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13/05/2008

Marcellus

Municipality of Argos

When the young French diplomat, the viscount De Marcellus was appointed at the embassy of France at Constantinople, in 1816, he was possessed by the “insobriety” of his acquaintance with the ancient world, which was unknown to him. Before he left Paris, he asked a French Friend of his, who had traveled to Troy how he will recognize the location of ancient Troy.
He told him:
“-Go to Troas, put your hand on your heart, and when you feel it beating vividly, you will understand! Ilion is there!”
This phrase shows the excitement with which many travelers came to see the ancient monuments –for some of them this has been the dream of their lives.
De Marcellus actualized his travels to the Greek territory from 1816 to 1820 with this kind of spiritual and inward attitude of extreme desire and wonder towards the ancient inheritance and tradition. Nineteen years after his return to France he published his travel chronic in the framework of these attitudes.
Holding Homer’s poems in his hands, standing on the stone of Homer in Chios he reads the Hymn to Apollo. At every corner of the Greek land he refers to the ancient texts. Once in a while, he builds bridges with the past. He sees women from Naxos washing their husbands’ breeches and he remembers Nafsica. He understands and feels Aeschylus’s “Persians” listening to them by a student of Cydonies at a “gathering of Greeks, burning of hatred against the Ottomans, the same hatred that burnt the souls of their ancestors”. He understands and feels the Hymn to Demetra reading it at the ancient remains of Elefsina. At Thrace, seeing Greek women with their red scarves, their bare feet and their waved hair, he remembers the maenads from the myth of Morfeas. At Mycenae he carved his name on the mane of the Lions.
From Athens he went to Argos. He got in a public school. The children were reading and repeated the day’s lesson all together in aloud voice. The teacher explained the teaching method to the traveler and he showed him the textbooks he used. These were Laskari’s Grammar, extracts of ancient classic texts, typed in Corfu and Oikonomou’s Rhetoric.
Then he called his best students to rehearse some scenes from the heroic drama “Leonidas at Thermopylae”. It had been published in 1816 financed by a sea-captain from Hydra.



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