introduction
the profile of the travellers
from a dutch point of view
the power of monuments
idealized landscapes
in search of antiquities
everyday life among ruins
in the service of the divine
athens: a place or an ideal?
ancient vs. contemporary

acknowledgements
selected bibliography
catalogue
links and resources travellers
 

 


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ancient vs. contemporary

Instead of youths and virgins exhibiting models for the sculptor or the painter, he found a hard-featured race thinly scattered over the country, worn down by labour and famine
Thomas Smart Hughes on the peasantry of Arcadia (1830)

What started as an interest in contemporary life from the 17th century onwards became for many travellers an intense evolvement in the political and military events of the early 19th century, especially in their support of the Greek fight for independence against the Ottoman Empire.

Nothing could compare with the ideal of ancient Greece that the European travellers had studied and admired. Thus, they often felt disappointment if not contempt for the contemporary inhabitant of great ancient cities as Athens and Thebes.

Some tried to see similarities between contemporary and ancient Greeks in their countenance and manors. Others could see no connection between a culture that they so idealized and a society which in their eyes was poor, superstitious and ignorant.

The interest in contemporary life in the Ottoman Empire and its subjects (Greeks, Albanians, Jews) came gradually. Elements of everyday life, local customs and traditions started to appear in the travellers' journals as well as in their comments on the political and economic conditions of the Ottoman Empire.