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GELL, Sir William. The Topography of Troy, and its Vicinity; Illustrated and explained by Drawings and Descriptions. Dedicated by Permission, to Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire, London, T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1804.

The British archaeologist, topographer and cartographer William Gell (1777-1836), studied at Cambridge and was one of the most important scholars specialized in Greece. He travelled in Ithaca (1801 and 1806), Troy (1801), the Ionian Islands (1803), the Peloponnese, Argosaronic islands, Central Greece and Thessaly (1805). In 1812 Gell visited the Greek Orient for the last time, as a member of a mission of the Society of Dilettanti. He also travelled through Italy, where he died.

A prolific artist, he produced about 800 drawings, published numerous works and was especially interested in identifying the place names recorded in the Homeric epics. His conclusions, often arbitrary and ingenuous in spite of his thorough research and documentation, were commented upon by travellers who visited the same places. The personalities of W.M. Leake, E. Dodwell and Lord Byron in the end overshadowed Gell, who although a sincere philhellene had no qualms about severely criticizing the Greeks at the crucial moment of the Greek Struggle for Independence (1823).

In April 1806 Gell travelled from the Morea (Peloponnese) to Ithaca, in the company of H. Raikes and the well-known archaeologist E. Dodwell. They toured Vathy and most of the mainland, to Aetos, Sarakiniko, Kioni, Marathias, Neritos, the monasteries of Archangelos and the Panagia ton Katharon, and elsewhere, searching for remains of the Homeric Age. Gell attended and described celebrations and customs, such as those of Easter (still encountered in the Ionian Islands). He was particularly impressed by the local dances, which he compares to ancient Greek ones. Gell also provides information on the island's population and commerce. His drawings faithfully convey the locations as well as his own bedazzzlement by the Mediterranean spring, and the wealth of history found in the Greek landscape.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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