Travellers to Greece


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 Patras, Delphi, Boeotia, Thessaly, Attica and the Peloponnese. Dodwell opened graves in Attica and Corinth, and by the end of his life had amassed a large collection of bronzes and vases. 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 and 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.’

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 known that the remaining temple is that of Poseidon (Neptune).

The strange temple of Athene (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 surviving temple continues: ‘As it is situated near the sea, and is exposed to continual winds, the marble has been corrode 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.’

Extract from: Tony Brothers, Travellers and Texts. An Exhibition in the Founders’ Library University of Wales, Lampeter on the occasion of the Classical Association Conference, 6-9 April 1998, pp. 12-13.