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[GUILLET, André Georges]. Lacedemone ancienne et nouvvelle, Où l'on voit les Moeurs, & le Coûtumes des Grecs modernes, des Mahometans, & des Iuifs du Pays..., Paris, Clavde Barbin, M.DC.LXXVI [=1676].

In the prologue to this book, André Georges Guillet (1624-1705), historian and member of the Acadèmie Royale de Peinture, explains that the ensuing narrative is based on the text of his brother, La Guilletière, which Guillet enriched with extracts from ancient and contemporary literary texts. It is unclear whether La Guilletière was a real or an imaginary person, but he is supposed to have travelled in the Ottoman territories in 1669, after the end of his captivity in Algeria.

This first edition was highly successful and had gone out of print within three months, but became the object of harsh criticism on grounds of its historical inaccuracies by J. Spon, “the true introducer of the archaeology of Athens”. Guillet responded with a witty and vitriolic attack. Doubts on the credibility of the text continued to be expressed up until the 20th century.

It is nevertheless certain that, with their meticulous reports, observations and studies, French consul in Athens Giraud and the Capucine missionaries contributed so that ancient and modern Athens become part of European conscience. As Guillet notes: “Of all ancient cities, none but Athnes has preserved its name. Our geographers have tried to corrupt it in vain. The inhabitants, Greek and Turkish, all write and pronounce Athens.” Soon thereafter La Guilletière published a similar edition, this time a fictitious narrative on Sparta, “Lacedemone ancienne et nouvelle...”, which includes one of the oldest descriptions of Mani.

If one overlooks obscurities concerning the narrator’s itinerary and experiences, the rest of the text is a work rich in historical information on Athens and Sparta.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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