Cover image for Down from Olympus : archaeology and philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970
Down from Olympus : archaeology and philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970
Marchand, Suzanne L., 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1996]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 400 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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DD193.5 .M37 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Since the publication of Eliza May Butler's Tyranny of Greece over Germany in 1935, the obsession of the German educated elite with the ancient Greeks has become an accepted, if severely underanalyzed, cliché. In Down from Olympus , Suzanne Marchand attempts to come to grips with German Graecophilia, not as a private passion but as an institutionally generated and preserved cultural trope. The book argues that nineteenth-century philhellenes inherited both an elitist, normative aesthetics and an ascetic, scholarly ethos from their Romantic predecessors; German "neohumanists" promised to reconcile these intellectual commitments, and by so doing, to revitalize education and the arts. Focusing on the history of classical archaeology, Marchand shows how the injunction to imitate Greek art was made the basis for new, state-funded cultural institutions. Tracing interactions between scholars and policymakers that made possible grand-scale cultural feats like the acquisition of the Pergamum Altar, she underscores both the gains in specialized knowledge and the failures in social responsibility that were the distinctive products of German neohumanism.

This book discusses intellectual and institutional aspects of archaeology and philhellenism, giving extensive treatment to the history of prehistorical archaeology and German "orientalism." Marchand traces the history of the study, excavation, and exhibition of Greek art as a means to confront the social, cultural, and political consequences of the specialization of scholarship in the last two centuries.

Author Notes

Suzanne L. Marchand is Associate Professor of History at Louisiana State University. She is the author of numerous essays on the history of anthropology, archaeology, and classical scholarship in Germany and Austria and is the coauthor of the world history textbook Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (W. W. Norton).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Marchand's superb book shows that German history cannot be fully understood unless one considers the unique ways in which Germans have used the past. To begin with, Greek art and literature gave the Germans of the Enlightenment the models they needed to cast aside the restraints of French culture and to replace them with something more natural and spontaneous, more Greek (and more German). During the Napoleonic Age, philhellenism took on a political coloration: the Athenian polis taught Germans the values of democracy and civic activism. After 1830, however, reaction set in. The study of antiquity became the business of schoolmasters and professors, and larger aesthetic and humanistic concerns gave way to historical and philological erudition. At the same time, archaeology became the business of state-sponsored expeditions that sought artifacts and glory throughout Greece and Anatolia. The study of antiquity had become a foundation of the state. In WW I German classicists argued that Germany deserved to win the war because Germans best understood antiquity. After 1918 some of them even turned to racism. In brief, this is a sobering book, one marked by its scholarly care and narrative brilliance. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. S. Bailey Knox College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
List of Abbreviationsp. xv
Introductionp. xvii
One The Making of a Cultural Obsessionp. 3
Two From Ideals to Institutionsp. 36
Three The Vicissitudes of Grand-Scale Archaeologyp. 75
Four Trouble in Olympusp. 116
Five Excavating the Barbarianp. 152
Six The Peculiarities of German Orientalismp. 188
Seven Kultur and the World Warp. 228
Eight The Persistence of the Old Regimep. 263
Nine The Third Humanism and the Return of Romantic Aestheticsp. 302
Ten The Decline of Philhellenism, 1933-1970p. 341
Selected Bibliographyp. 377
Indexp. 391