Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.09.32

Hans Rupprecht Goette, Athens, Attica and the Megarid: An Archaeological Guide.   London and New York:  Routledge, 2001.  Pp. xvi + 400; 115 maps, plans, and line drawings; 92 black-and-white plates.  ISBN 0-415-24370-X.  $75.00.  

Reviewed by Kenneth Lapatin, Department of Antiquities (

(Disclaimer: The author of this volume, in his capacity as Director of the Photographic Archive of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, has on more than one occasion kindly provided assistance to the present reviewer.)

Athens has been a goal of cultivated travelers since antiquity, and the city and its environs have thus commanded the attention of guidebook writers long before they became departure points for would-be island-hoppers. Centuries before Pausanias devoted the first book of his Periegesis to Attica, writers like Diodoros, Heliodoros, and Polemo provided detailed accounts of the Acropolis and monuments further afield. The advent of mass travel has naturally spurred the production of guidebooks, and this trend will no doubt increase with the approach of the 2004 Olympic Games. Most such offerings can safely be ignored here, for they are aimed at a rather different readership than the volume under review, an updated translation of the original German edition of 1993.1 Yet with the recent publication of Christopher Mee and Antony Spawforth's Greece in the Oxford Archaeological Guide series, John M. Camp's The Archaeology of Athens (not a guidebook, but covering much of the same territory), and the fifth edition of the Blue Guide's Athens (formerly Athens and Environs) by Robin Barber--2 a perennial favorite--one might well ask whether there is really a need for the present volume, which is considerably more expensive and available only between hard covers. Indeed, printed on heavy paper and weighing 2 1/4 lbs.--almost as much as Camp's textbook, in contrast to the handy half-pound Blue Guide--it is not something I would relish hefting about in my shoulder bag day after day. Moreover, although accessibly written and well-illustrated, this book is not particularly user-friendly, for it is replete with (sometimes erroneous) internal cross-references to in-text figures and to two gathers of separately numbered photographic plates. This keeps the reader constantly flipping pages: no fun on a windy hill-top.

What sets this book apart from other guides, however, is not the absence of familiar tips about hotels, restaurants, language, climate, internet cafes, etc. (though we are for some reason advised that a sports center north of an Early Helladic settlement at Ay. Kosmas, not far from the Hellenikon airport, offers tourists tennis courts, "facilities for every type of ball game," and a "special pool" for diving lessons). Rather, the great strength of Goette's book, a result of the ever-growing scholarly interest in the Greek country-side and the author's extensive personal experience over many years, is its in-depth treatment of lesser-known sites, especially those not considered elsewhere. While the first half of his book treats Athens and Piraeus (in a single, 184-page chapter conveniently divided into 9 subsections), the second half leads the visitor throughout Attica (Chapters 2-4, also internally subdivided), the Megarid and its hinterland (expanded to include Perachora and the Isthmus of Corinth as well as the Attic border forts, Chapter 5), and the islands of the Saronic Gulf (Chapter 6). This affords far more attention to Attica than any other guide currently available. (Mee and Spawforth, for example, devote 96 pages to Athens and Piraeus and 52 to Attica; Barber 155 and 48, respectively; and Camp, who organizes his material somewhat differently, 270 and 56.)

Goette's seventh chapter comprises short appendices on geography, modern administration and economy, flora, fauna, a glossary of architectural terms, a list of important monuments in chronological order, and a more expansive treatment of Byzantine church-building that extends the thorough treatments of individual post-antique monuments throughout the volume. The book closes with an index of sites and monuments (no persons, concepts, or events included) and an admirably up-to-date bibliography, highlighting publications of the last decade. The text, too, has been revised since the first edition of 1993. It contains frequent reference to the recent openings and closings of sites and museums, the results of on-going research and excavation, and changes to the landscape resulting from the construction of new buildings, the Metro, and the international airport at Spata.

Goette's style is discursive and, for the most part, easy-going, with occasional asides lamenting the destruction of sites wrought by urbanization and forest fires. More often he echoes Pausanias, remarking frequently that one small site or another is "particularly worth seeing". Like the ancient periegete, moreover, he peppers his text with relevant historical and cultural information, but, rather surprisingly, only occasionally quotes from ancient sources that might have enlivened his narrative. The translation (by P.A. Mountjoy) is clear, with but a few lapses (e.g., on p. 17 the Acropolis seems to be called the central "temple" of Athens, rather than a shrine or sanctuary; while on p. 76 the south and west cella walls of the so-called Hephaisteion are said to have been "closed with doors" when the temple was transformed into the Church of Ay. Georgios, rather than pierced by them).

The more than 200 text figures and black and white plates are well chosen, though often inconveniently placed (and certainly not arranged in the order they are mentioned in the text). The photographs, when not the author's own, tend to be historical, drawn from the archive of the German Archaeological Institute. These are often charming and effectively demonstrate the magnitude of change to the landscape, as do early modern illustrations reproduced from Stuart and Revett, among others. While the numerous maps, plans, and other illustrations are useful, one can only wonder how soon some of the author's detailed driving instructions in the text will cease to serve visitors, for they often refer to unnamed roads and changeable landmarks (e.g., travelers are directed to turn at the "sixth road," "second stop light," or "BP station").

Like other guides, this one opens with a brief historical introduction and then moves on to the Acropolis. Focus is on the preserved remains: the unfinished elements of the Propylaia are admirably indicated, as are new discoveries resulting from work on the Parthenon and Erechtheion. Restorations, past and present, are noted here and throughout the volume. "Minor" monuments, like the Beulé Gate, Agrippa Monument, Sanctuary of Artemis, Chalkotheke, Old Temple of Athena, Temple of Rome and Augustus and of Aphrodite, and the Peripatos all receive detailed treatment. Goette, moreover, is not averse to raising questions: in discussing the Asklepieion on the south slope, for example, he asks how a private citizen (Telemachos) could have founded a temple in such a prominent place? To what degree did he have state support? What was the role of the plague which struck a decade earlier, of the Peloponnesian War, and of the Peace of Nikias, during which the temple was built? All of this gives the visitor reason to pause and consider the people behind the ruins. Less successful are the sections on the Acropolis and other museums, especially large ones, which consist of long lists of artifacts, room by room (25 pages worth for the National Museum). These make tedious reading though they contain the occasional interesting tidbits as well as salutary reminders that ancient stone sculpture was painted. (The statement on p. 135 that painter and potter of Classical vases "often both signed" their work, however, is untrue.)

Leaving the Acropolis, Goette discusses the Areopagos, Hill of the Nymphs, Pnyx, and Mausoleum of Philopappos, followed by the Kerameikos, to which he devotes 11 pages. Here, and throughout, he examines Byzantine churches and monasteries with as much interest as ancient remains. (These are omitted by Mee and Spawforth and Camp, though not by Barber.) The Greek and Roman agoras, Library of Hadrian, and Monastiraki district receive 23 pages, in which Goette briefly endorses Manolis Korres' identification of the Temple of Ares as having originally been the Temple of Athena at Pallene, rather than having been transported from Acharnai as formerly thought. (This is also conveniently noted later in sections on Pallene and Acharnai.) Goette also disputes the notion of American excavators that bases next to the building identified as the Stoa Poikile supported an arch topped by an equestrian statue in profile rather than individual statues, for they are not aligned.

The Plaka, Olympieion, Illisos area, Stadium of Herodes Atticus, and the First Cemetery, with their neo-classical as well as ancient and Byzantine monuments, are discussed in the next section, with the National Gardens, Lykabettos, and the outlying districts of Tourkovounia and the Academy thereafter. (A better map of Greater Athens would have been useful here.) The fortifications of Piraeus are treated at some length, as is the Skeuotheke of Philo, long known from a detailed inscription but re-discovered only in 1988. Fourteen pages are then devoted to the Monastery at Daphni, the Cave of Pan, and Sanctuary of Aphrodite, and to Kaisariani and the monasteries and quarries on Hymettos, most of which are omitted in other guides.

Subsequent chapters introduce the visitor not only to the "greatest hits" of the Attic countryside--Sounion, Thorikos, Laurion, Brauron, Rhamnous, Marathon, and, Eleusis (all regularly treated elsewhere)--but also to numerous lesser-known sites barely, or not at all, mentioned by other authors: Loutsa, Raphina, Spata, Markopoulo, Koropi, and Paiania in the Mesogeia; Oinoe and Megara; Salamis and Poros. This list is easily lengthened with sites like Alepochori, Aphidnai, Avlona, Menidi, Oropos, Pagai, Panakton, Parnes, the Thriasian Plain, Vari, Varnava, Vathichoria, Velatouri, Voula, and Cape Zoster. (The contents of the book can be perused at the publisher's web-site). Of course, many of these sites will not be of much interest to casual tourists, and certainly not to those with only a few days at their disposal or unwilling to drive (and often then to walk) off the beaten path. They tend to be small communities, houses, farmsteads, fortifications, sanctuaries, theaters (Goette is especially keen on early rectangular ones), caves, quarries, mines, and industrial installations. Both long-known and recently discovered, many remain unknown, even to trained archaeologists. Goette's affection for them is clear and detailed descriptions, plans, photographs, and references to further literature make his treatments valuable not only to travelers, but also to scholars and students concerned with the archaeological evidence for daily life in antiquity.

In short, although the size, weight, and price of this book will not recommend it to most visitors to Athens (for whom the Blue Guide is usually adequate, if not overwhelming), it is, despite minor flaws, a welcome resource for lesser-known sites. It should certainly be acquired by libraries and consulted by anyone seriously interested in learning more about Greece's ancient and Byzantine heritage by exploring its more out-of-the-way monuments. CORRIGENDA:

p. 1, last line: reference to Plate 11 should be to Plate 1, 22, or 24 (Byzantine churches, not the Parthenon, ca. 1900).

p. 7, line 13: read Fig. 5.7 for 5.5.

p. 9, line 12: Fig. 5.3, referenced in text, is not the altar east of the Old Temple of Athena, which is not numbered in the figure.

p. 18, line 4: reference to Plate 5, the Propylaia viewed from the east, seems out of place here, for the text refers to the building's pediment, which had not been restored when the photograph was taken, ca. 1900. Numerous other plates and figures provide only general illustrations of monuments and fail to illuminate the specific features under discussion at the point they are referenced in the text.

p. 33, fig. 14: labels explaining the Parthenon frieze suggest that riders and chariots were present only on the north side and gift-bearers only on the south.

p. 35, lines 32-33: contrary to Goette's explicit statement to the contrary, the Parthenon in Nashville does reproduce the architectural refinements of the original in Athens (see, e.g., C. Kreyling, W. Payne et al., Classical Nashville: Athens of the South. Nashville and London: Vanderbilt University Press, 1996, 127ff., esp. 130).

p. 36, line 34: as the central figures of Zeus and Athena from the east pediment of the Parthenon are lost, it seems strange to write that "Both gods are shown larger than life-size..." (emphasis added).

p.38, lines 42-3: The Athena Parthenos was not "clothed in a richly decorated garment of pale ivory and shining gold." Rather, Pheidias employed ivory for the flesh of the goddess and gold for her drapery, hair, and other accouterments, though Pausanias (1.24.7) does state that ivory was also used for the Gorgoneion of her aegis.

p. 111, line 9: read Fig. 36 for 34.

p. 263, line 43: read p. 186 for 180.

p. 343, lines 30-31: an Archaic inscription (IG iv, 1580) indicates that the limestone base located at the western end of the northern colonnade of the temple of Aphaia at Aigina was for an ivory, rather than a wooden, statue (see D. Williams, "Aegina, Aphaia-Tempel IV: The Inscription Commemorating the Construction of the First Limestone Temple and other Features of the Sixth Century Temenos," AA 1982: 53-68, esp. 65), while a stone arm now in the National Museum at Athens (inv. 4506) probably belonged to the over life-size akrolithic, rather than bronze, statue that dominated the central aisle of the present Temple (see E. Walter-Karydi, Die Äginetische Bildhauerschule. Werke und schriftliche Quellen [Alt-Ägina II.2, Mainz, 1987, 77] pls. 21-2).


1.   Athen - Attika - Megaris: Reiseführer zu den Kunstschätzen und Kulturdenkmälern im Zentrum Griechenlands. Cologne: Böhlau-Verlag, 1993. ISBN 3-412-03393-6.
2.   Christopher Mee and Antony Spawforth, Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Pp. xvi + 464, 182 figs. ISBN 0-19-288058-6. $19.95; John M. Camp, The Archaeology of Athens. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. Pp. xii + 340, 277 figures. ISBN 0-300-08197-9. $39.95. R.L.N. Barber, Athens. Fifth edition. London: A.C. Black and New York: W.W. Norton, 2002. Pp. 308. ISBN 0-393-32342-0 [UK] and 0-7136-6129-1 [USA]. $22.95.

Read Latest
About BMCR
Review for BMCR
Support BMCR

BMCR, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010