MARTIN DU TYRAC, Marie-Louis-Jean-André Charles de (vicomte de Marcellus). Souvenirs de l’Orient …, vols Ι-ΙΙ, Brussels, Société Belge de Librairie, 1840.
Marie-Louis-Jean-André Charles de Martin du Tyrac, vicomte de Marcellus, (1795-1841) came from Marseilles. As soon as he graduated from college in 1814, he joined the royalists of Bordeaux as a volunteer, and became a member of the guard of the Duke of Angoulême, eldest son of future king Charles X. In 1815, Du Tyrac became attendant to the adminstrator of Corsica. In 1816, at the age of twenty-one, he entered the diplomatic service as third secretary to the king Louis XVIII’s embassy in the Ottoman capital, under ambassador Marquess De Rivière.
While in Istanbul, Tyrac learned Modern Greek, Turkish and other languages of the East. In 1820, he was entrusted with a mission to the Eastern Mediterranean, which was to take him as far as Jerusalem. It was during this voyage that he travelled to Milos by way of Chios and Delos, and managed to obtain the statue of Aphrodite of Milo (which had been discovered only forty days before), for the Royal Collection of France, in spite of numerous adversities. Subsequently, Tyrac saw to the safe transportation of the statue and delivered it to the French ambasador at the port of Istanbul five months later.
He returned to France in 1820 and served as secretary to Chateaubriand’s embassy in London. In 1824, he served in the French embassy in Madrid, and in 1830 he was offered the position of vice-minister of Exterior. Tyrac however refused this office, resigned and dedicated himself to writing. Tyrac married the daughter of M. De Forbin, director of the Louvre museum. It is possible that the statue of Aphrodite was the cause of their encounter.
From 1839 onwards, after the release of the chronicle of his voyage to the East, Tyrac published at least ten books on literary, political and ethnological subjects, among which a study on Greek folk songs. King Otto of Greece awarded Tyrac a decoration. A copy of Aphrodite of Milo, presented by the French government in 1825, is kept at the Tyrac family tower. His account of how he obtained the Aphrodite statue contains numerous inexactitudes; however, it is of notable literary value, and patently influenced by Chateaubriand. Tyrac was a friend of Chateaubriand’s and published their correspondence in 1855.
This edition is a description of Tyrac’s travels to the East: Corsica, the Troad, his stay in Istanbul, Prince Islands, Nicomedea, the Hellespont, Chios, Delos and the occurences in Milos. In continuation, the author relates his journey to Santorini, Cilicia, Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Paros, Naxos, Syros, and his arrival at Athens and Attica. The description of his return trip via Smyrna includes references to Mysia, Vithynia, Moudania, Istanbul and Adrianopolis (Edirne). From there Tyrac travels to Bucharest, and finally reaches Paris.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou