George Wheler (1650-1723) was born in the Netherlands to a royalist English family that had fled Cromwellian England. He fathered eighteen children. In 1675-1676 he travelled in Greece and Asia Minor with J. Spon. As he believed that sharing the perils and expenses of a journey meant sharing also the scientific results, he published this chronicle. However, it is but a mediocre copy of Spon's work.
The two travellers started out from Venice, called in at Zante (Zacynthos) and Cerigo (Cythera), then visited Delos and ended up in Constantinople. After passing through Bursa and Thyateira, Wheler and Spon spent some time in Smyrna. On their second trip, they travelled to Zacynthos, Patras and thence to Delphi. Then they made their way to Athens, from where they toured Attica. In contrast to his travelling companion, Wheler was motivated by curiosity rather than an inclination towards ancient scholarship.
During his journey, Wheler collected more than a thousand plants, which he donated to Oxford University, together with the antiquities he had acquired (sculptures, inscriptions and coins). The Greek and Latin manuscripts were given to Lincoln College. After his voyage, Wheler was ordained and followed an clerical career. In 1689, he published a treatise on early Christian churches.
His chronicle was published in 1682 and never republished again. It describes Zakynthos, Delos, Istanbul, Bursa, Thyateira, Ephesus, Delphi, Corinth and Athens. The chapters on Athens and Attica contain references to Herodotus and Pausanias and drawings of ancient monuments and inscriptions. They speak of the modern city, the climate, administration, local customs and the situation of the Church as well as local products and commerce. Wheler, like Spon, also makes commentaries on language In spite of its inexactitudes, Wheler's book came to be the major text of reference on Athenian monuments up until the publication of James Stuart's and Nicholas Revett's work. His description of Athens (plagiarism notwithstanding), his map of Attica (that he calls “Achaia”), drawn in his particular technique, and his observations on botany constitute his work into a model text of British travel literature.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou