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In Byron's ShadowModern Greece in the English and American Imagination$
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David Roessel

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195143867

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195143867.001.0001

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Greeces of Byron and of Homer

Greeces of Byron and of Homer

(p.42) 2 Greeces of Byron and of Homer
In Byron's Shadow

David Roessel

Oxford University Press

The decisive engagement of the Greek War of Independence was fought in the bay of Navarino in western Greece on October 20, 1827. Among the dozens of poems written to celebrate the battle was Victor Hugo's “Navarin”, composed in November 1827. In the second section, Hugo addressed the two Greeces, modern and ancient. Hugo defined the two Greeces by their perceived relationship to the rest of Europe and by the two poets whose works form the dominant texts of the country in the Western imagination. This chapter argues that the poets of Hugo's two Greeces help to illustrate the pervasive perceptual dichotomy between ancient/pagan/Westernized Greece and modern/Orthodox Christian/Oriental Greece. As the Western ideal of culture and civilization, antiquity must be carefully studied in order that Europeans can learn how to improve themselves. But modern Greece is known through Western observers, chiefly Byron, who, instead of learning from or even about modern Greece, view themselves as advisers for the reclamation of the lost Greek past.

Keywords:   Victor Hugo, modern Greece, ancient Greece, poets, Navarin, antiquity

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