –which is very good news. The Island of Zeus will be hardly so devastating” (The Classical Review 53:5/6, 1939, p. 226). Kitto goes on to praise the book’s photography and Brewster’s gift for retelling people’s stories, but finds boring and uninteresting the author’s various complaints about the weather and his lack of money.  Another reviewer in The Geographical Journal (95:5, 1940, p. 388) was equally apathetic. Once again Brewster was praised for his photographs and certain parts of the narrative, but criticized for his “incessant confidences about his financial difficulties and his ignoble quarrels with the policemen.”

It is unclear where Brewster resided or what he did from the time of his expulsion from Greece until the beginning of WW II in 1939. At some point, he was in London mingling with the Bloomsbury Set. Virginia Woolf described him as having “curious teeth; gooseberry coloured staring eyes; and an air of nervous instability… A sudden amused kindling in the gooseberry eyes; and the profuse storytelling of those who have lived with savages […]. In the same entry he is described as “a musically talented exotic… who became involved with film world in Berlin, considered becoming a conductor… [and] edited a magazine called World Magazine in Vienna.” (There is a brief entry about Ralph Brewster in the Modernist Archives Publishing Project).

Brewster died of a heart attack in 1951 at the age of forty-five. His last book Wrong Passport, published posthumously (1955), is about his adventures during WW II, when he found himself hiding in Budapest after having repudiated his Italian citizenship. Once again he lived in a dangerous and flamboyant way “picking up odd contacts with Magyar noblemen and gypsies, astrologers and artists…” until he was eventually picked up as a deserter, but managed to return to Italy at the end of the War (Kirkus Review, February 1, 1955).  (For his Budapest years, see also Katalin Eder, “Gay and Gays Boys in Budapest,” July 7, 2019.) The book also merited a review in The New York Times in 1955, titled “Even Danger Was Esthetic.” The reviewer, Frederick Morton, described Brewster as “an amateur in the most expansive sense of the word” and the book as “the product of an anachronistic temperament.” Brewster was a fin de siècle man and a dilettante with no particular focus. He certainly neither had a place at the American School nor in Greek archaeology.   


Leka, E. 2000. “Ερμαϊκή στήλη από τη Σίφνο με αρχαία επέμβαση αποκατάστασης, Πρακτικά Α΄Διεθνούς Σιφναϊκού Συμποσίου,” Athens, pp. 325-342.

Pine, R. 2019 (ed.). Lawrence Durrell’s Endpapers and Inklings 1933-1988, Volume One: Autobiographies, Fictions, Spirit of Place, Cambridge.

Shear, T. L. 1983. “Necrology: Richard Stillwell (1899-1982),” AJA 87:3, pp. 423-425.


In 1897 a young American woman announced in the newspapers her return to Chicago after a year in Europe. “Miss Mabel Gordon Dunlap of Michigan Boulevard, who has been in Europe for a year, will sail for home on Wednesday” (Chicago Inter Ocean, August 15, 1897). The same woman had also made an earlier announcement that she was still in London “spending most of her time at the British Museum” (17 July 1897). While in London she printed a handsome pamphlet, titled “A Critical Study of Sculpture and Painting,” that contained information about her as a teacher and a lecturer, and a summary of two art courses that she was “ready to deliver before ladies’ clubs and schools” in the winter: “A Course of Twelve Lectures on the History & Philosophy of Greek Sculpture,” and “A Course of Twelve Lectures of the History of Painting in Italy.” While in England she had attended lectures by Charles Waldstein, Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge University (and former Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens), whom she quoted in her brochure: “There are those who make art, there are those who enjoy art, and there are those who understand art.” Dunlap’s courses, fully illustrated with stereopticon views, were designed to help people understand art.

The pamphlet that Mabel Gordon Dunlap published in 1897. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Her brochure also contained press notices covering a series of lectures that she had delivered the previous year in Portland, Oregon. “Late of Chicago University” is the only information that is provided in the pamphlet about her academic background, meaning that she had attended classes but had not obtained a university degree. In 1892 the newly founded University of Chicago attempted to engage the local community and offer access to as many students as possible through extended education. Dunlap must have been one of the first to participate in the Chicago University Extension.

Still only 24 years old in December 1897 but armed with confidence, Dunlap (in later years her name appeared as Dunlop as well) secured a series of paid lectures in New York. A long article in the New York Tribune described the details of one event at Carnegie Hall where Dunlap staged a memorable performance:

“The rooms were decorated for the occasion with cut flowers, and softly lighted with shaded lamps, and the lecturer was clad in a wonderful purple robe, embroidered with gold in a Greek meander pattern. The gown is that of a Master of Fine Arts in the University of Pisa a hundred years ago, and with the accompanying gold-tasseled cap, constitutes Miss Dunlap’s lecture costume. In the daytime it is purple and at night white, but otherwise never changes.”

Mabel Gordon Dunlap in one of her lecturing outfits. Source: New York Public Library, Digital Collections.

In her lecture, titled “The Value of a Critical Study of Great Works of Art,” Dunlap condemned amateurism in art for if people really loved art, they should not simply enjoy it but “study [it] to get the pleasure that comes from true appreciation of the best works of art” (New York Tribune, Dec. 8, 1897). In February 1898, she delivered a series of lectures at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Metropolitan Museum about Greek sculpture taking a few breaks to lecture at other nearby places, such as Pittsburgh. That year she left for Athens, Greece, which she used as a base for the next few years while travelling to Constantinople, Rome and Paris.


Mabel did not come to Athens as a student of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or School hereafter); the lack of an undergraduate degree would have prohibited her from being admitted to the School. It remains a mystery how she funded her European trips before her marriage to Serbian diplomat Slavko Grouitch in 1902, when she was almost thirty. Nothing in the information that I managed to gather about her suggests that she was an “American heiress,” such as other globetrotters of her age. In fact, most of the information that one can find about Dunlap on the web concerns her later life, as the wife of a distinguished diplomat, and her fund-raising activities in America to alleviate the suffering of the Serbian people during WW I.

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1898. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Born in 1872 or 1873 in Clarksburg, West Virginia (WV), Dunlap was raised by neighbors after her mother’s death and the disappearance her father. According to an entry on the web page of the Harrison County WV Historical Society: “She lived in a penniless condition until her father was located working as a manager for the railroad company in Rock Island, Illinois.” He was forced to provide her with an annuity which allowed the knowledge-thirsty girl to attend school. In later years, as she tried to re-create her past, Mabel spoke fondly of her father’s transforming influence on her, but one should take her accounts with a grain of salt.    

The annuity she had secured from her father (which was likely railway stocks) must have allowed for a decent living, but if she wanted to travel abroad she had to find ways to finance her trips. Mabel owed her intellectual and social advancement largely to her intelligence, as well as to her “rare beauty,” exquisite voice” and her “well-balanced enthusiasm” according to a press release (Chicago Inter-Ocean, November 20, 1896).


I became interested in Mabel Dunlap some twenty years ago when I found in the ASCSA Archives a copy of the pamphlet she had printed in England in 1897. In 2000, we opened the trunks that contained the papers of Ion Dragoumis (1878-1920), the legendary diplomat and statesman, who was assassinated on Kephissias Avenue (one of the main streets of Athens) on July 31, 1920 by supporters of Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos. Together with the pamphlet there were several letters by Mabel from the late 1890s and early 1900s, and a few photos of her. Mabel also figured large in Ion’s youthful diaries (1895-1902), which were published by Theodoros Sotiropoulos in 1988.  

In an exhibition, organized by the ASCSA Archives and titled Ion Dragoumis: Between East and West. One Hundred Years after his Assassination, which opened on October 15, 2020, the blown-up portrait of Mabel Dunlop is eye-catching. Five years older than him, she quickly cast a spell on Ion. She has “des gouts raffinés… she is half païenne and half décadante” according to a description in his diary (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 75, entry for April 23, 1900). But she also fell hard for Ion, at least for a while. She was his first, but not hers.

View of the exhibition on Ion Dragoumis at the Makriyannis Wing of the ASCSA. Photo: Konstantinos Tzortzinis.
Mabel Dunlap’s portrait visible on the right. Photo: Konstantinos Tzortzinis.

From Ion’s diary, we learn a lot about Mabel’s earlier life, although it is difficult to crosscheck the accuracy of her story. For example, her mention of an early and unfortunate marriage is not documented elsewhere.

“She was very young when she married. Her husband, Lionel, was very sensitive, perhaps like her. They did not leave well together. They were separated by court. When he heard the news [of their divorce] he went to the tavern, where men in those places go, and drank too much; that, as well as the idea that he would no longer have her as a wife, drove him to such despair that he committed suicide. She was mad at first and then very sad which made her suffer a lot. She had her father [at least] and slowly-slowly near him she found peace while studying Greek archaeology… Then her father died, whom she admired more than anybody in the world. He was handsome and noble, and artiste. She lived by herself or with a cousin for a while, travelled a lot, and fell in love with many… if the man she liked each time interested her, she would give him her body as well. But it always ended soon after her initial enthusiasm was gone…  But she holds no memory of the past, which means that she never falls deeply in love and explains how she carries her enthusiasm from one man to the other… ”

Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 107, entry for January 14, 1901 (my loose translation).
Ion Dragoumis (on the left) at the age of 18, with his aunt Tasha Kontogiannaki and his younger brothers Philippos and Alexandros. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Their relationship was most likely consummated in April 1900. They must have carried on for another year in-between Mabel’s trips to Constantinople and Paris, although Mabel was soon out of it. In January 1901, puzzled by Mabel’s inability to commit to anyone, Ion scribbled: “The situation scares me. When I am with her, I feel a strong love for her, but then I see her awful passivity and while I want to show her my feelings I feel disarmed… I cannot understand how she lives… Nothing makes an imprint on her” (my loose translation).

Mabel must have treaded on thin ice. The morals of the time, especially in a small European capital like Athens, were relentless, and keeping up appearances must have been difficult for a “voluptueuse” like Mabel. Genuine intelligence, grace, and impeccable manners must have saved her from falling into disgrace; in addition, her maverick nature and small financial independence allowed Mabel not to become a kept woman.

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1900. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

It is unclear whether her relationship with Ion was widely known in the upper circles of Athenian society. When in town, Mabel stayed at the Merlin house on the corner of Kephissias and Academias street, where most foreign women, including many students of the American School, took up residence. After Ion’s extensive entries, the best description of Mabel belongs to Ida Thallon (she would marry the School’s director, Bert Hodge Hill, in 1924), a student of the American School in 1899-1901. “We knew she [Mabel] was coming to Athens, and I was anxious to see her again. There are a lot of amusing stories about the last time she was in Athens and took the town by storm. Dr. Wilhelm [=Adolf Wilhelm, a famous epigraphist and director of the Austrian Archaeological Mission, and a resident of the Merlin House] is much struck on her, a victim of her first visit…” Ida wrote to her mother (ACSCA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill, Box 3, folder 3, May 8, 1900).

A few days later in another letter (May 13, 1900,) she elaborated more about Mabel in her description of the Inselreise, the annual island trip that architect and archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld organized every year for members of the foreign archaeological schools in Athens. From her description, it appears that Dunlap had also joined the trip at some point. “Miss D[unlap]’s fame had preceded her and the Damen expected she would steal their steadies but she made no effort in that direction; she was very tired on the trip and had a sprained ankle and anyway, she lets the men do the chasing.”

On another occasion, Ida exalted Mabel’s fine qualities: “You see Miss D. is stylish and very even and a fine talker and knows a tremendous lot about art and archaeology, having been brought up to it since she was a child. Her father always surrounded her with books of that sort and it is second nature to her. She is also very attractive to the men and they fall tremendously in love with her etc.” Not everybody shared Ida’s feelings towards Mabel:

“Lida [Shaw King] and I like her very much; Cambridge [a nickname for a British girl], I think disapproves of her because she (Miss D.) is rather unusual and a type she (C) is not accustomed to, and Mrs. Smyth and Miss Adt are positively cattish to her; I think they are jealous” concluded young Ida. On another occasion, Ida described the Smyths as being awfully horrid to Mabel. “Mrs. S. laid it on thick and told Miss D[unlap] what a beautiful bunch of flowers Karo [=Georg Karo, archaeologist and future director of the German Archaeological Institute] had sent her and described them in detail” only to hear from Mabel, “Yes, I think he has good taste, he sent me a beautiful bunch yesterday.” Karo had borrowed a basket from Mabel to hold his potsherds during the “Inselreise,” and “naturally sent it back filled.”

ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, Box 3, folder 3.


In August 1902, Mabel married Slavko Grouitch (Grujić) [1871-1937], chargé d’affaires of the Serbian Legation in Athens, and the scion of a notable Serbian family. In between her relationship with Ion and her marriage to Grouitch, she had been engaged to a Mr. Pennell (again the information from an undated letter she sent to Ion from London). Ion and Mabel continued to correspond and occasionally see each other, even intimately, until 1915. “She nourished me for two years, I don’t think she realized it” Ion wrote in his last, long diary entry about Mabel (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 179, entry for April 11, 1902).  Her imprint on Ion’s mind, body, and soul lasted for years, and defined him as a man. He was badly shaken when in early July 1902 he received a letter from her: “Mabel wrote me ‘Live, my boy, live,’ and then she announced her wedding” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 1, folder 4, diary, entry for July 3, 1902). Later that year, he would write: “Mabel’s love is gone… she no longer exists but her ideas have stayed and are related with mine with… whether I write to her or not, her ideas are alive and mix with mine and struggle with mine, occasionally exchanging sweet talks, or bites” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 1, folder 4, diary, October 21, 1902 [my paraphrase]).  

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1900s. Her wedding photo? Source: WikiCommons.

As kindred spirits Ion and Mabel also shared an admiration for the French philosopher and thinker Maurice Barrès (1862-1923), whom they met when he was travelling in Greece in the spring of 1900.  Although largely forgotten today (and criticized for his anti-Semitic views), Barrès at the turn of the century was highly influential and considered by his contemporaries as the model engagé intellectual. Following his visit to Greece, Barrès published Le voyage de Sparte (1906) in which he laid out his beliefs about social Darwinism. And who else other than Mabel Dunlap embodied the core idea of social Darwinism, namely, “survival of the fittest”?

“Barrès advised me to be more affirmative (Il suffit d’ affirmer)” wrote Ion in his diary. In the same entry, he also recalled that Mabel had told him that it was a disadvantage not to trust his strength, not to claim his position, even if he had to push others below where they belonged regardless of age or worldly opinions (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 77, entry for May 24, 1900). A year or so later, she would write to Ion from Paris: “Mr. Barrès was here yesterday, and we spoke much of you. He, too, finds your mind of rare power and balance… Your right ear must have burned during the hour and a half of his visit” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, May 20 [undated]).

While living in Paris, where Grouitch was posted soon after their marriage, Mabel tried to help Ion’s brother, Niko, la bête noire of the Dragoumis family. A painter without any financial support from his family, except for a small trust that allowed him to subsist, Niko led a reclusive and marginal life in Paris: “Nico will not come to me. He says he is not presentable because of his clothes… He writes me though, sweet sad letters… If only one could convince him of the dignity of work, of the nobility of earning one’s own bread in some manner… Money is the key to life. Sad but true. Work, my boy, foul fortune to give you gold for some of your dreams, then you realize the others” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, “Greek Christmas” [undated]).

Ion’s older brother, Nikos Dragoumis (1874-1933). Source: Νίκος Δραγούμης. Ο Ζωγράφος, 1874-1933, Athens 2015, p. 10.


Until she married Grouitch, Mabel had pursued “one dream and followed it as a moth will the flame—that dream was my vision of the ideal beauty of the gods…”. She rejoiced in the study of ancient Greece “and worshipped Athena in the ashes of her greatness” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, April 26 [undated]).

In Paris, where she and Slavko moved at first, she was living “the life of a nun… all my time is passed in the galleries, the gardens, here in my little salon”. Finally, there was “no gossip of black tongues to disturb me… Alone with my ideals and my dreams, forgetting and forgiving the past…” One thing, however, disturbed Mabel’s serenity: the lack of work. “I should like to do something, to work for someone I love, for my friends all.” Always Olympian in spirit, Mabel would also advise Ion, her beloved Hermes (as she addressed him in her letters), to search for serenity, for “to complain is too mortal for a child of the gods” (all quotes from an undated letter she wrote on April 26th [1902]).

Ion and Mabel continued to write to each other although with less frequency on Ion’s part after 1905. By then he had met in Alexandria and fallen in love with Penelope Delta, who would dominate his thought until 1908.  Mabel held on to her love of Greece through her love for Ion.

“When I think of Greece and you, it is to recall certain lovers on Pendeli, the ride up to Delphi and the afternoon rest on the grass, your eyes and certain dawn lights, when the sun came up, your lips, and the perfumed fruit of Greek gardens” Mabel would write him, and when he fretted about the social and political ugliness of Greece, the ever aesthete Mabel advised him “to shut away you Socrates in the prison he deserved” and encouraged him to find comfort “in the possession of the objective beauty we set our hearts upon. You have always the long thrilling curve of Parnes and the violet sheen on Hymettos and the cool kiss of the purple waters to calm your fever. These are as they always were the real grandeur of Greece because of what men wrote and did for them.”

ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, St. Petersburg, Jan. 10, [1906].
Ion Dragoumis, 1908. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

The new century, however, had no room for aesthetes like Mabel, as she would soon discover. By marrying a statesman from a poor and tortured Balkan nation, she would have to put aside her Greek dream, change course, and become a pragmatist. In 1911 she would go to America, not to visit museums but “to study the schools of domestic science for women…”.  Her new goal was to uplift the Serbian women and made plans to establish a school for them in Belgrade (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 29 January 1911).

By 1914, the Grouitch couple was living in Belgrade since Grujić had been appointed as secretary-general of the Serbian ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to historian Christopher Clark, Grouitch was one of the main contributors of the reply to the Austrian-Hungarian ultimatum of July 23rd, 1914, which was “a masterpiece of diplomatic equivocation” (Clark 2013, p. 464).  Despite her skilled diplomacy, Serbia did not escape the war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Soon after, Mabel went to London where with her own expenses she led a team of 10 English nurses and two surgeons to Serbia to help the wounded and organize relief aid in the battlefield (The Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1914).  

Mabel Dunlap Grouitch in the middle. The Pittsburgh Press, August 5, 1914.

Unable to enter Serbia by a direct route, they traveled to Serbia via Italy and Greece. While briefly in Athens, she did not see Ion who had been transferred to St. Petersburg, but she was met by his sisters. “When I landed it seemed to me impossible that I could be there and you not come to meet me. Then out of the dusty crowd come three goddesses bearing flowers, your flowers, Effie, Charliclea and Alexandra… Such joy it was to drive up to the ‘violet-crowned’ city. How my heart felt as each sacred and well-remembered point appeared… The next day I lunched with dear Nata and then you come. For the moment, I quite forgot, even yet I cannot believe that it was Philip [Ion’s younger brother]…”.

Two days later she and the English nurses and surgeons travelled to Thessaloniki and from there they all entered Serbia. Writing from Nish (Niš), the wartime capital of Serbia until 1915, Mabel worried about her personal belongings at Belgrade where she also saved Ion’s letters, “even the little envelope marked ‘it comes from the gods’.” But if they were to be destroyed by war, she still hoped that their friendship could “last through fire and flood and disaster of every kind. Ours is so old and precious, Jean [Ion]. You must help me to keep it always, whatever comes,” she asked him on September 20, 1914.    

In addition to her initiative to bring medical assistance from England, Mabel tried to mobilize young surgeons from Baltimore medical schools by sending a petition through her friend George Dobbin Penniman, an attorney in Baltimore: “I wish the people in America could know the need of Servia… Other nations engaged in this horrible war have their efficient corps of surgeons and Red Cross nurses supplied with abundant funds, while Servia burdened with the debt of two recent wars and with thousands of subjects still suffering from the crushing effect of Turkish rule, has not the means to procure doctors and nurses and medical supplies, and the suffering of her brave wounded soldiers will be terrible” (The Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1914).

Within a short time, Mabel through her various European connections secured the aid of the International Red Cross, while through targeted publicity in the U.S. press, she managed to attract the attention of Mabel Boardman, the head of the American Red Cross, hoping to place Serbia on the list of the ARC beneficiaries (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept. 27, 1914). In February 1915, Mabel was in New York fundraising for Serbia. Within a few days after her arrival she put together the Serbian Agricultural Relief Commission, which included Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard, Charles Scribner, and journalist Albert Shaw. The Commission’s goal was to secure seed, grains and farm implements for 800,000 starving Serbians: “All of the able-bodied men of Serbia are at the front. The women and children must plant and cultivate the crops in the spring or there will be no grain on which the nation can live next winter” (The Wilkes-Barre Record, February 5, 1915).  In addition, the ARC had raised enough money to establish a baby hospital in Serbia. The announcement in the newspapers also mentioned that the establishment would be known as the Mabel Grouitch Baby Hospital in recognition of her Red Cross activities (Pittsburgh Daily Post, 18 July 1915).

Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 18, 1915.

Today Mabel Grouitch is considered one of the greatest benefactors of Serbia. When I searched her last name spelled as “Grujić,” I came across many Serbian pages dedicated to her, including a recent novel in the form of historiographical metafiction, by Maja Herman-Sekulić, titled Ma Belle: The First American Lady of Serbia. Through the use of “Google Translate” I was able to skim through most of them. Moreover, after the war, in 1920, she and Slavko secured funding through the Carnegie Corporation for the erection of the University Library in Belgrade. In a recent, well-researched article, historian Ljubinka Trgovčević wrote that her story is “the story of a woman who connected two countries and two cultures” and who managed “to bring America closer to Serbs, and Serbia to Americans” (2008, p. 325).

One thing, however, struck me as strange while browsing through the Serbian web pages. There were studded with inaccuracies, starting from Mabel’s birth year: 1881. Mabel was born either in 1872 or 1873 and there is no doubt about it since she gave Ion a small calendar marking her birthday on it (1873); they also frequently referred to their age difference (he was born in 1878) in their letters. They were other inaccuracies about her early years in America and her studies, one page mentioning that “Mabel had enrolled at the ASCSA at which later she taught.” Some of the confusion must have derived from her obituary in the The New York Times, “Mme Grouitch Aided Refugees” (August 14, 1956), which noted her age as 75, and also that she had been “a student at the American School of Archaeology in Athens.” Skilled at promoting herself, Mabel never missed an opportunity to reinvent her past, especially when she moved from one country to another.


From Ion’s diary we know that Ion and Mabel met again in Athens in the late summer of 1915. He had resigned from the diplomatic corps to pursue a political career, representing a party in opposition to Venizelos. He was also involved since 1908 with actress Marika Kotopouli.  In August 1915, he scribbled that he had encountered on the same social occasion both Mabel “who had returned from America on her way to Serbia” and an unnamed woman, most likely Penelope Delta: “two women that I loved and they loved me, and who did not know each other. After eating, I walked with the first [Mabel] to Zappeion and kissed her under the darkness of the trees. Then I returned to my beloved one [i.e. Marika]” (Sotiropoulos 1986, p. 107).

In December of the same year she was briefly back in Athens. Among Ion’s papers is her last (preserved) letter to him and a draft of his reply. Mabel was upset because Greece had not offered any aid to Serbia when her adopted country had been attacked by Bulgaria in October 1915; she was further afraid that Greece would ally with Bulgaria against Serbia. In his reply Ion told his “dear pagan” that her fears were unfounded.

Mabel Grouitch, ca. 1920. Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
Ion Dragoumis, 1915. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

A year later, in December 1916, Mabel entered Ion’s diaries for one last time. “The women I loved or loved me are slowly-slowly renouncing me. Last year Mabel wrote me some strange letters showing that she did not approve of my political choices. The Friend [Penelope Delta] the same; especially, this year that her father was imprisoned for conspiring with the Venizelists, she told my sister that she had been disillusioned with me” (Sotiropoulos 1986, p. 161, entry for December 31, 1916 [my loose translation]).

If those two continued to correspond during Ion’s exile in Corsica (1917-1919) we have no evidence. He returned to Athens in November 1919. Seven months later he would be murdered by supporters of Venizelos. She must have learned the news about Ion’s assassination in America where her husband had become the first ambassador of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Washington.  It must have been a blow to her, to have lost her dear Hermes. Her “gods” had not taken care of him.


I would like to thank Jennifer Bakatselou for transcribing a portion of Mabel Gordon Dunlap’s letters. It was not an easy task because of her difficult hand-writing. Another difficulty when studying Dunlap’s letters is that most of them are undated.

Mabel Dunlap Grouitch came up one more time in the ASCSA Archives. On May 17, 1930 she sent a letter to Rhys Carpenter, Director of the ASCSA (1927-1932), and his wife where she referred to the charming evening she and Slavko had spent with Mrs. Carpenter at the School last spring and that they were “still hoping to take advantage of her kind invitation to stay at the School next time” they visited Greece (ASCSA AdmRec, box 108/1, folder 12). 


Clark, C. 2013. The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914, London.
Sotiropoulos, T. 1986. Ίων Δραγούμης. Φύλλα Ημερολογίου Ε’ (1913-1917), Athens.
Sotiropoulos, T. 1988.  Ίων Δραγούμης. Φύλλα Ημερολογίου Α’ (1895-1902), Athens.
Trgovčević, L. 2008. “Mabel Grujić – An American in Serbia. Contribution on Her Humanitarian Work during the World War One,” in 125 Years of Diplomatic Relations between the USA, Belgrade, pp. 311-325.

“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 (=


[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.