King's College London
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‘A brighter Hellas’: rediscovering Greece in the 19th century

A description of the East

Map of GreeceMap of Greece in the mid-18th centuryFrom the mid-17th century it was customary for young European men of means to finish their education with an extensive trip to Europe, known as the Grand Tour. The grand tourist immersed himself in the culture and antiquities of major European cities and returned with some souvenirs of his travels.

The typical itinerary brought travellers through France and Switzerland, across the Alps into Italy, taking in Florence and above all the ancient ruins of Rome, and through Germany, Austria and Holland on the way home. At that time few British and Irish tourists ventured further south than Naples; Greece, under Ottoman rule, was considered too dangerous a place to visit, where bandits or ‘klephts’ roamed the countryside.

Richard Pococke (1704-56), Church of Ireland bishop of Ossory, of Elphin and of Meath, was born at Southampton and studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Following his studies, he embarked on a set of tours through Europe taking in Prussia, Hanover and Greece. He travelled further afield than the typical grand tourist and journeyed to lands unfamiliar to western travellers.

From 1737 to 1740 Pococke made a trip to the Near East, where he toured through Egypt, Jerusalem, northern Palestine, Cyprus, Crete, parts of Asia Minor and Greece. Following an extensive return journey through Europe, he published his acclaimed two-volume work, A description of the East. The map on display shows Greece and, to the north, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace in the mid-18th century. Places are identified for the most part by their ancient names.

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