The Ancient City of Athens: Its Topography and Monuments

The Ancient City of Athens: Its Topography and Monuments

The Ancient City of Athens: Its Topography and Monuments

The Ancient City of Athens: Its Topography and Monuments

Excerpt

To face the staggering task of writing the ideal book on Athens would require the combination of fighting courage and mellow wisdom embodied only in the patron Goddess of Athens herself. Even the hero Herakles had to depend on her for the accomplishment of his labours and we lesser mortals can only follow far in the rear trying never to lose sight of the Divine Guide, although ours must be the more modest aim of selection and combination from the vast amount of material that has accumulated in the last few decades.

The material is of two kinds--definite reports of the actual discoveries in the excavations which have revolutionised previous topographical views and articles and discussions to which these new discoveries have given rise. The need for something that should within reasonable limits sum up the results of recent excavations and studies was obvious. The best books in English are more than forty years old and the second edition of Judeich appeared in 1931, just before the excavations in the Agora, the North Slopes of the Acropolis and the Kerameikos began.

Two works, Frazer Pausanias and Miss Harrison Mythology and Monuments, though published respectively in 1898 and 1890 are still absolutely indispensable. Both are based on the text of Pausanias and it will be apparent how constantly Pausanias has continued to be used in the following pages.

This book is the ultimate result of an invitation from the Jane Harrison Memorial Committee of Newnham College to prepare a new edition of Mythology and Monuments. It was ready in 1938, but before arrangements for its publication could be completed the war intervened and after the war the Committee decided to abandon its share in the project. Thanks to the interest of some members of the Committee, particularly Mrs. Hugh Stewart and Professor A. W. Lawrence, I entered into an agreement with Messrs. Methuen and Company to write an entirely new book on Athens. It is concerned chiefly with topography and architecture and strays into the enticing byways of literature, history, religion, mythology and the arts only to illustrate and supplement the main line of pursuit.

One result of the last fifty years of discoveries has been to change the entire perspective for Greek art and history and their relation to what immediately preceded them. The old books used to speak with wonder of "the miracle of Greek art", but though perhaps we cannot entirely explain it we can at least trace out certain roots in its ancestry and can learn something of what the pre-Hellenic civilisation passed on to its successors. The continuity from one phase (period is perhaps too positive a term) to another has been suggested in the introductory chapter and this persistence will be emphasised again and again in the later ones.

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