I still remember my first Thanksgiving at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (the ASCSA or the School hereafter) in 1989. We had just returned from a ten-day trip through the Corinthia with Mr. Williams [Charles K. Williams, the Director of the Corinth Excavations], which also marked the end of the School’s fall program. We only had a few hours to rest and get ready for the big event: cocktails at 8 followed by dinner at 8.30. I had never seen Loring Hall so crowded and festive. Director William (Willy) Coulson and his wife Mary Lee were the hosts. Eight large tables filled the dining room; more were in the salonaki for families with young children. In later years as the numbers of guests increased, the party would take over the saloni for dinner and dancing afterwards.
I attended many of the School’s Thanksgivings, and these events were the source of many fond memories. When our son was born in 1999, we skipped the party but took him (then barely 6 months old) earlier in the day to see the roasted turkeys in Sakis’s kitchen. We eventually stopped going because of conflicts with our son’s schedule and our desire to start our own family tradition for the holiday.
At the time it was difficult to find a turkey out of season (because Greek butchers do not stock turkeys until a few days before Christmas). We usually had to approach the butchers weeks in advance to secure a bird for the table (often flown in frozen from Italy but more recently fresh from the American Farm School in Thessaloniki). The only place with cranberry sauce (or fresh cranberries) or Libby’s pumpkin puree was the original Alpha Beta on Stadiou Street (now closed). Soon I learned to make my own red currant sauce (it is still hard to find cranberries), and I have occasionally experimented with real pumpkins for the pie. This quest for ingredients made me wonder how the School celebrated Thanksgivings when imported goods were much more difficult to find, and the School’s cooks lacked experience with American holiday menus.
In November of 1910, Zillah Pearce, who had recently moved to Athens with her husband architect William (Billy) Bell Dinsmoor, who would later become the most important architectural historian of Classical Greece, wrote to her mother about her first expat Thanksgiving at the School:
“The dinner was quite wonderful for Evangelos [the School’s cook] is a genius. I don’t know that I can remember everything we had but there was fish soup, cold jellied pigeon, with little individual salads with whipped cream, turkey with chestnut dressing, another kind of salad, potato balls, quince jelly, & most remarkable ice in fancy shape, salted almonds, different nuts, four or five kinds of candies and fruit also…”. Pleased with the dinner, Zillah, however, was not happy with her outfit for the occasion. “Mr. Hill [the School’s Director] had said that the men were not to dress in evening clothes for this dinner, not even dinner coats, so I gave up my pink gown as inappropriate and wore my blue silk. I wish you could have seen the sight that greeted my eyes when I reached the head of the stairs. With the exception of Miss [Alice Leslie] Walker and Miss Sheldon, the others had on the most elaborate ball gowns with long sweeping trains and very décolleté gowns. However I am rather glad I did wear the blue for it is very pretty and I think it was more appropriate. Of course if I had been in Athens I would have known what the others intended to wear… Mr. Johnson [Allan Chester Johnson, later professor of Classics at Princeton University] on stepping from the library to the hall saw them and said in an undertone to Billy ‘My God.’ If you knew Mr. Johnson you would appreciate it.” Zillah was further delighted to find out that Mr. Hill had rented a piano. “Miss [Alice] Walton and I as it happened were the only ones who could play so we had to draw cards and it fell to my lot, so we spent the last of the evening in singing. Although there are so many young people none of them sing much. Mr. Blegen [Carl W. Blegen, student of the School that year, who would excavate the sites of Troy and Pylos later in his career] I suspect has the best voice. I am enclosing our place cards. Mine represents the animals at Corinth.”
On another occasion Zillah noted how hard it was to find or get cranberries to Athens, despite the recipes she had received from her mother.
“Was glad to have the recipes, only the cranberry sauce is a joke for you cannot get cranberries here. Some years ago a minister here (U.S. Representative for there is no Ambassador from America) sent to America for some cranberries for the Thanksgiving dinner he was giving to Americans in Athens and when they arrived he had to pay so much duty that he refused to take them and threw them in the Piraeus harbor” (January 3, 1911).
Finding the right ingredients for the preparation of the Thanksgiving dinner continued to be a problem. In 1922, another member of the School, Natalie Gifford [the mother of William Wyatt, professor of Classics at Brown University and also one of the Whitehead Professors in 1989, my first year at the School], wrote to her family that she wanted to prepare mince pies for Thanksgiving. “I’m crazy to make some mince pies for the bunch. I think it would be lots of fun, but I’m afraid it would be difficult, particularly without a recipe and the Greek style of doing things. Maybe I could manage an apple pie. I’d love to surprise K.B. with one.” (K.B. standing for Carl Blegen, who by then had become the School’s Assistant Director.)
“We are going to have a big dinner here tonight. Mr. Hill said sixteen were coming,” she scribbled in the same letter. Gifford had just come from the kitchen where she and the other women of the academic program were trying to make pies. “The awkward thing [is] that none of us knew how to make mince meat, and none of us had a cook book. Mr. Holland [Leicester B. Holland, architect and father of Marian McAllister who was the Editor of the School’s Publications for many decades] came to our rescue by telling us that Uncle Bert [she meant the Director of the School, Bert H. Hill] had some. In the papers of Bert H. Hill, there is a copy of the 1918 edition of Fannie Farmer and the Boston Cooking School Cookbook: A History of Science, Gender, and Food, the one that young Gifford must have consulted for her pies.
“We did find an English mince meat in Miss Farmer’s cookbook” but the real problem was finding the right ingredients. “They just haven’t cider or brown sugar or molasses as the recipe called for… We told poor John [the cook] to go get the various ingredients… He couldn’t get citron, so he bought candied fruits instead. It made the mince very sweet, but we added lemon juice… We had the whole establishment helping us pick over the raisins and blanching the almonds. The chauffeur even came in and lent us his countenance…” At the end their pies turned out well “and made a great hit. We certainly never expected it,” confided Gifford to her mother.
“They are still talking about our pies. I made some little jam tarts to use up the pie crust the way Mother does, and K. B. [Carl Blegen] nearly collapsed, he was so thrilled…” I suspect that Natalie was in love with Blegen, but little did she know that he had already set his eyes on one of her fellow students, Elizabeth (Libbie) Pierce (later Mrs. Blegen).
Who made the School’s Thanksgiving guest list was occasionally a sore point. An exchange of letters between Edward Capps, Chair of the School’s Managing Committee, and Rhys Carpenter, Director of the School (1927-1932), implied that George Kosmopoulos had not been included in the guest list for the School’s Thanksgiving party in 1930.
Now that the dinner is over, and I hope you had a jolly time, I do not mind telling you that she [Alice Leslie Walker Kosmopoulos] appealed to me on the subject… She may not understand, and probably never will, that while nobody objects to her George, who is a very fine chap, of course, the members of the School would have little pleasure in his society and George, himself, would be quite miserable. Her wish that he might be ‘recognized’ is quite understandable, though her density as regards the function shows how Greek she has become,” conveyed Capps to Carpenter.ASCSA AdmRec 318/2, folder 2, December 17, 1930
“Now that the dinner is over, and I hope you had a jolly time, I do not mind telling you that she [Alice Leslie Walker Kosmopoulos] appealed to me on the subject… She may not understand, and probably never will, that while nobody objects to her George, who is a very fine chap, of course, the members of the School would have little pleasure in his society and George, himself, would be quite miserable. Her wish that he might be ‘recognized’ is quite understandable, though her density as regards the function shows how Greek she has become,” conveyed Capps to Carpenter (ASCSA AdmRec 318/2, folder 2, December 17, 1930). (For more about this couple, see: “An Unconventional Union. ‘Mr. and Mrs. George Kosmopoulos‘”)
The Glamorous 30’s
The after-dinner entertainment had improved considerably by the early 1930s. Richard (Dick) Howland, student of the School in 1933-1934 and later Chair of the Managing Committee, described an impressive evening with many guests that reflected the School’s growth during the years that Edward Capps chaired the School’s Managing Committee (1919-1939), but also the societal changes in Greece during the interwar period. (The best novel to understand the conflicts between the Greek bourgeoisie and working classes in the 1930s is Argo [Αργώ] by George Theotokas, whose archive was donated to the School in 2016.)
We had a regular luncheon at noon, and at 9:00 we had dinner, in the library, at a huge I-shaped table that accommodated 50 people. Everybody connected with the School was there, and everybody came formal with their best evening clothes. There were 6 waiters and 4 maids, recruited from the various households connected with the school, and everything was all very elegant. We had consommé, lobster with mayonnaise, turkey, potatoes, onions, roasted chestnuts, cranberry jelly, etc….chocolate ice cream, and fruit, nuts and raisins. We had white wine and champagne with dinner, and afterwards Sterling Dow [an advanced graduate student and later Professor of Archaeology at Harvard] gave some of us liqueurs, up in his apartment over the library.
After dinner we had dancing until 2:00, with a fine 7-piece orchestra from the Grande Bretagne, which is the best hotel in Athens. I danced with a great many people, but nobody more than 2 or 3 times. It was a fine party… The best part about it is the fact that the School paid for the entire party” wrote a happy Dick to his parents in November 1933.
A year later, Howland attended his second Thanksgiving at the School: “I was invited to a cocktail party at the Dows’ before the Thanksgiving dinner. Connie [Constance Gavares] was there and Joe [Joseph Shelley, Fellow in Architecture], and Mary Elizabeth, and several others. Very nice, and then we went down to dinner about 9. Like last year, there was one huge table set in the library for 40-50 people. We had stuffed turkey, vegetables, etc….but no pie for dessert, only ice cream. After dinner there was an 8-piece orchestra and we danced until 3:30. It was a very nice party, and afterwards we went downtown to have some ham and eggs.”
Richard H. Howland all dressed up for Thanksgiving, 1934. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.
From an Italian Perspective
Less than a month ago, the ASCSA Archives acquired a collection of 93 letters that Brunilde Sismondo (later Ridgway) wrote to her family when she was a student of the School in 1955-1957. Ridgway hardly needs any introduction to the archaeological community. But because this blog aims at making the history of the School accessible to a wider audience, I must say that young Sismondo, an Italian born in Chieti, went on to become a world expert in Greek and Roman sculpture. She taught for almost four decades at Bryn Mawr College and produced dozens of students, many of whom teach classics and archaeology in American and European universities. Bruni’s gift followed that of George Fletcher Bass (1932-2021), one of her fellow students and also a prominent archaeologist, who founded the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in 1972.
Written in elegant Italian, Bruni’s letters are a trove of information about the micro-history of the School: its academic program and the scholarly trends of the period, the daily life of the students in a country that was recovering from WW II and the civil war that followed (the Greek Economic Miracle), and so many other things that are not included in the School’s official reports or in the administrative correspondence. For example, I read the correspondence between John L. Caskey and Charles H. Morgan, the Director of the School and the Chair of the Managing Committee respectively, throughout 1955-1956, and there is hardly any mention of the academic program or the students. To be fair, Caskey and Morgan worried about a host of other matters: whether there was enough money to finish the reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos, how to make the School’s work appealing to the Ford Foundation for funding, or how to secure the Greek King’s presence at the inauguration of the Stoa in August of 1956. However, without access to personal letters or diaries, we miss important sources of information when trying to understand the history of a long-lived overseas institution such as the ASCSA.
Yet, as Bruni warned me, there is usually a limit as to what one confides to his or her family, especially when mail was slow and telephone communications were reserved only for extremely serious matters. Therefore, letters tended to be descriptive and quite cheerful, because the students did not want their families to worry about them.
With her permission, I decided to probe those that described her first Thanksgiving experience at the School. Thanksgiving per se was not a novelty for the young Italian girl. As a graduate student at BMC she had already experienced the real thing. But this was an expat Thanksgiving.
“Ho ballato e ballato e ballato” (I danced and danced and danced): this is how she started the description of her evening to her sister Mitì. They all dressed up for the dinner that Jack Caskey and his wife Elizabeth had organized for the School community. Most of the women had spent a lot of time and money to have their hair done…but not Bruni, who decided to keep her natural thick, curly hair (she described it as “zazzera,” meaning mop). The hairdresser even showed up at the School before dinner to give the final touch to the girls’ coiffures! The dinner, as was the case for a long time, was held in the main library. That night the Pi-shaped arrangement of the library tables seated 72 people. The tables were decorated with baskets in the form of cornucopia full of fall fruits and vegetables, even cabbages and eggplants. (It is unfortunate that we do not have photographs from the early Thanksgivings. but, until in the 1980s, amateur photographers avoided taking indoor photos.)
But what captured the guests’ attention were the exquisite place cards that another of Bruni’s fellow students Clairève Grandjouan (1929-1982) had drawn. The drawings on Bruni’s place card recalled her reports on the Throne at Amyclae, the Hermes of Olympia who identified himself as a Roman copy (“I am a copy”), and the “Marathon Ephebe”. Apparently, during her report in Olympia, following the theory of her professor Rhys Carpenter, Bruni had argued with passion that Hermes was not an original of the 4th century B.C. Clairève had also added “blood stains” and the caption: “traces of the beaten adversaries” (orme degli avversari battuti). In addition to the scholarly debates about the Hermes of Olympia, the discussion of what the “Marathon Ephebe” held in his hands proved equally controversial among the archaeological community. Clairève had reconstructed the Ephebe’s hands holding an egg on the left, and salt and pepper on the right, alluding to their breakfast exchanges: “pass me the salt.”
Of the dinner itself Bruni does not say much to her sister, except that the turkeys were huge. Dancing followed dinner, with the Caskeys opening the dance floor, but most of the students did not follow until the “older crowd” had left the party. It was only then that the younger gaggle including Bruni, George Bass, and Lloyd Cotsen (who was in Athens with his wife JoAnne) took up dancing until one in the morning. (Bruni also told me that “the two people who went out of their way to make me feel welcome were Lloyd Cotsen and his wife JoAnne.” Lloyd, an architect and a businessman, would later become a trustee and generous benefactor of the American School.)
Uncle Bert’s Last Thanksgiving
In November 1958, an aged Bert Hodge Hill was describing his Thanksgiving at the School to Carl and Elizabeth Blegen who were in America. Hill’s wife Ida had already passed away in 1954.
“For the rest I have kept to the house except last evening when I went to the School’s Thanksgiving party. 69 sat down at table, Betty [Caskey] said. Lucy [Talcott] was absent, and [the Homer] Davises and others. Kevin Andrews. It was a pleasure to see him scarcely changed by the years – and John and Sue Young came after the dinner, having first had Thanksgiving with their daughter. Jack [Caskey] made his usual speech and [Aristides] Kyriakides his (read from notes and not quite up to his usual form). Jack and Gorham [Phillips Stevens] and Gene [Vanderpool] and Henry [Immerwahr] and I don’t know who else carved turkeys. Grace was said by a cleric I don’t think I have met. I didn’t go the rounds in the saloni, but sat in a polythrona (armchair) mostly. However such so the party rather did me in, with bad dysphoria after it combined with the pain in the chest (high, both back and front) that you get when your stomach goes sour after a too hearty meal. As the thing lasted from about 11.30 until 6 the night was the worst I have had since Corinth Oct. 10 and 11. But I have slept a lot today and have had no dysphoria. So I haven’t called Lorandos [the School’s doctor] and expect to sleep well tonight. I cut the Propeller [Club] lunch and the Thanksgiving show at Ath[ens] College at 3.45–substituting breakfast combined with lunch in bed for the former and sleep for the latter.” Sadly, Hill died the next day.
In the Shadow of an Assassination
On Thanksgiving Day (November 28) 1963, the then Director of the American School, Henry S. Robinson, departed from the usual script in his speech to the guests.
“The emotions which are generally experienced and thankfully expressed on this particular American Holiday are today gravely diminished by the incredible tragedy which has so recently struck our nation. We cannot yet explain and can surely never comprehend the dreadful act of last Friday. We can only hope and pray that the criminal was unbalanced and was acting independently; that no organized group –political or social- was involved in so heinous a crime. Let us pray, too, that the peaceful ends for which Mr. Kennedy had striven may yet be achieved through the actions of other leaders of our own and foreign lands. May I ask you all to rise for a moment to pay silent homage to our late President.”
Henry S. Robinson, ca. 1960. Photo by Patricia Lawrence.
After a minute of silence, Robinson continued: “It has long been the custom for the Director to say a few words on this day. To express his thankfulness that the long trial of the fall trips is at an end; that the students have remained in good spirits (or, in years when that cannot honestly be said, that they have remained at least in good health); that the winter has been late in coming (or, in other years, that the bracing November weather has arrived early to drive away the humours of an Indian summer); that our travels have been marred by a minimum of inclement weather (or, in other years, that the constant rains did so little to dampen the enthusiasm of the group); that our physical plant is in good operating condition (or, as last year, that our cooks were able to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner in spite of six inches of water over the kitchen floor). In short, whatever the course of the School year may have been to date, it is expected that I –and you- will be duly thankful. I am; I hope that you are.”
In late 1928 the Greek and the international press published several articles and photos of a sensational archaeological discovery: a large bronze male statue found near Cape Artemision, in the north of Euboea. On central display at the Archaeological Museum in Athens since 1930, the statue is known to the public as the Aremision Zeus (or Poseidon).
Two years before, in the same area, fishermen had caught in their nets the left arm of a bronze statue that was also transferred to the National Museum in Athens. That discovery did not, however, provoke any further archaeological exploration in the area, most likely for fiscal reasons. But then in September 1928, the local authorities in Istiaia, a town in northern Euboea, were informed of illicit activity in the sea near Artemision. Acting fast, they sailed to the spot and caught a fisherman’s boat filled with diving equipment. Not only that, its crew had already pulled out the right arm of a bronze statue. A few days later the authorities were able to bring up from the bottom of the sea a nearly complete male, larger than life, statue. The first photos showed the armless statue laying on its back on a layer of hay (Note how the area of the genitals has been conveniently darkened in the newspaper photos so that the public would not be offended by the nudity of the statue.)
It was obvious that there was here an ancient shipwreck at the bottom of the sea, and that the Greek Archaeological Service needed to act fast before there could occur any new illicit diving in the area. However, underwater excavations are notoriously expensive since they require special equipment and trained divers. Nevertheless, by November of 1928, having secured 180,000 drachmas from the Greek government, the Archaeological Service sent the steamship Pleias, archaeologist Nikos Bertos, and a crew of divers to locate the shipwreck. Descending to a depth of nearly 45-50 meters (ca. 120-150 feet) and under extremely bad weather conditions, Bertos was able to retrieve the forepart of the body of a horse with its head and the largest part of the statue of a young male rider, who has since been known as the Jockey of Artemision.
In the early spring of 1929, Bertos, in another heroic effort, retrieved more parts of the horse and the rider, as well as some of the ancient ship’s ballast and pottery. Bertos promptly published an excellent account of his discoveries in the Archaeologikon Deltion (Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον) of 1929. In 2004, based on Bertos’s account and press clippings, Sean Hemingway, now Curator of Greek Antiquities at the Metrοpolitan Museum of Art, has offered us a new account of the discovery of the Artemision shipwreck in his book, The Horse and Jockey from Artemision (Hemingway 2004, pp. 35-42).
Zeus or Poseidon
Of the three bronzes, the easiest to conserve and display immediately was the nude, oversized male. By 1930, the impressive striding god with his extended arms was on full display in the National Museum. That same year Dutch archaeologist Hendrick G. Beyen (1901-1965) published the first monograph recognizing the statue as Poseidon. Soon afterward archaeologist Christos Karouzos (1900-1967) published a long article supporting the Poseidon identification. In 1944, George Mylonas, professor of archaeology at Washington University in Saint Louis (WUSL), published the first account in English that accepted Georgios Oikonomos’s identification of the statue as Zeus. (Oikonomos was the first to report officially the discovery of the statue in the Proceedings of the Academy of Athens in 1928.) Since then the majority of scholars have accepted the Zeus identification, although Poseidon has not been completely abandoned.
The Jockey and the Horse
Unlike the male statue, the public display of the jockey and horse was delayed for decades by the challenges presented in conserving them. In photos taken by Alison Frantz in the 1950s, we see the jockey displayed alone, on a metal stand. In addition, not everybody agreed that the jockey and the horse were contemporary. Ernst Buschor dated both the god from Artemision and the horse to the early 5th century B.C. Others such as Walter-Herwig Schuchhardt and Margarete Bieber argued for a Hellenistic date. In 1972 the restoration of the horse was completed and for the first time, the jockey and the horse were united and displayed as a single composition at the National Archaeological Museum (NAM). After a careful study of their stylistic features, Vassilis Kallipolitis (1910-1983), then director of the NAM, identified the composition as classicizing with a date in the middle of the 2nd century B.C.
I borrow most of this information from Hemingway’s thorough study of the Jockey and Horse Group, where he reviews past scholarship and offers his own interpretation based on additional technical and chemical studies. But coincidentally, while Sean was preparing his publication, the ASCSA Archives acquired the personal papers of a Greek sculptor, George Kastriotis (1899-1969). The main motivation for acquiring Kastriotis’s archive was his connection with the Schliemann family. Kastriotis was the nephew of Sophia Schliemann, and his papers contained information about the Schliemann family.
Archival collections intercommunicate like “communicating vessels.” While processing the Kastriotis papers, we came across two detailed drawings of the Artemision horse. Why? Kastriotis was working as a conservator at the National Archaeological Museum in 1936 when more pieces of the horse were caught in a fishing net. “It was only in 1936 that the hindquarters and part of the body of a bronze horse were discovered by fishermen dragging the seabed with nets off Cape Artemision. An archaeological report in the Bulletin de correspondence hellénique illustrates this large fragment…” (Hemingway 2004, 42). And Kastriotis was trying to see, at least on paper, whether the new fragments belonged to the horse fragments that had been retrieved in 1928.
Hemingway, as did Kallipolitis, dates the group to the 2nd century B.C., further connecting the Artemision shipwreck with the sack of Corinth by general Mummius in 146 B.C. According to Pausanias, Mummius, after sacking Corinth, sent most of the city’s statues to Rome and some to Pergamon. The fact that some of the pottery retrieved from the shipwreck was of Pergamene origin has been used to suggest that the ship was sent from Pergamon to pick up booty from Corinth, unfortunately sinking off Cape Artemision on its way back (Hemingway 2004, 146-147). Other theories have speculated a different point of departure for the bronzes, including the sanctuaries at Dion, Delphi, Demetrias, and more recently the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestus in Boeotia, where recent excavations by Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, and Alexandra Charami, Ephor of Boeotia, have discovered remains of several sacred building as well as metallic parts of harnesses. (See The Onchestos Archaeological Project.) This new discovery combined with literary sources, such as the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, about unusual chariot races with newly tamed colts at Poseidon’s precinct in Onchestos adds another candidate to the list of sanctuaries suggested for the original location of the Artemision bronzes.
From Lucy S. Meritt’s History of the American School of Classical Studies (hereafter ASCSA or the School), we learn that the ASCSA was also briefly involved in the retrieval of the Artemision shipwreck in 1952. “Professor Mylonas who served as Annual Professor in 1951-52… in fall 1952 with S. A. Dontas and Chr. Karouzos directed the sea investigation of the ship found earlier off Artemision, this latter actually with a permit issued to the American School” (Meritt 1984, p. 60). “We employed five divers with two diving suits and a sailing boat equipped with appropriate machinery, and the ‘Alkyone’… The divers worked in the morning and until one in the afternoon; then the ‘Alkyone’ took over and in the afternoon dragged the floor of the ocean… Unfortunately, we have no find to report, but we were able to locate the ship which in 1928 yielded the bronze statues…” mentions Mylonas’s report to the School (AdmRec 204/4 folder 4). With this in mind I was able to identify some snapshots from the 1952 exploration in the George Mylonas Papers.
I became further interested in the Artemision shipwreck when, recently, I came across correspondence referring to it in the School’s Administrative Records, as well as in the Oscar Broneer Papers. The files I found, however, were not about Mylonas’s project; instead, they preserved correspondence from the years 1936-1938, and their content is not mentioned in either of the two published ASCSA histories. The key figure in the School’s effort to initiate new underwater research at Artemision in the 1930s was not an archaeologist after all, but an American industrialist: Philip R. Allen of Walpole, Massachusetts.
“I had luncheon with Mr. Allen in Boston and he was full of his archaeological interests in Greece. He hopes that there will be soon a favorable response to his proposal to [George] Oikonomos about the Artemesium project. The terms he proposed seem to me very generous, as I understood them—viz. if the Government would furnish the tug-boat with derrick equipment, and would agree to recompense the divers for their finds in some reasonable amount, he himself would defray all other expenses, including the wages of the men; and the Government would send an ephor to oversee the work,” wrote Edward Capps, the Chair of the School’s Managing Committee, to Oscar Broneer, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the School, on June 16, 1936. Mr. Allen was also the main sponsor of Broneer’s excavations on the North Slope of the Acropolis. The School was also hoping that Allen would pick up some of the expenses for the restoration of the Lion of Amphipolis, a project that was in the works at the same time. There was also talk between Capps and the President of the Board of Trustees, William Rodman Peabody, about inviting Allen to become a Trustee of the School.
Allen was chairman of Bird & Son, a company established in 1795 that owned paper mills and made roofing material. By the early 20th century the firm had expanded and built plants at various locations in Massachusetts and in other states. (By 1969 it employed nearly 2500 employees and produced such products as shoe cartons, asphalt shingles and siding, tack boxes, and frozen food container. In 1983 its name was changed to Bird Inc., and then again in 1990 to its current name Bird Corporation. For more, see Norwood Historical Society.)
Allen was also active on various boards, such as the Greater Boston Salvation Army Advisory Board, while in 1938 he was elected President of the Trustees of the New England Conservatory of Music. He appears in the list of the School’s Board of Trustees for the first time in 1943-1944, a position he held until 1962, the year of his death. “Mr. Allen was the last of the large Boston group of Trustees who virtually directed the Board’s activities during the early decades of this century. Well-grounded himself in the Classics, he was especially interested in the School’s excavations, and, fired with the romantic as well as the scientific possibilities of original methods of exploration, was a pioneer in encouraging underwater archaeology long before its recent widespread fame,” as noted in the School’s Annual Report for 1962-1963, acknowledging Allen’s earlier interest in the Artemision shipwreck.
In reading Capps’s description of Allen’s plan, it struck me as odd that Allen was concerned about recompensing the local divers for their finds. A letter by Allen to Charles H. Morgan, the new Director of the School, written on August 27, 1936, provides more information about the project as well as the compensation of the divers. Allen refers to a meeting he had with Professor Georgios P. Oikonomos (Director of the Archaeological Service) in the presence of Aristeides Kyriakides, the School’s legal counsel. In so doing, Allen provides an interesting background story for his interest in the Artemision shipwreck.
For over two years Mr. George Hasslacher of New York and I have been discussing with representatives of the Greek fishermen, who claimed to be the ones who originally found the statues off Artemisium Point, the matter of further work there. They wanted to raise $10,000 in this country to carry on the work, claiming that they had seen other statues in the sea, especially the horse from which the Jockey had been pulled. They claimed to have exclusive permission from the Greek Government to do further work there and also that there would be considerable profit to those who put up the money because the Greek Government would pay well for whatever was found and if the Greek Government didn’t want the findings, they could be sold in other countries at good pricesASCSA Archives, Charles H. Morgan Papers, box 1, folder 5
Both Allen and Hasslacher showed restraint in their communication with the fishermen and their U.S. representatives asking for “documentary proof,” which, of course, never came. When Allen went to visit Oikonomos, the latter explained “that such a project could not possibly be handled in this way; that there could be no large sum paid for any findings because the budget was small; that the best that the Greek Government ever did was to give some ‘gratification’ to the man who reported the finding and probably would pay for the expense that anybody went to in any given worthwhile finding.” Oikonomos further suggested that the Greek government could furnish some sort of a naval vessel, provided that Allen could raise the money to pay the expenses of the divers. Allen asked Morgan to continue the discussions with OIkonomos for a joint operation between the School and the Greek Government. Allen was willing to go along with whatever decision the two parties reached, with only one condition, “that Mr. Hasslacher and myself are to have the privilege of being on the expedition for as much time as we arrange to be there.”
Unfortunately two weeks after this letter was mailed, Hasslacher died tragically when he plunged sixteen floors from a building on Fortieth Street in Manhattan. George F. Hasslacher (1896-1936) was a chemist, Princeton Class of 1917, who was part of a family business, Roessler & Hasslacher Chemical Co., that produced chlorine products, hydrogen peroxide and metal cyanids. In 1933 he joined Snyder MacLaren Processes Inc., a company specializing in protecting metal surfaces from corrosion by depositing a thin film of lead on the metal surface. Clearly Hasslacher’s involvement in the Artemision project aligned with his scientific interests.
Following Hasslacher’s unexpected death, Allen continued to pursue the Artemision Project on his own, always in communication with the School’s leadership. However, Allen’s initial contacts with the representatives of the Greek fishermen now began to work against him. On September 25, 1936, Broneer shared with Capps a strange encounter he had had.
A gentleman, by the name Chester Valencia, who said he was a friend of Mr. Allen’s, came the other day and asked me concerning the project of searching for further statuary off the coast of Euboea… He said he had spoken to Mr. Allen before leaving America, and was now over here trying to make some kind of agreement with Mr. Gounalakis, who was formerly engaged by the government when the bronzes were brought to light. Gounalakis had given Mr. Valencia to understand that the government would grant a blank permit for searching the sea at this point, with the understanding that the finders were to receive all duplicates and have the money value of other pieces of sculpture.ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers, box 29, folder 3
Once again there was the issue of recompensing the divers for their finds. Broneer alerted by his conversation with Valencia went to see Oikonomos. And rightly so, because Oikonomos told him that Valencia had been misinformed by Mr. Gounalakis and “that the government would under no circumstances grant a permit of that nature” and that “Mr. Allen had been informed about this matter when he was here last year.” Broneer communicated Oikonomos’s reply to Valencia, who told him that “he considered the whole project fallen through.”
A search in newspapers.com about Valencia produced interesting information. A Californian from Ventura County, Chester (Chet) Esteban Valencia made his first appearance in the West Coast press in 1928 as a young stowaway in a steamer to Honolulu. “He is said to have been of an adventurous nature and so known among his friends when in Ventura” reported the local newspaper (The Ventura County Star and the Ventura Daily Post, 27 Sep 1928). He lived in Honolulu until 1932 working at the McBryde Sugar Plantation in Kauai. Ten years later his name reappeared in the newspapers. This time to announce his marriage to Sylvia MacGuffog of Westboro, Mass., the niece of State Senator Charles Cabot Johnson. It was probably through his marriage into the MacGuffog family and his relocation to Massachusetts that Valencia became acquainted with Allen, and somehow concocted the plan of profiteering from the Artemision project.
The same day that Broneer was communicating to Capps his concerns about Valencia, Morgan was also dispatching a letter to Capps outlining his plan to approach the King “to get his Majesty’s interest in the proposition, for I am sure it will appeal to him” and saying that he would not bother Oikonomos (obviously unaware of Broneer’s meeting) until he had “the King’s approval of the scheme” (AdmRec 318/4, folder 1, September 25, 1936).
One of Those Romantic Dreams
Morgan’s subsequent efforts to get Oikonomos’s ear about Allen’s proposal were fruitless. “He has been very evasive about the business all fall” complained Morgan to Capps (318/4, folder 1, January 14, 1937). Oikonomos asked to be sent a clear statement of Allen’s proposal. A few weeks later Allen mailed Morgan a statement of his proposal: “I would prefer to have this as a joint operation of the School with the Greek Government but if the Greek Government would prefer to have it as their project and the American School act as my fiscal agent, approving the bills that may be submitted covering the divers’ operations and rental of equipment (which I undertook to pay up to $1,000) that would be satisfactory to me” (AdmRec Box 204/4 folder 4, Feb. 1, 1937). According to the proposal, the Greek Government would furnish a suitable naval boat at its expense. And there was no mention of special compensation for the divers. Allen hoped that all negotiations would have progressed enough by the time of his arrival in March 1937, and that he would be able to watch the work off Cape Artemision in person. This did not happen but on May 29, 1937, after Allen had returned to the States, Morgan telegraphed: “Government will agree to Artemision Project” to which Allen immediately answered, “Congratulations Check Deposited with Treasurer Weld Today” (AdmRec 204/4 folder 4).
Despite the good news, the Artemision Project did not progress further. The next communication between Allen and Morgan dates from April 1938. “I have put off writing this letter way beyond the bounds of propriety, but I have constantly continued to hope that I might get some sort of commitment from the Ministry about your proposal concerning work under the sea at Artemision. I mentioned the matter to the authorities on innumerable occasions, and the gist of the answers has always been that the Government cannot refuse the offer, but that there is some difficulty with the conditions as outlined when the proposal was made. This, of course, is a sheer nonsense, for you will remember how carefully we left out all conditions from the proposal,” wrote Morgan to Allen on April 11, 1938 (AdmRec Box 204/4, folder 4). Morgan concluded that “they do not feel that can refuse the offer, but are unwilling to take any steps whatever to accept it.”
Despite having the School act as an intermediary and guarantor for the Artemision Project, I suspect that the Archaeological Service got cold feet once racketeers like Valencia and Gounalakis began trying to make their own negotiations. Oikonomos and other members of the Service were probably still aware of the litigation against the Greek State by the boat crew that had retrieved the Antikythera shipwreck in the early 1900s for not having been properly recompensed (Bafataki 2018).
“I have nothing else to do except to drop the matter… You mustn’t feel hurt about it. It was just one of those romantic dreams I wish we could have gone through…” was Allen’s final words on the Artemision Project .
AdmRec 204/4, folder 4, Allen to Morgan, April 27, 1938
And, it indeed remained just that — a dream.
Bafataki, V. 2018. “Η συμβολή των πολιτιστικών χορηγών και ευεργετών στην έρευνα και ανάδειξη της πολιτιστικής κληρονομιάς: Η περίπτωση του ναυαγίου και του μηχανισμού των Αντικυθήρων” (Senior thesis, Greek Open University).
Hemingway, S. 2004. The Horse and Jockey from Aremision: A Bronze Equestrian Monument of the Hellenistic Period, Berkeley.
Meritt, L.S. 1984. History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939-1980, Princeton.
Mylonas, G. 1944. “The Bronze Statue from Artemision,” AJA 48, pp. 143-160.
Mylonopoulos, I. 2016. “Ἀνασκαφὴ ἱεροῦ Ποσειδῶνος στὴ βοιωτικὴ Ὀγχηστό,” PAE 2015, pp. 219-229.
Varvarousis, P. and P. Papaevaggelou 2017. Ογχήστιος Ποσειδώνας: Λατρεία και πολιτική, Athens.
Following the Cretan revolt of 1896, six Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and England) sent a squadron of warships to Crete in early 1897 to maintain the fragile peace between the Muslim and the Christian communities. France appointed Admiral Édouard Pottier (1839-1903) to lead her naval forces. The French division included Colonel Émile-Honoré Destelle (1856-1944), who brought previous experience in the colonies of New Calydonia and Madagascar. The Colonel disembarked on Crete in February of 1897 to supervise the administration of the eastern part of the island.
I would not have known about Destelle had I not come across the publication of his military diaries from 1897 and 1898 on a recent visit to the Historical Museum in Herakleion (a must for anyone visiting Crete). Edited by his grandson Jean-Pierre Destelle and translated into Greek by Emmanuela Tzedaki with a thorough commentary by Maria Sorou, and published by the Society of Cretan Historical Studies in 2018-2019, Destelle’s diaries document in great detail his administrative activities, as well as everyday life in East Crete just before the island was declared an autonomous state under the protection of the Great Powers. For me, after excavating and traveling in the regions of Siteia and Ierapetra for the past three decades, Destelle’s descriptions offered unique glimpses into Crete’s pre-industrial past. (The Destelle family maintains an excellent web page.)
Destelle’s diaries became my evening companion during my six weeks on Crete this summer, while participating in the Mochlos excavations. I was digging a Hellenistic fort on the summit of Mochlos, trying to understand how it functioned and which city it served, and Destelle was describing the daily activities of an army camp in the same region more than a hundred years ago. I mined the pair of books for ethnographic information, especially communications, since transportation on Crete before the early 20th century was hardly any different from that of ancient times.
Destelle was originally stationed in Siteia before transferring his headquarters to Ierapetra. After the Italian squadron dissolved in early 1898, the French took over administration of all of East Crete including the eparchy of Viannos. From the beginning of his service, Destelle aimed at improving the region’s infrastructure. He recorded in minute detail departure and arrival times during his travels by horse or by boat. He also noted other people’s traveling times.
The publication of his diaries does not include any maps, which would have been very useful to the reader. Upon my return to Athens, however, I was fortunate to find in the Stephanos Dragoumis papers (Dragoumis served as General Commissioner of Crete and Macedonia in 1912-1913) at the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies three leaves of a French map of the Lasithi region from 1907, documenting the road system. This allowed me to follow and understand Destelle’s travels. (These maps are now digitized and available online in high resolution.)
While stationed in Siteia, Destelle preferred to travel to Agios Nikolaos by boat, almost never by land, although there was a road connecting Siteia with Candia (Herakleion). The boat ride varied from three to five hours depending on weather and winds (1897, 178). In one case it took them 6 ½ hours to cover the shorter distance from Spinalonga to Pacheia Ammos because of adverse winds (1898, 102). He and the other officers traveled by warships, either protected cruisers, such as the Galilée (with a length of 100.63 m and top speed of 20.5 knots or 38.0 km/h) and the Suchet (of similar length and speed), or armored ones, such as the Amiral Charner (length 110.2m and top speed 17 knots or 31km/h), or torpedo cruisers such as the Vautour, all built in the 1890s, when France invested heavily in its navy to keep pace with the increasing size of Italian and German fleets. These ships traversed the north cost of Crete on a daily basis carrying soldiers, supplies, and mail. In Siteia, Destelle hardly felt disconnected from the rest of Crete and or from his family at Toulon in Southern France. However, he was somewhat disappointed by the irregularity of boat traffic when he moved to Ierapetra, since fewer ships braved the long and rough route from Siteia to Ierapetra.
For comparison, one notes that in antiquity merchant boats such as the Kyreneia (4th century B.C.) did not reach speeds higher than 3-4 knots. Even faster Roman boats would not travel faster than 6 knots. In addition, most seafaring stopped all together during the winter months.
Destelle moved to Ierapetra on April 22, 1898. The Galillee departed from Siteia at 9pm, arriving at Ierapetra eight hours later at 6am. From the boat Destelle found Ierapetra impressive with her castle, the glittering minarets, and the high mountains in the background (1898, 70-71). What he could not see was the malarial swamp lurking at the eastern edge of the city. Destelle received the city from the Italians and paid his respects to the Turkish commander.
A few days later (April 28, 1898) he traveled to Pacheia Ammos (where Harriet Boyd would pitch her tent in 1900 to excavate the Minoan town of Gournia and where INSTAP built the Study Center for East Crete in 1997), to visit the family of Andreas Vourdoubakis who worked for the French as a translator. Destelle described the road as flat and vehicular, surrounded by olive groves. It took him 2 ½ hours to cross the Ierapetra Isthmus by horse. By early November of 1889 the French had built a new road, decreasing the distance between the two places by an hour (always by horse). The French also favored local horses for their travels, since their military horses struggled for footing on the rough Cretan paths. “My little Cretan horse treads like a goat with an incredible, safe foothold” Destell scribbled with pride in his diary (1898, 188).
In addition to improving the infrastructure of the Lasithi region by building or repairing roads and bridges, the French undertook a more ambitious project: the construction of a canal at Elounda, which would shorten the boat ride from Spinalonga to Agios Nikolaos by an hour. Canal building became the hallmark of engineering in the 19th century, offering tremendous improvements in navigation and long distance trade. In the Mediterranean two of the most important canals, the Suez (1869) and Corinth (1893) canals, had already been opened by French companies.
The guiding spirit for the construction of the Elounda canal was Émile Dupourqué (1859-1939), commander of Spinalonga and first lieutenant of the Amiral Charner. During the excavations for the canal, which lasted a year (1897-1898), the French army discovered the ruins of ancient Olous, including an early Christian basilica with a beautiful mosaic. According to oral testimonies, when the French found the mosaic they fired 21 canons out of joy (Makrakis 2017). In February 1898, Destelle paid a visit to the small museum in Spinalonga that the French army had built in order to house the finds from the excavation of the canal. He had heard about a large (H. 1.25; L. 0.45; 0.19 thickness) and important inscription which was about to be taken to the Louvre (1898, 54-55). The inscription, first published by Joseph Demargne (1870-1912) in the Bulletin Correspondance Hellenique (1900, 222-246) and later included by Margherita Guarducci in Inscriptiones Creticae I, preserves a proxeny decree recording names of people who were granted proxeneia, including that of a Macedonian, Patroclus, son of Patron. He was later identified as stratêgos Patroclus, the one who led the Ptolemaic fleet against the Macedonian king Antigonus Gonatas in the 260s B.C. As part of his Aegean campaign, Patroclus secured a number of bases in Attica and on Crete, Kea, and Thera.
Tasting the Local Culture
Destelle had to procure meat for his soldiers. On May 10, 1897, he described the arrival of a small procession consisting of six calves, several donkeys loaded with suckling pigs (each donkey carried three on a side) and soldiers holding live chickens in their hands (1897, p. 122). Although today the sight of a cow is a rare spectacle in Crete, there was an abundance of bovines on the island before WW II, used mostly for agricultural work and less for food. (See also Rackham and Moody, The Making of the Cretan Landscape, Manchester 1996, Chapter 7, Domestic Animals and Plants: “Cattle appear sporadically in Venetian records… In 1579 the Governor Foscarini reported a shortage of plough oxen, because many had been eaten or plundered in the recent Turkish war; he forbade any more to be slaughtered… Raulin in 1847 estimated that there were 65,000 cattle in the island, but very few of these small, thin, brown animals are left…”.)
On his travels through the Cretan countryside, Destelle took the opportunity to taste the local food, which he admired and described in detail in his diaries. On his first visit to Moni Toplou in June 1897, he was offered raki, fresh artichokes cut into slices, and fresh almonds. To this repast, the French contributed their own supplies: kavourmas, sardines, foie-gras and bread. The abbot further supplied the meal with an offer of rum (“to soften the stomach”), a milk soup garnished with lemon, chicken with rice, and a green salad made of onions, peppers, cucumbers, and purslane. All of this was consumed with Cretan wine made at the monastery (today the monastery continues to bottle its own wine). At the end of the meal, the monks brought out a selection of locally made cheeses, fresh almonds, raki, rum with sugar, and fresh lemonade (1897, 158-159).
Destelle returned to Toplou in early October of the same year to attend the celebrations for St. John the Theologian. (All of Destelle’s dates follow the Gregorian calendar; Greece until 1923 followed the Old Calendar.) Once again he describes in detail the meal that followed the mass and the celebratory dances: pork (suckling pig) ragu, fried fish, hare in wine stew, pork in the oven, and lamb stew. “Everything is well cooked, but, as in the cuisine of Southern France, very spicy, which would not please a Northern European” (1897, 334). For dessert they were served watermelon, grapes, pomegranates, almonds, and loukoumi and Turkish coffee). The wine reminded him of “very good Madeira wine.” Destelle consistently praised the quality of the Cretan wine (which is notable given his background).
At Males, a village high up to the northwest of Ierapetra, they were served food that was simply cooked but very tasty: lamb and pork in the oven, hare in wine stew, cucumber salad and anthogalo (a creamy cheese made of sheep and goat milk), and “a wonderful local wine.”
Most of this good wine was produced in vineyards on the slopes of the Thrypte Plateau, northeast of Ierapetra. The harvest began in early September and lasted for about 20 days. The grapes were laid out in the sun for two-three days before treading. That process explained their slight sweetness, according to Destelle. He asked his local friends why all the vineyards of Ierapetra were concentrated in this area. Good soil and frequent rains favored the growth of vineyards, as well as pear and apple trees (1898, 210-212).
During his many trips in the Lasithi region, Destelle also noted repeatedly the sad spectacle of uprooted olive groves and orchards around the abandoned Muslim villages (1898, 47). The Greek revolutionaries had forced the Ottoman population to flee the country, and, in order to make sure that they would not return, the Greeks destroyed their houses and uprooted their olive trees. Since olive trees take years to become productive, their destruction was a terrible blow to the Ottoman farmers.
During his administration Destelle would also take measures against the removal of bark (πίτυκας) from the pine trees, which was used in leather-making. The export of bark to Egypt was a profitable business that resulted, however, in the destruction of large pine forests (1898, 124).
In order to avoid paying export taxes to the Turks, Cretans often traded their products illegally on remote beaches and in coves. During this transitional period with an on-going revolution and with the Turks confined to the urban centers (because they no longer felt safe living in the countryside), the Cretans felt no obligation to pay custom duties either to the Turkish authorities or to the supervising powers.
In one case, while visiting the Monastery of Faneromeni, west of Siteia, the French spotted a number of huts at the end of a ravine near the beach. The Cretans used the huts while preparing citrons for (illegal) exportation. The citrons were kept in barrels full of sea water that was replenished frequently (1897, 352). Although now largely abandoned on Crete, the cultivation of citrons was popular in the 19th and the early decades of the 20th century. According to Michalis Frangiadakis (father of the current owner of Kochylia restaurant at Mochlos, George), whom I interviewed a few years ago, citron was one of the main commodities exported from the little harbor of Mochlos in the 1940s and 1950s. They were stored in barrels, which made it easy to roll them down to Mochlos! (While searching for more about the trade of citrons in Crete, I discovered that the Megaron Hotel in Herakleion originally belonged to the Fytakis-Kassapakis family, which made its money from growing citrons and trading in them. Read “Το Μέγαρο Φυτάκη και τα κίτρα στο Ηράκλειο.”)
A Memorable Feast
On October 13, 1897, Destelle, doctor Barthélemy, and a Greek by the name of Tsambarlakis left at 4:40 am from Siteia to go by horses and mules to the village of Tourloti at the invitation of Emmanouel Phoundalides (1850-1909), an important Cretan who had held several political appointments on the island, and who, in 1897, was representing the revolutionary Cretans in the area. At about 6.30 am they passed the village of Chamaizi, and at 7.30 they were at Exo Mouliana. Destelle noted that Turkish houses in the village were abandoned and destroyed. But the deep valley in front of them was full of orchards and a few walnut trees. They met Phoundalidis near the village of Mouliana, and, as they entered the village they heard welcoming bells tolling as a welcome sign.
The entire village, as well a large body of armed Cretans who were firing their guns (μπαλωθιές) in all directions, was out to receive the French with flowers as they cheered “Vive la France” (Ζήτω η Γαλλία). After five hours of traveling they finally entered Tourloti. After inspecting the village and the surrounding area, Destelle and his company sat down at Phoundalidis’s house for lunch. He was impressed by the setting: starched white tablecloth, clean plates and glasses, and carafes full of rosé wine. They started the meal with a chicken soup, followed by boiled chicken garnished with thick salt, and a suckling pig baked in the oven. For dessert they were served grapes, a tasty local cheese, and little cheese pies. As a departing gift Madame Phoundalides offered them a large bouquet made of basil, orange leaves, and marigold. While there, Doctor Barthelemy inspected a number of patients. “It is the practical aspect of our mission” Destelle noted (1897, 340-350).
I left for last Destelle’s archaeological expeditions in East Crete. In the French tradition of combining imperial expansion with scientific research, Destelle made an effort to visit many archaeological sites and old churches in East Crete, received and entertained archaeologists, and also collected specimens of geological, and, occasionally, of archaeological interest.
While on one of his frequent visits to Spinalonga, Destelle met Victor Bérard (1864-1931), an enlightened professor at the École des Hautes Études and former student of the French School in Athens (1887-1890), who, according to a recent article, “was also passionate about the Eastern Question and campaigned for the peoples subject to the Ottoman Empire” (Basch 2015). A few days later Bérard would join Destelle on an excursion to the Toplou Monastery (1897, 310-314). Bérard explained to his companions the content of the large inscription at the entrance to the church. Found by Admiral Spratt in 1853, it was brought to the church and immured there on Spratt’s initiative. This (now famous) inscription of the late 2nd century B.C. preserves the largest part of an arbitration of the conflict between the cities of Hierapytna and Itanos over the control of the Sanctuary of Zeus Dictaeus and the island of Leuke. (On the inscription, content, and copies, see Ager 1996, 431, no. 158.)
On January 3, 1898, Destelle organized a trip to the cave of Peristeras on the peak of Mount Modi near Siteia (1898, 19-20). He described it as a labyrinth with rooms full of large stalactites, and diligently noted that the Cretans who had accompanied them were collecting the pointiest ones: “they pierce them from one side to the other, and use them as pipes for smoking.”
At ancient Itanos (Erimoupolis) Destelle stumbled on a partially exposed female statue missing head and hands, looted sarcophagoi, and fragments of pottery. One local showed them a large and intact amphora of “museum quality” (1898, 33-34).
In the spring of 1898 Destelle came across Arthur Evans in Siteia. Evans, who was touring the island looking for sites to excavate, gladly accepted Destelle’s invitation to stay with the French. He shared with them his interest in prehistory and ancient scripts, and told them about his large collections of seals. When Destelle showed him the figurines he had collected from Praisos, Evans explained that they were votives dedicated to Kore-Persephone (1898, 67).
While stationed in Ierapetra, the French would stage theatrical performances for the entertainment of the soldiers, which Destelle always enjoyed. One of them was staged “at the ancient Greek theater which is in perfect condition,” noted Destelle on May 12, 1898 (1898, 108). Which of the three theaters of ancient Hierapytna was Destelle referring to? It is also strange that he is referring to a well preserved theater, when until recently the archaeologists could not locate any one of the three theaters. Since 2012, Chrysa Sofianou and the Ephorate of Lasithi in collaboration with the city’s municipalities has brought to light one of the three theaters at the site of Viglia, at the western edge of the city (Sofianou and Gallimore 2019, 13-15). But it appears likely that the French were using a theater within the city, either the large theater to the north of the Plastiras square or the Roman amphitheater which was probably located in the area of the now demolished old soap/oil factory Minos.
The Cretan State
On December 21 1898, Destelle travelled to Chania to participate in the celebrations for the declaration of Crete as an autonomous state (still under the Ottoman Empire but without any Ottoman troops on the island) and the arrival of Prince George, second son of King George of Greece, who would become the first governor of the new state. He described Prince George as a tall, impressive man with delicate features: blue eyes, a thin mustache, thin hair, and fair skin. But he also found him a bit cold and aloof. Somehow, Destelle had already sensed that the new leader would have a hard time bonding with his people (1898, 329-330).
Destelle stayed on Crete until 1899 when he returned to France for health reasons. He would return two years later in June 1901, as High Commander of the International Army, bringing with him his family. However, continuous health problems forced him to leave Crete in 1904, this time for good. He would miss the Revolt of Therisos in 1905 and the replacement of Prince George, who, as Destelle predicted, had managed to alienate himself from the Cretan people.
1897: Émile-Honoré Destelle: Ημερολόγιο 1897 (Εταιρεία Κρητικών Ιστορικών Μελετών, Μαρτυρίες 10), Herakeion 2018.
1898: Émile–Honoré Destelle: Ημερολόγιο 1898 (Εταιρεία Κρητικών Ιστορικών Μελετών, Μαρτυρίες 111), Herakeion 2019.
Ager, S. 1996. Interstate Arbitrations in the Greek World, 337–90 B.C. Berkeley
Basch, Sophie (ed.), 2015. Portraits de Victor Bérard: Actes du colloque international organisé à l’École française d’Athènes (5-6 avril 2013). Athens (https://books.openedition.org/efa/3948#tocto1n7 )
Betancourt, P.P. 2003. Greece and Her Neighbors in Historic Postcards: 1895-1920, Athens.
Makrakis, M. 2017. “Το χρονικό της διάνοιξης του καναλιού στην Ελούντα 1897-1898,” (https://fonien.gr/ το-χρονικό-της-διάνοιξης-του-καναλιού/) – Accessed Sept. 1, 2021
Sofianou, Ch. and S. Gallimore 2019. “Recent Excavations at the Small Theater of Ierapetra,” Kentro 22, pp. 13-15.
Among the first things one notices when approaching the Gennadius Library is the large inscription on the architrave of the neoclassical building, built by the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or the School hereafter) in 1926 to house the personal library of John Gennadius. It reads: ΕΛΛΗΝΕΣ ΚΑΛΟΥΝΤΑΙ ΟΙ ΤΗΣ ΠΑΙΔΕΥΣΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΗΜΕΤΕΡΑΣ ΜΕΤΕΧΟΝΤΕΣ, that is, GREEKS THEY ARE CALLED THOSE WHO SHARE IN OUR EDUCATION. It is a line taken from Isocrates, Panegyricus 50.
In the School’s Archives there is extensive correspondence between the Chair, Edward Capps, and the Secretary of the Managing Committee, Edward D. Perry, concerning this choice of passage. Both men were distinguished classicists: Capps (1866-1950) was a professor of Classics at Princeton and one of the three original editors of the Loeb Classical Library, and Perry (1854-1938) taught Greek and Sanskrit at Columbia University for several decades.
The original guidelines from the architects of the building, John Van Pelt and W. Stuart Thompson, limited the length of the inscription to twenty letters; in addition, the architects insisted on placing two rosettes to the left and right of the inscription.
The discussions about the inscription began in late 1922, as soon as the School had secured funding from the Carnegie Corporation for the construction of the library. “The book plate of [John] Gennadius contains: ΚΤΑΣΘΕ ΒΙΒΛΙΑ ΨΥΧΗΣ ΦΑΡΜΑΚΑ [buy these books, which are the medicine of the soul]. I think you could get up something better for the frieze over the entrance” Capps teased Perry on October 29, 1922. . To which Perry answered: “I have been thinking over the matter a good deal, but so far have hit upon nothing that pleases me. As he [John Van Pelt] says ‘an inscription some twenty letters long’ I feel a good deal crammed. I will send him, as a mere suggestion to work with, the following, taken with slight changes from Aeschylus’s Prometheus, line 460: ΣΥΝΘΕΣΕΙΣ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΩΝ ΜΝΗΜΗ ΑΠΑΝΤΩΝ [“the combinations of letters, memory of all things”] which is thirty letters long” (AdmRec 311/3, folder 5, November 3, 1922).Read the rest of this entry »
On March 31, 1947, Gisela Richter, Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, sent a confidential letter to Carl W. Blegen, Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished archaeologist. Richter approached Blegen not only because they were friends but because, by having lived in Greece for many years, Blegen had formed strong connections with the local community at all levels. In addition, during World War II, Blegen had offered his services to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and, upon his return to Greece, he had served as Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy (1945-1946). Richter was writing Blegen about five pieces of Greek sculpture on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, including Kore 675 from the Acropolis. Richter refers to her as the “Maiden”.
“As I think I told you, we are naturally anxious to return to the Greeks what they have kindly lent us but very much hope that some arrangement can be made by which we may retain that one Maiden. The other pieces we are not even going to ask for, as there are obvious reasons in each case why the Greeks would not want to part with them, and asking for them would only weaken our case for the Maiden. The latter is one of many, and would hardly be missed in Athens, whereas here she would act as an ambassadress of goodwill, etc., etc.”
Richter sought Blegen’s advice about how to proceed with the request. “The loan to Greece ought to create goodwill for America, but naturally we don’t want to seem to cash in on it.” Richter was referring to President Truman’s announcement of March 1947, known as the Truman Doctrine, whereby the U.S. government granted $300 million in military and economic aid to Greece and $100 million to Turkey. “Would it be better to ask for the piece as a gift and perhaps compensate for it in some other way, or would a direct purchase be better? You who have been in Greece recently and know Greek politics will be able to advise us better than anyone else,” concluded Richter.
Blegen’s response exists only as a draft in his personal papers at the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or School hereafter). The mention of [Spyros] Skouras’s name in his response (not mentioned in Richter’s letter) suggests that Richter might have followed up with a second letter or a telegram or a note to Blegen’s wife, Elizabeth. To Richter’s disappointment, Blegen could not think “of any altogether satisfactory way of approach to recommend” (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, Box 13, folder 1, April 6, 1947). However, he did not reject the idea of having Spyros Skouras, the Greek-American movie mogul, mediate with the Greek authorities “since he has much influence and could apply some pressure. If he could propose it in the right quarters as an idea of his own, not inspired by you, there might be some hope that he could persuade them to make the offer as a spontaneous gesture of friendship.” Blegen thought of another alternative as well: “to ask Bert [Hodge] Hill to try his powers of persuasion.” Hill, Director of the American School from 1906 until 1926, was still considered to be social capital by many at the School. A gifted individual with access to the upper echelons of a small Athenian society, including the royal family, Hill “had his way with men” and could influence politicians. Blegen thought that it would have to be a political decision since the Archaeological Service would likely oppose to it.
There is no other correspondence between Blegen and Richter on this matter. We know that the Acropolis Maiden and the other pieces of sculpture were returned to Greece, so one assumes that either Richter did not press the issue further or that the mediators were unsuccessful. However, it is interesting to read an announcement in the Greek newspaper ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ on August 11, 1948, titled “The Greek State will Sell Certain Antiquities. Superfluous in Museums,” which implies that the Ministry of Education might have considered briefly the idea of selling duplicate antiquities, in order to finance the reopening of Greek museums and the beautification of those archaeological sites that had suffered much during the War.Read the rest of this entry »