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POUQUEVILLE, François-Charles-Hugues-Laurent. Grèce. Paris, Firmin Didot, MDCCCXXXV [=1835].

François-Charles-Hugues-Laurent Pouqueville (1770-1838) was a French physician, diplomat, writer, and ardent Philhellene. He was born in Normandy. He joined the seminary and became a deacon, but soon, in 1794, moved to Paris to study Medicine. In 1798, as a surgeon, Pouqueville joined the Commission of Sciences and Arts of Egypt, organized by Napoleon. As he was sailing back to Europe in December of the same year, with his health damaged, he was taken captive by pirates and abandoned with other fellow Frenchmen in Navarino. From there they were taken to Tripoli in the Peloponnese as war prisoners of the Turks. Pouqueville stayed in the Peloponnese till the spring of 1799. Subsequently, he was transported to the prison of Yedi Kule in Istalbul, where he remained imprisoned with other Frenchmen for twenty-five months.

Pouqueville returned to France in 1801. A few years later he published his first three-volume work, which appealed widely to the public and was soon translated into six European languages. As a physician, he was able to come in contact with the local population during the years of his captivity, and learned both Classical and Modern Greek. This book, dedicated to Napoleon, was Pouqueville’s credentials for his appointment as General Consul of France in Ioannina and Patras from 1805 to 1816, and as chief mediator in Ali Pasha’s negotiations with the French.

The second period Pouqueville was in close contact with Greece was during the years from 1805 to 1816. His five-volume “Voyage dans la Grèce” (1820-21), later enpanded and republished in six volumes as “Voyage de la Grèce” (1826-27), undoubtedly became an invaluable guide for all subsequent travellers. With careful consideration, Pouqueville studied the Greek land in depth. He made it known to the rest of the world, and wrote what is probably the most consistent text on geography and morphology of these territories. Pouqueville matches ancient place names to modern locations using classical sources, church archives and Ottoman records; he is an impartial narrator of military events and gives a clear picture of the economic sizes in every region. Thus Pouqueville’s can be considered as among the most profound studies of the historical landscape of continental Greece.

This edition on ancient Greek history was a big editorial success. It was translated into German and Italian, and was republished in French three times. In this text, which is written in narrative form but is nevertheless very well-documented. Pouqueville begins his overview from the mythological era, enumerating military events and campaigns and citing information on religious worship and culture from Greek literary sources. The historical part, from archaic times on to the Hellenistic era, includes chapters on the Persian wars, the time of Pericles, philosophy and theatre. Pouqueville also provides data on the history of Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia. Of special interest are the chapters on military tactics and equipment, monuments, religious practices, vases and furniture, dress and coiffure, private life (weddings, births, diet), music and dance, which are an integral part of ancient Greek civilization. The illustrations include drawings originally made by L. Dupré, F. Didot, W. Gel, J. Stuart, Ed. Dodwell and plates from editions by Μ.-G.-F.-A. Choiseul-Gouffier and the Expédition Scientifique de Morée.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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