An Unconventional Union: “Mr. and Mrs. George Kosmopoulos”

“That giant Arcadian mountaineer, servant, foreman and friend, proved the hero of the week-end. I never saw any one more dignified, grave and competent, and as he came from the heights of Arcadia, his physique was impressive, unlike that of the usual wiry little Greek. He brought us tea in the Museum, which we ate sitting among baskets of pottery and fragments of sculpture” (Conway 1917, p. 37).

The passage above comes from Agnes Ethel Conway’s book, A Ride through the Balkans: On Classic Ground with a Camera, and refers to George (Γεώργιος) Kosmopoulos, the son of Angelis (Αγγελής) –both skilled and highly valued foremen of American and German excavations in Greece in the late 19th and early 20th century.[1] Published in 1917, the book is an account of a journey that two young, English women, Conway and her friend Evelyn Radford, made in the Balkan Peninsula in the spring of 1914 as students of the British School of Archaeology. One of their first excursions, while still living in Athens, was to the nearby site of Corinth, where the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School) had been digging since 1895.

Angelis Kosmopoulos, clad in a fustanella, with German archaeologist William Dörpfeld and Mrs. Dörpfeld (?), Tripolis 1937. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

Evelyn, “had a friend, an archaeologist, who was taking part in the excavations at Corinth, and invited us to come to her for the week-end.” The friend was no other than Alice Leslie Walker (1885-1954), a graduate of Vassar College (Class of 1906) who had already acquired the reputation of a seasoned excavator, having co-directed with Hetty Goldman the excavations of ancient Halae in Boeotia in 1911-1913. Upon arriving at Corinth the two women went to the excavations, where “our friend had just dug up the oldest piece of pottery ever found in the Peloponnese,” described Conway in her book (p. 36). Eighty years later, John C. Lavezzi, writing a biographical essay about Walker (for Brown University’s online project, Breaking Ground: Women in Old World Archaeology) would describe her discovery “as the largest and probably still the most significant deposit of Early Neolithic pottery from Corinth.” (Also check the comments that John Lavezzi and others added to the post since it went online.)

Alice Leslie Walker, 1906. Source: Vassarion… Vassar College, 1906.

The following day the three women and George drove with a “sousta” (a kind of carriage) to ancient Sicyon to see the ancient theater. On the way back they “persuaded George to sing to us… His grandfather had been in close attendance to Kolokotronis and his pride in the songs was splendid to see. He was very anxious that we should understand all the words in the songs, and assured us over and over again that the circumstances were really historical… George had the remains of a fine voice, and to hear a patriot, full of pride in his songs, sing them in his own country, in the moonlight, was an experience worth having” (Conway 1917, pp. 39-40). Read the rest of this entry »