Exploring the Relationship of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens with the Greek Omogeneia in the United States in the 1940s.

In 1947, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) produced a color movie titled Triumph over Time; it was directed by the archaeologist Oscar Broneer and produced by the numismatist Margaret E. Thompson with the aid of Spyros Skouras (1893-1971), the Greek American movie mogul and owner of Twentieth Century Fox. Triumph over Time portrays Greece rebounding from World War II and the staff of the ASCSA preparing archaeological sites for presentation to postwar tourists. The film was made to promote the first postwar financial campaign of the ASCSA, the direct goal of which was to increase its capital and finance the continuation of the Athenian Agora Excavations. Indirectly, the ASCSA was hoping to contribute to the rehabilitation of Greece by providing employment for the Greek people and by promoting the economic self-sufficiency of Greece by developing the country’s tourist assets (Vogeikoff-Brogan 2007).

Oscar Broneer, ca. 1938. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

Triumph over Time begins with a brief overview of impressive Greek antiquities, such as the citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, before continuing with rare ethnographic material capturing parts of rural Greece that no longer exist. It then moves from the Greek countryside to the buildings of the ASCSA, especially the Gennadius Library with its rare treasures. The story then covers the ASCSA’s two most important projects, the excavations at the Athenian Agora and at Ancient Corinth, explaining all stages of archaeological work. The documentary ends with a hopeful note that financial support of the ASCSA’s archaeological work will contribute to an increase in tourism so that this major source of revenue for Greece’s economy can “restore stability and well-being to this simple pastoral land.”

Stills from Triumph Over Time

All three contributors to the film had served in the Greek War Relief Association (GWRA) during and after World War II. The GWRA was incorporated in New York on November 8, 1940. Its founding members included Archbishop Athenagoras, Skouras, Van Nomikos, and other prominent Greek Americans, as well as Americans Harold Vanderbilt, Samuel Goldwyn, and Senator William King. In 1946, the GWRA together with the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) had raised the unbelievable amount of five million dollars for the implementation of a medical and hospitalization program in postwar Greece (Saloutos 1964, p. 364).

Greek War Relief Association, letterhead. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

My research in the ASCSA Archives indicates that Broneer and Margaret Thompson (1911-1992) would not have undertaken the production of the film, in conjunction with the ASCSA’s fund-raising campaign, without relying on their previous experience at the GWRA and their relationship with Skouras. It is clear that, from the beginning, Broneer and Thompson planned to target the prosperous Greek American community, although not strictly limiting their efforts to this group. On May 23, 1947, Broneer wrote to Louis Lord, the chair of the ASCSA Managing Committee, echoing the feelings of the Greek omogeneia (people of Greek origin who immigrated to, or were born in, a foreign land) in America at the end of the first half of the 20th century:

“I have never thought of the campaign as restricted to the Greek population in America. As such it would be a failure from the start. What I had in mind was a campaign to interest the general public, and in such a campaign I feel certain that we would interest the Greek Americans. They are an exceedingly generous lot, but the more progressive among them resent being treated as a minority group. They like to think of themselves as Americans, without modification, and they would rally to the cause better if they felt that they were part of a general program to raise funds for archaeology in Greece” (ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 310/8).

Margaret Thompson and her niece wearing Greek attire, ca. 1948. Source: American Numismatic Society.

While reviewing the history of Triumph over Time, I became interested in the relationship that developed during World War II between the American archaeologists working in Greece and the Greek American community in the United States during World War II. Until then, there is no evidence that the leadership of the ASCSA ever sought or cultivated any ties with the Greek omogeneia. The ASCSA’s financial prosperity before World War II and the humble profile of the Greek immigrants in America probably explain the absence of any contact between the two parties (on the early history of the Greek omogeneia, see Laliotou 2004). My subsequent investigation of the ASCSA archival collections indicates that, during World War II, American archaeologists developed close contacts with influential members and organizations of the Greek American community and passionately supported the Greek cause. At the same time, the Greek Americans came to realize that American archaeologists working in Greece were among the strongest supporters of Greece in America.

The papers of Oscar Broneer, a professor of archaeology at the ASCSA and the executive vice president of the GWRA, and the papers of Nikolaos (Nicholas) Mavris (1899-1978), a doctor and a prominent member of the Greek American community and the first governor commissioner of the freed Dodecanese in 1948, allow us to explore the two-way relationship of the American archaeologists with the Greek omogeneia during the war, something that has gone unnoticed in the official history of the ASCSA.

THE AMERICAN SCHOOL COMMITTEE FOR AID TO GREECE

The American School Committee for Aid to Greece. Benefit concert, 1941. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

Oscar Broneer (1894-1992) had already lived for several years in Greece, digging on the North Slope of the Athenian Acropolis and at Corinth, and teaching at the ASCSA, before he and his family returned to the United States in 1939, just before the beginning of World War II. The Broneer family moved to Princeton to join other ASCSA members who worked and studied at the Institute for Advanced Study. Theodore Leslie Shear, Paul Clement, Benjamin Meritt, George Elderkin, Shirley Weber, and Edward Capps formed the core of a group that immediately mobilized after Italy declared war against Greece in October of 1940. Less than a month after the Italian invasion, the American archaeologists residing at Princeton had formed a committee, known as the ASCSA Committee for Aid to Greece, which raised considerable funds to support the people of Greece. The committee raised a total of about $27,000 through written appeals to ASCSA members and associates, the organization of two benefits, and royalties from the book This is Greece. Some of the funds were used to purchase “IASO,” a Red Cross ambulance (On the ASCSA Committee for Aid to Greece, Meritt 1984, pp. 7-8). Archaeologist Rodney Young, a staff member of the Agora Excavations, drove “IASO” to the Albanian war front. The rest of the funds were used to buy supplies for hospitals, canteens, and civil relief agencies in Greece. After January 8, 1942, the Committee was unable to deliver any more aid to the Greek people because of the food and supply boycott that the Allies imposed on all the German-held territories of Europe; the ASCSA Committee decided to cease functioning at this that time. Many of its members continued working towards for the relief of Greece through other agencies like such as the American Friends of Greece (AFG) and the GWRA.

OSCAR BRONEER AND HIS SERVICE AT THE GWRA

On August 12, 1942, Broneer was invited by the Greek American Progressive Association (GAPA) to deliver a talk about Greece in Pittsburgh, where he received very favorable comments from the event organizers. “All were impressed with your talk and were particularly pleased with your stressing the need for relief for the Greek people. . . . We consider both of you [Broneer and Meritt] as sincere Hellenists and interested in the welfare of Greek people,” wrote Theo Manos in his thank-you letter to Broneer. A little later, in November of 1942, the Trenton Chapter of AHEPA invited Broneer to join the organization:

“Knowing your feelings for Hellas and the knowledge that you always carry with you of Hellenic culture we the members of the Trenton Chapter #72 of the Order of AHEPA feel that our Chapter membership is not quite complete unless we can count you as one of our members” (ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers).

Ilias Chrissochoidis (ed.), Spyros P. Skouras: Memoirs (2013)

By December of 1942, Broneer was offering his services to the newly established organization of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations (OFFRO) run by the U.S. State Department, which hired him in May of 1943. Towards the end of the year, he received an invitation to attend a benefit dinner organized by the GWRA in New York on December 17th, 1943. This event proved to be very important for Broneer because it was here that he met Skouras, the owner of Fox Studios and the national president of the GWRA. Skouras immediately offered him work at the GWRA. Broneer was an attractive candidate, a Swedish-born American, fluent in Swedish and Greek, with impressive knowledge and firsthand experience of Greece. Skouras admired Broneer, who was already been actively involved in shipping food and supplies to Greece aboard Swedish ships (Sweden had remained neutral during World War II). By February of 1944, Broneer had accepted Skouras’s offer to work for the GWRA as executive vice president, a position that he held until 1946.

Not much is preserved in Broneer’s personal papers about his day-to-day activities at the GWRA. A lengthy entry in Broneer’s unpublished autobiography (“The Story of Per”), however, attests to the trusting relationship that he developed with Skouras:

“In April 1945, Spyros Skouras decided to make a trip to Greece to see for himself the condition of the country and the devastation wrought by four years of war and occupation. He wanted Per [Oscar Broneer] to accompany him. . . . Per and the three members of Spyros Skouras’ family wanted to make tours of inspection outside of Athens so as to see for themselves what the country had suffered and what was most needed, so that they could go back to the States and collect funds for the Greek War Relief Association. For the purpose Spyros Senior had brought with him a professional photographer from Twentieth Century Fox (ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers, “The Story of Per,” p. 208).

Other information comes from contemporary newspapers. In August 1945 Broneer traveled extensively in the U.S. delivering speeches and showing films concerning the dramatic conditions in Greece after the close of the war in 1944.  Press releases in American newspapers from August 1945 wrote about the Skouras/Broneer joint trip during which they visited “75 towns and villages during their four-week tour of Greece. In connection with his talks Mr. Broneer will show a 20-minute film entitled, ‘This Is Greece Today,’ which was taken during his tour” (The Rock Island Argus, August 3, 1945, p. 10). In Moline, Iowa, he was introduced to the audience by Charles Bookidis. I mention this because Charles was the father of archaeologist Nancy Bookidis, a long-time member of the ASCSA and assistant director emerita of the Corinth Excavations.

Greek War Relief’s Newsletter announcing the return of Spyros Skouras and Oscar Broneer from Greece, June 1945. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

In February 1946, Broneer delivered a two-part speech in Newport, Rhode Island, as a guest of the Art Association.  The first part concerned his prewar excavations on the North Slope of the Athenian Acropolis; in the second half he described what he saw in his 1945 trip to Greece with Skouras: “A bareness noted in the landscape, he said, was due to the sacrifice of groves of trees for fuel. The people he described as worn, ragged, poor, but hopeful. A friend he met in Corinth had hidden a New Zealand soldier in a hole in his home through 73 searches by Germans, who had machine-gunned whole families of his neighbors for such offenses. A whole generation of children, he said, have never seen chocolate, and didn’t know what to do with the pieces they were given. Invariably, the children seem three or four years younger than they are because of retarded growth…”(Newport Mercury, 15 February 1946, p.8)

Another press release announcing his Broneer’s return to Greece, in July of 1946, praised him for his hard work toward the rehabilitation of Greece, his public speeches in support of Greece before American dignitaries, and his indefatigable travels to explain the relief program of the GWRA to Greek communities all over the United States. (When I first published this essay in 2008, I did not have access to the rich archive of Newspapers.com; my research was, therefore, limited to the few clippings that Broneer had saved in his papers. A recent search in Newspapers.com proved to be very enlightening concerning Broneer’s humanitarian efforts in the U.S. on behalf of the Greek cause.)

Celebrating Greek Day at the GWRA Headquarters, 1946. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

Having explored Broneer’s activities during the war years, I now return to the making of Triumph over Time. When Broneer agreed to initiate the ASCSA’s capital campaign soon after his appointment to the position of acting director for 1947-1948, he depended heavily on his close ties with the Greek American community. He also asked that Margaret Thompson assist him in the campaign. Broneer and Thompson’s plan was to organize their fund-raising drive under the sponsorship of the local societies of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), which in turn would cooperate with the local Greek American communities.

The reel of Triumph Over Time is housed at the ASCSA Archives. In 2007 it was digitized and reissued as a DVD.

The film was finally shown in thirteen American cities, but, despite the large audiences that attended the showings, it brought almost no financial gain to the ASCSA. There are many reasons for the failure of this attempt by the ASCSA to raise money. One has to do with Broneer personally. The death of his wife, Verna, in January of 1948, just before the beginning of the fund-raising drive, forced him to withdraw completely. Although other American archaeologists undertook the task of lecturing and showing the film across America, it must have felt like they were escorting an orphaned child. In my opinion, Triumph Over Time would have had a better chance if Broneer himself had remained behind the wheel, making use of his previous GWRA contacts.

The second reason has to do with the change in the political situation. By 1948, the American public, including Greek American communities, were exhausted from the financial strain of supporting the many fund-raising campaigns that various relief agencies had introduced since the outbreak of World War II. In addition, with the announcement of the Truman doctrine and the launch of the Marshall Plan in 1947, the American public felt that the rehabilitation of Greece and other European countries no longer depended on their individual philanthropy but was being taken care of centrally by their government.

Nevertheless, thanks to Broneer, Thompson, and Skouras, the ASCSA managed to produce a film of enduring value in 1947, one that serves as a vivid testimony to a love of Greece, both the land and its people, that still characterizes the work of the ASCSA today. (You can watch the 40 minute film in YouTube.)

THEODORE LESLIE SHEAR AND THE DODECANESIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL

The papers of Nicholas Mavris provide plenty of insight into the actions of another organization, the American Friends of Greece (AFG), and Theodore Leslie Shear (1880-1945), its vice chairman and director of the School’s excavations in the Athenian Agora (1931-1945).

Theodore Leslie Shear and architect Piet de Jong, Agora Excavations 1935. ASCSA, Athenian Agora Excavations Archive.

Established by a group of American philhellenes in 1923, the AFG’s mission was to contribute to the strengthening of Greece after the Asia Minor catastrophe. During World War II, the AFG contributed enthusiastically to the relief of the Greek people through the GWRA. In order to avoid duplicating the work of other agencies interested in the rehabilitation of Greece, the AFG concentrated its efforts on educational institutions in Greece, through contributions to Athens College and Pierce College, the establishment of scholarships, publication of scientific studies, and the promotion of good cultural relations between America and Greece. The officers of the AFG included eminent members of the ASCSA, such as Edward Capps, George H. Chase, Theodore L. Shear, and W. Stuart Thompson. The ASCSA Archives preserves several issues of the organization’s bulletin, The Philhellene. In the Gennadius Library, one can find publications of the organization; e.g., Greece Fights, by Homer W. Davis, and Let Freedom Ring, which was issued on the occasion of a benefit dinner held in honor of the Greek people on March 25th, 1942.

The Philhellene. Bulletin of the American Friends of Greece, October-November 1942. ASCSA Archives, Peter Topping Papers.

In addition to its educational mission, the AFG became involved, through its vice chairman, in the liberation of the Dodecanesian Islands. In an editorial essay in the October-December 1943 issue of The Philhellene, Shear boldly expressed his support for the Dodecanesian cause:

“Let the injustice of the past thirty years be expiated by immediate delivery of the Islands to Greece as soon as they are liberated! Let not the Dodecanese continue to be an apple of discord in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

The editorial essay had been preceded by an exchange of letters between Shear and Mavris, the president of the Dodecanesian National Council. The letters show that Shear was considered a staunch supporter of the Dodecanesian issue, and that the Dodecanesian Council frequently sought and accepted his advice on how to proceed. In fact, in the board of directors meeting of the Dodecanesian Council on September 15, 1943, Shear was unanimously elected an honorary member of the Council.

Anniversary dinner and dance of the Dodecanesian League of America and societies affiliated with the Dodecanesian National Council, 1940. ASCSA Archives, Nicholas Mavris Papers.

Theodore Leslie Shear went as so far as to write a personal letter to Senator Claude Pepper (1900-1989) expressing his utmost gratitude for Pepper’s action in introducing “the resolution on August 8th declaring that the islands are and of right ought to be part of the Greek realm” (August 12, 1944). Shear also urged “all Greek organizations and as many individuals to write letters to their own Senators demanding action on the resolution, which, otherwise, may die in Committee” (September. 29, 1944). In April of 1945 and in anticipation of the Peace Conference, Shear was worried that the Greeks might not get a world hearing unless all Greek organizations swamped the conference with their demands for justice; otherwise, he saw a risk of Greece remaining “a crown colony of England indefinitely.” What Shear had hoped and wished for the Dodecanese finally happened a year later, in 1946, when the American U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations unanimously adopted Pepper’s resolution asking that the Dodecanese be awarded to Greece (Saloutos 1964, p. 366). Unfortunately, Shear had passed away in July 1945.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

I would like to conclude this essay by noting that the contribution of the ASCSA members during World War II towards the relief and the rehabilitation of Greece requires further exploration. The second volume of the History of the American School refers to the heroic efforts of those of its members who remained in Greece during the war, men such as Bert H. Hill, Gorham P. Stevens, Rodney Young, and the Vanderpools (Meritt 1984, pp. 6-38). From the ones who returned home, several (e.g., Carl Blegen, John Caskey, Dorothy Cox, Alison Frantz, Virginia Grace, and Jerome Sperling) offered their unique knowledge of topography and languages to the Office of Strategic Services, a subject that Susan H. Allen has investigated (Allen 2011); others, such as Oscar Broneer, George Chase, Antony Raubitscheck, Theodore L. Shear, Margaret Thompson, and Mary Zelia Philippides (to name a few) followed a different trajectory by reaching out to the Greek omogeneia, either by being involved in various relief efforts or using their established philhellenism as a vehicle to promote aspects of the Greek cause in America.

Did these newly formed postwar ties between the School and the omogeneia remain strong over the years or eventually fade?  I am inclined to say that they laid dormant for several decades. Spyros Skouras would become the first ASCSA trustee of Greek descent in 1947, but more than twenty years would pass, before the next trustee of Greek descent was elected in 1969 (Thomas A. Pappas, trustee 1969-1982; Meritt 1984, p. 277). It was only after the 1990s that the School pursued with zeal a renewal of its ties with the Greek omogeneia: as a result, more than a dozen Greek Americans are serving today on the School’s Board of Trustees and on the Board of Overseers of the Gennadius Library.


NOTE

I first published this essay in The Archaeology of Xenitia: Greek Immigration and Material Culture, ed. K. Kourelis, The New Griffon 10, Athens 2008, pp. 41-47. Since it has been out of print for years, I decided to revise and republish it here, by adding new information and more photographic documentation, thus making it accessible to a larger audience.


REFERENCES

Allen, S.H. 2011. Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece, Ann Arbor.

Laliotou, I. 2004. Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Cultures of Transnationalism Between Greece and America, Chicago.

Meritt, L. S. 1984. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939-1980, Princeton.

Saloutos, Th. 1964. The Greeks in the United States, Cambridge, Mass.

Vogeikoff-Brogan, N. 2007. Triumph over Time: The American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Post-War Greece, Princeton.


To Know One’s Country as a Foreign Land

I have always found informal travel accounts fascinating. By informal, I mean accounts found in personal diaries or letters. Occasionally, they are published posthumously by the writer’s relatives (usually for family consumption) and attract little attention because of their mundane nature. Until recently, such letters and diaries of anonymous folk were avoided by historians who considered their content subjective or inaccurate. After all, why use the private diary of an American expatriate in Greece as a source, when the event (e.g., a local revolution) was described in more detail in the newspapers or other official reports?

I, on the other hand, pay particular attention to these types of publications because they provide valuable information, otherwise undocumented, about the level of local awareness, participation or aloofness within foreign communities. Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936), an English writer and philosopher, once said that “the whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land: it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” It’s the second part of Chesterton’s comment that makes me delve into the travel accounts of foreigners-mostly Americans in my case–who have experienced Greece as a foreign land. Here I am not interested in the tourist but instead the engaged traveler, the expatriate, or, in rare cases, the committed immigrant (that is the foreigner who has almost “gone native”).

My latest source of inspiration for getting “to know my country as a foreign land” is a privately published collection of letters which came to my attention after a visit to the newly established Archives of the American College of Greece. There, Dr. Demetra Papakonstantinou, an accomplished archaeologist who now serves as the College’s Archivist, graciously shared with me a copy of a book titled Odyssey of a Learning Teacher (Greece and the Near East 1924-1925). Published in 2005 by David L. Aronson, the book contains transcriptions of the letters that his mother, Charlotte Eleanor Ferguson, a graduate from Mount Holyoke College and a teacher at the American College for Girls (what is now Pierce College), sent to her family in 1924-25. (The original letters are now part of the American School of Greece Archives.)

Front cover photograph: Charlotte Ferguson and Helen Larrabee departing from New York.

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The Mystery Artist: In Search of François Perilla

The American School’s haphazard art collection continues to fascinate me. It lacks any thematic cohesion and at first glance often makes no sense, because most of the works have little to do with the institution itself. Yet, it remains a source of mystery because these same works are also associated with people who were once deeply involved in the School’s affairs. Before they ended up at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter), these objects decorated the walls of private houses and were part of those households’ life history. In Janet Hoskins’s Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives (1998), six women and men from Eastern Indonesia tell the history of their lives by talking about their possessions, thus creating an identity for themselves through objects they made, bought, were given, or collected. Our people are no longer alive but many of their possessions are with us, and they have a story to tell us (if we ask them…).

The Blegen-Hill house at Ploutarchou 9, ca. 1960s. ASCSA Archives.

Most of the artwork that hangs on the walls or decorates the mantels of the various buildings of the School comes from two households. One was the residence of two couples, Carl and Elizabeth Blegen (the Blegens) and Bert and Ida Hill (the Hills), who lived together at Ploutarchou 9 (Kolonaki) in the 1930s; the other belonged to the archaeologist George Mylonas and his wife Lela who lived in Saint Louis (Missouri) in the 1930s before they moved back to Greece in the early 1970s. Although both households were set up about the same time, the Blegens/Hills, because of Elizabeth’s personal wealth, began purchasing artwork immediately, while the Mylonases, both younger and refugees from Asia Minor, did not begin acquiring art until the early 1950s. (I have written about the nature of the Mylonas collection in a post titled “The Spirit of Saint Louis Lives in Athens”; on the two couples living at Ploutarchou Street read “The End of the Quartet: The Day the Music Stopped at Ploutarchou 9,” by Jack L. Davis; and Pounder 2015.)

Lately I have been trying to identify the items from the Blegen-Hill household, which came to school almost intact after the death of the house’s last occupant, Carl Blegen, in 1971. Although we have an inventory, the fact that the objects were not photographed or tagged before they were dispersed among the various buildings of the School (including Corinth) makes it difficult to identify their origin today.  Some of the art, such Giovani Battista Piranesi’s “Vedute di Roma,” is easily identifiable, but portions of the collection remain shrouded in mystery.

In addition, we also lack indoor photos of the house, except for the one that shows the so-called “Greek Room.” (Take for comparison the interior of John Gennadius’s house in London, which was professionally photographed, making it easier to identify the artworks from it that came to the Gennadius Library.) Still we are slowly putting together a picture of the life and art at the Blegen residence. In a recent conference about Carl and Elizabeth Blegen, Vivian Florou reconstructed through archival research some of the social life of the house at Ploutarchou 9 during its peak times, before and after WW II (Florou 2015).  In “Skyromania? American Archaeologists in 1930s Skyros,” I identified some of the embroideries and pottery that were once part of it.  In “The Grecian Landscapes of Anna Richards Brewster,” I suggested that an oil by Brewster might also have once been belonged to the Blegens.

Today’s post focuses on another large painting that once hung on the walls of Ploutarchou 9 (item no. 10 in the Blegen Collection), but is now adorning the walls of my new office: a watercolor depicting the temple of Hera at Olympia, signed “F. Perilla 1930”. A quick search on the internet produced a few brief references to auction catalogs that identified him as a French art historian and artist, born in 1874, as well as to two recent translations of books he wrote about Chios (1928) and Mount Pelion (1940). A search in “Ambrosia” (the ASCSA’s online book catalogue) proved more fruitful, with several entries to publications by Perilla.

Temple of Hera at Olympia, watercolor by F. Perilla. ASCSA Archives, Art Collection.

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“The haughty arrogance of the Nordic people”: A Scandal in the German Colony of Athens on the 20th of April 1935.

Posted by Alexandra Kankeleit

Alexandra Kankeleit here contributes an essay about an unknown episode, almost a scandal, which took place in 1935 in the German community of Athens and involved the local Catholic church and members of the German Archaeological Institute.  Alexandra, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of Roman mosaics, has also since 2016 been part of an extensive project of the German Archaeological Institute (Athens and Berlin), titled The History of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens during the National Socialist Era. As part of the project, she has examined a host of bibliographic and archival sources in both countries that document the activities of the German archaeologists in Greece from 1933 until 1944. A list of her most recent publications can be found on Alexandra’s own website.


A recently discovered episode from 1935 offers a striking picture of the predominant mood in the so-called “German Colony” in Athens following the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany. (“Deutsche Kolonie” was the official name of the German-speaking Community in Greece until the end of WWII.)  It illustrates in dramatic fashion what battlefronts were being drawn up at the time and what the representatives of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens (DAI Athen hereafter) saw as their role in this critical period.

I stumbled more or less by chance upon this incident while carrying out research at the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office). The relevant documents are to be found in a folder that deals with the “Schwarze Front” (“Black Front”) in Greece, an underground organisation that was opposed to Hitler and his policies, and which was founded in 1930 by Otto Strasser (1897-1974), brother of the infamous Gregor Strasser (1892-1934). From 1934-1937 members of the “Schwarze Front” were based in Greece publishing illegal flyers and articles, and encouraging Germans living in Greece to turn away from Hitler. Read the rest of this entry »


Connecting the Dots: Peripheral Figures in the History of the American School of Classical Studies. The Case of R. S. Darbishire.

Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Archives is all about connecting the dots. When processing archival material, you often come across documents, photos, or notes that don’t connect in any obvious way with the rest. For this reason all finding-aids have a “Miscellaneous” section.  And such is the case of R. S. Darbishire (1886-1949), a name I came upon in the Carl W. Blegen Papers several years ago, in a booklet of poems; and more recently, while going through a small box of unprocessed material from the Blegen/Hill household on Ploutarchou 9, in a set of architectural blueprints. It took me a while to connect the dots in the Darbishire puzzle.

The Elusive Mr. Darbishire

ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers

In the Blegen Papers, there is a small booklet with a collection of handwritten poems titled “Poems to Order. Thera, June 17-21, 1928. Robert Shelby Darbishire.”  The short poem on the first page is dedicated to CB:

Εξ αδοκήτο [Unforeseen]
You, when I asked, “What shall I do in Thera?”
Unexpectedly in my empty mind
Casually dropped this: “Write pretty!”
Here (unexpectedly) nought else I find.

Darbishire appears in the student list of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA, or School hereafter) for the year 1926-27; he is also thanked in the preliminary reports or final publications of a number of excavations conducted in 1927-1928: Prosymna, the Odeum at Corinth, and Olynthus.

There is very little information about Robert Shelby Darbishire on the web, and one has to type his name in various ways in order to retrieve a few scraps. Born in 1886 at Fort Meade, Florida, he was the son of Godfrey Darbishire (1853-1889) -a British surveyor and a famous rugby player, who immigrated to the States in 1883– and Ann Shelby of Chicago. Robert was unfortunate in losing his father at an early age.  Mother and son lived for a while on a farm they owned in Danville, Kentucky before they moved back to England to be near the paternal side of the family. (Darbishire’s grandfather was Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, a well-known philanthropist and biologist from Manchester.) Nevertheless, the Kentucky farm remained in the Darbishire family’s possession for a long time; mother and son would move back to it after the death of Robert Dukinfield in 1910; and Robert Shelby would retreat to the farm in various periods of his life. In fact, the family papers are deposited at the University of Kentucky Special Collections, and it is from their finding-aid that I managed to obtain good and reliable information about the Darbishires.

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Blending Two Cultures: The Gennadius Library Dedication in 1926


Posted by Maria Georgopoulou

Inspired by the recent inauguration of the new Makriyannis Wing, Maria Georgopoulou, Director of the Gennadius Library, here contributes an essay about the festivities that took place during the dedication of the Library in April 1926.


The new Ioannis Makriyannis Wing at the Gennadius Library

On June 2, 2018 the American School inaugurated the new Makriyannis Wing of the Gennadius Library. During the preparations for the opening, I was tempted to look back at the festivities for the inauguration of the Gennadius Library itself in 1926. As with other momentous moments in his life, John Gennadius was keen to keep in his scrapbooks as much information as possible about the events (Opening Exercises of the Gennadius Library, preserved in Scrapbook Φ38, p. 36).

The dedication ceremony of the Gennadeion took place on April 23, 1926 at 4.30 pm, after extensive preparations in America and Athens. The letters exchanged between John Gennadius and Bert Hodge Hill, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), in November and December 1925 deal not only with significant matters, such as guest lists, but also with smaller details like the duration of the blessing (αγιασμός). Read the rest of this entry »


“If a Jesuit should prove not to know Latin we’d better shut our doors!”: Catholic Clergy at the ASCSA, Pt. I

Posted by Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by recent research in the ASCSA Archives about the Summer Session program.


Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987)

Last summer, I began researching the life of Professor Gertrude Smith at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School), particularly in her role as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. (On Smith see D. Rogers, “Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene.“) Smith guided the selection process of students during the Academic Year and the Summer Session (SS) deftly for nearly 20 years (1945-1963). Delving into her correspondence with various people associated with the School, I was struck by one letter in particular, as she was discussing Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987), and his desire to be a SS Director at the School in 1961:

I wonder with him just what the Roman Catholic situation would be. Don’t think I have anything against the R.C.’s. I haven’t, but I do not want the summer session turned into an adjunct of the church, and, if he once does the school, I foresee an avalanche for that particular summer of applicants for that particular summer of applicants from people who have used his dratted Homeric Greek books and who will be urged by their priest or nun teachers to take the session when they can have it under his guidance. In the two sessions which I have done I have had each time four or five Roman Catholics, but I could usually control that and get them meatless meals when they had to have them and get them to places where they could get to church on time and so on. But we do not want the summer session dependent of the Roman Catholic church, and I think it might be if Father S. were leading around people, the majority of whom were R.C.’s. (ASCSA ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 26 October 1960)

Did this mean that the School, as a whole, had a bias against Roman Catholics? Certainly this would not be unheard of in American academic circles. Even as late as 1977, Catholic priests were still noticing a bias in academia, which stemmed from deep-roots in America against Catholics (particularly immigrants from Catholic countries of Europe, creating a so-called nativism, or bias, in society). Fr. Andrew Greeley noted that people often told him not to wear his collar, or he would not be taken as serious as his lay counterparts. Indeed, he questioned:

Is the nativism in education conscious or unconscious? I suppose the best answer is that it doesn’t matter. Those who ask, Isn’t Catholicism incompatible with independent intellectual activity? might as well be asking, Isn’t it true that blacks have a distinctive body odor? Or, Isn’t it true women are happier at home raising children? The person who asks the question is prejudiced whether or not he knows it. (Greeley 1977, 43)

Further, the School has been noted for occasionally making less-than-polite comments about religious groups outside of Protestantism, particularly Judaism. In correspondence in the early twentieth century, if an applicant was Jewish, oftentimes that was noted in their files (See J. L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”) While this did not hinder students and scholars of Jewish origin from coming to the School, it is disconcerting to a modern academic audience that such issues would indeed be brought up.

So I began to go back through the Archives to see if there were any anti-Catholic tendencies in the School’s past, as Smith’s letter of 1960 had the potential to suggest. What I did find was a fascinating history of Catholic religious figures (of both genders) coming to the School as students and scholars and flourishing. Almost from the beginning of the School’s foundation in 1881, Catholic clergy had been part of our history, with the first Catholic priest in 1887-1889, Fr. Daniel Quinn. Read the rest of this entry »