A PORTRAIT OF A (PAGAN) LADY: MABEL GORDON DUNLAP

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.

FROM HUMBLE ORIGINS

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).

HER GRECIAN DAYS

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.

SOUL MATES

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.

MADAME SLAVKO GROUITCH

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.

THE END OF A PAGAN DREAM

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.


NOTE

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). 

REFERENCES

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.


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


BY JACK L. DAVIS

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here writes extensively about a Greek couple, Anastasios and Ellie Adossides, once prominent and influential at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, but now largely forgotten.

If ever a husband and wife deserved special honors from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter, the ASCSA or the School), it would be Anastasios and Ellie Hatzilazarou Adossides.  Both Anastasios and Ellie spent most of their lives in the public eye, in the service of Greece, and, in his case, also of the ASCSA.  Yet neither is commemorated at our Kolonaki campus, despite the fact that Anastasios and Ellie protected it, and he ultimately gave his life for the School.   On Anastasios’s death in 1942, his dear friends from the Athenian Agora Excavations and Athens College, Homer Thompson, Lucy Talcott, and Homer Davis, wrote:

“There can be no substitute for the autobiography that modesty forbade [ Anastasios] writing, the book which might more than any other have interpreted to Europe and to America the Greece of the last quarter-century (The Philhellene 2: 3-4, pp. 3-5).”  

The three continued: “The American Minister to Greece [Lincoln MacVeagh], himself a New Englander, has called Adossides the most conscientious person he has ever known, and claims that no New England conscience ever approached his.” From the Greek side, Eleutherios Venizelos said publicly of Anastasios that in his political career he had met very few men of equal courage and frankness. 

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.  


References

Adosidoy, Ellie A.  Εξήντα χρόνια ελληνικής ζωής, Morrisville, NC, 2016.

Allen, Susan.  Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II, Ann Arbor, 2013.

Davis, Jack L. “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism, in Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece, edited by Jack L. Davis and Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Hesperia 82 (2103), pp. 15-48.

Dumont, Sylvie. Vrysaki: A Neighborhood Lost in Search of the Athenian Agora, Princeton, 2020.

Oakley, H. S., C. Barry, R. W. Adams, J. Lemon, and C. B. Gilmore. In Macedonia, Chicago 1920.

Sakka, Niki. “The Excavation of the Ancient Agora of Athens: The Politics of Commissioning and Managing the Project, in A Singular Antiquity: Archaeology and Hellenic Identity in Twentieth-Century Greece, edited by Dimitris Damaskos and Dimitris Plantzos, Athens, 2008, pp. 111-124.

United States Department of State/Papers Relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. III, 1920, Greece, pp. 705-717 (=http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/FRUS/.


NOTES

[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.  


The Agora Benches

BY JUDITH LEVINE

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


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

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


Is this Julia Ward Howe?


BY CURTIS RUNNELS – PRISCILLA MURRAY

Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and an expert in Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, here contribute to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about the purchase of a miniature portrait of an elegant, young woman in an antique fair, their research to identify both the subject of the portrait and its creator, and, finally, their thrilling discovery.

Even from a distance, the small portrait of a beautiful young woman had a commanding presence. We bought the miniature watercolor on ivory (less than 10 by 8 cm) at an antique fair in Holliston, a town near Boston, Massachusetts, because the sitter was dressed a la Gréque with a Greek column in the background. The quality of the painting, which points to a very accomplished miniaturist, together with the appearance and accoutrements of the subject, suggest that the painting was an important commission by a socially prominent person. We loved the painting, and of course, we were intensely interested in the identity of the young woman.

Julia Ward Howe (?). Miniature on ivory, 3.9 x 3.1in. Curtis Runnels and Priscilla Murray Collection.

Read the rest of this entry »


Orientations in Sunlight: With Durrell in Rhodes

“In Rhodes the days drop as softly as fruit from trees. Some belong to the dazzling ages of Cleobolus and the tyrants, some to the gloomy Tiberius, some to the crusaders. They follow each other in scales and modes too quickly almost to be captured in the nets of form,” wrote Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) in the first pages of his acclaimed memoir Reflections on a Marine Venus: A Companion to the Landscape of Rhodes (1953). More than seventy years later, if Durrell were still alive, he would have added “… some to the crusaders, some to the Italians.”

Durrell was stationed in Rhodes for two years when the Dodecanese was under British Administration (1945-1947). As Information Officer, he supervised the publication of three daily papers, in Greek, Turkish, and Italian. (I found copies of the Greek one, ΧΡΟΝΟΣ, in the Nicholas Mavris Papers in the ASCSA Archives. Mavris, a prominent member of the Greek American community, in 1948 became the first governor commissioner of the freed Dodecanese.)

ΧΡΟΝΟΣ, Aug. 8, 1945. ASCSA Archives, Nicholas Mavris Papers.

WW II had just ended and the fate of the Dodecanese was still uncertain. Despite their Greek past, these islands in the southeastern part of the Aegean (also known as Southern Sporades) did not join Greece until 1947, having passed from the Ottomans directly to the Italians in 1913, from the Italians to the Germans in 1943, and from them to the British. In 1946, the Allied Forces in Paris finally agreed upon the integration of the Dodecanese with Greece. It was not until the 31st of March 1947, however, that the British officially delivered the administration of the Dodecanese to the Greek State.

Durrell did not write Marine Venus while on Rhodes but a few years later, relying on his memory and “sifting into the material, now some old notes from a forgotten scrapbook, now a letter” (Marine Venus, p. 3).[1]

“Of Paradise Terrestre” Read the rest of this entry »