Wednesday, February 18, 2009


John Victor Luce, Christine Morris and Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood (edd.), The Lure of Greece: Irish Involvement in Greek Culture, Literature, History and Politics. Dublin: Hinds, 2007. Pp. xvi, 170. ISBN 9780952823667. €29.00.
John Higgins, The Gilbert School (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The Irish Institute for Hellenic Studies in Athens (IIHSA) was established in 1996, the newest of the foreign schools in Athens. Certainly this is a sign of the maturing of Irish scholarship in the 21st century. Until relatively recently the resources available to the Irish classical scholar, even in terms of basic library holdings, have been limited. The scholarly presence of Irish classicists in their own right in Athens is new, but is growing and productive: the Institute has sponsored several projects, archaeological and otherwise, and has begun with this volume a series of publications.1 The book, of particular interest to scholars of the classical tradition, is a good harvest of first fruits and a hopeful harbinger of future bounty. It is especially significant in bringing to light the many points of influence that the two countries have had on one another (primarily, though, the influence of Greece on Ireland); the future work of the school might well concern itself to a degree with further mining this aspect of cultural relationship. Readers of this review should know W.B. Stanford's masterly Ireland and the classical tradition (Dublin: Allen Figgis and Co., 1976). The Lure of Greece fills several gaps and provides much matter to think on, but in no way does it replace that work. Rather, it makes a useful supplement and points the way towards further research.

The IIHSA sponsored a conference in 2003 in Galway under the title "Irish Involvement in Greek Culture, Literature, History and Politics".2 This publication is an incomplete collection of papers from the conference. The conference heard several other papers delivered, notably those included in sessions on "Irish Appropriation of Greek Tragedy," and "Greek Themes in Yeats and Joyce," detailing some of the Greek influences on modern Irish literature. The decision to exclude these papers from the publication is puzzling: in his Introduction to the book, the Director if the IIHSA, Prof. John Dillon (himself the author of one of the omitted papers) says that the papers were not included because the Greek influence on Irish literature "has been, and is being, so well covered in a series of publications by Prof. Brian Arkins of Galway, a valued member of our Managing Committee" (p. xi, fn. 1). It is no slight to Prof. Arkins' excellent work to recognize that he is not the only scholar working in the area, and that he can scarcely be expected to carry the entire burden of this area of scholarship. The omission of this aspect of the relationship between Ireland and Greece almost entirely (there is a paper on Oscar Wilde) leaves a significant gap. Ireland and Greece are both very literary countries after all, both historically and in contemporary terms. This would have been a much more useful and interesting collection if that side of the conference papers had been included--the book is only 170 pages, including the index, and would not have bulked too large if they had been.

The collection purports to describe "Irish involvement in Greek culture, literature, history and politics." The subtitle of the collection is somewhat misleading: we do not read much of the influence of Ireland or Irish people on Greece (with the exception of the philhellenes Church and Bourchier), but instead of the influence of Greece in Ireland. Even here, the discussion is predominantly focused on the influence of classical Greek studies on scholarship and education in modern Ireland. The title does raise questions, though, that might point the way for further investigation: namely, has there been much influence of Ireland on modern Greece? For instance, in literature--are there any significant links between modern Irish poetry and modern Greek poetry? How many times have Irish playwrights been produced in Athens? Were there any important Irish political or diplomatic contacts with Greece in the context of modern European relations, especially in the context of the European Community?

The papers themselves fall into two or three groups. First, there are the papers regarding the philhellenes and travelers, which include the only ones that address the purported subject of the collection, the involvement of the Irish with Greece. To work chronologically through the subjects of the papers, "Robert Wood and Homer," by John V. Luce is a discussion of the founder of early modern scholarship on Homer. Robert Wood was from County Meath, but he traveled widely in the classical lands in the 18th century, among the first tourists to examine ancient literature while actually on the ground where it originated. Wood's early recognition of Homer's orality is of prime importance and created a considerable stir upon publication. This essay deals more with Wood's travels, especially in the Troad, than with his literary scholarship. Sir Richard Church, subject of "Sir Richard Church and the Irish Philhellenes in the Greek War of Independence" by Patrick Comerford, was one of the leading philhellenes of the independence movement in Greece in the early 19th century; J.D. Bourchier, treated in "An Ardent Lover of Cretan Freedom: J. D. Bourchier, 1850-1920," by Christine Morris, was involved in the fight for Cretan independence at the end of the same century. Both are interesting accounts of the careers of the two men, with an additional bonus in the first paper of details of the careers of other Irish philhellenes. Church was among the most prominent of all the philhellenes. He was awarded command of the Greek army, and eventually settled in Athens in the Plaka as a Greek citizen, where he remained involved in Greek politics, receiving a public funeral at his death in 1873. Bourchier was also much involved in Cretan politics, at first as a reporter for the Times of London; eventually he became friendly with Arthur Evans and helped secure his permit to excavate Knossos. While Comerford's paper is written in a breathless style and neither paper has a great deal of analysis of the significance of these men, or their Irish origins, they both include much interesting information. Under this heading we should also note the story of a Greek immigrant to Ireland in the early 19th century, the Rev. Basil Zula, and his curious garden, apparently based on the geography of Thermopylae, in "Rev. Basil Zula and the Thermopylae Garden at Kilwarlin, Co. Down," by Jo Day.

Another group of papers includes discussions of the academic worlds of 19th and 20th century Ireland. Two articles, "K. T. Frost and the Archaeological Museum at The Queen's University of Belfast," by William M. Dunlop, and "Henry Browne, Greek Archaeology and 'The Museum of Ancient History', University College Dublin," by Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood, describe the creation in the early 20th century of two museums in Irish universities with significant classical holdings. The history of the museum in Belfast is bittersweet: the archaeological collection, while acquired haphazardly, is fairly extensive, including over 4,000 items. It should serve as a major resource for classicists throughout the island. Alas, the powers that be decided to cease the teaching of classics at Queen's University in 2003, and while the collection "is still providing an important service in the teaching of archaeology," (41) it is a much lesser thing than it might be. Dunlop's account describes the origins of the collection in 1909-10, a result of the efforts of K.T. Frost, Lecturer in Archaeology and Ancient History, about whom he has much of interest to say. The Museum has been augmented over the intervening century, for the most part by donations of personal collections. The Classical Museum at University College, Dublin, is the largest and easily the most important in the country. Souyoudzoglou-Haywood's article on the UCD Museum is illuminating and should be read in combination with Andrew Smith's article later about Fr. Browne elsewhere in the book. The UCD Museum was built deliberately by Fr. Browne as a teaching tool. Browne was himself especially interested in the material culture of the ancient world, in particular the Minoan/Mycenaean period. The Museum grew from his enthusiasm. He acquired material from various sources, working with the National Museum of Ireland, the British Museum and the Ashmolean in particular, and in a variety of types (pottery, sculpture, coins, glassware, and casts). The collection is a remarkable teaching tool, which has not always been used to best advantage. Luckily, the collection is now regularly used in teaching at UCD, is made available for school groups, has mounted several recent exhibitions, and is also in the business of acquiring new material.3 It would make for interesting reading to have had accounts of the classical cast collection in University College, Cork4 and the few classical antiquities possessed by Trinity College, Dublin, perhaps with an explanation of why there has never been a comparable museum there.

Two of the remaining essays deal with Trinity classicists of a literary bent: Oscar Wilde in the 19th century and W.B. Stanford, perhaps Ireland's most eminent classical scholar, in the 20th. "How to become Higher Commander of the Order of the Phoenix: the academic career of W. B. Stanford, Philhellene," by Brian McGing, Stanford's current successor as Regius Professor of Greek, is a measured and thoughtful look at Stanford's career.5 McGing reminds us that Stanford was emphatically not a British classicist, but rather "an entirely home-grown Irish product, a complete outsider to the British classical establishment," (103--it is, incidentally, startling to hear Stanford being described, even if implicitly, as an anti-establishment figure!). The situation was entirely different in America, where (as many of us may remember) Stanford was well-known and well-thought-of; he was honored with the Sather professorship in 1966. In addition, Stanford was an enthusiastic advocate of reaching beyond the academic world to a more general public with an interest in the ancient world, becoming a prominent and frequent lecturer for Swan's Hellenic Cruises, the importance of which McGing emphasizes (106). McGing makes a convincing case that Stanford's outstanding contribution was to bring classical learning to a general, educated audience throughout the English speaking world, while still remaining a leading scholar.

While Stanford was arguably the best classical scholar Ireland produced in the 20th century, the finest Irish classicist of the 19th is treated in "Oscar Wilde and Greece," by Patrick Sammon. Sammon does not discuss the influence of Wilde's classical education on his literary work, an area that would repay careful study; instead, following a discussion of his classical education, we get an account of the trip to Greece he took with his Trinity tutor, J.P. Mahaffy, in 1877, to sites in the Peloponnesus and Attica. Unfortunately, as Sammon points out, "we have very little evidence in Wilde's own words for his visit to Greece," (132) and so what he can say about it is limited.

The other great university in Dublin, University College (originally the Catholic University), is treated in the article "Two Dublin Classicists: Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) and Henry Browne (1853-1941)," by their successor, Andrew Smith. Hopkins, better known as a poet of course, was a professor of Greek in Dublin for only four years and had a limited influence on Irish education. Browne's influence was exerted over decades and made a deep impact on classics throughout the country. His establishment of the Classical Museum has been mentioned above. He also worked to bring the results of archaeological research into the classroom, his own in UCD though the use, innovative at the time, of lantern slides and photographs, and into schoolrooms across the country: he collected tray sets of what we would now call realia and lent them to interested school teachers. In all this work he followed his own "fairly comprehensive theory of what constitutes Classical Studies." He saw Classics as possessing "[p]racticality and utility . . . in the broadest sense in which cultural studies can be said to inform and influence our lives for the better." (137) This is no poor ideal.

The other papers are interesting in themselves but less so as part of this collection. "Aeschylus, the Blaskets and Marxism: interconnecting influences on the writings of George Thomson" by Peter Gathercole deals with the scholar as a Marxist, and primarily with his disagreements with Gordon Childe. While Thomson's experiences in Ireland while teaching in Galway are mentioned, the essay has little to do with the relations of Ireland and Greece. Aideen M. Ireland's "A Gentle Luxury: Collectors and collecting in eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland" deals with the collection of Irish, not Greek, antiquities. Michael McCarthy's "Drawings of Rome and Tivoli in 1750 by Giovanni Battista Borra" is self-evidently about Italy.

It is inevitable that a collection of conference papers will produce a collection of essays that is weak in some areas, since the book is limited to the papers actually presented and published. The strongest contribution of The Lure of Greece is to bring together the accounts of Irish scholarship and university teaching in the 19th and especially 20th centuries. The best of the papers are those that discuss classical education in the 20th century. In particular, the papers on the Belfast and Dublin museums make a coherent pair and go nicely with Smith's comments on Fr. Browne's far-sighted and innovative educational mission. This set of papers, along with McGing's on Stanford, brings out the great importance of classical education during the formative year of the Irish state after independence from Britain was achieved in the 1920s.

The collection, following the program of the original conference, leaves some notable gaps. In the context of the papers on the museums, we could have seen a paper on the museum in Cork. Stanford was not the only truly eminent Irish scholar working on ancient Greece, and a comprehensive study would have had more about, for instance, E.R. Dodds (an avid Irish nationalist) or J.B. Bury, a pioneer in Byzantine studies. In particular, two leading figures in any account of the relationship Ireland has had with Greek culture are conspicuously absent: Lord Charlemont, founder of the Royal Irish Academy in the 18th century, and a significant figure in the western European rediscovery of Greece in the 18th century as a whole; and J. P. Mahaffy,6 Provost of Trinity in the early 20th. Mahaffy was at various times Professor of Greek, Professor of Latin and Professor of Ancient History at TCD, and was one of the first scholars to recognize the importance of travel to the classical lands for classical scholars, and of the importance of material remains in the interpretation of classical literature. I mention these omissions not as criticism, but in the hopes that this collection will generate further scholarship.


Patrick Comerford, Sir Richard Church and the Irish Philhellenes in the Greek War of Independence

Jo Day, Rev. Basil Zula and the Thermopylae Garden at Kilwarlin, Co. Down

William M. Dunlop, K. T. Frost and the Archaeological Museum at The Queen's University of Belfast

Peter Gathercole, Aeschylus, the Blaskets and Marxism: interconnecting influences on the writings of George Thomson

Aideen M. Ireland, A Gentle Luxury: Collectors and collecting in eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland

John V. Luce, Robert Wood and Homer

Michael Mccarthy, Drawings of Rome and Tivoli in 1750 by Giovanni Battista Borra

Brian McGing, How to become Higher Commander of the Order of the Phoenix: the academic career of W. B. Stanford, Philhellene

Christine Morris, An Ardent Lover of Cretan Freedom: J. D. Bourchier, 1850-1920

Patrick Sammon, Oscar Wilde and Greece

Andrew Smith, Two Dublin Classicists: Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) and Henry Browne (1853-1941)

Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood, Henry Browne, Greek Archaeology and 'The Museum Of Ancient History', University College Dublin


1. For details of the IIHSA activities, see their web site:

2. The full program of the conference is available at:

3. For a recent popular account of the Museum in the UCD alumni magazine, see The Museum itself has a webpage, which includes a description of the recent acquisition, on extended loan, of a previously unknown collection of antiquities. The Museum's webpage is at; for the new collection, follow the link to "Museum News."

4. For the Cork museum, see

5. Stanford was also a distinguished political figure as a member of the Irish Senate from 1948 to 1969. His last, posthumous, book of Memoirs (Dublin: Hinds, 2001) was not reviewed in , but readers of this review might find it worth a look.

6. Mahaffy is the subject of Mahaffy: A biography of an Anglo-Irishman, by W.B. Stanford and R.B. McDowell (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971).

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