State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 82 Spring 2008


Spiridoula Demetriou
The Creation of Modern Greece:
travel, art and Philhellenism in the collection of the State Library of Victoria.

Philhellenism was a Political and artistic movement that advocated the liberation of the Greek nation from Ottoman rule. Politically, it contributed to the success of the Greek War of Independence of 1821–7, a war that ended nearly 400 years of Turkish Ottoman suzerainty over some of the Greek population of the Balkan Peninsula and led to the establishment of the Greek nation-state. Artistically the movement is best known for turning scenes from the War, such as the recapture in 1826 of the small coastal town of Mesologgi in western mainland Greece, into powerful representations of universal principles.1 However, it was in the illustration of travel literature that visual art and Philhellenism first became connected for the wider public as the relevant holdings of the State Library of Victoria richly attest. Studying the collection of writing by early travellers to Greece and the accompanying illustrations, I discern a range of rhetoric and iconographic tropes focusing on two strong themes: the rebirth of Greece through liberation and the Christian identity of the enslaved Greek people. Of particular interest to me was the use of both these themes in the development of artistic historical narratives regarding Mesologgi and the Greek War of Independence into a political agenda and major vehicle for Greek nationalism in the 19th century.


Modern Greece could not have been formed but for the ideologies of Liberalism and Nationalism current in the West during the 19th century. These ideas, when applied to Greece, are denoted by the term Philhellenism, which in its political manifestation espoused the idea that Greek people should be free from Ottoman rule. Philhellene art was a tangible expression of this, and Philhellene propaganda significantly influenced public opinion in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in various ways, from helping fund the war effort through to persuading individuals to take up arms. European governments adhered to firm policies of non-intervention for the sake of honouring international treaties designed to maintain stability in Europe after a period of revolutionary activity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it would be rash to attribute their decisive joint naval action against the Ottoman forces at Navarino in 1827 solely to Philhellene sentiments. Philhellenism found expression in political publications, as well as in various forms of art, music and creative literature, from prose and poetry to theatre, opera and ballet. The fall of the town of Mesologgi in April of 1826 was utilized by all these different genres to condemn the
Ottomans and as a result, while the town had been of no political consequence to the creation of modern Greece at the outset of the insurrection, by end of the war it had captured attention across the globe and thus contributed significantly to the rise in Philhellenism in the West.
The travelogues of Western gentlemen on the Grand Tour of the Balkan Peninsula provide early forays into Philhellene literature, and via their accompanying illustrations, Philhellene art. Mesologgi first enters modern European consciousness through incidental mention in writing and documents such as the map made by Kitchen to illustrate Chandler's Travels in Greece or an Account of a Tour Made at the Expense of the Society of Dilettanti, published in 1776 (figure 1).2

Fig. 1. 'Map of Part of Greece and the Peloponnesus',

Mesologgi is situated on a lagoon north of the Gulf of Patra between the rivers Acheloos and Evenus on the western mainland of Greece. The town was marked as 'Messalunghia' by Kitchen (see figure 1). Since it was of no interest as a classical site we might speculate that Mesologgi captured the interest of Kitchen, a hydrographer, for its distinct aqueous environment. What first brought Mesologgi to prominence was Lord Byron's presence and death there in 1824, possibly due to an infection and the accompanying treatment by his physicians of bleeding with the aid of leeches.3 Then in 1826, after a year long-siege, Mesologgi fell to Ottoman forces after the failed heroic Exodus by the defenders of the town. The no-surrender decision of those too weak to participate in the Exodus culminated in the blowing up of the gunpowder magazine and their self-immolation.


My research in the State Library of Victoria has shown that the rhetoric created over centuries was sustained into the 19th century and provided a framework for Philhellene sentiment that manifested itself powerfully in artistic depictions of Mesologgi and its role in the Greek War of Independence. The earliest of the Western antiquarian tourists was Cyriacus of Ancona, who travelled widely in the Balkans and first visited Constantinople in 1418, keeping travel diaries as he progressed.4 While his mission was primarily commercial, Cyriacus was also interested in antiquities and made sketches of buildings, monuments and recorded inscriptions. Historical sources suggest that the town of Mesologgi may, or may not, have been founded at this time. In any case Cyriacus visited the nearby ancient sites of Pleuron and Calydon in 1436.5
Cyriacus died in 1452, a year before the Ottomans took Constantinople, but visiting Andrianople in Eastern Thrace in 1431, he had already remarked on the harsh conditions endured by Greek slaves captured by the Ottomans in the sack of Thessaloniki that same year, but he was hardly a Philhellene in any political sense. In a letter to Cardinal Guiliano Cesarini, he identified the Greek population as Christian and expressed the hope that the people of 'Moesia, Greece, Macedonia, Epirus, and Illyria' will be freed from Ottoman rule, in the interests of 'fostering the Christian faith'.6 Cyriacus himself bought a female slave in Epirus, not for release from her bondage, but to be sent to Italy as a maid for his mother.7
The enduring value of Cyriacus' writing for Philhellenism lies in his explication of Greece's historical past through the antiquities he encountered and his desire for the 'reconstruction of history'.8 Subsequent antiquarian travellers came to conceptualise Greece's archaeological past as the cultural heritage of the contemporary population. This selective interpretation manifested itself in idealised images of Greece that did not depict the subjugation of the population.
A consequence of the high esteem antiquarians held for classical Greece was the projection onto the modern population of what was essentially an uncritical perspective of
antiquity.9 This was also the idealised form of Hellenism that Philhellenes chose to promote, and consequently other eras of Greek history such as Byzantium, came to be considered inferior, not least because they had involved conquests by the Romans, Slavs and the Crusaders.10
The idealisation of classical antiquity as an exemplary era was not without consequence for the contemporary Greek population as it gave rise to images of a degenerated modern Greece. The travel accounts of Dr. Leonhart Ruwolf from a trip undertaken in 1575 demonstrates this:
As the ancient Greeks in former days did excel almoft all other
nations in wifdom and underftanding, and ufed to have their
children inftructed at home in their own univerfities in all manner
of learning; fo in our times we find the contrary; for in all Greece
there is not one univerfity to be found, where fuch difcipline and
learning flourifhes as did anciently; juft fo is the defire of learning,
and inftructing their children extinguifhed in them. They take greater delight in idle difcourfes, and rather love idlenefs, which they have
learned very well, fince they truckle under the Turkifh yoke. 'Tis true,
they write the Greek language, but which is as corrupt and different
from the ancient, as the Italian is from the Latin.11
Not being an ancient site, the town of Mesologgi was not a destination for antiquarian travellers. However, as most travellers approached Greece through the Ionian Sea from Italy, the region, if not the town of Mesologgi, did receive some attention from those in pursuit of Periclean Athens and other classical sites to the East.12 Accordingly Moryson, an Englishman, sailing through the Ionian from Venice in 1596 and past the island of Odysseus, revealed some awareness of local conditions: 13
On Sunday the fifth of May we did fee the Mountaine Fanon,
(and as I remember an Iland) three miles diftant from the Iland
Corfu, and vpon the Greeke fhoare beyond the Iland, we did
fee the moft high Mountaines called Chimera, inhabited by the
Albaneft, who neither fubiect to the Turkes not Venetians, nor
any other, doe vpon occafion rob all; and the Venetians, and the
Kings of France, and efpecially of Spaine, vfe to hire them in their
warres. … On Tuefday the Feuenth of May, wee failed by the Iland
Paro verie neere vs, and the Iland Saint Maura joyned by a bridge
to the continent of Epirus, and fubiect to the Turkes, and
the Iland Ithaca (vulgarly called by the Italians Compare)
alfo fubiect to the Turkes, and famous for their King Vlyffes,…14
In Constantinople he further remarks on 'the tyranny of the Turkes against all
Christians', but without singling out Greeks whose ancestral ties to antiquity appear to elude him.15 A direct connection between modern Greeks and antiquity was something that Philhellenes sought to exploit when trying to generate interest in the Greek War of Independence, especially when the concepts of patriotism and heroism amongst the contemporary population were promoted.
Robert Bargrave, who travelled across the Balkan Peninsula as a trainee merchant, recorded greater political and historical insights into Ottoman Greece. On his first trip between 1647 and 1652 he gave a grim picture of the state of Greeks in the southern Peloponnese: 'The people are generally Greeks; so pooree, they have scarse Hovells to cover them, but rather dwell in Caves, clad & shod with the Skinns of Beasts: they are governd by some Turkes of meane Quality…'. Moreover, when he comments that, 'These people live only by Theft & Piracie, those on One side the Bay, making Incursions on those of the other side the bay; pillaging & murdering, when they conquer', he also offers an insight into how taxation, which was the main Ottoman tool of administration over the Greek population, guaranteed no services in return and thus reduced people to desperate measures.16 Historians have stated that the living conditions for inhabitants during Ottoman rule varied across localities due to the military administration by representatives of the Sultan in each region being arbitrary in the way they sought to gather revenue. 17 At different times there were also parts of the land not under Turkish jurisdiction, for example in close proximity to Mesologgi are the islands of the Ionian, which at various times were also under the auspices of the Venetians, as well as French, Russian and British governments.18
Bargrave's diary is most informative in describing the poor economic conditions endured by the subject populations of the Ottoman Empire; and similarly to Moryson, he identifies the Greeks collectively by their religion.19 When on his third journey to the region in 1655, Bargrave describes the situation in Methoni in the southern Peloponnese where the Turkish population was in the minority. The Greeks lived in villages, but seldom sought, or were admitted within the walled town.20 Evidently the two groups lived separately and harmoniously.
The journey of the antiquarian Jacob Spon and the botanist George Wheler, from Venice to Constantinople in 1675 reflects the continuity of interest in antiquity from the Renaissance onwards.21 Spon and Wheler included rudimentary drawings of monuments in their separate publications of field monuments as well as maps.22 Spon's publication has the same practical dimension as modern day travel guides and the frequency with which later day travellers referred to it in their own publications suggests that many may well have travelled with a copy of Spon in hand. After dedicating his publication to the King of England, Wheler states rather grandiosely that the purpose of his trip was the edification of the world regarding antiquity.
As the chief reason for setting off in the first place was classical Greece, it is not at all surprising that Wheler, like a multitude of other travellers, commented on the Homeric
association of Ithaca.23 Despite the idyllic setting, the fact that Wheler reports on an instance of strife between a Turkish and Greek family in Cephalonia over which the Venetian governor had no control, remarking that they 'fought as bloodily, as Turks do against Christians', suggests that he could not help becoming aware of local social conditions.24 However, Spon and Wheler's writings do not reveal any bias in favour of the Greek population. Spon and Wheler provided me with the earliest direct reference to Mesologgi in travelogues. They refer to their captain Mr. Perdarves, loading currants in the port of the Mesologgi, and their short trip there.
From hence we croffed over to fee Mr. Pendarves, then lading
of Currans on an Englifh Ship, called the Merchant Factor,
riding near Meffa-longia and Nathaligo. These are two little Towns,
built like Venice upon little Iflands, in the Shallows of the Sea,
near the Shore of the ancient Aetolia. No ship, or Bark, can come
near them by four or five Miles; nor to them at all unlefs they will
fetch them, in their little flat-bottom'd Boats, made of one piece
of Wood, they therefore call Monoxylo, as afore-faid: In which
alfo they bring their Currans aboard, coming to and fro in calm
Weather, as thick as Bees to a Hive. Both thefe towns confift,
For the greateft part, of Chriftians, free from the Irregular Infults
of the Turks: But have a Turkifh Veivode over them.25
Wheler's last turn of phrase possibly suggests a liberal political viewpoint, in that he juxtaposes the relatively calm daily life of the Mesologgians against their subjection to a Turkish overlord.
The travelogue genre grew in popularity during the 17th and 18th centuries. Some 400 are known to exist in relation to Greece, which is indicative of the great interest in classical sites following the period of early archaeological excavations, such as those at Herculanum, Pompei and elsewhere.26 Voyages to Greece in the 1700s were not exploratory in nature like those to the Antipodes at the time. Itineraries were generally planned along the lines of journeys made by Pausanias and Strabo and other travellers of antiquity. Travellers commonly commissioned artists to illustrate their texts. The bulk of scholarly literary writing attached to travel to Greece concerns this period and refers to travellers' extreme idealization of the classical period as the 'Hellenic Ideal', which was based on a very selective set of values attributed to the classical era in a Western European construction of Greece.27
In his 1745 publication A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, Pococke referred to the scholarly writing of Bernard de Montfaucon, a French Benedictine monk who lived in Italy at the close of the 17th century.28 Over 1719–22 De Montfaucon published five volumes on the visual heritage of antiquity, which also amounted to the cultural heritage of the ancients. It is evident that travellers readily demonstrated knowledge they had acquired, perhaps to impart authority to their own writing and existing rhetoric was
also adopted. Artistically texts displayed common stylistic tropes, for example the engravings of antiquities in de Montfaucon's volumes contain monuments with plants sprouting from them and many artists perpetuated this iconography of a civilization in decline.29
Pococke displayed an acute awareness regarding the boundary between the East and West, noting that 'Candia, antiently called Crete, has always been looked on as an island of Europe….'30 This statement is analogous to a cultural claim on this territory, but is void of any political statement regarding status of the island's inhabitants. Maps included in travelogues such as the title plate of Pococke's publication, gave emphasis to Constantinople being the boundary between East and West, and thus reflect geopolitical preoccupations of authors of the day.31In the 1700s the active economic relationship between Western governments and the Ottoman Porte were a determinative influence in the acknowledgement of Ottoman sovereignty over the Greek people. The apparent impartiality of the majority of travellers to any difficult circumstances of the contemporary Greek population is consistent with this situation. However, the clear delineation of East and West in the title plate of Pococke's book asserts that the south-eastern peninsula of the Balkans belonged to the West.


Western connoisseurship and the education of the viewer regarding classical civilization formed the impetus for works of art created across the 1700s. However, as the century progressed antiquarian and travel writing became framed by the political developments of the French Revolution, the weakening of the Ottoman Empire and intellectual current of the Enlightenment. The confluence of these factors created a mood where the subjection of the Greek population to the Ottoman Porte was acknowledged by observers.
The purpose of journeys undertaken determined the form of the work produced by artists. A case in point is the Society of the Dilettanti and the expeditions it financed. Informed by the studies of Winckelmann, which stressed that the Romans had incorporated classical Greek heritage into their own, travellers chose to by-pass Rome and visit Greece as part of their Grand tour. Travellers were primed to imbibe the myths, philosophy, gods, history, architecture, antiquities, inscriptions and everything else from the classical period. Winckelmann reinforced expectations of a utopia when he wrote:
To the Greek climate we owe the production of Taste, and from
thence it spread at length over all the politer world. Every invention, communicated
by foreigners to that nation, was but the seed of what
became afterwards, changing both its nature and size in a country,
chosen, as Plato says, by Minerva, to be inhabited by the Greeks,
as productive of every kind of genius.32
The purpose of the Dilettanti expeditions was the creation of detailed architectural
drawings where measurement, scale, plan, elevation and perspective of monuments were the focus.
After Dilettanti committees approved content, elaborate multi-volume sets of architectural publications were produced. These volumes influenced decorative taste back in England and its colonies, including Australia, for many decades. In 1754 the French architect Julien-David Le Roy also set out to document Greek architecture as his flamboyant title The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece announced.33 The State Library of Victoria has this strikingly beautiful volume in a first edition, and most of those of the Dilettanti publications, largely through the endeavours of Redmond Barry, who had great interest in classical learning and architecture.34 These publications were considered historically and culturally important in their countries of origin and conferred esteem to compilers, and publishers alike.
Written accounts by travellers demonstrate that they had difficulty integrating what they encountered regarding the contemporary Greek population, with images they harboured of an idealized Greece due to their classical education. However, works of art produced do not reflect this, as artistic representations of the Greek population seldom contained reference to their subjugation. The rhetoric in the preface of volume 1 of the Dilettanti publication The Antiquities of Athens: Measured and Delineated by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett in 1762–1794 captures the zeitgeist of the time in relation to travel to Greece. It stated:
…that Architecture lay for Ages buried in its own ruins; and altho'
from thefe Ruins, it has Phenix—like received a fecund birth, we
may neverthelefs conclude, that many of the beauties and elegancies
which enhanced its ancient Splendor, are ftill wanting, and that
it has not yet by any means recovered all its former Perfection.35
The rebirth referred to here is not that of the Greeks as free people, but of the utopia that was the 'Hellenic Ideal'. This same rhetoric of rebirth was later adopted as an analogy for the contemporary Greek population with the accompanying consequence of the ancients being made exemplars.36 The Dilettanti volumes Antiquities of Ionia and The Antiquities of Athens: Measured and Delineated were comprised in the main of architectural drawings and illustrations with some accompanying text.37 Their format placed monuments in their contemporary setting in an engraving, before proceeding with multiple plates of detailed technical drawings of the same. The inclusion of human figures in these plates should not be mistaken as engagement with the local population. The accompanying text makes clear that the figures merely serve to illustrate scale or to insert local colour.
Nonetheless, information can be gleaned from text regarding the prevailing social conditions of the Greek people at the time. For example, the text accompanying the engraving 'Of a Doric Portico at Athens' (figure 2) alerts the reader that the Greek church depicted is St. Saviour's, and explains that it is in a ruinous condition due to the fact that

Fig. 2. 'Of a Doric Portico at Athens',
J. Stuart and N. Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, 1762,
Vol. 1, Ch 1, Pl 1.

permission had to be sought from, and payment made to the Ottomans, before repairs could be carried out. The text directs the viewer's eye to the Greek servant exiting the house of the French consul 'who is here introduced sitting between two Gentlemen, one a Turk, and the other a Greek, for the Sake of exhibiting the different Habits of this Country'.38 If considered in isolation this scene erroneously suggests a relationship between the Greek and the Turk, yet its only function was the edification of the Western viewer regarding the clothing style of each. A further example of vicarious use of the local population in a Dilettanti publication follows.
The subject of the engraving of figure 3 is the structure of a capital from the ruins of the Temple of Apollo Didymaeus in western Anatolia. A plethora of Dilettanti images of temples also include human figures in mostly Ottoman clothing, holding shepherds' staffs, either sitting, or lying down. This staging may well have been part of the picturesque aspect

Fig. 3. 'Untitled',
R. Chandler, N. Revett and W. Pars, Antiquities of Ionia. 1769,
Vol. 1, p.53.

of these images, but also suggests a cultural distance between the modern inhabitants of the land and those who erected the monuments. The two figures in oriental dress are in repose smoking atop a dislodged Ionic capital form that has a decorative bas-relief, which the artist rendered in fine detail. The reader is furnished with the information that 'The figures are defigned to give an idea of the size, without recurring to Measures'.39 This depiction therefore, reduces people to props in the landscape.
Another image from the collection of the State Library that reinforces the idea that travel at this time was very much about Western connoisseurship is seen in figure 4. The image portrays Le Roy's expedition conducting excavations using the local population for manual labour. The members of the aristocratically dressed French expedition at the centre of the image are depicted gesticulating between their many ships and the excavation site,

Fig. 4. 'View of some fragements of a temple, located at a site in Attica called Thoricus', J-D. Le Roy,
1758, Pl 2.

and project an air of supremacy. This interpretation is reinforced by what appears to be the movement of architectural fragments towards the ship, and the hierarchical relationship established by the contrast of the toiling, stooped workers with the upright ease of the travellers.
The image of half-buried ruins comprises part of the iconography of degeneration in relation to Greece, justifying the excavation project in this image and thus also incorporates a level of self-aggrandizement on the foreigners' part. Stoneman chooses to express the issue of expropriation of antiquities by travellers in a more laconic manner by stating that, 'More often than not archaeological enthusiasm was expressed by theft'.40
The State Library holdings provide a fine example of a collector displaying his erudition in Sir William Hamilton's famous four-volume catalogue of his vase collection. Hamilton commissioned the editing of these volumes to Pierre d'Hancarville, an art dealer, and they contain hand-coloured engravings, technical drawings and dissertations relating to the collection. D'Hancarville stated of the endeavour that 'We have ftrove everywhere to connect the knowledge of Antiquity with that of the Art that produced it'.41 This is evidence that apart from the aesthetic appeal of objects, what engaged collectors and scholars was the artistic culture of antiquity as manifestations of philosophy, writing and history.

Fig. 5. 'Greece Expiring among Classical Ruins'
, M-G-A-F. Choiseul-Gouffier,
1782–1822, vol. 1, Frontispiece.
National Library of Australia,
RBef CLI 4455-56.
Image supplied by and reproduced courtesy
of the National Library of Australia

This positive association between the ancients and their material culture established by antiquarian Philhellenes had implications on how contemporary Greeks were viewed. Dodwell, for example, in 1805 was impressed when he meets a Mesologgian who can recite Tasso, Metastasio and other Italian poets, but is aghast when he cannot recite Homer.42 Clearly, Dodwell's remark refers to his perceived cultural decline of contemporary Greeks. The language spoken by Greek people made deviations from the imagined Hellenic ideal apparent to travellers, and the theme of degeneration of contemporary Greeks from their original pedigree due to Turkish rule was taken up by artistic Philhellenism as it entered a politicized phase.43 This was accomplished through the emphasis on material culture of the ancients. Antiquities proved to be useful iconographic tool to Philhellene artists because they provided a physical link between the contemporary population and antiquity.
The travelogue of Compte de Choiseul-Gouffier entitled Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce provides an example of the iconographic theme of the dichotomy between the ancient and the modern population.44 Choiseul-Gouffier had artists accompany him on his journey to Greece between 1776–79, and later sent back a mission in order to gather additional information and create artwork for his multi-volume publication. The frontispiece of volume one, 'Greece Expiring among Classical Ruins', seen here in figure 5, is a spearhead image in politicised Philhellene art.45 However, any gallant feelings the image displays regarding the personified Greece in chains is tempered by nostalgia it contains for the lost ancients. The enslaved personified Greece in a female form in the image is pointing to the surrounding decaying monuments, which also functions to remind the viewer that classical civilization was the conduit between the West and contemporary Greek population. A major aspect of foreign support for the cause of Greek liberation therefore was prompted by the West's cultural relationship with classical civilization. Nonetheless, this image has been linked to the political climate of the failed Russian-backed Greek insurrection of 1770 in the Peloponnese and is evidence that the political situation in Greece was being noted in Europe with the activities of travellers to Greece playing a role in the dissemination of this information.46

Fig. 6.'O Miserable me, Doomed to Slavery',
A. Korais, Salpisma Polemisterion. 1801,

The iconography of slavery present in Greece Expiring among Classical Ruins was also utilized in the image 'O miserable me, doomed to slavery', the frontispiece of the Greek enlightenment scholar Adamantios Korais' Salpisma Polemistirion (1801), which was one of 10 political pamphlets that Korais wrote between 1798 and 1831.47 This image, shown here in figure 6, depicts a personified Greece at the mercy of a dispassionate, scimitar-wielding Turk in the midst of relics that metonymically take the country back via history to the ancients. The emotional component of the image is increased by the suggestion of sexual violation, which the female's semi-nakedness and surrounding broken relics point to.
The ideological context of this image was liberal Enlightenment, whose mainstay was rule by consent. The raised arms of the personified Greece suggest resurrection, or rebirth of contemporary Greece as a political entity. They also form a posture of supplication that addresses a plea for help to the viewer. The tattered name of Homer at the feet of the female reminds the viewer that ancient Greek culture is also the culture of the moderns, and therefore the ruins in the image function to reinforce racial or biological connections across time. The ragged state in which Greece is presented to the viewer appears to be squarely the fault of her Turkish overlord. As the pamphlet in which this image appeared directly addressed the Greek people, the image can also be interpreted as Korais presenting ancient Greek culture as national culture to them.


It is worth pointing out that apart from the identification by historians of Philhellenism as a movement that supported Greeks in their endeavour for liberty, a wider political context is also acknowledged. The expressions of artistic Philhellenism have been interpreted as propagandist tools for liberal opposition to Bourbon rule in France, as well as for Italian nationalism.48 However, the fact that the Greek revolution became such a fashionable cause
to the degree that in France it was promoted on soap, perfume and liqueur labels is phenomenal, and can be attributed to the fact that personalities of the day such as Lord Byron and Chateaubriand were members of Philhellene committees in their respective countries.49 This created a crosscurrent which united people of different political persuasions behind the Greek cause.

Fig. 7. 'Lord Byron attended by his Souliote Guards',
W. Parry, 1825, p.76.

Lord Byron first journeyed to Greece with John Cam Hobhouse in 1809. Hobhouse's journal, published in 1813, demonstrates an awareness of the patriotism amongst the Greeks and the fact that they were poised for liberation despite the lack of a military or a treasury to sustain an organised resistance to the Porte. The journal reveals that Byron and Hobhouse were familiar with the political writing of both the revolutionary Rhigas Pheraios and scholar Korais, and considered the Greek people to be intellectually, if not materially and administratively prepared for nationhood. Hobhouse used the rhetoric of slavery such as 'the yoke of Turks' to make the point that conditions for the Greek population are abysmal at the time.50 Byron responded positively to the requests of the London Committee in 1823 to go to the Greece to administer much needed war loans. Whether he did so because of empathy for the Greeks, or an egocentric urge to participate in the revolution, or his own romanticist poetry had driven him back to the region, was of no consequence to the outcome of the War as he died in Mesologgi on 19 April, 1824 without experiencing a single day of battle.
Western attitudes to the Greek insurrection changed following Byron's death and art played an important role in articulating the plea for Western intervention into the Greek War of Independence. William Parry, who was a member of Byron's brigade in Mesologgi, published a book on his recollections that contained hand-coloured plates.51 Figure 7 depicts Lord Byron on his daily ride on the coastal flats of Mesologgi with his Souliote battalion and demonstrates the documentary value art can acquire when it carries a historical narrative.
The sustained spotlight that the death of Lord Byron in Mesologgi put on the town meant that once it fell after the failed Exodus on 22 April 1826, the world took note and linked Philhellenism and the Greek War of Independence resolutely.52 Philhellene press activity in England and France intensified from 1824 onwards, and peaked in 1826.53 The influence of the political writing of Chateaubriand in promoting the War also had great
impact on public opinion and demonstrates how the Mesologgi narrative was employed to give Philhellenism drive. Malakis, for its influence, considers Chateaubriand's volume L'Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem published after his journey in 1806 'a direct contribution to the liberation of Greece'.54 Chateaubriand engaged much of the same rhetoric attached to Greek subjugation involving degradation and Turkish rule that other travellers used before him. Repetitive or not, such remarks by travellers were prefatory to discourse that recognised a new form of Hellenism which linked the contemporary Greeks to the ancients via their heroism in taking up arms against their oppressors.
In 1824 Chateaubriand's personal politics put him in opposition to conservative rule in France, which facilitated the connection between Philhellenism and the questioning of the legitimacy of Bourbon restoration to be made. Chateaubriand's lobbying conceptualised the Greek cause as a religious struggle and combined it with rhetoric concerning humanity and liberty, something which made Philhellenism palatable to conservative sectors that had continued to recognise the legitimacy of the 400 year Ottoman rule. This contributed to the placement of the Greek population in cultural opposition to the Ottomans through religious difference. He wrote in favour of the Greeks in Note sur la Grèce in 1825, and in the 3rd edition in 1827, the defenders of Mesologgi are referred to as heroic Christians and Malakis states that the fall of Mesologgi was 'the turning-point for the conservative opinion of government'.55 The example of both Lord Byron and Chateaubriand demonstrates the influence that personalities and organizations had in keeping the public's focus on the issue of Greek liberation.
A painting, which encapsulates the religious context of the War during its last phase, is Louis Benjamin Devouges' The Oath of the Missolonghians, 1828, (figure 8). The painting depicts the Mesologgians setting off for the failed Exodus immediately after receiving Holy Communion. Following its defeat, Mesologgi became emblematic of the Greek people's struggle for independence and at the same time provided Philhellenes with a tangible reference for their enthusiasm.
Devouges combines the subjects of religion and nationalism in a dramatic scene that has the defenders of Mesologgi surging forward to battle with the blessing of their religious leader, Bishop Joseph, who points the way. The context of Christian universalism in which the revolution came to be placed by the West also made the Greek people defenders of the Western world, something that facilitated support for the cause.56 A chieftain in the forefront of the group in Devouges' The Oath of the Missolonghians has a rifle slung over his shoulder and advancing with him is a priest who holds a cross symbolically before him. This gives emphasis to the religious connection between the insurgents. Beside the soldier stands a woman; there is unison in their stance and great harmony in the colour and drape of their predominately red and white clothes. Their figures and the banner held by the female bask in a glowing light. The banner is also emblazoned with the sign of a cross, its red colour, like that of the figures' clothes, a referent to the blood about to be spilled by the townsfolk. Also on the banner, below the cross, in gold lettering, are the words 'god and country'. The

Fig. 8, Louis Benjamin Devouges, The Oath of the Missolonghians 1828,
Oil painting, Athens, Benaki Museum. Inv. no. 8989.
Image supplied by and reproduced courtesy of the Benaki Museum, Athens.

chiaroscuro that Devouges employed serves to deliver these ideals to the viewer and contributes to the sublime atmosphere of the painting. The harmonious tonality also contributes to this atmosphere and along with the artistic grouping of people, emphasise social cohesion. The image suggests kinship recognition as a source of pride, and it is through this that the town of Mesologgi functions as a symbol of nationhood and nationalism.
Of interest is that Devouges' painting, like many other Philhellene images, articulates an idealised subjectivity in relation to the defenders of Mesologgi. The work can also be considered propagandist for the highly emotive presentation of the Mesologgians. The religiosity of the work bears a reference to the condition of Apokatastasis, that is, that all free moral beings will find salvation. This goes some way to explain the label of martyrs with which the revolutionary Mesologgians were branded, despite the existence of archival
evidence that after a year-long siege the inhabitants were starving and chose attempt to break through the Ottoman Turkish lines out of desperation, not in sacrifice.57 The elevation of the male and female hero figures in this work sends the message that heroism is part of new form of Hellenism, as it had been in antiquity.


The antiquarian interest in the Greece of early travellers was transformed in the 19th century into advocacy for the liberation of the Greek nation. The consonance amongst many Philhellene images regarding Mesologgi reveals the nature of Greek nationalism as it was perceived in the West during the War of Independence. Greek culture was judged by travellers to have become debased under Ottoman rule, and politically motivated Philhellene artists articulated this idea readily through the use of the iconography of decline. In presenting the Greek people as being worthy of liberation, Philhellene art emphasised the heroism of the population in taking up arms against Imperial oppression, something that those with a classical education could not but associate with classical myth and history. Religion was emphasised as a cultural marker by artists during the Revolution, and subsequently Orthodoxy has been seen as inextricably embedded in modern Greek national identity. Therefore, Philhellene art, as this article has shown, contributed significantly to the debate surrounding national identity, and what constituted 'Greekness' and Hellenism even before the formation of the new nation state was accomplished in the 1830s.

Catalogue of Images

  • 1. Fig. 1
    'Map of Part of Greece and the Peloponnesus',
    R. Chandler, Travels in Greece or an Account of a Tour Made at the Expense of the Society of Dilettanti. 1776. Map 1.
  • 2. Fig. 2
    'Of a Doric Portico at Athens',
    J. Stuart and N. Revett, The Antiquities of Athens: Measured and Delineated by James Stuart and
    Nicholas Revett. 1762, Vol. 1, Ch 1, Pl 1.
  • 3. Fig. 3
    R. Chandler, N. Revett and W. Pars, Antiquities of Ionia. 1769, Vol. 1, p.53.
  • 4. Fig. 4
    Fig. 4. 'View of some fragments of a temple, located at a site in Attica called Thoricus', J-D. Le Roy, Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce: Ouváge divisé en deux parties, où l'on considère, dans la première, ces monuments du côté de l'histoire; et dans la seconde, du côté de l'architecture, 1758, Pl 2.
    5 Fig. 5
    'Greece Expiring among Classical Ruins',
    M-G-A-F. Choiseul-Gouffier, Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce, 1782–1822, vol. 1, Frontispiece.
  • 6. Fig. 6
    'O Miserable me, Doomed to Slavery,
    Korais' Salpisma Polemisterion. 1801, in political pamphlets of A. Korais /IIo?ι? ιkó?v??áδια (1798–1831) Tot) Aδαµàvrιov Kopαn / Eπuε? ει Kαι Eιóαγιkó Kεíµεvo Aovkíα Δpokíα A?nvα Kεvrpo Nεoε??nvιk?v Epεvv?v, E?vιkov Iδεuv?v 1983, pamphlet 3,
  • 7. Fig. 7
    'Lord Byron attended by his Souliote Guards',
    W. Parry, The Last Days of Lord Byron: With His Lordship's Opinions on Various Subjects, Perticularly on
    the State and Prospects of Greece, London/Dublin, Knight and Lacey/Westley and Tyrrell, 1825, p, 76.
  • 8. Fig. 8
    Louis Benjamin Devouges, The Oath of the Missolonghians, 1828, Oil painting, Athens, Benaki Museum. Inv. no. 8989.


This Greek placename is conventionally transliterated into English as 'Missolonghi', however I found 17 other spellings as well. Amongst these I have a preference for 'Mesologgi' as it renders the local pronunciation more accurately, and have used it consistently except where quoting a text containing another spelling.


R. Chandler, Travels in Greece or an Account of a Tour Made at the Expense of the Society of Dilettanti. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1776, map 1.


Speculation has surrounded the actual cause of Byron's death and is often attributed to malaria. MacCarthy, in a thoroughly researched biography of Byron, settles on the opinion given by modern medicine that an infection and excessive over-bleeding were responsible. F. MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend, London: John Murray, 2002, p.519.


E. Bodnar, Cyriacus of Ancona and Athens, Bruxelles-Berchem: Latomus, 1960.


The earliest attestation of the name Mesologgi dates from after the naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when a Christian alliance comprising of the Papacy, Spain and Venice defeated the Turkish Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. A firm date for the establishment of Mesologgi cannot be established. However, the consensus is that this occurred in the first half of the 16th century, and that settlement intensified in the town by the commencement of the 17th century. Lepanto is the modern day Nafpaktos and is located on the Gulf of Corinth, which is adjacent to the Gulf of Patras upon which Mesologgi is situated. Mesologgi is located 40 kilometres from Nafpaktos. S. Alexandropoulou, AixcoXoaKapvdtviKa MsXsxf|uaxa. A9f|va: AvaaxaxiKSi; EkSoosk; Aiov, Noxn Kapapta, 2000, pp.91 and 115.


Cyriacus, Cyriacus of Ancona: Later Travels/edited and translated by Edward W. Bodnar and Clive Foss, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003, pp.(ix-x), 15.


Cyriacus, Cyriacus of Ancona: Later Travels, 2003, p.(xi).


Bodnar suggests that the recognition of the documentary value of remnants from eras gone by also imbues them with the power of being 'contemporaneous to the events themselves…'. E. Bodnar, Cyriacus of Ancona and Athens, 1960, p.20.


For an extensive discussion on the lack of dimensionality in the intellectual interpretation of pre-Christian Greece, and the connection to Romantic Hellenism see J. Wallace, Shelley and Greece: Rethinking Romantic Hellenism, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.


J. Burke and S. Gauntlett (eds.), Neohellenism. Canberra: Australian National University, 1992, pp.(i-iii); P. Magdalino, 'Hellenism and Nationalism in Byzantium', in Neohellenism, eds. J. Burke and S. Gauntlett, Canberra: Australian National University, pp.1–29.


This and following quotes are as they appear in the text and errors have not been corrected. Rev J. Ray, A Collection of Curious Travels and Voyages: Containing Dr. Leonhart Ruwolf's Journey into the Eaftern Countries, Viz. Syria, Palestine, or the Holy Land, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Chaldea, &C. Translated from the Original High Dutch by Nicholas Staphorst, vol. 1., London: printed for J. Walthoe, et. al.,1738, p.288.


See H. Angelomatis-Tsounkarakis, The Eve of the Greek Revival: British Travellers' Perceptions of Early Nineteenth-Century Greece, London; New York: Routledge, 1990, p.12 for the choice of three routes that English travellers took once they had entered the Ionian Sea. All took in classical Athens. The one that took travellers to western Greece and the region of Mesologgi involved crossing from Patra to Aetolia, to Ioannina, then onto Athens.


The shallow lagoon surrounding Mesologgi made it difficult to approach. Moryson, for example, sailed by and replenished his supplies on Corfu. F. Moryson, An Itinerary written by Fynes Moryson Gent: First in the Latine tongue, and then translated by him into English: containing his ten yeeres travell throvgh the twelve dominions of Germany, Bohmerland, Sweitzerland, Netherland, Denmarke, Poland, Italy, Turkey, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland: Diuided into III parts…, London: Printed by John Beale, 1617, p.212.


F. Moryson, An Itinerary…,1617, p.211.


F. Moryson, An Itinerary…,1617, p.259.


M. Brennan (ed.), The Travel Diary of Robert Bargrave Levant Merchant 1647–1656, London: The Hakluyt Society, 1999, p.69.


C. Woodhouse, Modern Greece: A Short History, 1968, 5th ed., London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1998, pp.99–124.


C. Fyffe, A History of Modern Europe, London: Cassell, 1880, p.264.


M. Brennan (ed.), The Travel Diary of Robert Bargrave Levant Merchant 1647–1656, p.128.


M. Brennan (ed.), The Travel Diary of Robert Bargrave Levant Merchant 1647–1656, p.234.


G. Wheler, A Journey into Greece by George Wheler, Esq., in Company of Dr. Spon of Lyons, London: Printed for William Cademan, Robert Kettlewell and Awnsham Churchill, 1682.
G. Spon, Voyage d'Italie, de Dalmatie, de Grèce, et du Levant, fait és années 1675 et 1676 par Jacob Spon et George Wheler, 2 vols. A la Haye: Rutgert Alberts, 1724.


Wheler removed pieces of small statuary as well; this is an indication that travellers did not associate the present inhabitants of the land with those of antiquity and therefore the rightful custodians of relics.
D. Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984, p.214.


G. Wheler, A Journey into Greece, 1682, p.36.


G. Wheler, A Journey into Greece, 1682, p.35.


G. Wheler, A Journey into Greece, 1682, p.291.


So popular were these travelogues that a plethora of pirated copies circulated successfully on the market.
F. Poqueville,Tαεí? ι orn Δvrιxn Mαxεδovíα:Avoiεn rov 1806 / Pouqueville. M ?ιαvvnς
Tóápας, ?εóó?ovíkn|: Ekδorukóς Oíkoδ; A??v Kvpιαkíδn, 1983, p.10–1.


A brief list of secondary literature relevant to travel and Philhellenism follows, which reflects an upsurge in scholarship from the point of view of contemporary account.
E. Malakis, 'French Travellers in Greece (1770–1820): An Early Phase of French Philhellenism', PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1925.
H. Levin, The Broken Column, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1931.
T. Spencer, Fair Greece! Sad Relic; Literary Philhellenism from Shakespeare to Byron. 1954, Romiosyni Series 8, Athens: Denise Harvey, 1986.
F. Tsigakou, The Rediscovery of Greece: Travellers and Painters of the Romantic Era, New Rochelle, N.Y: Caratzas Brothers, 1981.
D. Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal, Cambridge: Cup, 1984.
H. Angelomatis-Tsounkarakis, The Eve of the Greek Revival: British Travellers' Perceptions of Early Nineteenth-Century Greece, London: Routledge, 1990.
R. Eisner, Travelers to an Antique Land: The History and Literature of Travel to Greece, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991.
O. Augustinos, French Odysseys: Greece in French Travel Literature from the Renaissance to the Romantic Era, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
R. Stoneman, (ed.), A Literary Companion to Travel in Greece, Malibu, California: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1994.


R. Pococke, A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, 2 vols. London: W. Bowyer, 1743–5, vol. 2, part 1, p.(v).
B. de Montfaucon, L'antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures. 5 vols. Paris: Chez Delaulne, Foucault, Clousier, Nyon, Ganeau, Gosselin et Giffart, 1719–22.


B. de Montfaucon, L'antiquitée expliquée et représentée en figures, 5 vols. 1719–22, vol. 2, plate xxviii, pp.116–117.


R. Pococke, A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, 1743–5, vol. 2, part 1, p.239.


R. Pococke, A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, 1743–5, vol. 2, title plate


J. Winckelmann, Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks, 1765 / Johann Joachim Winckelmann; Translated by Henry Fusseli. Menston, Yorkshire: Scolar Press, 1972, pp.1–2.


J-D. Le Roy, Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce: Ouváge divisé en deux parties, où l'on considère, dans la première, ces monuments du côté de l'histoire; et dans la seconde, du côté de l'architecture, 1st ed. Paris: H. L. Guérin & L.F. Delatour, 1758.


On the contribution of Redmond Barry to the cultural development of the Victorian colony see A. Galbally, Redmond Barry: an Anglo-Irish Australian, Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1995, pp.83–115.


J. Stuart and N. Revett, The Antiquities of Athens: Measured and Delineated. 3 vols. London: Society of Dilettanti, 1762, vol. 1, preface p.(i).


The phoenix rising from ashes formed part of Greek revolutionary rhetoric as demonstrated by the lithograph Wounded Greece supported by Rhigas Pheraios Velestinlis and Admantios Korais (National Historical Museum, Athens Print collection, num. 11920).
The symbol of the phoenix in this image is accompanied by the political slogan that Greece will rise stronger from its demise. National Book Centre of Greece. Greece: Books and Writers. Athens Ministry of Culture - National Book Centre of Greece, 2001, p.56.


R. Chandler, N. Revett and W. Pars Antiquities of Ionia, 5 vols. London: Society of Dilettanti, 1769.


J. Stuart and N. Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, London: Society of Dilettenti 1762, vol. 1, p.3.


R. Chandler, N. Revett and W. Pars Antiquities of Ionia, 1769, vol. 1, p.53.


R. Stoneman, (ed.), A Literary Companion to Travel in Greece, 1994, p.5.


P. d'Hancarville, Antiquités étrusques, Grecques et Romaines: Tirées du cabinet de M. William Hamilton, envoyé extraordinaire de. S. M. Britanique à la cour de Naples / Pierre d'Hancarville. 4 vols. Naples: W. Hamilton: Imprimé a Naples par F. Morelli, 1766–67, vol. IV, preface p.(v).


E. Dodwell, Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece During the Years 1801,1805 and 1806, 1819. 2 vols. London: Rodwell and Martin, 1819, vol. 1, p.89.


The Greek Enlightenment scholar Korais used language as a tool to contest the idea that Greeks had become 'un-hellenised'. Korais 'cleansed' the contemporary language bringing it closer to that of the ancients, and used it in the introduction to his editions of classical texts, which he published with the financial support of other diaspora Greeks. His linguistic strategy demonstrated to both the West and the Greek people the cultural connection of modern Greece to antiquity.


M-G-A-F. Choiseul-Gouffier, Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce. 2 vols. Paris: Chez J-J. Blaise, 1782–1822.


The rhetoric of chains and slavery was not particular to the contemporary Greece, it had previously been applied by Chandler to describe the convergence of the Gothic king Alaric on Greece around 390 CE when the 'the Athenian matrons were dragged in chains by Barbarians.'
R. Chandler, Travels in Greece or an Account of a Tour Made at the Expense of the Society of Dilettanti, 1776, p.31.


D. Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal, 1984, pp.173–5.


A. Korais, IIo?ιrιká (1798–1831) Tov Aδαuávrιov Kopαn / Eπu??ειαkαι Kαi Eιoαγwγιkó Kεíuεvo Aovkíα. A?nva: K?vrpo Nεoε??nvιk?v Epεuv?v, E?vikov Iδpvuαroς Epεuv?v, 1983, pamphlet 3.


M. Craske, Art in Europe, 1700–1830: A History of the Visual Arts in an Era of Unprecedented Urban Economic Growth, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, p.114.
C. Duggan, The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy since 1796, London: Penguin, 2007, p.118.
F. Fraser, Delacroix, Art and Patrimony in Post-Revolutionary France. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp.39–78.


B. Walton, Rossini in Restoration Paris: The Sound of Modern Life, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, p.116. Commodities available to the French public included 'Liqueur de Missolonghi', which was marketed as 'the Liqueur of the courageous Greeks', and a scent labeled 'Espirit de Lord Bryon eau de cologne'.


Lord (John Cam Hobhouse) Broughton, A Journey through Albania, and Other Provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, During the Years 1809 and 1810. 3rd ed. 2 vols. London: Printed for J. Cawthorn, 1833, vol. 1, p.216, vol. 2, pp.571–2, 576.


W. Parry, The Last Days of Lord Byron: With His Lordship's Opinions on Various Subjects, Particularly on the State and Prospects of Greece, London, Dublin: Knight and Lacey; Westley and Tyrrell, 1825.


The perception that Western governments were behind the Greek War of Independence from the outset is an indication of the spread of Philhellene sentiment. Hattstein quite incorrectly states 'Between 1821 and 1830 a war was fought for the independence of Greece, supported by the European powers'.
M. Hattstein and P. Delius, (eds.) Islam: Art and Architecture. Germany: Konemann, 2004, p.542.


For a bibliography of French press activity related to the Greek War of Independence and Mesologgi in particular see L. Droulia, Philhellénisme: Ouvrages inspirés par la Guerre de L'indépendance Grecque 1821–1833: Répertoire bibliographique. Athènes: Centre de Recherches Néo-Helléniques de la Fondation Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, 1974; J. Demakes, La presse Française face à la chute de Missolonghi et à la Bataille Navale de Navarin: Recherches surles sources du Philhellénisme Français. Thessaloniki, Greece: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1976.


E. Malakis, 'Chateaubriand's Contribution to French Philhellenism', Modern Philology, 26 Aug 1928-May 1929, (1928), p.95.


E. Malakis, 'Chateaubriand's Contribution to French Philhellenism', 1929, p.103.


Malakis gives emphasis to the point that the French philanthropic society 'Comité Philhellénique' made itself known to the French government and apart from being ready to furnish the cause with material aid, also had as a goal to serve 'humanity and religion'. E. Malakis, 'Chateaubriand's Contribution to French Philhellenism', 1929, p.100.


An issue this raises concerns the power of myths to devalue archival evidence. Spyromilos, To Mεóo?óγγ 1825–1826, A?nvα, [s.n.], 1969.