John Tweddell (1769 -1799) was a classical scholar and Philhellene. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was elected a fellow of that College in 1792. In the same year, Tweddell published “Prolusiones Juveniles”, a study in Greek, Latin and English. He wished to become a diplomat and study the culture and institutions of European and Asiatic nations. With this objective, Tweddell started his travels in 1795. He first travelled to Germany, and subsequently to Switzerland, Russia and other regions of Eastern Europe. The letters to his family and friends, in which he related the experiences of his voyage, testify to his deep erudition.
While in Istanbul, Tweddell met French artist Preaux and convinced him to travel with him to Athens in order to draw “not only every temple and every archway, but every stone and every inscription, with the most scrupulous fidelity...”. Tweddell however died of a fever four months after his arrival at Athens, at the age of thirty years old. At his request, he was buried at the temple of Hephaestus. Lord Byron and his friends extracted a marble slab from the Parthenon reliefs and placed it over Tweddell's tomb. Robert Walpole composed the epitaph in Greek. Lord Elgin requested that Tweddell's collections be sent to him. When all the journals and drawings of the deceased were nowhere to be found, his brother, Reverend R. Tweddell, accused Elgin of stealing them. He later edited and published what had been left of his brother's writings. The collections were never traced.
An early symbol of Philhellenism, Tweddell's death inspired the fervent archaeophiles and classical scholars of Western Europe for years to come.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou