Early scholarship

Scholarship was a different matter. The Society of Dilettanti, founded in 1734 by like-minded men with a taste for foreign travel, convivality and the antique, had a much more serious intent. This organisation, for all its origins as a kind of drinking club, took one of the first initiatives in Europe toward funding not only the expedition expenses for the exacting description and drawing of antiquities, but also their publication in book form. In 1764 the Society provided funds for Richard Chandler, together with Nicholas Revett the architect, and William Pars the painter, to go to Asia Minor that you do procure the exactest plans and measures possible of the buildings you shall find, making accurate drawings of the bas-reliefs and ornaments, and taking such views as you shall judge proper; copying all the inscriptions you shall meet with, and remarking every circumstance which can contribute towards giving the best idea of the ancient and present state of those places (Chandler 1971, 6). This exemplifies the beginnings of a scientific interest in the past, which must begin with exact description, drawing and measurement - and then proceed with excavation.

J. B. S. Morritt of Rokeby Park, a Yorkshire squire and a member of the Society of Dilettanti, reveals both his use of the ancient authors and his enthusiasm for the state of preservation of antiquities in Turkey in the letters he sent back to his family in the course of his Grand Tour of 1794-6. Do you not envy me, he writes from Troy, the pleasure of fancying myself at the Scaean gate and seeing everything round me correspond with Homer's account of it? Nothing can, I think, be more accurate than he is in the description of this country, and it is by no means difficult to trace most of the scenes in the Iliad (Morritt 1985, 142). At Ephesus, he noted (1985, 112) that the architecture is completely destroyed and on the ground; the remains as they lie are some of them, however, magnificent, especially the large fluted columns Chandler supposes those of a temple built by Augustus. The Corinthian friezes and capitals that are scattered near are of the finest workmanship and most elegant design. The 20th century excavators of Ephesus had but to re-erect some of those monuments (1) which were obviously comprehensible to Morritt and Chandler as they lay in heaps on the ground. Other sections of the city, however, must have come as some surprise when they were found. Looking at the illustrations in Wood 1877, the theatre is recognizable, although filled with rubble - but there is no sign of the marble street in front of it, let alone of the colonnaded street - the Arcadiane - leading down the harbour.

Other Turkish sites clearly made less sense in the 18th century, because they were covered in later constructions or detritus. They have been dug since Morritt's day; so that his description of the acropolis at Pergamum as having been used by the Genoese and Turks, is now one hodge-podge of fine remains jumbled pell-mell into walls and fortifications (op. cit., 135) is no longer relevant; the site has now been cleared by the excavators. Similarly at Lindos (Rhodes), where Morritt says that a Turkish castle occupies the situation of the ancient Acropolis, and contains nothing remarkable - whereas the area has now been cleared, and the colonnade of the classical acropolis re-erected.

Europe and Turkey: the 19th Century

The 18th century visitors to Turkey generally went as scholarly treasure hunters in search of high quality exemplars in good condition, which could help them in their study of classical art and architecture, and grace their house when they returned. The 19th century visitor went there to dig for knowledge as well as for removable trophies. This is not the place for a disquisition on the fine line that sometimes exists between looting and "scientific" excavation, except to say that, whereas many 18th century digs tended to be simple treasure-hunts for "worth-while" objects, archaeology even in its earlier stages sought to investigate how people lived in the past, and to build up a picture which would help reinforce through the monuments the visions already provided by the ancient authors. Schliemann, after all, "proved" Homer to be "true" by digging at Troy, just as Pausanias' Guide to Greece gave a select check-list of the many riches still entombed in Greece and parts of Turkey. Naturally, visitors to Turkey clung to what they knew, and made comparisons with the West whenever they could; the ancient authors were familiar to all, and we find frequent references to Turkish villages looking like Swiss ones, and to countryside with half-buried ruins recalling the Roman Campagna. We also find other sites in the once well-populated Troad (especially in the plain opposide Tenedos) mistaken for that of Troy, as well as the kind of mindless souvenir-hunting that may well be perennial. Thomas Dallam, for example, landed at the Dardanelles in 1599: we saw more at large the rewins of the wales and housis in Troye, and from thence I broughte a peece of a whyte marble pillar, the which I broke with my owne handes, having a good hammer, which my mate Harvie did carrie a shore for the same purpose; and I broughte this peece of marble to London (Bent 1893, 49-50).

Cynics might see this involvment with the classical past as the merest excuse for treasure-hunting. It is certainly true that many 19th-century excavations in Greece and Turkey were set up to feed the growing thirst for antiquities of recently established national or regional collections. But it is equally true that then (as now?) funding for further research depended upon tangible results. This dilemma has been well summarized in Bracken's Antiquities Acquired: the Spoliation of Greece. Less hunting went on in Turkey in the 19th century, partly because Greece was more accessible, and partly because it was the monuments of Greece which were better known through the accounts of the ancient authors, therefore more "classical", and therefore the more sought after.

Greece or Turkey?

This is not of course to suggest that Pergamum or Caria were not well dealt with in the sources; rather, that the monuments of of the Greek mainland and islands were the more wrapped up in classical Greek history, so that a century which valued a classical education along with Greek history, Greek rhetoric and Greek values could now look on the very sculptures seen by Pericles or Solon. Turkey was more distant, and less was known about it (a state of affairs that is only being redressed today). Of course, most of the supporting monuments remain on site; but anyone wanting to study the sculpture of Turkish monuments would need to make a lengthy tour around Europe - East Berlin for the superb Pergamum Altar (Carl Huemann, from 1868), for the magnificent propylon entrance gateway to the Sanctuary of Athena, for statues from Priene (Humann & then Wiegand), for the Temple of Zeus Sosipolis from Magnesia on the Maeander (although the Louvre for this temple's bas-reliefs) or for the great Market Gate from Miletus; the British Museum for the Temple of Diana at Ephesus (J. T. Wood, 1869-74; D. G. Hogarth, 1904-5), Xanthos (Fellows 1838, 1844) and, with the help of sailors and transport lent by the British Navy, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (C. T. Newton, 1857). This is difficult and tedious, and it is painful to visit sites and find the structure of a monument still there, and its sculptures gone: at Xanthos, the Harpy Tomb still stands, admittedly with copies of its reliefs; but the originals are in the British Museum. Again, the sarcophagus of Merehi is still on the site - but to see its elaborately decorated lid you must return to the British Museum. Another example would be the Temple of Artemis Leukophryene at Magnesia on the Maeander, which Strabo believed to be the biggest in Aisa Minor after Ephesus and Didyma; some fragments are in Istanbul, but little survives on the site.

For the present-day traveller, the fact that Western excavators were often working for institutions back home means that some of the better sculpture and architecture - the very best in the case of the Altar of Zeus, or the Market Gate from Miletus, or the reliefs from the Mausoleum - has left the country. When buildings are stripped to their bare bones, this makes it difficult to study the total effect of architecture and sculpture together. And if the Greeks might plausibly claim that there is more and better classical sculpture outside Greece than within it (because the West exported so much before export laws were in existence), Turkish laws now in place will prevent a similar drain, although illegal smuggling is a problem here as elsewhere (Meyer 1974, 56-74).


From here you may also go to The Preface, The Introduction, Building for Splendour, Town Planning, Roads, Water Supply, Aqueducts, Harbours, The Architecture of Work & Leisure, Religion: Temples & Special Sanctuaries, Funerary Art & Architecture, Decline & Renewal, The Conclusion, The Bibliography, or The Table of Contents

Greek & Roman Cities of Western Turkey