The Study of the Human Past

“Hellas through American eyes. Representations of Ancient Greece in 19th-century American Scholarship”

Konaris Michael

Research ProposalResearch ResultsShort BioPublications

Summary of the Research Proposal

The 19th century is a crucial period in the history of American classical scholarship: during its course American classicists sought to emancipate themselves from the initially strong European influences and articulated their vision for the development of a distinctively American approach to Greek antiquity. Moreover, in response to domestic utilitarian critics who argued that classical studies were of no value in the New World, American classical scholars contended that the study of ancient Greece was necessary in order to counter the negative aspects of the modern American way of life.

The project proposes to investigate the portrayal of ancient Greek culture in the writings of three leading 19th-century American classicists, namely, Edward Everett (1794-1865), Cornelius Conway Felton (1807-1862), and Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924) and how it was meant to contribute to the cultural and moral betterment of the United States of their times. The American conceptions of ancient Greece and their implications will be examined in the light of those prevalent in contemporary Europe. In this context, comparisons and contrasts will be drawn between the view-points of American scholars and, among others, of Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) and Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931) in Germany, Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) and Walter Pater (1839-1894) in England, Ernest Renan (1823-1892) and Salomon Reinach (1854-1932) in France, and Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos (1815-1891) and Dimitrios Vikelas (1835-1908) in Greece. By placing emphasis on the modern agendas informing the approaches of 19th-century classicists and by exploring the similarities and differences between the American and European traditions of classical scholarship, the project aims to cast light on the distinctive ways in which the ancient Greek past was interpreted, appropriated and utilized in the US and in European countries.

Research: “Hellas through American eyes. Representations of Ancient and Modern Greece in nineteenth-century US Scholarship”

Researcher: Dr. Michael Konaris

The research project “Hellas through American eyes. Representations of Ancient and Modern Greece in nineteenth-century US Scholarship” was funded by the Research Centre for the Humanities (RCH) for the year 2019.

As a Research Fellow at the Research Centre for the Humanities in 2019 I pursued research on the portrayal of ancient and modern Greece in nineteenth-century US classical scholarship. The research conducted forms part of a broader project that aims to continue with an examination of twentieth- and twenty-first century US scholarship.

Although the American interest in, and study of, the ancient Greek and Roman world goes way further back in  time, it was very much during the nineteenth century that classical studies were organized in US universities as a modern academic discipline on European and especially German models.[1] Furthermore, in the course of the nineteenth century writings on Greek and Roman classical subjects by US classicists increased both in breadth and depth and started to gradually free themselves from the initially very heavy reliance on European scholarship.[2] However, in addition to being a period of foundations and expansion for US classical scholarship, the first half of the nineteenth century was also a period that saw major moral, religious and utilitarian objections raised against classical studies,[3] compelling US classical scholars to address them and affecting their portrayal of their subject.

My research focuses primarily on three themes which, to my knowledge, have tended not to attract as much attention as they warrant, namely: a) the treatment of ancient Greek religion and mythology b) the juxtaposition of ancient Greek culture with the cultures of the ancient Near East and c) the perception of the relation between ancient and modern Greece in nineteenth-century US classical scholarship. I am especially interested in the religious, ideological, and political assumptions and agendas informing the stance of US classicists towards these issues as well as in how US approaches compared to those of European scholars.

Representations of ancient Greek religion in nineteenth-century US scholarship.

Controversies and ideological aspects

Here I will present in condensed form part of my research on ancient Greek religion and mythology in nineteenth-century US scholarship with an emphasis on the role it played in contemporary debates for and against classical education and on the Christian filters that influenced both its negative and positive representations.

In the decades following the independence of the United States the place that Greek and Roman studies should henceforth have in U.S. education was heavily contested. On the one hand, classical studies carried enormous historical, cultural and symbolical capital as an indispensable part of Western education. On the other hand, utilitarian critics argued that, given the state of American society and economy at the time, the ancient classics were not useful and that priority should be given to other subjects that could yield material benefits.[4] In addition, classical studies came under criticism from Christian hardliners who held that they were antagonistic to Christian education and injurious to Christian values.[5]

One of the primary targets of the latter consisted in ancient mythology. Compendia and handbooks on Greek and Roman mythology intended for the interested public and/or for students had a long history in Europe and proliferated in the United States as well. One may mention, for example, William Sheldon’s History of the Heathen Gods and Heroes of Antiquity (Worcester, Mass. 1809), Robert Mayo’s A New System of Mythology (Philadelphia 1815) and, later, the most famous of its kind in the US, Thomas Bulfinch’s The Age of Fable (Boston 1855).[6] Such works often drew on European models and, like them, were supposed to help non-specialist readers and students understand the mythological references in ancient and modern literature and art, and thus contribute to the advancement of culture and education.

Ancient Greek Mythology: Injurious to Morals?

However, there were those who viewed ancient mythology as a source of moral corruption from which the moderns and especially children and young students should be protected.[7] The writings on education of the eminent Philadelphia man of letters and civic leader, Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) offer an example of this tendency.[8] At a first level, Rush strongly objected to “the present fashionable practice of rejecting the bible from our schools”, which, he believed, was part of an attack on Christianity in America inspired by Enlightenment thought.[9] In his eyes, it was essential that the Bible should continue to constitute the backbone of American education. Conversely, Rush opposed the notion that Greek and Latin were “a necessary part of a liberal education”.[10] A large part of his argument was devoted to questioning the usefulness of the classical languages; however, Rush also asserted that “the study of some of the Latin and Greek classics is unfavourable to morals and religion” and that it should be avoided by the young.[11] Rush drew attention to the shocking accounts of the crimes and vices of pagan deities and heroes in Greek myths. To those who held that one had to be familiar with pagan myths in order to understand the work not only of the ancient, but also of the modern writers who drew inspiration from them, Rush replied categorically: “the less we know of this subject, the better”.[12] It should be emphasized that, in his eyes, not the least benefit of restricting the teaching of Greek and Latin would be the ending of the “fashion” of referring to the pagan gods in modern literature: “Happy will it be for the present and future generations, if an ignorance of the Latin and Greek languages, should banish from modern poetry, those disgraceful invocations of heathen gods, which indicate no less a want of genius, than a want of reverence for the true God.”[13]

A few decades later, the South Carolina writer and activist, Thomas Smith Grimké (1786-1834) launched an even stronger attack on classical education.[14] In his Reflections on the character and objects of all science and literature (1831) Grimké laid out his vision for “an enlightened system of education [that would be] Christian, practical, useful, national”.[15] Grimké alleged with indignation that, as thing stood at the time, young Americans learnt at school more about the vile mythology of the pagans than Christianity. A radical reform was needed to stop American students from being educated as “if they were pagans.” Like Rush, Grimké pleaded for a national educational system that would be based on the Bible.[16] As for the study of the ancient Greek and Roman classics, in his eyes, it should be left to scholars only.[17]

It is notable that Grimké intensified his attack on classical education by contending that it was harmful not only to Americans, but also and much more so, to Modern Greeks. Calling attention to a request made by Jonas King (1792-1869), the famous American missionary to Greece, to send there a printing press expressly in order to print copies of the Homeric poems,[18] Grimké drew a highly negative image of the Modern Greeks as a people plagued by lawlessness, ignorance and superstition that was common in the wake of the Western Philhellenists’ disenchantment with them. In view of their lamentable conditions, maintained Grimké, “Assuredly, Homer, and especially his Iliad, is one of the last books that can be valuable to the modern Greeks”. For the Iliad was replete with the moral and religious fallacies of paganism: as such, it would only conduce to the further degradation of the Modern Greeks. [19]  Grimké was emphatic that the only hope for the Modern Greeks to find a way out of their wretchedness was through Christianity which, he claimed, the study of the ancient pagans put at risk: “Let the New Testament be the basis of the civilization and education of the modern Greeks, and we have nothing to fear, on the score of their public and private happiness. But if they are now taught, and now is the crisis, to look for their models in ancient Greece, Christianity will languish and mourn there, as she has everywhere else, under the overruling influences of Paganism”.[20] In taking his opposition to classical education to such extremes, Grimké arguably surpassed the most reactionary Greek-Orthodox thinkers and subverted a core belief both of Western Philhellenism and of the educational philosophy of the Neohellenic Enlightenment, namely, that the study of Greek antiquity was vital to the cultural regeneration of Modern Greece.[21]

The allegations of writers such as Rush and Grimké that the moral corruption of Greek mythology made the study of Greek literature as a whole harmful and that the paganism of Greek and Roman culture rendered classical education inappropriate for Christians represented a radical, minority view, which, however, necessitated responses in defense of the classics.[22] Winterer and Richard have drawn attention to the attempts of US classicists to demonstrate points of contacts between the moral and religious principles of Greek philosophers and poets and those of Christianity.[23] I would like to look more closely at how they dealt with the question of the “immorality” of Greek mythology and how they portrayed not so much the religious convictions of elite Greek individuals, but rather the religion of the Athenians and the Greeks as a whole.

To begin with mythology, advocates of classical studies attempted to downplay the dangers it posed to moral values. For example, in an essay on “Classic Mythology” (1835) that was explicitly written in order to “do something to rescue the study of the classic mythology from the opprobrium that has been cast upon it”,[24] the classicist Henry Russell Cleveland (1808-1843) maintained that the portrayal of mythology in Greek literature before the beginning of the decline of Greek culture in postclassical times was with few exceptions far less offensive than it tended to be assumed; he further emphatically defended the moral integrity of the ancient Greek authors: “In general, the Greek writers are singularly free from the charge of indecency; – their own thoughts were evidently unsullied; they never degraded their beautiful theology, by rendering it the exciter of unholy passions”.[25] Cleveland reassured those concerned that Greek mythology could, therefore, be studied “without corrupting and degrading the mind”.[26]

However, his exoneration of the ancient Greek classics from the charge of immorality came at the price of shifting the blame to some of the greatest Latin poets: Cleveland asserted that the really objectionable parts of ancient literature were found in the works of Lucretius, Horace and Ovid and were the symptom of the “dissolute and ribald age” in which they lived. Cleveland attributed the moral degeneration of the period to the pernicious influence of an old enemy of Christianity, the “atheistic” Epicureanism with its doctrine of pleasure that pervaded the poetry of the times.[27] Accordingly, he urged scholars to “expurgate your Horaces and your Ovids, till not an obscene thought shall stain their pages”.[28] This differentiation between the “unsullied” Greeks and the corrupted Romans may be an expression of the wider orientation of US classics towards Greece rather than Rome in the period.[29]

The Harvard Professor of Greek Literature, Cornelius Conway Felton (1807-1862), one of the foremost champions of classical studies in the US of his times,[30] also attempted to allay fears about the damaging influence of ancient mythology. In his “Lecture on Classical Learning” (1831) Felton argued that if the representation of the gods in ancient Greek poetry was understood in exclusively literary terms, it should not have any negative impact”.[31] It is noteworthy, however, that Felton did not confine himself to a merely defensive stance, but went on the offensive: he maintained that the idolization of certain lifestyles in contemporary popular literature was more worrisome from a moral point of view than the much vilified mythology of the ancients. Thus he exclaimed “Who has not seen the influence of ‘Pelham’ [the reference is to Pelham: or The Adventures of a Gentleman (1828) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), a novel narrating the story of the young English dandy, Henry Pelham, believed to be modelled on the author] in the affected, effeminate, absurd manners of many young men of the present day? Who has not seen the moody melancholy of Byron transferred from his pages to the brows of many a conceited misanthrope?”[32]

Winterer has observed how US classicists appealed to ancient Greek and Roman culture in an effort to combat various facets of American modernity.[33] Felton’s standpoint here provides an example of this: Felton claimed that, far from being themselves sources of moral corruption as their critics contended, ancient Greek and Roman literature could provide an antidote to the pretentious and “unmanly” phenomenon of dandyism and to the contagious malaise of Romanticism. For, as he stated, “[young men] will find nothing of that vitiating sentiment, which taints so large a portion of the common literature of the day, in the pages of Grecian and Roman classics”. According to Felton, a defining characteristic of ancient literature consisted in its high and manly tone. “A clear and severe study of it,” he further maintained, “does … contribute more to the formation of a truly manly character, than any other study whatever”.[34] As this suggests, Felton was fundamentally concerned with the potential benefits of classical education for boys and young men; he made no mention of the expected advantages for girls, though classical training in the US was not limited to the former.[35] The notion of the manliness of ancient Greek and Roman literature, which Felton invoked, has many parallels in contemporary and later European classical scholarship as have the recourses to it in order to counter “degenerate” trends in modern art and culture. We may speak of a tendency of “masculinization” of the ancient Greeks in accordance with the period’s dominant conception of masculinity which ignored all aspects of ancient Greek culture that did not conform to it.

Despite the attempts by classicists like Cleveland and Felton to convince that the study of ancient mythology posed no threat, concerns remained widespread. One way in which the issue was addressed was through the suppression of the most offensive passages – Latin, as Cleveland himself advocated, and Greek. For example, Charles Anthon (1797-1867), Professor of Greek and Latin at Columbia and author of what would become a highly successful Classical Dictionary in the US, reassured its users that “in preparing the mythological articles, the greatest care has been also taken to exclude from them everything offensive, either in language or detail, and to present such a view of the several topics connected with this department of inquiry as may satisfy the most scrupulous, and make the present a safe guide, in a moral point of view, to the young of either sex.”[36]

Edward Everett (1794-1865) objected to this practice, proclaiming that “the principle is a wrong one”.[37]  In contrast to other classical scholars who tried to play down the immorality of ancient mythology, Everett admitted that “The subject is essentially gross in many of its parts” to such an extent that it was well-nigh impossible to hide.[38] Nevertheless, he maintained that it was still possible to teach young students about ancient myths without moral harm – in fact, even with benefit: one could expose the vile moral conduct of certain mythical figures in order to make it despised.[39] Despite, however, Everett’s opposition, the “safer” practice of expurgation was widely followed.

Another way in which the references to violence and sex in ancient mythology could be rendered more palatable was by explaining them allegorically. The interpretation of ancient myths as consisting in clothed descriptions of natural phenomena enjoyed great popularity during this period, part of the reason being that it made them cease appear abhorrent.[40] Characteristic is the case of G.W. Cox, a major populariser of “solar mythology” in Victorian Britain, whose works were also read in the United States. In his Manual of Mythology (1867), which was intended for children, Cox explained, for example, that “Oedipus and Perseus … killed their parents, but it is only because the sun was said to kill the darkness from which it seems to spring”. Cox emphasized that “in all these tales there is nothing of which, in its old shape, we ought to be ashamed” and assured young readers that “when you have lifted the veil which conceals them, you will find only true and beautiful thoughts.”[41]

Through various means then attempts were made to put forward morally “purified” accounts of Greek mythology that would cause the least possible offense to Christian values, or, if one were to follow Everett’s advice of exposure, would even support them by showcasing examples to be condemned and avoided.

Monotheistic tendencies in Greek polytheism?

Besides such approaches to Greek mythology, attention should be given to the wider portrayal of ancient Greek religion in US scholarship during this period. While Rush and Grimké excoriated ancient Greek paganism in the name of Christianity, according to a highly influential trend in both European and US scholarship of the times, ancient Greek religion was to be seen as containing, in spite of the errors of paganism, some intimations in the right direction and even as foreshadowing Christian truths. Cleveland, for example, argued in his “Classic Mythology” that the utter vilification of Greek religion did not do justice to its role in the history of the spiritual development of humankind. He emphasized that, instead of worshipping matter as such, the Greeks had addressed their worship to the spiritual beings, which they imagined, presided over the natural world. As a result, claimed Cleveland, with the Greeks “Religion … began to elevate instead of degrading the mind, as it had done before”. One ought to recognize, therefore, that Greek religion had actually “advanced mankind one step, never to be retraced, on the way to that degree of knowledge and refinement for which they seem to be destined”.[42] At this point, it should be mentioned that there was a tendency in contemporary Western philosophy and historiography to associate the worship of matter with the religions of “Asiatic” peoples. The Greeks, on the other hand, were depicted as standing at the origins of the Western tradition of overcoming excessive attachment to matter and rising to spiritual ideas.[43] Although Cleveland held that all religions deserved respect, there was, then, an Orientalizing background to his assessment of Greek religion’s contribution to the religious history of the world.

Cleveland’s effort to depict Greek religion in a more positive light did not end there. In the eyes of its critics, the polytheistic character of Greek religion tended to be considered as its most important deficiency. Although certain thinkers took a favorable view of polytheism, far more common was the perception of polytheism, in accordance with Judaeo-Christian beliefs, as incontestably vastly inferior to monotheism.[44] The preface to a collection of translated essays on classical topics by European writers, Classical Studies: Essays on Ancient Literature and Art (Boston, 1843) sheds light on how negatively polytheism was seen by devout Christian scholars. The US editors of the volume, one of whom, we should note, was Barnas Sears (1802-1880), Professor of Christian theology and President of the Newton Theological Institution, another, Bela B. Edwards (1802-1852), Professor of Hebrew at Andover Theological Seminary, and only the third one, Felton, a classicist, underlined that they greatly objected to a statement made in one of the essays by the German classical scholar, Friedrich Jacobs (1764-1847), namely that “Polytheism was the religion given to the youth of man, but Christianity was revealed to him in the fullness of time, in the maturity of his age”.[45] The editors explained that the phrase “‘Polytheism was the religion given to the youth of man’ seem[s] to imply an opinion that Polytheism was as much the gift of the Almighty to man, as Christianity, and differed from Christianity only in being an earlier and inferior gift.” That opinion, they asserted “can only spring from a great exaggeration of the good, and a singular blindness to the evil side of Polytheism.”[46]

Given the prevalent views on monotheism and polytheism at the time, it is unsurprising that a major current in nineteenth-century classical scholarship tended to place great stress on monotheistic elements in Greek religion which “diluted” its polytheistic nature.[47] This trend is also visible in US scholarship of the period. Cleveland, for example, although pleading for a more sympathetic view of polytheism on the grounds that it could be considered “as the natural conclusion of a mind, enlightened by no revelation, but discovering the traces of more than mortal power in every object of the universe”,[48] highlighted that Greek religion’s tendency was  “towards the knowledge of the one Infinite and Omnipotent God”; “towards this grand idea”, he stated, “the religion of Greece seems to us to have been constantly verging”.[49]

The question of “Greek monotheism” was an issue with major theological and philosophical dimensions and could be made to serve very different agendas.[50] In the case of Cleveland, the portrayal of the ancients Greeks as striving after a monotheistic conception of Godhead constituted part of his attempt to defend the legitimacy of Greek religion as an object of study by showing that it was something more than “benighted” polytheism and that the relation between ancient Greek culture and Christianity was not one of opposition, but of affinity.

The American philosopher, B.F. Cocker argued in the same direction in Christianity and Greek Philosophy (1870). Cocker placed great emphasis on Paul’s speech at the Areopagus and his mention of the Unknown God of the Athenians. According to him, this indicated that the Athenians had been “however, unknowing, believers in and worshippers of the One Supreme God” and that they therefore were both polytheists and monotheists.[51] Likewise, Felton stated of Paul that “From his first allusion to the unknown God, he as close as possible to the range of Grecian thought. For Greeks had conceived, in their better moments, of the unity of God”.[52]

Unlike then Rush or Grimké who were utterly derogatory, by highlighting its monotheistic strands, scholars like Cleveland, Cocker and Felton drew a picture of Greek religion that at once supported what Richard has called the “traditional partnership” between the ancient Greek classics and Christianity,[53] and affirmed the superiority of Christian monotheism. Side by side, however, with this tendency to depict polytheism as a flaw that the Greeks were struggling to outgrow that conformed to the dominant religious ideals of the period, there was a subversive undercurrent of thinkers and literary writers in the US as in Europe who celebrated Greek polytheism, thereby challenging the entrenched religious assumptions of their times.[54] Their conception of Greek religion and its entanglement in nineteenth-century religious and philosophical debates will be discussed in another article.

[1] Carl Diehl, Americans and German scholarship 1770-1870 (New Haven: Yale University Press,1978); Meyer Reinhold, Classica Americana: the Greek and Roman heritage in the United States (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984); Caroline Winterer, The Culture of Classicism. Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life 1780-1910 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002); Carl J.  Richard, The Golden Age of the Classics in America: Greece, Rome, and the Antebellum United States (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[2] Richard, Golden Age, 10.

[3] George A. Kennedy, “Gildersleeve, The Journal, and Philology in America,” in Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, ed. Ward W. Briggs and Herbert W. Benario (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 42. The forceful attacks on classical studies in the first half of the nineteenth century made Reinhold suggest that it was the “Silver Age” of US classics as opposed to the “Golden Age” of the time of the American Revolution, a view challenged by Richard:  Richard, Golden Age, ix-x. On contemporary opposition to the classics see further ibid. 88ff., 163ff.; Carl J. Richard, The Founders and the Classics. Greece, Rome and the American Enlightenment (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1994), 240; Winterer, Culture of Classicism, 47, 114.

[4] Richard, Golden Age, 88ff.

[5] Ibid., 163-164.

[6] Burton Feldman and Robert D. Richardson, eds, The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680-1860 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972), 505; Richard, Golden Age, 33.

[7] Richard, Golden Age, 163; Winterer, Culture of Classicism, 15.

[8] Benjamin Rush, Essays. Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 2nd edition (Philadelphia, Bradford: 1806), 22-56 and 93-113; for the broader attack on Greek and Roman moral values in the period see the section “Criticism of classical morality” in Richard, Golden Age, 154ff.

 [9] Rush, Essays,109.

[10] Ibid., 44.

[11] Ibid., 24, Richard, Golden Age, 163.

[12] Rush, Essays, 34.

[13] Ibid., 37.

[14] Richard, Golden Age, 164.

[15] Thomas S. Grimké, Reflections on the character and objects of all science and literature (New Haven: Howe 1831), iv.

[16] Ibid., 83, 95.

[17] Ibid., 141.

[18] Ibid., 105.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Paschalis M. Kitromilides, Enlightenment and Revolution. The Making of Modern Greece (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013), 71ff.

[22] See the section “The defense of classical morality”, in Richard, Golden Age, 167ff.; the most famous defense of classical studies in the period was the “Yale Report”: Yale University, Reports on the course of instruction in Yale College (New Haven: Howe, 1828) which, however, did not focus on the specific charges against ancient Greek religion and mythology.

[23] Richard, Golden Age, 152ff, 171ff.; Winterer, Culture of Classicism, 14.

[24]  Henry Russell Cleveland, “Classic Mythology,” The North American Review 41, n. 89 (October 1835): 340.

[25] Ibid., 331.

[26] Ibid., 340.

[27] Ibid., 331.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Winterer, Culture of Classicism, 3.

[30] Ibid., 58-59.

[31] Cornelius Conway Felton, A Lecture on Classical Learning (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wllkins, 1831), 29.

[32] Ibid., 30; we may note that both cases cited by Felton concern English writers which may reflect resentment towards the continuation of British cultural influence in the US following the Wars of Independence and of 1812.

[33] Winterer, Culture of Classicism, 3.

[34] Felton, Classical Learning, 30, 31, 34; cf. “Familiarity with the Greek and Roman writers is especially adapted … to discipline the mind, both in thought and diction, to the relish of what is elevated, chaste and simple” Yale Report, 35.

[35] Richard, Golden Age, xi,3.

[36] Charles Anthon, A Classical Dictionary (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1841), viii.

[37] Edward Everett, “Anthon’s Classical Dictionary,” The North American Review LIV, n. CXIV (1842): 186.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Frank M. Turner, The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981),110.

[41] George W. Cox, A Manual of Mythology in the Form of Question and Answer (London: Longmans, Green: 1867), xv-xvii.

[42] Cleveland, Classic Mythology, 339, 340.

[43] Cf. Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols. Indo-European Comparative Mythology as Ideology and Science (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006), 102; Michael D. Konaris, The Greek Gods in Modern Scholarship. Interpretation and Belief in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German and British Scholarship (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2016), 42.

[44] Jan Assmann,  Monotheismus und Kosmotheismus: Agyptische Formen eines „Denkens des Einen“ und ihre Europäische Rezeptionsgeschichte (Heidelberg: Winter, 1993), 5.

[45] Barnas Sears, Bela Bates Edwards and Cornelius Conway Felton, Classical Studies: Essays on Ancient Literature and Art with the Biography and Correspondence of Eminent Philologists (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1843), 82.

[46] Ibid., 35-36.

[47] Francis Schmidt, ed., The Inconceivable Polytheism. Studies in Religious Historiography [History and Anthropology 3] (London-Paris- New York: Harwood, 1987); Konaris, Greek Gods.

[48] Cleveland, Classic Mythology, 334.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Schmidt, Inconceivable Polytheism; Konaris, Greek Gods, 31-33.

[51] Benjamin Franklin Cocker, Christianity and Greek Philosophy; or the Relation between Spontaneous and Reflective Thought in Greece and the Positive Teaching of Christ and his Apostles (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1870), 127,151. Under the influence of Gladstone, W.S. Tyler, Professor of Greek at Amherst, argued in The Theology of the Greek poets (1867) that “vestiges of a primitive monotheism in the supremacy of Jupiter” were discernible in the very Homeric epics which Grimké had inveighed against: William Seymour Tyler, The Theology of the Greek poets (Boston: Draper and Halliday, 1867), 137, 171.  For Tyler, see Winterer, Culture of Classicism, 90.

[52] Cornelius Conway Felton, Familiar letters from Europe (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1865), 221. Cf, Richard, Golden Age, 172.We may compare the essay “Paul in Athen” of the eminent German historian and archaeologist, Ernst Curtius who combined the most ardent admiration for Greek antiquity with profound Christian piety: Ernst Curtius, “Paulus in Athen,” Gesammelte Abhandlungen II (Berlin: Hertz, 1894), 527-543. Paul’s speech at the Areopagus became the locus classicus for those who believed in the proximity of ancient Greek culture to Christianity.

[53] Richard, Golden Age, 152ff.

[54] Especially among Transcendentalist circles: ibid, 120ff.


Anthon, Charles. A Classical Dictionary. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1841.

Arvidsson, Stefan.  Aryan Idols. Indo-European Comparative Mythology as Ideology and Science. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006.

Assmann,  Jan. Monotheismus und Kosmotheismus: Agyptische Formen eines „Denkens des Einen“ und ihre Europäische Rezeptionsgeschichte. Heidelberg: Winter, 1993.

Cleveland, Henry Russell. “Classic Mythology.” The North American Review 41, no. 89, (October 1835): 327-348.

Cocker, Benjamin Franklin. Christianity and Greek Philosophy; or the Relation between Spontaneous and Reflective Thought in Greece and the Positive Teaching of Christ and his Apostles. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1870.

Cox, George W.  A Manual of Mythology in the Form of Question and Answer. London: Longmans, Green: 1867.

Curtius, Ernst. “Paulus in Athen.” In Gesammelte Abhandlungen II, 527-543. Berlin: Hertz, 1894.

Diehl, Carl. Americans and German scholarship 1770-1870. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.

Everett, Edward. “Anthon’s Classical Dictionary.” The North American Review LIV, n. CXIV (1842):175-198.

Feldman, Burton and Robert D. Richardson, eds. The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680-1860. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972.

Felton, Cornelius Conway.  A Lecture on Classical Learning. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wllkins, 1831.

Felton, Cornelius Conway.  Familiar letters from Europe. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1865.

Grimké, Thomas S. Reflections on the character and objects of all science and literature. New Haven: Howe 1831).

Kennedy, George A. “Gildersleeve, The Journal, and Philology in America.” in Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, edited by Ward W. Briggs and Herbert W. Benario, 42-49. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Kitromilides, Paschalis M. Enlightenment and Revolution. The Making of Modern Greece. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Konaris, Michael D. The Greek Gods in Modern Scholarship. Interpretation and Belief in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German and British Scholarship. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2016.

Reinhold, Meyer. Classica Americana: the Greek and Roman heritage in the United States. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984.

Richard, Carl J. The Founders and the Classics. Greece, Rome and the American Enlightenment. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1994.

Richard, Carl J. The Golden Age of the Classics in America: Greece, Rome, and the Antebellum United States. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Rush, Benjamin. Essays. Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 2nd edition. Philadelphia, Bradford: 1806.

Schmidt, Francis ed., The Inconceivable Polytheism. Studies in Religious Historiography [History and Anthropology 3]. London-Paris- New York: Harwood, 1987.

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Michael Konaris holds a BA in Literae Humaniores, an MSt in Modern History and a DPhil in Ancient History from the University of Oxford and an MPhil in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He has been Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin, the Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. In Spring 2017 he was an Onassis Fellow at the National Hellenic Research Foundation. He is currently an Associate Scholar of the Swedish Institute at Athens, working on the correspondence of M.P. Nilsson. He also teaches at the Open University of Cyprus. His research interests focus on the reception of ancient Greek religion and culture in the history of scholarship and on comparisons between ancient Greece and China. He is the author of The Greek Gods in Modern Scholarship. Interpretation and Belief in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Germany and Britain (OUP 2015).

Selected Publications

  • The Greek Gods in Modern Scholarship. Interpretation and Belief in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Germany and Britain (OUP 2015)
  • ‘A History of Changing Religious Attitudes in Greek Antiquity: M.P. Nilsson’s Greek Piety (1948)’, in J. Wallensten (ed.), A Celebration of the Work of M.P. Nilsson (Swedish Archaeological Institute, forthcoming)
  • ‘Religious History’ in A. Lanieri and K. Vlassopoulos (eds.), A Companion to the Modern Historiography of Ancient Greek History (Brill, forthcoming)
  • ‘Αρχαία Ελληνική Θρησκεία και Εθνικός Χαρακτήρας στο Έργο του Κωνσταντίνου Παπαρρηγόπουλου [Ancient Greek Religion and National Character in the Work of Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos]’, στο A. Tαμπάκη και O. Πολυκανδριώτη (επιμ.), Ελληνικότητα και Eτερότητα: Πολιτισμικές Διαμεσολαβήσεις και ‘Eθνικός Χαρακτήραςστον 19ο Αιώνα [Greekness and Otherness: Cultural Transferences and ‘National Character’ in the 19th century], τομ. B (2016), σς. 267-282.
  • ‘Dionysos in Nineteenth-century Scholarship’, in R. Schlesier (ed.), A Different God? Dionysos and Ancient Polytheism (De Gruyter 2011), pp. 467-478.