1870 - 1950
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  • The creation of a research institute

    If it is right to say that we may thank England for the foundation of the French School, it may be added that we may thank Germany for its second birth. The defeat of 1870 shocked the whole of French intelligentsia: 'the raising of academic standards became a national preoccupation' that had direct consequences for the FSA's life. German research was not only ahead in all areas of archaeological scholarship (such as corpora of inscriptions, vases, and the identification of sculptural works), but was now entering into competition on Greek soil: the German Institute at Athens, a branch of the Berlin Archaeological Institute, was created in 1873, the excavation of Olympia began in 1875, and the first volume of a German academic journal devoted to Greece appeared in 1876. France had not only lost its monopoly, as the FSA was no longer the only foreign establishment in Greece, but from an academic point of view it had been left in a state of inferiority: it had no policy of systematic excavations, its bulletin for disseminating information appeared sporadically and was of low quality, and there was vacillation over the FSA's purposes. In order to combat this, it was first necessary to improve the upper classes' knowledge.

    The reform of 1874 had the merit of clarity: it left only one section, that of Literature. The supervisory powers of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres were reinforced, and it received members' dissertations and proposed two names to the Ministry for the appointment of the director. There were six members, who stayed for three years and were admitted at a rate of two per year. A few modifications (of the number of members and the duration of their stay) aside, this system operated until the new statutes were published in 1985. On the other hand, the ambitious programme for the entry competition, which encompassed written and oral examinations, including ones in Latin epigraphy and the modern Greek language, was soon abandoned.

    The most groundbreaking move was the creation of a Roman branch, which was decided on in 1873: the members were to spend a year there, to be trained for their future work in Greece, but only two year-groups followed this training course and it was abolished as soon as the School at Rome became autonomous, in 1875. Of it remained only the traditional travels in Italy, which were intended to precede work in Athens; this custom continued, with interruptions, until the 1980s.

    Although the reform was put together by the second director, Émile Burnouf, the revival was inextricably associated with Albert Dumont, deputy director of the Roman branch at the age of thirty-two and third director of the FSA in 1875. Dumont not only organised a research centre from scratch but in three years implemented a wide-ranging academic programme.

    He created an Institut de Correspondance hellénique to bring information together and establish links with Greek circles. Papers and data, presented in Greek and French at this Institute's meetings, were published in an annual journal, the Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, of which the first volume appeared in 1877. A series, the Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome, was created, in conjunction with the new School at Rome, to publish members' work.

    In planning this work, A. Dumont showed an impressive breadth of vision. Himself a scholar with a diverse range of research interests and a pioneer in many different areas (from prehistory to stamped amphora handles, and from the chronology of the Athenian archons to terracotta), he directed the 'Athenians' towards all areas of the study of the Greek world: some he pushed towards Mount Athos, others to Constantinople, where they studied Byzantine topography; he devised a vast survey of modern Greek dialects, of which the first piece of research, on Cyprus, was published in 1879. He urged those interested in the Classical world to put together corpora, an area in which the Germans were past masters. Finally, during his directorship the excavation at Delphi received a decisive boost and explorations in Asia Minor were resumed.

    When he returned to France after three years, to become a university rector and then Director of Higher Education, A. Dumont had genuinely transformed the School into a research institute. He left behind him a work that promised much but which it would fall to his successors to bring to fruition. This is what they did, but to a certain extent they abandoned Dumont's ambitious programme in order to focus the School's activities on Classical studies.

    The era of major excavations

    So, the time of major excavations - demanding in terms of both men and resources - had begun. Amid rivalry, because more and more foreign missions were being founded in Greece, the major sites were shared out. Sometimes competition was fierce, and it reflected the conflicts between nations in search of cultural prestige that would serve their political interests. Indeed, the medal struck in celebration of the FSA's fiftieth anniversary in 1898 bore the legend 'For learning, for the homeland' on the obverse. All the nations working in Greece could have claimed for themselves the same motto.

    The FSA still works today at these sites, the legacy of the major excavations of the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, while drawing on new methods and areas of interest. The list is as follows:

    • Delos: excavations were undertaken from 1873 onwards and were developed in several different periods. Work was especially intensive between 1904 and 1914 thanks to the grants provided to the School by the Duke of Loubat.
    • Delphi: The 'Major Excavation' lasted from 1892 to 1903. The French government voted an extraordinary grant for the relocation and reconstruction of the village of Kastri, which had been built on the ancient site.
    • Argos: 1902-1913, excavations at various locations in the town of Argos by a Dutch member of the FSA and with resources provided by his government.
    • Thasos: beginning of excavations in 1911.
    • Philippi: opening of the site in 1914.
    • Malia: 1922, excavations of the Minoan palace, in collaboration with the Greeks.

    These choices were made for both political and academic reasons. On the one hand, France made its presence felt in the regions of the Greek world that had recently been acquired by Greece (Philippi and Thasos); on the other, it followed the development of pre-Hellenic archaeology in Crete (at Malia). On balance, this policy was very judicious as, in ranging from prehistory (Malia) to the Byzantine era (Philippi), the FSA's major sites covered virtually all areas of ancient studies. The sanctuaries of Delos and Delphi played a leading role in Greek history. Three urban sites, Delos, Argos, and Thasos, offered limitless material for research on urbanism. Thasos made it possible to study a Parian colony in a Thracian setting, and Philippi a Roman colony in the east. All the essential questions in the study of the ancient Greek world could be addressed. The French would have been wrong to complain about the distribution. Although they had lost Knossos, not without a fight, to the English, in Malia they possessed another, even older, Knossos, as the excavations of the 1960s showed.

    The discoveries made in the course of these major excavations were in all respects of the first order, and it is not possible to give a proper overview of them here: they included thousands of inscriptions, hundreds of works of art, and dozens of original buildings. Let us note only that the findings from Delphi were revolutionary for our understanding of Greek art, and that the results were felt beyond academia: Matisse (amongst others) contemplated Archaic statuary, the kouroi, tall, naked young men with simplified features, that were discovered in the major excavation. Once again, Greek art served to provide new models for contemporary art. This frenzy of work was not without its problems: the excavators did too much and worked too fast, and academic publications were rather slow in coming. This criticism may be applied to almost all the undertakings of this period, except perhaps Delos, where the team, well organised by M. Holleaux, produced publications in an efficient manner. But let us not carp at the past, which remains glorious, while the prestige derived from it by the School and by Greece was an investment for the future.

    Although the French School's work in the last third of the century and up to the 1920s was predominantly concerned with the opening of the major sites, 'ancillary' initiatives were not neglected: between 1878 and 1890, there were no less than eighteen different excavation sites in Greece and Asia Minor. Excavations and expeditions were undertaken in increasing numbers in Anatolia, in the search for Hellenism outside Greece, until the 'catastrophe' of 1922.

    Opening up to the world

    The creation of the foreign section of the School at Athens in 1900, and that of the French primary school known as the Giffard School after the generous donor who financed its setting up in 1903, should also be seen in the context of rivalry between nations. These two initiatives were in accordance with concerns that had been in evidence since the School's foundation and which were returning to the fore. The foreign section, planned in the case of Belgians since 1846, was intended to host resident members from friendly nations which did not have permanent missions in Greece; they were paid by their countries of origin and had the same rights and duties as the French members. From its first years onwards, the School hosted a Dutchman and Belgians - who distinguished themselves, in the former case at Argos and the latter at Tenos, in excavations financed by their governments - as well as Danes and Swiss. After the First World War, admissions broadened to the extent that that the FSA resembled a real 'League of Nations'. Poles, a Russian, Swedes and a Czech joined, and negotiations were begun with Albania, Romania, and Yugoslavia. It was as foreign members that the first women, from the Netherlands, made their appearance at the FSA in 1927. These foreign members played an active role in the School's work (two Danish architects were engaged on the excavations at Delos before 1914) or pursued their own research. The foreign section contributed to the FSA's international prestige and played a very active part in the institution's academic life.

    While the foreign section continues to flourish, and is irreplaceable, the 'Giffard Foundation' became independent; in this way the FSA turned a page of its history. The creation of a French primary school, which took up residence on a plot of land adjourning the School, was decided upon in 1903. It was a question of furthering the spread of the French language in Greek society, under the control of the School at Athens, and the director organised examination sessions in Greece itself, but also in Constantinople and Smyrna. This base for French propaganda in Greece acquired a certain amount of administrative independence in 1925, as the Higher Institute of French Studies, but a separate director was appointed only in 1938. In any case, before the First World War the FSA, supported by its two new props and distinguished far and wide by the broad and varied nature of its work, constituted a power in Greece and outside it. This was a source of jealousy, and criticism, from both academic and political points of view, was not lacking. A representative example is the newspaper campaign of Chronos, the organ of the military league, against the overseas Schools in 1909: the paper accused the official in charge of archaeology in Greece, P. Kavvadias, of having stifled all Greek archaeological activities and of having assigned the best excavations to foreigners. The foreign institutes, united in the face of these attacks, protested in the press.

    The School at war

    The First World War interrupted the School's actual archaeological work: the 'Athenians' served in France or on the eastern front as soldiers and interpreters, and the war effort took a heavy toll. They also excavated in Greece and in Macedonia and participated in the Oriental Army's archaeological service, which had been created on the instigation of Gustave Fougères, the School's director. In Athens, the latter enthusiastically co-ordinated propaganda in favour of France and its allies. The School had to close its doors in December 1916 following attacks by the royalist army on French troops who supported Venizelos' government. The French were evacuated and the School was entrusted to the director of the American School. On his return, as head of the Franco-Hellenic League, which numbered 4000 members in 1918, Fougères organised meetings to encourage Greeks to mobilise alongside the Allies. When taking stock of the war years, this intellectual, who had been transformed into a real soldier on the eastern front, could write that 'the war of 1871 briefly plunged the School into the inertia of isolation. That of 1914-1919, in the twists and turns of which it was caught up, gave it a new energy'.

    The conditions for stability

    The resumption of activities, driven by the new director Charles Picard (1919-1925), did indeed bring distinction to the School; the greatly increased number of links with foreign countries that sent resident members to the French School and the Malia excavation in 1922 have already been mentioned, and the efforts made to regain a foothold in Asia Minor should not be forgotten. Nevertheless, a number of factors were about to put something of a check on this momentum: the closure of sites in Turkey after the events of 1922, the 'three excavation sites' rule imposed by the Greek government in 1924, and financial difficulties. These developments, along with the newly independent status of the 'Giffard Foundation' and the decree of 1928 that officially termed the establishment in Didotou Street the 'French Archaeological School at Athens', show that a turning-point had been passed. The School was moving from the period of profuse research, which contributed to a particular kind of idea of the French presence in Greece, to that of the methodical management of major excavation sites in the service of academic archaeology.

    The 'three excavation sites' rule would determine the FSA's entire academic policy. The Greek government, overwhelmed by problems with inspecting excavations and preserving monuments and objects, decided that the foreign missions could demand the opening of no more than three excavation sites a year. Moreover, a site that had been abandoned for more than 15 years could no longer be claimed. No new excavations were authorised, except for those who were working on two sites only. The director protested in vain, while the rule was upheld with, it seems, a certain amount of flexibility.

    Moreover, from 1923 onwards the School experienced quite serious financial problems. In his report to the Academy, the director remarked bitterly that the foreign Schools, even the German School, thanks to a private foundation, had more resources than the FSA. With variations that are referred to in the annual reports to the Academy, the financial crises of the interwar period did not spare the School, and in 1936 the devaluations of the franc halved the value of its funds. Was the worldwide crisis also the reason for the decrease in the number of foreign members? There were a mere three in 1930, and only one in 1935.

    This period of turbulence did not prevent ongoing academic work, and publications and excavations continued apace. With regard to excavations, although the major pre-war undertakings (at Delos and Delphi) were not neglected, this was above all the time when Malia, Philippi and Thasos were unearthed. Some new initiatives saw the light of day, of which the most significant was the opening, in 1941, of the site of Gortys in Arcadia, famous for its sanctuary of Asclepius. Nevertheless, the School also showed an interest in Olous, in Crete, and Kirra, the port of Delphi. Major restoration works were undertaken at Delphi (the temple and the Marmaria tholos) and, in collaboration with the Americans, at Amphipolis, where the famous Lion was reassembled.

    The vitality of a research centre is essentially measured by its publications. At the point when it celebrated its centenary, in 1947, the FSA was able to present a not insignificant record. The Bulletin de Correspondance hellénique, with its Excavation Chronicle, which covered Greece and part of Asia Minor and had no equivalent elsewhere, had appeared regularly since 1922 and had been very little affected by the Second World War. The series intended for site publications had expanded remarkably in 50 years:

    • Exploration Archéologique de Délos numbered nineteen volumes, to which the virtually complete Corpus of Inscriptions should be added.
    • in Fouilles de Delphes, 17 volumes had been published.
    • in Études Crétoises, launched in 1928, the ninth title appeared in 1945.
    • the Études Thasiennes series was launched with a first volume published in 1944.

    Synoptic works on the types of materials and the history of Delphi, Delos and Philippi appeared in the Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome series (in which the 'Athenians' were the authors of 85 works between 1896 and 1945, which did not cover all the FSA's sites, but which are varied contributions to knowledge of the Greek world). The foreign members published 6 volumes in the Travaux et Mémoires series. Since what remained to be done was as substantial as the work that had been completed, it was clear what one of the School's fundamental tasks would be in the 50 years to follow.

    The war years and the postwar years

    The School's life was disrupted by the war years and by the internal Greek struggles that lasted until 1949: this resulted in the mobilisation and demobilisation of the 'Athenians', the suspension of admissions between 1939 and 1941 and then again in 1944, the impossibility of reaching the sites by sea, and the dangers of land routes. The School, however, continued to operate and carry out its work. When a new director was nominated in 1950, he nevertheless found a rather deteriorated state of affairs. The buildings were in ruins, the School resembled a caravanserai in which the families of members and staff were crammed, the library was overflowing, and the staff entirely lacked discipline. Georges Daux restored order to the place and for 19 years carried out a policy of adapting the School to the needs of modern archaeology.

    These needs were threefold: to develop the infrastructure, appoint technical staff, and adapt the School's work to the new demands of archaeology. Although he did not meet only with successes in this policy of renewal,as in particular he was faced with financial hurdles, he was unsparing in his efforts. His successors, who were more fortunate and enjoyed better conditions, brought some of his projects to fruition.


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    Malia - QUARTIER MU - 43324

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    Archaeology in Greece ONLINE

    Kapandriti, Kotroni Hill. Platon Petridis (University of Athens), Anna Papadimitriou-Grammenou (University of Athens) and Persephone Georgiou-Geka (University of Athens) report on continuing excavations at the hill of Kotroni. The entire length of the fortification wall had already been revealed and this season focused on fully uncovering its interior face (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Four smaller walls, running at a right angle to the fortification wall were excavated (Fig. 6). These served as a stairway allowing access to the gate. Their south face was carefully constructed, whilst their north face was indiscernible. Small finds from the area include large quantities of prehistoric, Classical and Hellenistic pottery sherds, obsidian blades, loom weights, fragments from a metal knife and two br
    A collaborative project with the BSA.