Edward Dodwell

Views in Greece (London, 1830)

(Thomas Phillips, 1847)

The traveller and archaeologist Edward Dodwell (1767-1832), a man of independent means who did not have to earn a living, travelled extensively in Greece in 1801 and again in 1805-6. The first journey began in April 1801 at Trieste and concentrated on the Ionian Islands; the second began at Messina in February 1805 and was more extensive, taking in Petras, Delphi, Boeotia, Thessaly, Attica and the Peloponnese. Dodwell opened graves in Attica and Corinth, and by the end of his life he had amassed a large collection of bronzes and vases. But his most famous item, the so-called 'Dodwell Vase', was not the result of his archaeological efforts; he bought it from a Jew in Corinth. It, like most of the rest of the collection, went by purchase after his death to the Glypothek in Munich. From 1806 Dodwell lived mainly in Rome, and he died there in May 1832 as a result of an illness contracted two years before while exploring in the Sabine Mountains.

The main account of his travels in Greece was not published until some time after they were undertaken; A Classical Topographical Tour through Greece during the years 1801, 1805 and 1806 was published in two volumes in London in 1819. Views in Greece, which first appeared only two years after that in 1821, was clearly intended to accompany the written account. In his Introduction Dodwell says: 'The descriptions of the plates are generally short, but afford sufficient information without having reference to the work, of which they are published in illustration. But the subjoined list will point out the various pages of the author's tour, where the respective localities will be found to be more particularly described.' And on the following page the 'LIST OF THE PLATES' is given 'with reference to the respective pages of Mr Dodwell's tour, wherein they are more particularly described'. The amount of text given with each plate is indeed relatively brief - usually no more than a page - though the descriptions appear first in English and then, on a new page, in French. Though stated as being two volumes, the work is really only one; there is no separate title page for 'Volume II', and the comparatively slim book seems always to have been printed as one.

Shown above is the plate entitled 'South East View of the Temple of Sunium'. In the accompanying text Dodwell says: 'The summit of the promontory was decorated with two temples, one of which was sacred to Minerva Sunias, and the other to Neptune Suniaratos. The peripteral temple, which yet remains, is supposed to be that of Minerva.' In fact it is now known that the remaining temple is that of Poseidon (Neptune). The strange temple of Athena (Minerva) Sunias, with external colonnades only on its east and south sides, was situated in a separate sanctuary some 500 yards to the north east.

The description of the surving temple continues:

As it is situated near the sea, and is exposed to continual winds, the marble has been corroded by the saline particles with which the atmosphere is impregnated. Hence exfoliations have taken place in the surface of the marble, and the angles of the flutings have lost their primitive sharpness. Instead of the golden patina that is seen on the Parthenon, the temple of Sunium exhibits its original whiteness, which, contrasted with the bright blue sky, has a most singular and lively effect.

Dodwell's text also provides an interesting link with Le Chevalier's Description of the Plain of Troy. It concludes with the words: 'An excavation was undertaken some years ago amongst the ruin of the temple by Mons. Chevalier, the learned discoverer of Troy. Some human skeletons were found, and the workmen could not be induced to continue their labours, of which some interesting discoveries might otherwise have been the result.' In a note appended to Le Chevalier's name, we read: See Voyage de la Troade, tom. i. c, 7. par J.B. Le Chevalier, &c.' By calling the Frenchman 'the learned discoverer of Troy', Dodwell shows that he, like most scholars of his day, accpeted that Le Chevalier's identification of the site of that city was correct - whereas in reality it was not.

One other work resulting in part from Dodwell's travels in Greece and serving to illustrate his Classical and Topographical Tour of 1819 is his Views and Descriptions of Cyclopian or Pelasgic Remains in Greece and Italy, which was published posthumously in London in 1834.

See further: R.Stoneman, Land of Lost Gods (London, 1987), ch.7.