Aristotle Halikias Comments On Changing Perceptions Of Ancient Greek Culture

4.1.1His Greek heritage has always played a large role in Aristotle Halikias’ life. It is a culture that has helped to shape his identity and his career. But with the changing of the times, the emphasis on the importance of Greek culture has shifted. In response to a recent article in The New York Times, Aristotle Halikias comments on society’s changing perceptions.

Up until the last century, ancient Greek culture played a significant role in the Western world. The article focuses on the work of John Camp, an American archaeologist who authored a book on the subject. He wrote about the effect of ancient Greek culture on the European establishment. He highlights a trip taken by Englishman Edward Dodwell and Italian artist Simone Pomardi. Together they travelled from 1805 to 1806 and drew the ancient monuments they encountered. Dodwell’s passion for ancient Greece is a far cry from that of collectors in more recent decades. They have passed up many antiquities that he would have marveled over.

Dodwell was a member of the upper class who studied at Cambridge University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and proceeded to travel to Greece a year later. His level of education implied that he had studied ancient Greek and Latin literature. Upon his return to England, he soon set off again, this time for Rome. He remained in Rome until he passed away in 1832. He lived at the Palazzo Doria and married the daughter of Count Giovanni Giraud. In response to his Greek travels, he published a book entitled “A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece.” He referenced more than 50 ancient sources.

In addition to studying ancient literature, he had also learned the basic principles of drawing. During his travels with Pomardi, they brought back incredible works they painted depicting the sites. In his book, Camp includes comments on the images from Kim Sloan. Sloan is the British Museum curator of British drawings preceding 1880. She describes the difference in the sites then and now, and quotes Dodwell’s own commentary.

Dodwell was passionate about ancient Greece. When Lord Elgin damaged the Parthenon he was outraged. The destruction of beautiful pieces of the monument made him furious. During his lifetime, Dodwell collected approximately 150 pieces of stone from various Greek monuments. Some he had picked up from the ground and others were dug up. According to the article, he also owned “259 Egyptian pieces and 602 Greek, Etruscan and Roman objects essentially bought in Italy.” A majority of his collection is on display in Munich’s Staatliche Antikensammlung. Unfortunately some items were destroyed during World War II. One of these pieces was an “imposing archaic urn painted with a frieze of lions bought by Dodwell at Mertese, near Corinth.” The Packard Humanities Institute in Los Altos, California, features his watercolors. The watercolors depict how deeply he understood Greek culture.

According to the article, by the second half of the twentieth century, interest had taken a very different turn. It no longer followed the Greek classics or classical ideal. Actor Anthony Quinn was highly involved in art and had a diverse collection. He starred in “Zorba the Greek” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” but had previously studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. He had an interest in architecture. A speech impediment led him to take acting lessons and his career developed from there. It was the end of his foray into architecture.

Pieces from his collection proved uninteresting by some collectors. The article notes, “He succumbed to the mastery in near-abstract reduction of human form achieved 4,500 years ago in the Cycladic islands, as in the three small pieces sold in a single lot that fetched £10,000, or nearly $16,000 this week. Europeans touring the Greek world apparently ignored such works – none is seen in their collections.” Another piece, a marble fragment showing Zeus and Athena, also sold at a high price. But nineteenth century classicists would have turned their backs on it because it was badly damaged.

Past and present collecting differs greatly. In the past, when studying Roman history was part of the culture, a marble head of Lucius Aelius Caesar would have proved a popular bid. He was the adopted son of Emperor Hadrian. In present day it remained unsold as bidders were uninterested. The article expresses “how important the link was between reading the classics and collecting ancient art in traditional Europe until World War I is borne out by the lack of interest in non-Roman sculpture from Europe manifested by collectors until the 20th century.”

There is a noticeable “lack of enthusiasm” toward ancient pieces that were highly sought in the past. Many pieces remain unsold. The cultural trend of the modern day no longer focuses on ancient Greek and Latin. The best European high schools are leaving it out of their mandatory curriculums. The article points out that after World War I, West European architecture no long featured Graeco-Roman ornament.

Aristotle Halikias has noticed the change, but still holds strong to the role ancient Greece has played in civilization. “The civilization of ancient Greece has been immensely influential on language, politics, philosophy, literature, and the arts,” he remarks. “Ancient Greek culture provides some of our deepest connections to the human race, which has established the foundation of modern Western culture. Many of these humanities continue to be lost with the advent of the Internet and the fast-paced modern world. Understanding ancient cultures will have a profound effect on providing some of our deepest connections to the human race.” He feels that even in the face of changing times, it still plays an important role. Aristotle Halikias is a strong advocate for preserving and promoting the history of ancient Greek culture.


Aristotle Halikias is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the National Hellenic Museum. He previously served as Chairman and during that time oversaw construction of the new Museum building. According to its website, “The National Hellenic Museum is America’s only national institution to document and present the legacy of Greek Americans and their contributions to the American mosaic, while celebrating their rich Greek history and culture and the profound impact of their Hellenic heritage upon the world.”

Aristotle Halikias Comments On Changing Perceptions Of Ancient Greek Culture by
Jacob Hammer
Edited By Jacob Hammer
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Posted: Mon, May 20th, 2013
Category: Lifestyle

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