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The Dilettante Society. Ionian Antiquities published with Permission of the Society of Dilettanti, by R. Chandler, M.A. F.S.A. N. Revett, Architect; W. Pars, Painter, London, for T. Spilsbury and W. Haskell, MDCCLXIX [=1769].

The Society of Dilettanti, one of the many clubs of the British aristocracy, was founded in 1734 in order to facilitate closer contact between its members, who had a special inclination for the arts. As they state in the introduction to one of their editions, after their grand tour in Italy, the future members of the Society wanted to have in their homeland a taste of the objects they had seen, that is, to be able to study Greek and Roman art. Gradually, the Society of Dilettanti promoted, inspired and conducted the most important archaeological missions to Greek lands up until 1846, publishing the findings of these and of other expeditions in monumental tomes. It also contributed to the establishment of European classicism in the eighteenth century and helped the European public acquire a comprehensive picture of ancient Greek architecture. However, the work of the Society, while vital to the progress of the discipline of Archaeology, did not always contribute to the preservation of the antiquities themselves. In an era when antiquarianism was tantamount to looting antiquities, participants in the missions engaged in pillaging ancient remains, with catastrophic consequences for the monuments. The list of the Society’s members that precedes this edition includes well-known travellers and writers, such as the Earl of Sandwich, J. Stuart, N. Revett, J.T. Wood, the Earl of Carlisle and others.

In 1764, the Society sponsored an archaeological mission to the East. The members chosen were Richard Chandler, already known for his work "Marmora Oxoniensia", Nicholas Revett, who had already worked on delineating monuments in Athens, and the promising painter William Pars. The party travelled first to the region of Troy in Asia Minor, at the beginning of June 1764, and after almost fifteen months of touring, studying and drawing, they crossed over from Smyrna to Chios. From there, they sailed to Athens, spending almost a year touring Marathon, Salamis, Eleusis and Megara, till 11 June 1766. They then went by ship to Troezen and from there reached Epidaurus, Argos and Corinth. Afterwards, the party visited Delphi and then came to Patras and Elis. They finally departed from Zacynthos on 31 August and returned to Bristol on 2 November 1766.

The Society of Dilettanti indicated to the mission’s members that in the publication of their findings priority should be given to material from Ionia, because, as they state in the Introduction:
The "Knowledge of Nature" was taught in the Ionic school: And as "Geometry, Astronomy", and other Branches of the "Mathematics", were cultivated here sooner than in other parts of Greece it is not extraordinary that the first "Greek Navigators", who passed the Pillars of Hercules, and extended their "Commerce to the Ocean", should have been Ionians. Here "History" had its birth and here it acquired a considerable degree of Perfection. The first writer who reduced the Knowledge of "Medicine" [...] was from this Region. And here the Father of "Poetry" produced a Standard of Composition which no Age or Country have dared to depart from.[...] But Architecture belongs more particularly to the Country than to any other. [...] As to the other Arts which also depend upon "Design", they have flourished no where more than in Ionia [...].

Thus, this large-format volume includes drawings and delineations from the temple of Dionysus in Teos, homeland of the poet Anacreon, the temple of Athena in Priene and the temple of Apollo in Didyma. An overview of the history of each place precedes the plates, each of which is accompanied by explanatory notes.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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