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PASHLEY, Robert. Travels in Crete, vol. I, London, John Murray, MDCCCXXXVII [=1837].

Robert Pashley (1805-1859) was a British economist descended from an ancient noble family of York. He studied Law at Cambridge and became also distinguished in Mathematics and Classical Studies. In 1833, by the mediation of Sir Francis Beaufort (then admiral of the British Navy), he obtained permission to travel in ships patrolling the Mediterranean sea and was thus able to visit Greece, Asia Minor and Crete. He had already studied every available ancient, medieval and modern text concerning this island.

Pashley returned to Italy from Hydra island in a fishing boat. His journey had lasted approximately thirty days. He stayed in Venice, where he was able to sort his notes and study several manuscripts at the Marcian Library. In 1837 he published the chronicle of his travels in Crete, which immediately became a classic of travel literature. In 1838 he entered the bar and became renowned for his prudence and shrewd judgement. In 1856 Pashley became a judge, a position which he retained until his untimely death. He also wrote two legal treatises. His large personal library and all of his manuscripts were burned in 1838.

During his four-month stay in Crete, in spite of terrible weather conditions, Pashley was able to locate the main archaeological sites such as Knossos, Aptera and Polyrinias, aided by the local guides. He nevertheless committed the error of considering all antiquities Greco-Roman, without suspecting that part of them belonged to another, earlier civilization. Pashley scrutinized every coin he was given, transcribed all the inscriptions he came upon and bought and took home a large number of antiquities, some of which are kept today at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

As, aside from modern languages, Pashley knew Greek and Latin, he was able to converse with the locals and even attempted to learn the Cretan dialect. While his main interest was the history of the island, he also recorded information on agricultural practices, customs, popular beliefs and superstitions. Pashley's narrative is preceded by an extensive overview of the history of the island and the political situation of Crete at the time of his visit. His appendix includes extracts from manuscripts referring to the Venetian area.

Western Crete is described in greater thoroughness than the eastern part of the island, with which he promises to deal extensively in a future work. However, all his notes were burned at the great fire at the Temple in 1838.

Pashley's writing shows a serious scholar possessing well-documented information and at the same time a spontaneous traveller who describes life with wit and irony. The rich illustrations bring to life the places and everyday scenes described in the text.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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