Athens as a neoclassical symbol

Classic Athens Revival concept

Athens, a dream among wonderful ruins, as described in a phrase of the French landscape painter, sculptor, architect, archaeologist Louis-François Cassas. Athens at that time was a city that survived from raids and invasions since Persian Wars, but its last centuries threat was the sack of its archaeological treasures, especially during Ottoman period. When westerners firstly visited Ottoman occupied Athens, Romanticism came down to Philhellenism, following neoclassicism, ancient Greek Revival, and absolute trade of antiquities. Their Athens neoclassical route was simple: Thisseio, Tower of the Winds, Pnyx, Ancient Agora and definitely Acropolis, until the modern neoclassical building will appear at the Attic land.

One of the most famous Philhellenes, Lord Byron (whose statue is at Zappeion today) wrote a poem about that the destruction of Parthenon from Elgin, named the Curse of Minerva, a fantastic dialogue between him and goddess Athena. The business of Greek antiquities was the other side of the coin of Greek Revival in Architecture, and it was a global network. In order to succesfully trade Greek antiquities, new companies were created, one in Italy in 1807, from Charles Robert Cockerell, an English architect, smuggler, and writer, who arrived in Athens the same year as Lord Byron did, 1811. In order to excavate Greece and send antiquities to the European market, involving English, French, Germans, Austrians, and more. Their goal was basically Aigina, Olympia and Figalia. Their initial base was in Athens, at the home of Louis François Sébastien Fauvel who was selling items but also guiding people around and providing information.

The Acropolis as seen from the house of Fauvel, the French consul in Athens. Handpainted lithograph by Louis Dupre from the album “Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinople, ou collection de portraits, des vues et de costumes Grecs et Ottomans, peints sur les lieux, d ΄apres nature”, Paris, 1825.

The famous painting of Fauvel’s house from Kirristou street house showings antiquities shows the dark side of Grand Tour. Consequently, Greek Antiquities were finally protected in 1827 by law and the Athens National Archaeological Museum opened its gates in 1866.

Dupré visited Greece in 1819, which had still been part of the Ottoman Empire, and recorded his time there with drawings and descriptions of the people from the different levels of society. Therefore, his personal travel diary, named Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople,was produced a few years later after his travels, in 1825. It was released in France after Greece had begun to rebel against the Ottoman Empire. His travel book consists of forty illustrations and accompanied by fifty-two pages of text.

Athens as an independent city

Athens suffered a lot one again from wars with Ottomans. After liberation, architects and foreigners of all professions helped to reconstruct a city that was ruined. All this effort is today under the term of neoclassical Athens.

You can explore this part of Athens history at Athens University history museum. 

 

Modern Athens

Athens today hosts events such as Athens Marathon, Olympic Flame Ceremony, Athens Festival and more international events that show the city’s cosmopolitan characther.

 

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