Spiridoula Demetriou

Spiridoula Demetriou, ‘Imagining Modern Greece: Mesologgi, Philhellenism and Art in the 19th century’ (PhD in History, 2020)

Renowned as the site of Byron’s death, and the centre of war operations in western mainland Greece during the Greek War of Independence [1821–1832], Mesologgi duly became a focus of Philhellene propaganda in the revolt against Ottoman rule. Yet it can be argued that commentary on the artistic manifestations of this discourse has overlooked the coherence of the iconography of revolutionary Mesologgi and has understated its role in underpinning Greek nationalist ideology. This thesis analyses how Philhellene images of Mesologgi advocated for the worthiness of the Greek insurgency in seeking Western support, and elevated the town as an emblem of the revolution of 1821 on a global scale.

Foremost among the themes underpinning the visual imagery examined, is an emphasis on the continuity of Greek culture and identity since classical antiquity. The antiquarian construction of modern Hellenism, which antedates the formal establishment of the Greek nation-state in 1832, had as its corollary the denigration of the Ottoman Empire as a barbaric military force. This anti-Ottoman invective, together with French liberal politics and Western religious art, are fundamental elements in the visual language used by the Philhellene artists. After the fall of the town on 11 April 1826, a formulaic and coherent narrative of revolutionary Mesologgi emerged in Philhellene art that encompassed these elements. This thesis argues that central to the establishment of this consistent narrative were the themes of the Christian identity of the Greek insurgents and the nobility of the vanquished hero, and, as such, and that these tropes warrant detailed analysis in relation to Mesologgi and Philhellene iconography.

Supervisors: Professor Louise Hitchcock, Associate Professor Alison Inglis