Medieval and Recent History: A New Consciousness about the City of Athens at the End of the 19th Century

Nasia Giakovaki
Historian, State General Archives

“Panepistimiou Avenue, Stadiou Street, Syntagma Square and many other streets of the new sections of the city would honor any European capital. Also the commercial center, such as Ermou and Aiolou streets, has enormous buildings and a large number of bright stores. What does not evoke a pleasant impression for the foreigner accustomed to European cities is the lack of religious and secular buildings which rise above the ocean of houses and impress on someone viewing the city from afar its particular physiognomy. The more recent churches of Athens are large and have huge bell-towers, but none of them has managed to truly dominate the entire prospect of the city. We are so enslaved in our aesthetic habits that we want immediately to adjust the foreign and the new to conditions familiar to us, and I must say that frequently during my excursions I have designed mentally some cathedral for the city skyline. And it was exactly these efforts that taught me how unjustified my initial dissatisfaction with Athens was. Every structure that rising proudly above the city would, on the one hand, damage the view of the Acropolis, and, on the other, would degrade its own impact due to the unequal rivalry with the holy rock. The only thing able to dominate and impress its character on its surroundings is exactly the imposing rock of the Acropolis, which rises like an eternal faithful protector of the city, with its gold-bright crown—the Parthenon.”.1

A view of Athens, in the 1880s (Source: Karl Baedeker, Griechenland, Leipzig 1889)

This presentation of Athens belongs to Karl Krumbacher, the great German scholar of Byzantium, when he first visited Athens in 1884. The visit of a Byzantine scholar to a chiefly classical city is enough to introduce us both to the Athenian period we will attempt today to approach—the last thirty years of the 19th century (1873-1904)—and to the issue that we will attempt to explore—namely, the appearance of a new and systematic interest in the Medieval and recent past of the city of Athens.
From the above quote we can easily identify the basis for the aesthetic gap which surprised the European visitor: Athens, European in terms of its new avenues and bright stores, departs from the standards of the European metropolis in this: in its lack of a medieval stamp. Because this insistence on a dominating cathedral, this sense of a gap in the landscape, essentially indicates a certain gap in time. Such is the visage of the New Athens—a new city which developed quickly but without an immediate past—that turned Krumbacher, at another point in his wanderings as a visitor, towards a parallelism that was unanswerable in its time: “…this city is one of the most peculiar creations of recent times, which can only be compared in a certain way to American instances.”.2

Karl Krumbacher (1856-1909)
Georgios Souris (1853-1919)

It is totally coincidental that, in 1884, exactly the same year as Krumbacher visited Athens, Georgios Souris published in Romios (a Greek satirical newspaper) a poem with the title “New Athens and Wealth and Hunger”:

From your ancient epoch nothing remains
And every day yet another of your memories is erased
Your ancient dwellers now pass for foreigners
And it is miraculous that amidst so much that is new
Was saved Aghioi Theodoroi and Kapnikarea.
I fantasize the population multiplied ten times
The whole universe of Greeks gathered together,
And not even a single dweller in the rest of Greece.
There would be no Thessalians, Cretans, Mytilenians,
And all of us would become Athenian citizens.3

The domestic observer sketches in a satirical manner the change that was furiously reaching completion in those years. Where the Byzantine scholar feels the absence of an imposing cathedral, the Greek poet is consoled by the rescue of the tiny church of Kapnikarea. It is a difference that does not hide a commonality in the need for the presence within space of a past time. In the fashion of Souris, there coexists an amalgam of nostalgia with the irresistible, inavoidable attraction of the new.

The church of Kapnikarea, ca 1850

This is not the time to discuss the transformations of the capital of the kingdom. Still it is necessary to stress that in exactly these years, from 1870 to 1900, something significant was happening in Athens. It grew and got stronger in extent and population, it became modern: It acquired a railway, electric lighting, a water distribution system, new public and private buildings…This city “at its inception”, in Krumbacher’s words, has obliterated “its older era” and, to remind ourselves of Souris, “its oldest dwellers now pass for foreigners”. The New Athens is tending to become a metropolis, drawn into the constellation of definitive urbanization. It finally acquired it own pride. It is the Athens that, a few years later, greeted—and is capable of greeting—the Olympic Games.
Within the realities of the New Athens, in the city itself, we must place the new and, initially, institutionally articulated demand for a history of medieval and recent Athens. This new search for an Athenian past, which first appeared then with intensity, understandably traveled along the same lines as national historiography, as that historiography had taken shape in the years just prior. Undoubtedly, it can be consider being an extension and application of the idea of National continuity to the history of the City of Pallas, now the capital of a reborn Hellenism. The climate created by the turn towards medieval studies and the “discovery” of Byzantium certainly added weight to and facilitated the appearance of Athenian research.4

Dionysios Sourmelis, Ιστορία των Αθηνών κατά τον υπέρ ελευθερίας αγώνα, αρχομένη από της Επαναστάσεως μέχρι της αποκαταστάσεως των πραγμάτων, [The History of Athens during the freedom struggle, beginning with the Revolution until the restoration], Aegina 1834

Nonetheless, the need to search for the Athens of more recent and medieval times arose from the same development that took place in the city, and the processes which this gave birth to in the consciousness of its citizens, or better, in the various strata of citizens. Such a perspective combines the movement of ideas with the society, rather than to make the realm of ideas (historiography in this instance) autonomous in the identification of pathways, continuities or breaks exclusively in reference to itself.
After this obligatory introduction, it is time to the follow out the specific events as they unfolded. Let us then look at matters more closely.
In November 1873, while the mayor was Panagis Kyriakos, Athens-born and a worker devoted to the cause, in his own words, of “reformation of the city”, the City Council proceeded with a formal and, basically, foundational action in relation to its new objective. It proclaimed a “competition” whose topic was the “writing of the history of Athens from Christ to the year 1821”5. We are at the moment when the public demand for an Athenian history on behalf of the city itself first makes its appearance. (Next to this proclamation let us compare the not unrelated phenomenon that the Municipality of Syros—another rapidly developing municipality—took a similar action at the same moment6).
The deadline provided is short (one year and a bit) and the panel of judges consists of a select group of men of letters: K. Paparrigopoulos, S. Koumanoudis, G. Papadopoulos, P. Lambros, and I. Pantazidis.
Response to the competition is not great. Exactly one manuscript reached the Municipality which, indeed, was awarded on the responsibility finally of the Municipality (rather than the responsible committee) and was published—in accord with the terms—using public monies in 18767.
Its author was the youthful Georgios Konstantinidis (22 years of age), graduate of the School of Philosophy of the University of Athens, who continued his studies in Germany, and would soon thereafter become the Director of the Zarifeion Institute of Philippoupolis, and later still supervisor of the National Library. The young Konstantinidis had a sense that he was engaged in provocation and attempted with an apologetic prologue to preempt objections. Thus, he praised the Municipality for its initiative: “because this desire…to research and narrate this darkest and, until now, almost entirely unexplored period in the long life of its glorious homeland, attests clearly to the fact that modern Athenians have matured significantly in their development…”8.
Konstantinidis, to be sure, expressed his reservations about the short deadline. Otherwise, he declared that “by no means escaped my attention, right from the beginning, this difficult and thorny task […] nor the inadequacy of knowledge for such a work,” and concludes that “I decided to author a text that was short, to be sure, but was supported by scientific studies and bases” and that “the work, if nothing else, will at least be used as the starting point…so that in the future, matters being better established, a perfect history of the glorious city can be written, and worthy of it.”9
Someone else showed interest in the Athens history competition held by the Municipality of Athens: someone nearly the same age as Konstantinidis, and also a graduate of the Philosophy School of Athens, and who was also doing graduate studies in Germany at the time of the competition, and in fact, on a subject related to the Byzantine history of Athens, but who adopted a different stance. He was Spyridon Lambros, later professor of history at the University of Athens.10Lambros refused to respond to the Municipality’s proclamation and, instead, sent a “long report” in which he attempted “to demonstrate that the rush to rapidly bring the competition to completion was totally unprofitable” because “the zeal to quickly acquire a manual about the medieval period of Athens, was incompatible with the importance of the task.”11
The Municipality’s dismissal of the recommendations of Sp. Lambros, the son, it should be noted, of Pavlos Lambros, member of the said committee, and the Municipality’s impatient insistence in acquiring, even off-handedly and without the judgment of the panel of judges, a historic manual of the modern city, should not be left unnoticed. Still, this occurrence should not be understood so much as superficiality, but more as a different kind of priority. Whether more or less “scientific”, the Municipality wanted in printed form the modern history of its city “after its ancient zenith”.
Very soon, in 1878, the scientific contribution of Spyridon Lambros to the systematic involvement of the Municipality in the field of Athenian historical research found a response from the Municipal leadership, while P. Kyriakos was still mayor. With Spyridon Lambros’ return from Western Europe, he was asked to submit a “report regarding the means that would make possible the conduct of historical research.” Thus Spyridon Lambros submitted a comprehensive and analytical plan for the requisite actions12. His proposals were organized around a three-part plan, which served the general purpose of collecting and making available all sources having to do with the medieval and modern history of Athens:
a. The creation of a specialized library, which would collect together all books having to do with the history of the city (among which a special place would be given to European travelogues), but also the codes, the preserved documents, the images and the plans from monasteries or private collections in Attica. Finally, he proposed that the materials of the City Historical Library be supplemented with a collection of official copies of unpublished documents relative to Athenian history kept in the libraries and archives of Europe.
b. The printing of a systematic series and publication on a “strictly critical” basis of unpublished documents relative to the history of Athens under the title “Memorials referring to the history of Athens.”
c. The organization of a collection “of local traditions saved by the elderly, an inventory of the intellectual productions of the people of Attica.

Spyridon Lambros (1851-1919)

Lambros gave special treatment to the second part of this three-part plan, which occupies the largest and most fully elaborated portion of his Report, in which he proposes a specific program of publications, that is, a series of independent volumes that include: “The works of the Athens Metropolitan Michael Akominatou, the correspondence of the Acciauoli, to the degree that it refers to the history of Athens, the reports of Venetian ambassadors, those of the French ambassadors which refer to the institutions of the city during Turkish rule, the reports and documents which refer to the fall of Athens by Morosini and those in the Peloponnese and of Athens dispersed elsewhere.”
In other words, he was proposing a series of publications covering the period from the 12th to the 17th centuries in which European-generated archival sources would play a primary role, thus securing the creation of significant historical depth, as well as the connections of Athens’ history to that of the West. One could imagine that, in this manner, Athens would tend to become part and parcel of a past along the lines of the middles ages in the West.
We need to stay a bit more with this “Report” in order to see the manner in which he highlights the need for the development of the city’s history.
In Lambros’ thought, the study of ancient Athens can be distinguished from the modern (including the medieval as well) because “the civilized world had for a long time” given its attention to the first, that is, the ancient, while no one up to the present time had shown any interest in the second, that is, the modern. The study of antiquity was already deemed worthwhile and, presumably, an international cause. Greek national concern over the ancient city was manifest within a wider context and, in any case, had been secured. By contrast, the study of the fate of modern Athens had no suitors, since it neither constituted a coherent field of research, nor could it become the subject of national, no less international concern. If it were to develop, if it were to exist, it would need to have the patronage of local authorities, that is, of the Municipality. For this reason, Lambros provided as an example worthy of imitation what existed in European cities and municipalities: the City of Paris’ program for publication of the historical sources of the French capital, the publication activities of the Historical Committees of Munich regarding the Hanseatic and other cities of Germany, the texts of the local historical journals entitled “Archivio” of the cities of Italy.
Of course, in offering the methods of European cities as a model of care for their history, Spyridon Lambros felt obligated to pose the difference, in relation to medieval history, between Athens and the cities of Europe. This difference obligated him at the same time to explicitly state the reasons that the middle and later history of the city of Athens was in itself worthy of interest. “And, to be sure, it is true the history of most European cities during the middle ages is far more glorious than that of Athens. But for us is of no less importance the fate of the ancient monuments and of the living Greeks of the city, which, being the most glorious of the ancient Greek cities, is still the metropolis of the dispersed Hellenism”.
The past, therefore, is judged to be important and evaluated not merely because of its value in itself, but because of its relationship “with us.”
The European examples were put forth by Lambros as models with a dual purpose. On the one hand, they were used to promote exactly the civilized scientific type of historical concern: with emphasis on sources, rigorously examined, a comprehensive, so far as possible, collection of data, leading incrementally, but with certainty, towards the positivistic ideal, the “extensive and accurate history of Athens (as opposed, let’s say, to popular history or historiography). On the other hand, the European example was conscripted in order to push the Municipality’s initial historical interest in the direction of generous grants and institutional arrangements that would support a scientific plan for the collection and availability of historical primary sources. Thus, the municipal concern for the city’s history was put forward as a European process, while economic generosity for historical study acquired in addition an ideological dimension.
“To be sure the finding and publication of unpublished materials is expensive, but it will raise the City of Athens to a level of civilization equivalent to those of the other cities of Europe, to which we belong geographically and seek ethically to be counted amongst.”
In this manner, Spyridon Lambros, using his scientific credibility, undertook to draw the Municipality’s interest in Athens’ past into a wider program of historical researches, placing the concern for the historical past of the city into the context of developmental model being followed and making it an indicator of the city’s “Europeanization.”
The City obviously listened to the detailed and ambitious proposition. We are ignorant of its exact impact,13but we nonetheless know its immediate practical result: The Municipality of Athens decided to fund the two-volume publication of the remained writings by Michail Choniatis, the classically educated man-of-letters and Metropolitan of Athens during the 12th century, a publication that was edited by Spyridon Lambros himself.14It was a work of enormous, laborious research, the fruit of many years of research, copying and collating of handwritten texts from the great libraries of Western Europe, a work that fulfilled the rigorous scientific, critical specifications of publications from the period.
The Municipality’s issuance of the Choniatis publications—which it will be remembered was the first of the series, the Memorials of the City of Athens, in accordance with the plan submitted by Lambros to the Municipality— Spyridon Lambros felt both personally justified and nationally prideful: “And, since this publication is very expensive, the finding of means was difficult, so that necessarily it would be undertaken by the foreign academy of a state that in recent years has dealt intensively with Byzantine history, as much for reasons of scientific zeal as of national interests. [...] To whom else would it be fairer to dedicate this publication, but to the Municipality, which generously covered the expenses of publication? And happily expressing my gratitude to the Municipal Council on its care for the history of the homeland that it has demonstrated for some time, I feel my duty to mention primarily the names of Mayor Mr. Panagis Kyriakos, a friend of the arts and the municipal counselors Mr. Timoleon Filimon and Dimitrios M. Kallifronas, who were assigned supervision of the publication”.15
Two observations: First, the foreign state. Most likely he is implying here Russia, which in these same years was in search of its own glorious past, heatedly developing Byzantine studies, with Ouspensky already becoming involved with the work of Choniatis. Second, the individuals. It is worth remembering that Kyriakos and Kalliphronas belonged to two of the oldest families of Athenian nobility and that Filimon succeeded his father, a freedom fighter and historian of the War of Independance, in publishing one of the first and longest-lasting Athens newspapers, Aion. Men, in other words, who were Athenians, old Athenians, motivated by concern for what to them was truly an ancestral history.
Nevertheless, the Municipality did not acquire a more lasting concern and policy regarding the history and past of Athens. To be sure, the broader desire to make the past of the new city visible remained. With the foundation of the Historical and Ethnological Society (IEE) in Athens (1882), whose first president was Timoleon Filimon and vice-president Spyridon Lambros, the collection of Athenian, historical and popular materials, mainly through gifts, slowly accelerated, despite the wider goals, with a national scope, that it established and despite its economic deficiencies. Thus, some of the interest in the city’s past that had been born was absorbed by a private association, partially filling the institutional gap not covered by the Municipality.16
In the coming years, Spyridon Lambros, on the one hand, continued, among other things, his studies of Athens with brief works, mostly concerned with the publication of sources, which was extended to cover the period of Turkish rule. But on the other hand, he appears to have abandoned his youthful plan, if such it was, to become the historian of medieval and modern Athens. Much later, he would attribute his estrangement from ‘his old aspirations” exactly to this deficient and inconsistent stance of the Municipality of Athens.17
Of all his Athens-related publications, we will mention one, that of 1881, whose character is linked to the intervention of Lambros, up to that point, in favor of the development and rational orientation of the medieval and modern historiography of Athens. Its title: “Notes regarding Athenian history during the middle ages and the Turkish domination”.18
In that text, Lambros indicates the breadth of the sources which must be studied and raises publicly the issue of how the study of the history of Athens ought to develop. Stigmatizing the facile, one-sided and flawed historiography, which draws its material exclusively from older readymade histories, he emphasizes the need to discover and research sources, the “pebbles”, as he calls them, which alone enable us to form the “image.” Since, during these same years, others began to join the party with historical publications about Athens, this publication, methodological in nature, was perhaps Lambros’ attempt to give the study of Athens an orientation.
From 1879, we must wait ten years, until 1889, before the story of the history of modern Athens would take publicly its next major step. In this new step, a new figure and an already familiar one played the leading roles: Dimitris Kambouroglou and Timoleon Filimon.

Timoleon Filimon (1833-1898)

Timoleon Filimon, who, as we saw, was very active in the earlier historical activities of the Municipality and, meanwhile, served as the first president of the Historical Ethnological Society, now got involved in the issue from a new and stronger position: In 1887 he was elected Mayor. As Mayor, Filimon in 1889 announced and took the first steps towards the creation of a Municipal Museum of the History of Athens, even though the plan would finally not come to a favorable conclusion. This idea of a historical portrait of the city was, to be sure, not foreign to his older proposals. Nonetheless, in Filimon’s thought, we can detect, aside from the salutary and research function that the Museum would fulfill, also a new use for the historical past. Such a Museum would demonstrate: “The decline in which were reduced [Athenians] during the years of slavery and the greatness to which they advanced and still are advancing with gigantic steps».19
This idea of using the past to demonstrate present progress reveals its full meaning with Filimon’s supplementary observation in the text announcing the Museum. There, commenting on the dramatic change in the visage of the city between the beginning and the end of the century, Philimon advances as the symbol of change, of progress, the disappearance of minarets from the Athenian skyline and their replacement by “the Greek cross, dominating everywhere.” The need for assurances as to the distance separating the Ottoman from the Greek city appears to be strong. The differences between the beginning and the end of the century concern not merely questions of size, but also of identity and physiognomy. Moreover, the very idea of a Museum of City History was explicitly proposed as a AEuropean practice: Its creation not only describes the path toward development, towards Europe. It is also regarded as integral to that path. These are approaches analogous to what we saw in Lambros’ proposal.
During Filimon’s term as Mayor, again in 1889, a double publication, using public funds, made a strong start, with Dimitrios Kambouroglou as editor. It is the first volume of the Memorials of the History of Athens (the subsequent two volumes would be published in 1890 and 1892 respectively). In the same year, D. Kambouroglou published, as a supplement to the Memorial, a three-volume history of Athens during Turkish rule, which, on the one hand, provides an analysis of sources, and, on the other, attempts to present a first depiction of the history of the city during the period from 1458-1687.

Dimitrios Kambouroglou (1852-1942)

Dimitrios Kambouroglou20is not a professional historian. He is an amateur in the double sense of the term, turning to history because first and foremost he is and feels himself to be an Athenian. Earlier, his mother, Marianna Kambouroglou, of the Gerontas family, recorded and published Athenian fables.21“O Athens,” he would write in the close of the third volume of his history of the Athenians, ”O Athens, who my mother first taught me to worship, laying down my writing, and relaxing my tired hand, I hope I will have in the future the strength equal to my desire that I may be able to fulfill my holy duty to your past.”.22
It is necessary to pause over the words “worship of Athens” and “holy duty.” Kambouroglou, who was awarded for his ability to demythologize and mock what the romantic poets, through 1870, dramatized and suffered—that ironic and witty Kambouroglou whom we meet in his writings for the newspaper Evdomas—becomes in relation to Athens a romantic and genuine devotee. Because of this relationship with the Athenian past, he became known as the “athinaiographos” (Athens-writer).
As he himself notes, Kambouroglou’s studies of Athens began in 1873, the year, that is, of the municipal history competition. A reminder here that this particular instance occurred in the fluid climate of the time, in which historical illumination was being sought in a variety of ways. The main subject of research turned on the life of the city under Turkish occupation. “Why is it,” he asked, “that, while the remote past has been fully developed and taught, the period directly preceding the current era of Athenian life, that is, the period of Turkish rule, remains still unknown to us? Why, immediately following the liberation was born this indifference, if not contempt, towards some of our immediate ancestors who lived under Turkish despotism? Why, like some vain new rich, do we show look down upon our progenitors?”23
The need to rehabilitate our immediate ancestors, our progenitors, is a need which, at the end of the 19th century, was advanced aggressively by the generation of demoticism and popular culture. We are in the atmosphere, let’s not forget, which created Nikolaos Politis, Psycharis, Palamas. Here, however, it is not a matter of generality; the emphasis is not national, but exclusively focused on Athens:
“From where, I wonder”, Kambouroglou continues, “derives as well the noticeable specific undervaluation of the Athenians, about whom not infrequently we read and hear unfavourable judgements? Do they, I wonder, deserve these judgements, or were they so burdened by the glory of their ancestors, that they alone were judged in such an absolute manner, and not in relation to their times? [...] The Athenians should also be judged relative to the situation and the spirit of the times. [...] Do not seek therefore to find in Athens, in the time of Turkish rule, people like Pericles, Euripides and Phidias. Neither is this possible, nor is it natural. But, because they weren't like Ictinus, I wonder, does it follow that they were beasts?” (pun on the similarity between the name of the ancient architect Ictinus and the Greek word for beast «κτήνος»).24

Dimitrios Kambouroglou, Το Ριζόκαστρον [Rizokastron], Athens 1920

The interesting conflict between ancient and modern Athenians, as lived by Kambouroglou, has its counterpart in a second concentric conflict between the studied and honored locale and the ignored and underestimated people. For this reason, Kambouroglou writes the history of the Athenians and not the history of Athens: “Without a detailed knowledge of the entire life of the People, one cannot claim to be knowledgeable about the history of a nation or a city.”25
The notion of a people is central in the thought of Kamboroulgou. And it is not only in his historical work, the History of the Athenians, that it is manifest. In the Memorials, as well, he is concerned, in honor of this idea, with humble, minor sources, private writings and letters, as well as giving value and collecting a diversity of material from popular culture, customs, traditions, superstitions and suchlike. It is not about the people as the protagonist of the nation, but as the native-born inhabitants of the city. In writing history, Kambouroglou defends the honor of the progenitors of the Athenians, and this defense is not directed so much to foreigners, to other nationalities, but rather to the national public which was flowing into the capital to finally dominate the city, displacing the native-born.
Side-by-side with his the notion of the people, Kambouroglou’s thought advances a second notion, the notion of science, and these two notions organize the totality of his work in this period. For Kamborouglou, science is not academic science as it is, let’s say, for Lambros. Still, Kambouroglou believes in science and in it sees the supreme power of knowledge, the “religion”, as he writes, “of the contemporary world”.26 But he is primarily interested in its popularization. He wants knowledge for the many and for the motherland. However, beneath the shadow of Lambros, as well as the more general positivistic ideas that prevailed, he is freed from having to narrate the known and devotes enormous efforts to the collection of sources. Kambouroglou wanted to provide new knowledge. Kambouroglou wants to offer new knowledge. The three-volume publication of the Memorials, with the imperfections of the amateur historian, realizes the idea of the collection of sources, Lambros’ “pebbles”, without, however, organizing the material, without a plan: here he wants everything to be found, “all of what has been saved and can be considered as a Source for Athenian history”, all the historical materials, scattered in disorderly fashion. Written sources: documents, private and public, excerpts from travelogues. Etchings, epigrams, inscriptions and seals, and finally, sources from tradition, that is, diverse materials from the popular culture.
Even as he began the composition of the History, he converses directly, and partly apologetically, with the thought of Lambros and the demands of science, which, as we saw, he posed in 1878-1881 in relation to the study of Athenian history. For in the following passage from Kambouroglou the words are those of Lambrou: “The sources of Athenian history during Turkish rule, and for the first period in particular, are unfortunately not many…but he who attempts to depict those epochs, after often despairing, manages, finally, through tireless efforts, to create not a picture, but a mosaic, whose constitutive stones he had to discover on his own.” Since, however, Kambouroglou is determined to write the history of his forefathers, he adds, indirectly answering Lambros: “The mosaic is nonetheless a picture.”27
The “picture” that Kambouroglou is anxious to compose is the history of Athens—of Athenian life, as he would correct—during the years of Turkish rule. And here, for this period, that is, one finds another difference of emphasis from that of Lambros. Kambouroglou’s concern is the rehabilitation of Turkish-occupied Athens. He wants to insert it into the field of action of historical research, to illuminate “the many unsolved historical problems [that] Athens conceals within itself” and, with the History of the Athenians, this is what he attempts: on the one hand, to project the contrast of the Greekness of the towns in relation to the (Albanian-speaking) villages of Attica and to place the problem of the timing of the re-baptism of sections of the lands of Attica and of the immigration of the Epirote populations into Attica,” and, on the other, to define the 1687 break, that is, the Venetian occupation and expatriation of Athenians that followed, as a milestone which lasted until the “relative high-point of the city and the Athenians under all occupations –including the Turkish occupation.”28Kambourouglou’s aggressive orientation towards the period of Turkish rule, his decisiveness, his devotion to historicize and rehabilitate this “despised” past is, perhaps, his most important characteristic.

Dimitrios Kambouroglou, Αι Παλαιαί Αθήναι [Old Athens], Athens 1922

The Athenian attempt to study and become acquainted with the Athenian past, as it forcefully made its appearance in the last quarter of the 19th centurty, did not stop here, nor, certainly is it exhausted by what we have presented…During the same years, there are others who became involved with issues relating to Athens’ later history. To mention a few, there is Tassos Neroutsos, Epameinondas Stamatiadis, Konstantinos Zisios, Panaretos Konstantinidis, Themostocles Nikolaidis Philadelpheus. At the same time, beginning in 1882, the Historical and Ethnological Society, whose Bulletin published several studies of the Athenian past, engaged in notable collection activities.
Also, in the first years of the 20th century, important new works appeared with the financial backing and support of the Municipality of Athens. To begin with, the publication in 1901 of the first historical work of Yiannis Vlachoyannis bore the title Athenian Archives and was published with public funds. It includes the publication of a large bulk of documents from the decade of the [Independence] Struggle. Even though the work of Vlachoyannis, first Director of the State General Archive, did not in the end have Athens as its main subject, it is even more interesting—for the dynamic of the phenomenon we are examining—that Vlachoyiannis begins with an Athenian collection. Let us also not underestimate the importance of the prospect of public funding. Indeed, the Municipality of Athens at least has become a steady source as a donor for publications about Athenian history, even if not on the programmatic basis envisioned by the young Lambros.
Finally, in 1904, Spyridon Lambros once again presented, this time as a translator, the Greek edition of the History of the City of Athens during the middle ages by Ferdirnard Gregorovius, author of the Medieval History of Rome.29Spyridon Lambros warmly and in a variety of ways supported Gregorovius in his Athens project, exactly because he himself did not want to take it on. The presence of the Municipality of Athens is once again felt, this time in the form of financier of Lambros for his research mission to the Libraries of Europe (Spyros Mercouris is now the mayor). The fruit of this funding and mission was the third volume of the Greek edition of Gregorovius: a careful publication of a large number of unpublished medieval documents, from Lambros himself, who persistently kept for himself the role of editor of critical publications. It was a volume that could admirably stand as an independent publication.30
That, in broad outlilne, is the history of the development of the initial interest, within Athens, of the historical study of its recent past. was Spyridon Lambros’ approach was more national and academic (and medieval as well?), while Kambouroglou’s approach was more local and more popular/secular (and certainly more orientated towards the years of Turkish occupation). Both were born in the middle of the century, raised in the New Athens, representatives of the same generation, of the same city. Within and around them, where it could, was the Municipality of Athens.

View of Athens, 1873

To be sure, the story of Athenian history, as we looked at it, is a story of Athens in the 19th century. The outline attempted here has focused mainly on the history of the birth of this new historiographic field and is only an introduction to its comprehension. Its main line of study must, of course, be placed into the context of the research, as much into modern Greek historiography, as into the history of the city.


1. P. Enepekidis, Η Ελλάδα, τα νησιά και η Μικρά Ασία τον Καρόλου Κρονμπάχερ [Greece, the Islands and the Asia Minor of Karolou Kronbacher, Athens 1994], p. 61.[back]

2. Ibid., p. 58.[back]

3. Romios, September 8, 1884, no 33.[back]

4.Here it must be noted that, from the decade of 1850 two important studies relative to Athenian history of the post-classical period already appeared in the European bibliography: Karl Hopf, De historiae Ducatus Atheniensis fonbidus, Bonn 1852 and Comte de Laborde, Athenes au Xve, XVIe, XVIIe, siecles, Paris 1854, 2 volumes. Nonetheless, these studies were connected either with the study of Frankish rule in the East, which experienced particular development in Europe as part of the turn towards the historical study of the Western middle ages, or with the study of the progress of the European acquaintance with Greek antiquity and the region of Greece, also a part of the processes involving European self-understanding. In addition, from the Greek side of things, the work of the Athenian notary Dionysios Sourmelis must be noted: Τους υπέρ πατρίδος αποθανόντος εν τη πολιορκία των Αθηνών, εντός της πόλεως και τον φρουρίον, εν έτει 1826 [Those who died for their country during the siege of Athens, within the city and the fortress, in the year 1826], Aegina 1828; Ιστορία των Αθηνών κατά τον υπέρ ελευθερίας αγώνα, αρχομένη από της Επαναστάσεως μέχρι της αποκαταστάσεως των πραγμάτων[The History of Athens during the freedom struggle, beginning with the Revolution until the restoration], Aegina 1834; Κατάστασις συνοπτική της πόλεως των Αθηνών από της πτώσεως αυτής υπό των Ρωμαίων μέχρι τέλους της Τουρκοκρατίας[The situation of the city of Athens in brief, from its fall under the Romans until the end of Turkish rule], Athens 1842 (1st and 2nd editions) and 1856 (3rd edition). Sourmelis is, in a certain sense, the first historian of modern Athens following the Liberation. Nevertheless, his work is mainly a historiographic production, relating to local contributions to the Struggle, while the rest of his work, inadequate and brief in any case, is likely connected to the attempt to refute the positions of Fallmerayer on the desertification of Athens during the middle ages, and its subsequent editions due to the further development of the author’s heretical arguments. (Cf. G. Veloudis, Ο Fallmerayer και η γένεση τον ελληνικού ιστορισμού[Fallmerayer and the birth of Greek historicism], Athens 1982, pp. 50-52).[back]

5.The announcement of the “competition” was made by the Mayor on November 1, 1873; the relevant document was published in the prologue to G. Konstantinidis, Ιστορία των Αθηνών[History of Athens], Athens 1876, pp. θ'-ι' [ix-x].[back]

6. Cf. Sp. Lambros, Μικταί Σελίδες [Composite Pages], Athens 1905, p. 47.[back]

7. Βλ. Cf. the relevant comments from another contemporary historian of modern Athens, Th. N. Philadelpheus, Ιστορία των Αθηνών επί Τουρκοκρατίας[History of Athens during Turkish Rule], Athens 1902, vol. 1, pp. γ'-δ' [iii-iv]. Nonetheless, the History of G. Konstantinidis was a publishing success, leading to a second edition in 1894. In 1930, the same author published an abridged history of Athenswith Eleftheroudakis editions.[back]

8. G. Konstantinidis, op. cit., p. η' [viii].[back]

9. Ibid., p. ιγ' [xiii].[back]

10. Sp. Lambros was already involved in research with Michael Akominatos and the result of his researches was his lectureship dissertation which he submitted to the University of Athens and which was published in 1878 under the title Αι Αθήναι περί τα τέλη του 12ου αιώνος[Athens around the end of the 12th century].[back]

11. Ferdinard Gregorovius, Ιστορία της Πόλεως των Αθηνών, μεταφρασθείσα, μετά διορθώσεων και προσθηκών υπό Σπυρίδωνος Λάμπρου [History of the City of Athens, translated with corrections and additions by Spyridon Lambros], vol. I, Athens 1904, p. 20.[back]

12.Sp. Lambos’ Report was published in his “Introduction” to the work of F. Gregorovius, op. cit, vol. I, pp. 21-23.[back]

13. From Lambros we also learn that, subsequently, he was asked to make an estimate of the cost of the entire plan, which he submitted, proposing that the Municipal Budget set aside 3,000 drachmas annually, cf. ibid., pp. 24-25.[back]

14. Sp. Lambros, Μιχαήλ Ακομινάτου τον Χωνιάτη τα Σωζόμενα, τα πλείστα εκδιδόμενα, νυν το πρώτον κατά τους εν Φλωρεντία, Οξωνίω, Παρισίοις και Βιέννη κώδικας [The Surviving Opera of Michael Akominatos Choniatis], two volumes, Athens 1879.[back]

15. Ibid., «To the readers», p. ε'-στ' [v-vi].[back]

16. The Municipality of Athens deposited a contribution to the IEE of 300 drachmas annually from 1888 to 1899, with an interruption for 1893-94. Cf. the reports from the treasury of IEE, as published in the IEE Bulletins, vol. II-VI, 1888-1900.[back]

17. Cf. his “Introduction” to F. Gregorovius, op. cit., 1904, pp. 19 & 25. In the meantime, Spyros Lambros, who worked as a lecturer in Greek History at the University, assumed the position of General Inspector of Primary Schools in 1882.[back]

18.“Πρόχειρα τινά περί της αθηναϊκής ιστορίας κατά τους μέσους χρόνους και επί Τουρκοκρατίας”, published in Παρνασσός [Parnassos], v. V, 1881, pp. 224-253, republished in Sp. Lambros, Composite Pages, op. cit., pp. 518-530.[back]

19. Αιών[Aion], December 30, 1889.[back]

20. Re: Kambouroglou, cf. D. Gerontas, Δημήτριος Γρηγορίου Καμπούρογλου, η ζωή και το έργο του[Dimitrios Grigoriou Kambourolgou, His Life and Work], Athens 1974.[back]

21. Δελτίο της Ιστορικής και Εθνολογικής Εταιρείας [Bulletin of the Historical and Ethnological Society], vol. I, 1883.[back]

22. D. Gr. Kambouroglou, Ιστορία των Αθηναίων[History of the Athenians], vol. 3, 1986, p. 267.[back]

23. Ibid., vol. 1, 1889, pp. 15-1.[back]

24. Ibid., p. 16.[back]

25. Ibid., p. 10.[back]

26. Ibid., p. 8.[back]

27. Ibid., p. 21.[back]

28. Ibid., pp. 17-18.[back]

29. Ferdinard Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom in Mittelalter, Stuttgart 1859-1872 Στουτγάρδη 1859-1872.[back]

30. It is also worth nothing that the misadventures experienced by the publication of the manuscripts of Ioannis Benizelos (1735-1807), author of a History of Athens in two parts- “Παλαιά Ιστορία της Πόλεως των Αθηνών” [“An Ancient History of the City of Athens”] (from mythological times to 1754), and “Ιστορία Νέα των εν Αθήναις συμβηκότων” [“A New History of the events occurred in Athens”] (fromm 1754-1795). In the end, it was only published in full in 1986 (Ioannis Benezelos, Ιστορία των Αθηνών [History of Athens], edited by I. Kokkonas and G. Bokos, Athens 1986), although sections of it had already been published starting in 1815 by Perraivos, but also -during the period we are examining here- by Kambouroglou and Philadelpheus, keeping open, however, the “dispute about the manuscript”, (cf. the collection with that title in the “Prolegomena” of Ioannis Gennadios in the publication that he prepared in 1932 and was finally realized in 1986). The delay in the publication of Benizelos’ work is of interest exactly because, despite the correspondences between his endeavor and the later efforts attempted at the end of the 19th century, although being the first Athenian historian of modern Athens— Benizelos was not so identified by his “epigones” in a timely fashion.[back]