Donnerstag, 1. Dezember 2016, 18:00 Uhr
What Byron (really) did in the Greek War of Independence, and why it still matters today
George Gordon, the sixth Lord Byron, was one of the most famous Englishmen of the early 19th century. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (published in 1812) was an instant best-seller and soon translated into all the major languages of Europe. In its second canto, the poet drew his readers’ attention not only to the debt owed by contemporary European civilisation to the Hellenes of antiquity (a view first championed by J.J. Winckelmann some 50 years earlier) but to the contemporary plight of the modern Greeks. What would a ‘Greek revival’ mean? Was such a thing possible in the Europe of the 19th century? Byron struggled with these ideas; he and his friend the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Shelley’s wife Mary, all gave contrasting responses over the following decade. After revolution had broken out in Greece against the Ottoman empire in 1821, Byron became an active participant. His death at Missolonghi in April 1824 has often been mythologised – but it was not merely the fulfilment of a ‘Romantic’ destiny. Byron by this time had become a hard-headed, forward-looking politician. He had understood that the future of Greece might also determine the future shape of the entire European continent. The ideas that Byron developed, and the actions that he initiated, will be examined in this talk.