Archaeological Schools In Athens

ARCHAEOLOGY in Athens is almost as much of an immediate and universal interest as politics in Washington; and besides the Archaeological Society of the Athenians themselves, which is constantly rendering important services to the world of scholarship at large, Great Britain, America, France, and Germany maintain each a national school in the Hellenic capital for the promotion of classical studies. Each of these countries is turning its searchlight on the monumental remains of Greek art and architecture; and each finds itself much in harmony with the conspicuous tendency of the Greek mind to study, to interpret, and to propagate the ideas and ideals which are cherished, with a tenacious insistence on the identity of these with the ideas and ideals of the age of Euripides and Pericles. He who would deny this unbroken chain might well fear the fate which the Thracian Thamyris met at the hands of the Muses. As the reader will recall, Homer describes this encounter, when Thamyris boasted that he could excel even the Muses themselves in song: “In their anger the daughters of AEgis-bearing Zeus made him blind, deprived him of his gift, and caused him to forget his harping.” Neither the eyesight nor the possible gifts possessed by any wandering minstrel in Athens would be safe, were he for one instant to question the claim of the modern Greeks to be the recognized descendants of those Greeks who themselves traced their origin to Cecrops.

Professor Mahaffy, whose research into all the phases of the ancient life of Greece, art, literature, philosophy, science, politics and affairs has extended well over half a century, asserts that it is “one of the salient features of the Hellenic race that though very receptive of foreign ideas, though always ready to profit by the discoveries of neighbors, it never abandoned its primacy in type, and was never absorbed into any other population, except perhaps in isolated cases and after centuries of separation from the mother stock.” Indeed, as Professor Mahaffy proceeds to point out: “The Greeks have remained the same in language and in characteristics from the days when Homer composed for the Achaean chiefs, down to this day, when every scholar or student looks upon Athens as the goal of his pilgrimage. The permanence of the Greek language is a great and striking evidence,” continues this learned commentator and critic. “There was never, I suppose, a generation of Greeks from the eighth century B. C. to the twentieth century A. D. which did not understand Homer.” It is as true as it is curious that there is so little difference between the earliest and the contemporary Attic prose as to offer this absolute proof of the persistency of the Greek type. In fact, Professor Mahaffy gives this striking illustration: “Heroditus, if you called him to-day, and put a Greek newspaper into his hands, would at first find the type novel, but would recognize it as his own dialect alphabet; then discover a dialect of his Greek, as he heard it in Athens, and though he would doubtless call it very vulgar, he would in a day or two read it quite fluently.” The characteristics of the Greeks, as a people, persist in the same manner. Not the least of the ardor which inspires the Archaeological Society of Athens is the interest of identifying the great monumental art and the inscriptions found with the Greece of today in the unquestioned relation of ancestor and descendant.

The British, the French, the German, and the American schools of classical culture and archaic research work in full harmony with the school of Athens. The British and the American schools are in close proximity, at the foot of Mount Lycabettus an arrangement of mutual benefit, allowing the easy access of each to the library and various resources of the other, and greatly facilitating the attendance of the students at the lectures given in either school.

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens was founded in 1881 by the Archaeological Institute of this country, and it is supported by the co-operation of the principal universities and colleges, and by private donations from those interested in its work. The school offers admirable opportunities for both men and women graduates, and others suitably qualified, to study classical art, antiquities, and literature in Athens under favorable auspices. While excavations are not a feature of the regular work of the school, any student may, at the discretion of the director, be permitted to join in this work. The school has two fellowships, each with an annual income of six hundred dollars, and the holder of such a fellowship may, with the con-sent of the director, pass a part of the year in the school at Rome. The Carnegie Institute also maintains a fellowship in architecture. The library contains some five thousand volumes and is increasing each year. A limited number of young men who are students of the school may obtain rooms in the house, going elsewhere for meals; but the women students must find residence outside. The director, who is at present Professor Hill, lives in the house, and the chair of Greek language and literature is now filled by Charles Burton Gulick, Ph.D., who has succeeded Professor Francis G. Allison.

The learned Professor Dorpfeld has given a re-cent course of lectures on Athenian topography, which were very valuable; Professor Caro has been heard on the antiquities from the neolithic to the archaic period; Dr. Walter has spoken on the marble bas-reliefs in both the National and the Acropolis museums. The secretaries, too, of both the Austrian and the German schools have given lectures, open to the students of all schools, which have been largely attended.

The French were the first to found a national school in Athens, their institute dating from 1846; in 1874 the German Archaeological Institute established an Athenian branch; and four years later, largely through the influence of Professor Jebb (later Sir Richard Jebb) of Oxford, the attention of the British public was called to the signal advantage it would be to the national scholarship to found an English school of archaeology at’ both Athens and Rome. The comparatively modern nature of archaeological research may be estimated by the fact that in Grote’s History of Greece the name of Mycenae occurs only once, and is then misspelled, the gods on Olympus being apparently no more mythical to the historian than was Mycenae! He vaguely refers to it as the supposed home of Agamemnon. In urging upon the English people the establishment of a school in Athens, Sir Richard Jebb argued that “the student of Greek and Latin should be made to realize that these Greeks and Romans were real, living people, to have some clear knowledge not only of their laws and wars, but also of their social life and of the objects that surrounded them in their every-day existence, and to enjoy the beautiful creations of their art in the light shed upon these from a kindred source in the master-pieces of their literature.”

The successful organization of the American school, in 1881, is largely due to Professor White of Harvard University. The British school had then been established five years, and had focussed the attention of American scholars. James Russell Lowell became the first president of the Board of Trustees, an office he held until his death in 1891. He was succeeded by Charles Eliot Norton. The first director was Professor Goodwin of Harvard, who took up his residence in the building originally secured for the school near the Arch of Hadrian, over-looking the Olympic. At a little distance, to the right, is the Acropolis; and before the eye was such a vision of mountains — Pentelicus, Hymettus, Lycabettus, a very panorama of color as might well haunt the mind forever with its indescribable loveliness. Here and there, through distant hills, a glimpse of the blue sea shone in the sunlight.

Professor Merriam of Columbia succeeded Professor Goodwin, and while the previous directors had all been philologists, Professor Merriam was a philological archaeologist; both at Sicyon and at Icaria he made researches, securing some splendid material for study, and of a nature that especially incited the ardor of the students of that year. When he was obliged to return to his own country, the trustees endeavored by every means within their power to secure Dr. Charles Waldstein (now Sir Charles), whose fame even then was as brilliant as it was unique. As a mere youth, in New York City, Charles Wald-stein wrote a study of the life and art of Pheidias which was so remarkable in scope and treatment that he awoke to find himself famous. It was published by the Century Company, and the work made a sensation not alone in the realms of classic scholarship, and in the minds of those who habitually supped with the gods, but even the general reader, to whom Pheidias was little more than a name, was enthralled with this work. To this day it remains as the supreme study of the immortal Greek sculptor. Dr. Waldstein was a graduate of Columbia; later he studied in the great German universities, carrying off honors and degrees galore; he be-came Keeper of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and Reader in Archaeology in the University of Cambridge. From this position he was be-sought to accept the directorship of the American school in Athens for a term of years. The brilliant savant, whose name now stands as one of the most authoritative in the world in the science of archaeology, did not see his way clear to accept this offer; the great recognition he had won in England and in continental Europe had brought him corresponding responsibilities and opened to him the great privileges in the world of high scholarship; but he was deeply interested in the American school, and at much self-sacrifice he assumed for four years the responsibility for the success of the work in Athens. During the first year (1888–1889) he made two visits to Athens, of a month each, the resident care and conduct of the school being admirably carried on by Professor Tarbell. Dr. Wald-stein passed, in all, some four months in Greece during the succeeding three years, and for five years he continued to serve the institution as professor of art, and to communicate to it his own matchless energy and spirit of devotion to classical culture.

In 1886 the Greek government made a gift of one and one-half acres of land immediately adjoining the grounds of the British school, as the site of the permanent building for the American school. The house and grounds are now estimated as worth some forty-five thousand dollars, and the accommodations are very pleasing. The view from the loggia is especially beautiful, with the Acropolis shining fair in the landscape, and the purple shadows of Mount Hymettus seen beyond the closely neighboring slopes of Mount Lycabettus. The school has instituted several tours each year as part of the regular work, and annually the very great advantage of a journey with the distinguished Dr. Dorpfeld through the Peloponnesus to Ithaca and Delphi, is enjoyed; or, again, by steamer through the AEgean Sea and to the Troad. The school has contributed some work of importance in excavations, one feature of which was the theater at Thoricus on the east coast of Attica. Dr. Dorpfeld had a theory that no Greek theater of the classical period had an elevated stage; and this excavation was undertaken in order to test the theory, which proved, so far as this theater, at least, was concerned, to be correct. Some important work has been done at Corinth and at the Argive Heraeum. A notable “Hera,” the sculptured head, was found on the site of the Heraeum; and at Corinth, besides the theater, many fragments of colossal statues and columns. These excavations have added much to the prestige of the American school in the minds of the Greeks, whose interest in all archaeological knowledge and possible extension of discoveries, cannot be over-estimated. In the spring of 1896 the director of this school initiated, at Corinth, excavations that were almost as important as those made at Heraeum, and the enterprise was widely recognized all over Greece as one of great difficulty and value. It was a feat that brought added prestige to the American school, although that result was incidental, so to speak, and was no factor in the undertaking. Corinth is the city next in importance to Athens, and her magnificence and wealth are known to all students of classical history. Moreover, Corinth extended over a plain which had absolutely no landmarks. To what divinity had the ancient temple been sacred? No one could answer. The key to the origin of the wonderful structure, with its seven monolithic Doric columns, was buried deep under the dust of ages. Efforts had been made to discover the ancient market-place, but those excavations proved to have been made more than half a mile from the site. Two fountains were revealed, — those of Glauce and Pirene. The seven columns were found to belong to a temple to Apollo. A few inscriptions were also found.

It is an interesting fact that almost as many Americans have visited Greece since the dawning of the twentieth century, little more than a dozen years ago, as were known to have visited the country in the entire century just past. The earliest impulse that drew Americans to Greece was one of philanthropy — either as helpers and sympathizers with their struggles, the motive actuating Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe; or as missionary workers, like Dr. and Mrs. Hill, who established their school in Athens in 1830, and whose culture, nobleness of aim, and gracious hospitalities have been widely recognized. Professor James Mason Hoppin, of the department of History of Art in Yale, visited Athens, and also Marathon and Corinth, and climbed Parnassus in 1848, but as a tourist rather than a student of the country. Two years later Henry M. Baird, the author of a book called Modern Greece, published in 1856, containing the most complete account of Greece that had up to that time been written, passed many months there in scholarly observation of monumental antiquities. Subsequently Mr. Baird became distinguished as a classical scholar. But it was as late as 1853 when one of the foremost Greek scholars of America, Professor Cornelius Felton of Harvard, passed a winter in Greece, of which the record remains in a work entitled Selections from Modern Greek Writers, and in the publication of a course of lectures on Greece, Ancient and Modern, which he delivered before the Lowell Institute of Boston. A few years later Professor Felton became the president of Harvard. At his death, in 1862,a notable Greek, Evangelinus Apostolides Sophocles, who, in 1838, had come to this country and from being an instructor at Yale had become a professor at Harvard, wrote a memorial line for President Felton, of which Longfellow said in his diary : “Met Sophocles in the street. He has written an epitaph in Greek for Felton’s gravestone, which he wished me to translate. A strange, eccentric man is Sophocles, with his blue cloak, and wild gray beard, his learning, and his silence. He makes Diogenes a possibility.”

Professor Sophocles was born near the home of Achilles, but he had little interest in antiquities or monumental remains, his tastes being exclusively literary. In the middle years of the nineteenth century Professor Goodwin of Harvard and Professor Tyler of Amherst visited Greece, traveling in the interior on horseback from Athens to Corinth, and to Mycenae; later Timothy Dwight and Bayard Taylor traveled through the Hellenic land; and in 1870 Charles K. Tuckerman, known as a man of letters, was made American Minister to Greece, and wrote a book entitled The Greeks of To-day that was published two years later. A decade or so after, Dr. Denton J. Snider of St. Louis, an enthusiast on Greek culture, made a pedestrian tour through the Hellenic land, out of which sprang his book entitled A Walk in Hellas, portions of which he read before some of the sessions of the School of Philosophy at Concord, before the book was published. In 1870 the United States sent as consul to Athens a man singularly well qualified for that post, Professor Fisk Brewer (a brother of Justice Brewer of the Supreme Court), a tutor in Yale, where he afterward held a professorship. He was the son of a missionary, born in Smyrna, with mod-ern Greek as his native language. Nearly all these visitors celebrated Greece in some literary expression, either in a book or in contributions to the press or reviews, but it is notable that none of them gave any serious thought to the archaeological side of art. What they saw, they saw; they contemplated the marvelous monuments, the stupendous ruins, in the light of literary material, more or less available, but they no more dreamed of the interpretation of ancient life by means of these sign-posts than they dreamed of delving into the earth to discover the geological records which they could not recognize. Early in the decade of 1870-1880, Professor Day Seymour of Yale accompanied by the eminent Professor D’Ooge of Michigan University, visited Athens. They found a town with less than half the present population, everywhere reminiscent of the Turkish village of thirty-five years before; a town in which public conveyances were conspicuous by their absence, or at least represented only by a few dilapidated cabs, and a little railroad to the Piraeus. The only means for visiting Argos, Sparta, Corinth, and other towns was by the little Greek coasting steamers, in which all species of humanity met on common ground. The Turkish frontier was but ten hours or so from Athens, and the novelty possible to life was added to by the imminence of Turkish brigands, who were liable to appear at any time. The Greek government insisted on sending with the two professors and their party, when they visited Phocis and Bceotia, an escort of soldiers. Mails were sent to Corinth from Athens in wagons under military surveillance. Athens had at that time no museum. Some sculptures gathered hereabouts were stored in the Temple of Theseus. The Germans had not then established their archaeological school, and that of the French was closed because of the Franco-Persian war. Dr. Hill was then living, and his private library, not large in numbers, was about the only available collection of books in Athens. The University library was not then enriched with either philology or archaeology, nor were the books on hand so arranged as to be available. No handbooks of archaeology had then been prepared. Two Greek professors of that time, Rhusopoulos and Kumanudes, were the most kind and valuable of counselors, and gave aid in the vernacular. The Turkish tower then stood at the entrance to the Acropolis, and Turkish cannon and shot and shell strewed the hill. Many of the heroes of the Greek Revolution were still living, and Finlay, the historian, was then in Athens.

The nineteenth century had reached the opening of its last quarter before (in 1875) the first classical archaeologists of this country set out for Greece. These were two young men, Dr. Sitlington Sterrett and Dr. Alfred Emerson, both of Cornell University. Within these thirty-five years the knowledge of classical archaeology has advanced from a mysterious, however distinguished, obscurity into the blaze of a very general, if not universal interest. Several causes have combined to contribute to this result. In our museums of fine arts the department of classical sculpture and antiquities has been made one of the most prominent as well as one of the most attractive and fascinating features, and the curators of these departments have mostly been scholars with a gift for still further contributing to public enlightenment by their illuminating lectures. The theme has already become one possessing a liberal literature, both in books and in the various special journals devoted solely to archaeology, and the secular press, far and wide, reproduces much of this information. Yet making liberal allowance for these and for other helpful agencies, it must be recognized that the work and the radiating influence of the American school at Athens has not only enlarged, almost incalculably, the interest in classical learning, but that it also stimulates the ardor for higher culture in multitudes of students who do not look forward to any more direct share in its benefits. It also stimulates the desire and the resolve to share in these benefits, at whatever temporary sacrifice; and one finds at the school in Athens young men and women who “scorn delights and live laborious days” for the sake of enjoying these rich and fruitful opportunities.

The school by no means limits its aim to specialists in archaeology. A still larger and stronger and ever present aim is to so encourage such a knowledge of archaeology as will illuminate and vitalize classical study, and inspire with new energy the teaching and interpretation of literature. It is a school of classical studies. It is a center that acts as a magnet to draw students and thinkers to Athens. Its students go forth as teachers into almost every State in the union. They are to be found in our universities, our colleges, our public schools, from Maine to Texas and from Massachusetts to California. The first woman student in the school at Athens entered in 1886, and now on an average about one third of the number are women.

In October of 112 another beneficent influence came into the life of this institute in the arrival at Athens of Dr. Jacob Schumann, president of Cornell University, as Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States to the Hellenes. It was the Sabbatical year of the distinguished president, who succeeded Dr. Andrew D. White at Cornell, and whose notable administration has so lent itself to the further development and lofty progress of educational ideals. The presence in Athens of so distinguished a scholar, whose interest in all that makes for the success of the American school is so keen and so discriminating and so wisely directed, has been one of the fortunate influences in its more recent history.

The American school has made one especial contribution to classical culture in its investigations into the history and the construction of the Erechtheum, discovering some new data and bringing together much that has before been widely scattered through the literature of various languages; all this knowledge is condensed into a book that will soon be published and avail-able to all who are interested. This achievement alone is an important one in the work of the school.

A Greek specialist, M. Belanos, one of the foremost architects of the day, is now engaged in some restorations for the Propylaea; and in this intricate undertaking he has been assisted by Mr. Dinsmoor of the American school, who is an architect, and whose power of divination, it might almost be called, into the lost mysteries of ancient construction, has proved valuable on more than one occasion. “Nothing is more gratifying to the American visitor in Athens,” writes Professor D’Ooge under date of June, 1913, during a visit to the American school, “than to find how greatly esteemed by the Greek scholars and by the other national schools of archeology is the work done by our American school. Its contributions to the history of the buildings on the Acropolis are recognized by European scholars as of the greatest value. The most recent of these has just appeared from Dr. Hill, on The Older Parthenon, in which he shows that all previous reconstructions, notably that of Dr. Dorpfeld, are erroneous, and that the building destroyed by the Persians was a hexastyle, and not an octastyle temple, and had a cella almost as long as the temple built by Pericles.”

The new power gained by a sojourn in Athens under scholarly auspices and in the atmosphere of higher culture is of an order that defies analysis. No thoughtful man can deny that Greek studies are the foundation of all liberal education. “The culture of the nineteenth century may fairly be called a culture that owes its greatness largely to a thorough appreciation of the unique excellence of classical Greek work. . . . The supremacy of Greek studies is a fact that no man can contest,” says Dr. Mahaffy. The great scholars of the world come to lecture before these schools in Athens, — the American, the British, the French, and the German. There is a cordial spirit between all of sharing these wonderful opportunities. A savant from Oxford or from the Sorbonne, or from any of the noted universities of Germany, appears at the lecture hall of one school, and the students of all the others are present in his audience. The very atmosphere is instinct with the immortal thought of the ages. The student becomes familiar with the country, the language, the people, the monumental ruins, the museums, whose rich collections are the treasure of the world; and such experiences are assimilated in the spiritual life, forming resources of power, of eloquent and effective achievement that elevates all life to the plane of nobleness. And as the supreme result of all higher culture one learns to relate his destiny to the divine leading; to hold fast to happiness, and hope, and faith in God.