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The Quest for Classical Greece: Early Modern Travel to the Greek World

The Quest for Classical Greece: Early Modern Travel to the Greek World
Lucy Pollard

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'Greece and Asia Minor proved an irresistible lure to English visitors in the seventeenth century. These lands were criss-crossed by adventurers, merchants, diplomats and men of the cloth. In particular, John Covel (1638-1722) - chaplain to the Levant Company in the 1670s, later Master of Christ's College Cambridge - was representative of a thoroughly eccentric band of Englishmen who saw Greece and the Ottoman world through the lens of classical history. Using a variety of sources, including Covel's largely unpublished diaries, Lucy Pollard shows that these curious travellers imported, alongside their copies of Pausanias and Strabo, a package of assumptions about the societies they discovered. Disparaging contemporary Greeks as unworthy successors to their classical ancestors allowed Englishmen to view themselves as the true inheritors of classical culture, even as - when opportunity arose - they removed antiquities from the sites they described. At the same time, they often admired the Turks, about whom they had fewer preconceptions. This is a major contribution to reception and post-Restoration ideas about antiquity.

Author Info

A graduate of Birkbeck, University of London, Lucy Pollard is a Trustee of the Association for the Study of Travel to Egypt and the Near East and a member of the Hellenic Society and of the Classical Association.


'The Quest for Classical Greece is a delightful and immensely readable book, which combines fine scholarship with a refreshing enthusiasm for human frailties. Lucy Pollard’s seventeenth-century travellers measure the Parthenon and clamber up Mount Athos. They marvel over Troy (which isn’t Troy at all) and explore the Cretan labyrinth (actually a disused quarry), all the time grumbling about the locals, bribing officials and stealing ‘souvenirs’ of their trip. They manage to combine bravery, bigotry and a restless curiosity in a strangely endearing way. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.'
Adrian Tinniswood, OBE, writer and historian; author of The Polite Tourist: A History of Country House Visiting and of The Rainborowes: Pirates, Puritans and a Family's Quest for the Promised Land

The Quest for Classical Greece is a timely, scholarly, and well illustrated reminder of the early and intimate links between England and the eastern Mediterranean, seen through the eyes of English travellers. Lucy Pollard shows that the Ottoman Empire was an important destination on the Grand Tour, facilitating researches into the classical and Christian sites which so fascinated English scholars. The unpublished diary of John Covel – which Pollard discusses at length - is a major new source, revealing a seventeenth-century English chaplain's views of Greeks and Turks.’
Philip Mansel, writer and historian, author of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean and of Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire, 1453-1924

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Classical Studies

ISBN: 9781780769615
Publication Date: 30 Jan 2015
Number of Pages: 304
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 1 map, 23 bw integrated

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