Room Containing Greek Vases
which Acropolis do you prefer?

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James Stuart   Nicholas Revett   The Antiquities of Athens   1825

The following Work having been, by the sudden death of the author, left unfinished; and his friends judging that it should be published without alterations or additions, excepting such only as were requisite to complete his intention, and for which the materials he left afforded authority; it becomes necessary to account to the reader for some deficiencies he may observe, and apprise him of what has been done since Mr. Stuart's decease, that the known accuracy, taste and classical knowledge of the able author may not undeservedly be impeached.

Mr. Stuart, having been very infirm for some years preceding his death, left his papers in great confusion and disorder; many were incomplete, and several were missing. The first business therefore was to discover the arrangement, and, when that was obtained, recourse was had to the original sketch-books, and such authentic documents as could be found, in order to complete the examples that were unfinished, and supply those that were wanting. Where these authentic materials have failed, the deficiency has been left remaining, except that, instead of some of the views which could not be found, others relative to the subject described have been substituted. The Work is very highly indebted to the liberality of the Society of Dilettanti, who have been at the expense of engraving a great number of the plates, from original drawings in their possession. Several of the members of the Society have interested themselves in promoting the publication of this Volume, and have contributed to that end much of their time and knowledge. To them, therefore, it is in a great measure owing, that upon the author's death the Work was not entirely relinquished, and the honour and utility of so valuable a performance lost to the British nation.

The Acropolis cannot be contemplated by the civilized Traveller without sentiments of deep emotion, even though destitute of the chief part of its ancient refulgent decoration. On the contrary at the Roman Capitol, which is more degraded still by centuries of spoliation, and where the genius of its antique locality, the 'religio soli', is intruded on by modern Italian Palaces; we are at a loss to impress ourselves with the classic nature of the soil we are treading: we look in vain for the Temple of Capitoline Jove: we cannot trace a scene, appropriate to the solemn processions of vestals and pontificers, which were ascendant in the mind of Horace, even in meditating on the duration of the Capitol, and of his own fame: nor can we view the sacred ascent of the 'Clivus Capitolinus', the route of the laurelled victor, when called on, to remember that he was mortal: even the Tarpeian Rock, that terrific precipice of republican vengeance, is now almost absorbed in the rubbish and filth of the Modern City. The Citadel of Athens, however, rises in defiance of the ravages of ages, with the remains of former magnificence, still venerable, and imposing: her walls and grottos, and even stones, still bear the records of her history, and theogony. We walk on the very pavement trod by the heroes and sages of Greece; we can picture to ourselves the approach of the grand Panathenaic procession, and the Parthenon sublime in ruin, conveys an impression of external majesty and real architectural grandeur, not found in the far famed Colosseum, or in the gorgeous Basilica of the Vatican. The learned Chandler has so well depicted the ancient magnificence of the Acropolis that we cannot refrain from here introducing his words. The "Acropolis", he says, "was filled with monuments of Athenian glory, and exhibited an amazing display of beauty, of opulence, and of art; each contending as it were for the superiority. It appeared as one entire offering to the deity, surpassing in excellence, and astonishing in richness. Heliodorus surnamed Periegetes (the Guide) had employed on it fifteen books. The curiosities of various kinds, with the pictures and sculpture, were so many and so remarkable as to supply Polemo Periegetes with matter for four volumes; and Strabo affirms that as many would be required in treating of other portions of Athens and Attica. In particular the number of statues was prodigious. Tiberius Nero, who was fond of images, plundered the Acropolis as well as Delphi and Olympia; yet Athens and each of these places, had not fewer than three thousand remaining in the time of Pliny. Even Pausanias seems here to be distressed by the multiplicity of his subject. But this banquet, as it were, of the senses, has long been withdrawn, and is now become like the tale of a vision. The spectator views with concern the marble ruins intermixed with mean cottages, and extant amid rubbish, the sad memorials of a nobler people." Whether the Ottoman Barbarian is destined even though temporarily to re-occupy the citadel of Cecrops, it is impossible from the present nature of the war to decide, but should that event take place, it is awful, united with the sad prospect of an augmentation of human suffering, for the classical mind to anticipate from his revenge on the Frank "Giaours", who are ranged under the Greek standard, what destruction may ensue among the objects of their admiration. But we trust that a too long deferred protection from a civilized state, will soon be at hand to avert such a calamity. That the Greek nation may rise triumphant and enlightened by good laws, from the desolating and demoralizing barbarism with which it is struggling, must be the prayer and we hope conviction of those, who have witnessed its moral degradation, and who know that on the character of institutions principally depends the happiness and dignity of mankind. [ed.]

The Turks keep a small garrison here ; and it is the residence of the Disdar-Aga, or governor of the fortress, as also of the Asap-Aga, and other inferior officers belonging to the place. All of them, except the Disdar-Aga, are meanly clothed, and ill accommodated with lodgings; whence we may conclude, that their stipends are very moderate.




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