Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stoneman on Greece

Ah, here's a find: my battered copy of A Literary Companion to Travel in Greece, edited by Richard Stoneman. copyright 1984.  I can't remember when I got my copy but I think maybe around 1990, the last time I traveled with a backpack and slept on the ferry's open deck.  From his web page, I gather that this was his second book.  But he's clearly a bona fide classical scholar with (by now) a long resume, not just phoning it in.  He seems to have a special enthusiasm for the reception of classical culture in later times.

Flipping through the Companion, at 87 I hit upon his entry for "Nafplion," Nauplion, "formerly known," as he says, "as Nauplia or Napoli di Romagna."  He might have added that it is one of the pleasantest little cities you could hope to find anywhere, plus being the perfect jumping-off point for some gonzo classical ruins.  "In the anarchic interregnum following the War of Independence [i.e., the Greek one, 1821-32--ed.] the mountains of the Pelopennese were the strongholds of numerous klephtic bands.  LaMartine, in Nafplion in August 1831, described the situation:"
The most complete anarchy reigns at this moment over all the Morea.  Each day one faction triumphs over the other, and we hear the musketry of the klephts, of the Colocottroni faction, who are fighting on the other side of the gulf against the troops of the government. We are informed, by every courier that descends from the mountains, of the burning of a town, the pillage of a valley, or the massacre of a population, by one of the parties that are ravaged their native country.  One cannot go beyond the gates of Nauplia without being exposed to musket shots.  Prince Karadja had the goodness to propose to me  an escort of his palikars to go and visit the tomb of Agamemnon; and General Corbet, who commands the French forces, politely offered to add to them a detachment of his soldiers.  I refused, because I did not wish, for the gratification of a vain curiosity, to expose the lives of several men, for which I should eternally reproach myself.
A. de Lamartine, Travels in the East, translated by TWR (Edinburgh, 1850).  That is:
L'anarchie la plus complète règne en ce moment dans la Morée. Chaque jour une faction triomphe de l'autre, et nous entendons les coups de fusil des Klephtes, des Colocotroni , qui se battent de l'autre côté du golfe contre les troupes du gouvernement. On apprend, à chaque courrier qui descend des montagnes, l'incendie d'une ville, le pillage d'une plaine, le massacre d'une popu lation, par un des partis qui ravagent leur propre patrie. On ne peut sortir des portes de Nauplie sans être exposé aux coups de fusil. Le prince Karadja a la bonté de me proposer une escorte de ses palikars pour aller visiter Le tombeau d'Agamemnon, et le général Corbet, qui commande les troupes françaises, veut bien y joindre un détachement de ses soldats;  je refuse;  je ne veux pas exposer, pour l'intérêt d'une vaine curiosité, la vie de quelques hommes, que je me reprocherais éternellement.
 A. de Lamartine, Voyage en Orient, archived here.

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