Online Review: Book

Briefwechsel Klenze–Ross 1834–1854

William M. Calder III

112.1

Pp. xvi + 260, pls. 69. Athens Archaeological Society, Athens 2006. €59. ISBN 960-8145-50-3 (cloth).

We have a beautifully produced, lavishly illustrated (often in color), and uncensored first edition of 67 letters between two founders of modern art history and archaeology. Leo von Klenze (1784–1864) was philhellene, a Neoclassical architect, and an adviser to the kings of Bavaria. Among the 86 buildings he designed are the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Catholic St. Dionysius Church in Athens. The younger Ludwig Ross (1806–1859), whose 200th birthday the book commemorates, a student of Otto Jahn and Gottfried Hermann, became in 1834 general ephor of Greece and a year later director of excavations on the Acropolis. He restored the Temple of Nike, was first professor of archaeology at the University of Athens but fell victim to rising Greek nationalism, lost his Athenian chair, and ended a professor at Halle. The newly liberated Athenians did not want a German, however competent, to be in charge of their past.

Both men won the respect of the German king of newly independent Hellas and together were decisive in instigating modern European, not least Greek, reverence and love for ancient Greece as manifest in its buildings and artifacts. Ross traveled extensively throughout Greece and the Aegean islands, not least Cos, Rhodes, and Cyprus, and published extensive reports of his travels. One recalls his contemporary, Colonel Leake. He provided August Boeckh, who, like Winckelmann, never visited Greece, with numerous texts for inclusion in CIG.

These remarkable letters afford a glimpse behind the scenes. Among the matters discussed one finds the protection of ancient monuments; archaeological research projects; establishment of museums; Ross’ publications and details of his career in Greece; a city plan for Athens with emphasis on new buildings; politics in contemporary Greece including governmental appointments, financial, and cultural questions; the higher education and legal systems; questions about historical buildings, topography, art, and “polychromy”; candid opinions on various prominent people; and reports on Ross’ extensive travels (171).

Each of these 10 themes is given a number, and we are told which letters deal with which numbers. There is an alphabetical list (187–92), not without errors, of all persons named in the letters with author numbers of the letters in which they appear, whether Pausanias, the czar of Russia, or Carl Otfried Müller. The briefest identification of the person mentioned is given, but unfortunately for moderns, no dates are provided, and there are no references for further reading. For example, an entry reads in its entirety: “Donaldson, englischer Architekt. Sekretär des ‘Institute of British Architects.’ K21, R28” (188). The reference is to Thomas Leverton Donaldson (1795–1885), a founder and president (1863–1864) of the Institute of Architects. Then come references, alphabetical by author’s name, not, as expected, arranged by date, to Klenze’s 21st and Ross’ 28th letters—why not simply “pp. 140, 139”? Matters are further muddled by allotting each letter two numbers, the edition number (1–67) and an author number (e.g., letter no. 7=K4; no. 66=R29). Socrates contrarily, we are informed, was fifth century B.C.E.

This leads to a remarkable peculiarity of the edition. The 67 letters, primary sources, are all carefully dated and transcribed but without any exegetical commentary. Much pertinent information is available in a lengthy and instructive “Critical Presentation of the Correspondence” (3–46). But extraction of information becomes needlessly cumbersome because it is not in commentary form. For the reader, much must remain obscure (e.g., identification of persons and places alluded to, as well as contemporary events discussed). Passages in ancient authors go unidentified (e.g., Plutarch and Herodotus, 81). This becomes all the more annoying because there is no index nominum that could lead the inquisitive reader to the pages in the book where the matter is elucidated.

Because I lack access to the originals, I cannot rule on accuracy of transcription. Regrettably we are not given sample reproductions of a letter by each. The originals are in the Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landesbibliothek, Kiel (Klenze), and the Bavarian Staatsbibliothek in Munich (Ross).

What we have here is most welcome to students of both ancient and modern Greece. The editor movingly observes: “Two humanistic, practical idealists speak to one another and to us about their times. We listen in suspense. Greece still today needs friends of such character” (translation by the reviewer) (xvi). Documents long forgotten in archives have been made available to the educated public. What we need is a second volume containing a careful commentary and a comprehensive index. No one is better prepared to provide this than the editor.

William M. Calder III
The Villa Mowitz
609 West Delaware Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61801-4804
wmcalder@uiuc.edu

Book Review of Briefwechsel Klenze–Ross 1834–1854, edited by the Athens Archaeological Society
Reviewed by William M. Calder III
American Journal of Archaeology Volume 112, Number 1 (January 2008), published online at www.ajaonline.org/online-review-book/533
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1121.Calder

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