Henri Belle (1837-?) started his diplomatic career at the age of twenty-four. He became attaché to the French embassy in Istanbul in 1861 and stayed in that city for approximately five years.
In 1865, Belle was decorated with a gold medal for his services during the Istanbul cholera epidemic. He was awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 1867. Belle was third secretary to the French embassy in Athens from 1868 to 1867; He returned to Athens in 1874 and served as second secretary to the Embassy for one more year. Belle later became consul of France in Florence and other European cities, and eventually was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Belle arrived at Greece in a French war ship. After sailing along the southern coast of Peloponnese, the ship stopped over at Hydra and later set anchor at the port of Piraeus, which greatly impressed Belle. He visited Athens, almost the whole of Attica, Boeotia and Euboea. He then toured Phocis, Achaia, the Ionian islands and the Peloponnese.
Belle published his impressions of his stay in Greece in 1881. Written in an engaging and lively style, the text shows Belle's remarkable classical backgroung, his knowledge of agriculture and his interest in customs and traditions, as well as his French culture and religious piety. The work is illustrated with thirty-two wood engravings, with subjects from the natural environment, human types and details of antiquities.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou