Korais: Continuation of the Improvised Reflections on Greek Culture and Language (1807)

Infuriated by the purchase of old manuscripts from Greek monastic libraries in the Ottoman Empire by the English traveller Edward Clarke (1769–1822), the classical scholar Adamations Korais (1748–1833) pleaded for the creation of a »Hellenic Museum« (Eλληνικόν μουσείον), that would register and preserve manuscripts as well as antiquities from all over Greece. His motion represents the first project for a Greek national museum, conceived in Paris at a moment when the Louvre collections were rapidly growing thanks to Napoleon’s spoliations.

commented by Eleonora Vratskidou

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Ακολουθία των αυτοσχέδιων στοχασμών περί της Ελληνικής παιδείας και γλώσσης

from: Korais 1807, pp. λγ-μβ.

[λγ] […]

Τῶν πολλῶν τῆς βαρβαρώσεως τῶν ἐθνῶν δυστυχιῶν εἶναι καὶ τὸ, ὄχι μόνον νὰ μὴν αἰσθάνωνται λύπην δι’ὃσα ἔχασαν, ἀλλὰ μήτ’ ἐκείνων πλέον τὴν ἀξίαν νὰ γνωρίζωσιν, ἐὰν ἔμειναν ἀκόμη εἰς αὐτὰ μικρὰ λείψανα καλῶν, καὶ νὰ τἀφίνωσι καθημέραν ἀπὸ τὰς χεῖράς των, διὰ νὰ πλουτίζωσι τοὺς ξένους μὲ τὴν αὔξησιν τῆς ἰδίας των πτωχείας.

Περὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς τῆς δεκάτης πέμπτης ἑκατονταετηρίδος ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ, εἰς τὴν ὁποίαν κατεφέρθη εἰς τὸ γένος τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἡ τελευταία πληγὴ, ἡ Ἰταλία ἦτον εἰς σχεδὸν ἀπαράλλακτον κατάστασιν, εἰς ὁποίαν εὑρίσκεται σήμερον ἡ Ἑλλάς· ἤγουν νενεκρωμένη πρὸ πολλοῦ διὰ τὴν καταστροφὴν τῆς δυτικῆς αὐτοκρατορίας τῶν Ῥωμαίων, καὶ τὴν καταδρομὴν πολλῶν βαρβάρων ἐθνῶν, ἤρχισε νὰ ἐξυπνίζεται ἀπὸ τὸν βαθὺν αὐτῆς λήθαργον, καὶ νὰ ζητῇ πανταχόθεν θεραπείαν εἰς τὰς πληγάς της. Ἁπ’ ὅσα φάρμακα μετεχειρίσθη εἰς τὴν πολυχρόνιον αὐτῆς ἀῤῥωστίαν δραστικώτερον χωρὶς ἀμφιβολίαν ἐχρημάτισε τὸ νὰ συναθροίσῃ τὰ παλαιὰ τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν ποιητῶν καὶ συγγραφέων ἀντίγραφα, νὰ τὰ μελετήσῃ, καὶ νὰ τὰ δημοσιεύσῃ διὰ τῆς τυπογραφικῆς τέχνης, ἥτις ἐγεννήθη περὶ τὰ μέσα τῆς αὐτῆς ἑκατονταετηρίδος.

Ὁλίγους χρόνους πρὸ τῆς ἁλώσεως τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, καὶ μετὰ τὴν ἅλωσιν εὐθὺς, πολλοὶ λόγιοι τοῦ γένους ἄνδρες, προφῆται, ἤ καὶ μάρτυρες αὐτόπται, τῆς πτώσεως τῆς ἰδίας των πατρίδος, ἐπέρασαν εἰς τὴν Ἰταλίαν, φέροντες ἐντάμα καὶ τὰ βιβλία των, τὰ ὁποῖα, μετὰ τὴν ἀποβίωσιν αὐτῶν, ἔμειναν εἰς τῶν ἀλλογενῶν Εὐρωπαίων τὰς βιβλιοθήκας[λδ]. Ἔξω τούτων, καὶ τὸ κατ’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρόν κυβερνῶν τὴν Φλωρεντινήν δημοκρατίαν περίφημον γένος τῶν Μεδίκων ἔπεμψε καὶ εἰς Κωνσταντινούπολιν, καὶ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Ἑλλάδα, ἐξεπίτηδες ἀνθρώπους, διὰ ν’ ἀγοράζωσιν Ἑλληνικῶν ποιητῶν καὶ συγγραφέων ἀντίγραφα. Τούτους ἐμιμήθησαν ἔπειτα ἄλλοι, καὶ ἡγεμόνες, καὶ ἰδιῶται, καὶ δὲν ἔπαυσαν μέχρι τῆς σήμερον νὰ συναθροίζωσι μὲ τόσην ἐπιμέλειαν, μ’ ὅσην ἡμεῖς τὰ σκορπίζομεν ἀμέλειαν, τῆς Ἑλλάδος τὰ ἀντίγραφα, ἕως οὗ τὴν ἐγύμνωσαν σχεδὸν ἀπ’ ὅλα τῆς ἀρχαίας αὐτῆς δόξης τὰ μαρτύρια καὶ λείψανα.

Μέχρι τούτου τὸ πρᾶγμα, ἄν καὶ λύπης καὶ πολλῆς αἰσχύνης ἄξιον εἰς τοὺς Γραικοὺς, εἶχε κἄν τινα παρηγορίαν, καὶ, ἀντί τοῦ νὰ φθονήσωμεν τοὺς πλουτισθέντας ἀπὸ τὴν ἀγνωσίαν ἡμῶν ἀλλογενεῖς, πρέπει τρόπον τινὰ καὶ νὰ τοὺς γνωρίζωμεν χάριν· ἐπειδὴ ἔσωσαν τὰς ἀποδείξεις τῆς προγονικῆς ἡμῶν δόξης, τὰς ὁποίας ἐνδεχόμενον ἦτο ν’ ἀφανίσωμεν ὁλότελα, ἐάν ἔμεναν εἰς ἡμᾶς. Ναί! χάριν πρέπει νὰ τοὺς γνωρίζωμεν, δι’ ὅσα μέχρι τῆς σήμερον ἐπῆραν, ὄχι στανικῶς ἡμῶν, ἀλλ’ ἀγοράζοντες, ὡς σοφοὶ, σοφῶν ἀνδρῶν πονήματα ἀπὸ χεῖρας ἀναξίων ἀνθρώπων νὰ τὰ κρατῶσιν.

Ἡ χάρις ὅμως ἕως τούτου. Εἰς δὲ τὸ ἑξῆς, ἐὰν εἰς αὐτοὺς ἦναι συγχωρημένον ἀκόμη νὰ μᾶς δελεάζωσι μὲ ἀργύριον, διότι ἰσχυρογνωμόνως ἐπιμένουσιν εἰς τὴν περὶ ἡμῶν κακήν ὑπόληψιν τῆς βαρβαρότητος, εἰς ἡμᾶς εἶναι ἐλεεινή καταισχύνη νὰ μὴ τοὺς πιστώσωμεν, ὅτι ὁ καιρὸς τῆς βαρβαρότητος ἡμῶν ἐπέρασε, μηδὲ θέλει πλέον ἐπιστρέψει. Καὶ ἀναντίῤῥητον τῆς ἀναγεννήσεως ἡμῶν πίστιν ποίαν ἄλλην, ἤ ἀπόδειξιν, εἶναι δυνατὸν νὰ δώσωμεν εἰς αὐτούς, πῶς [λε] ἄλλως ἐμποροῦμεν νὰ κλείσωμεν τὰ στόματα τῶν κατηγόρων τοῦ γένους, ἄν δὲν τοὺς πληροφορήσωμεν μὲ σταθερὰν καὶ ἀμετακίνητον ἀπόφασιν, ὅτι μήτε χαρίζομεν, μήτε πωλῶμεν πλέον τὰ προγονικὰ κτήματα;

Τὴν γῆν φαντάζομ’ ὅτι βλέπω σχιζομένην νὰ μὲ καταπίῃ διηγούμενος, καὶ παρὰ τὴν κοινὴν τοῦ γένους ἐντροπὴν ἄλλο δὲν μ’ ἀναγκάζει νὰ διηγηθῶ ὅσην ἀγανάκτησιν ἐδοκίμασα, ὅταν ὄχι πρὸ πολλῶν ἐτῶν ἀνέγνωσα εἰς τὰς πολιτικὰς καὶ φιλολογικὰς τῶν Γάλλων ἐφημερίδας τὰ ἑξῆς:

Ἰδού ὁ κατάλογος [λστ] τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν ἀντιγράφων, ὅσα ἔφερεν [εἰς τὸ Λονδῖνον] ὁ Κλάρκιος ἀπὸ τὴν Πάτμον, Νάξον, καὶ ἄλλους τόπους τῆς Ἑλλάδος. Ἀπὸ τὴν Πάτμον, Α. τὰ ἅπαντα τοῦ Πλάτωνος, βιβλίον πρώτου μήκους, γραμμένον κάλλιστα εἰς Περγαμηνὸν χάρτην, μὲ σχόλια εἰς μικρὰ κεφαλαῖα γράμματα. Τὸ βιβλίον τοῦτο ἐγράφθη κατὰ τὸ ἑξακισχιλιοστόν τετρακοσιοστὸν τέταρτον ἔτος ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου, ἐπὶ τῆς βασιλείας Λέοντος τοῦ Βασιλείου. Β. Λεξικὸν τοῦ αγίου Κυρίλλου Ἀλεξανδρείας. Γ. Ποιήματα Ἑλληνικὰ μὲ σημεῖα μουσικῆς Ἑλληνικῆς παλαιά. Δ. Δύο ἕτερα ἀντίγραφα παρόμοια. Ε. Γρηγορίου Ναζιανζηνοῦ τὰ ἅπαντα. Ἀπὸ τὸ ὅρος τοῦ Ἄθωνος, Α. Λόγους Δημοσθένους. Β. Λόγους τῶν δέκα ῥητόρων τῶν Ἀθηνῶν, ἀπὸ τοὺς ὁποίους τινὲς μᾶς εἶναι ἀκόμη ἄγνωστοι. Παρατηρήσεως ἄξιον εἶναι, ὅτι ὁ Πλάτων τῆς Πάτμου, τὸν ὁποῖον ὁ διδάσκαλος Πόρσων ὀνομάζει Μνημεῖον τῆς φιλολογίας, εἶναι τὸ ἀρχαιότερον Ἑλληνικὸν ἀντίγραφον ἀπ’ ὅσα εὑρίσκονται εἰς τὸν κόσμον μὲ διωρισμένην ἀκριβῆ χρονολογίας σημείωσιν.

[…]

Ποῖος ἀπὸ τοὺς ἀναγινώσκοντας ταῦτα νοῦν ἔχοντας [λζ] Γραικοὺς δὲν θέλει αἰσθανθῆ τὴν αὐτὴν ἐντροπὴν, τὴν αὐτὴν ἀγανάκτησιν καὶ θλίψιν, τὴν ὁποίαν αἰσθάνθην ἐγώ; Τίς δὲν θέλει κλαύσει καὶ τῆς πατρίδος του τὴν δυστυχίαν, καὶ τῶν ὀλίγων ἐκείνων τὴν ἀνοησίαν, ὅσοι προθυμοῦνται, δὲν ἐξεύρω διὰ ποίαν ὀργὴν θεοῦ, νὰ τὴν καταποντίσωσι καὶ πάλιν εἰς τὴν ἀπὸ τὴν ὁποίαν μόλις ἥρχισε νὰ σηκόνῃ τὴν κεφαλήν ἀπαιδευσίαν;

[…] [λη] Τὰ καλῄτερα χωρὶς ἀμφιβολίαν τῆς Ἑλλάδος γραμματικὰ ἐδιδάσκοντο εἰς τὴν Πάτμον καὶ εἰς τὸ ὅρος τοῦ Ἄθωνος. […] καὶ ὃμως αἱ [λθ] δύο πηγαὶ τῶν καλῶν τούτων γραμματικῶν ἐγύμνωσαν ὅλην τὴν Ἑλλάδα ἀπὸ τὰ πολύτιμά της ἀντίγραφα, καὶ ἐπρόδοσαν εἰς ἔθνος ἀλλότριον, διὰ πολλὰ ὀλίγον ἴσως ἀργύριον, τὰ προγονικὰ κτήματα. Τὰ ἄγρια τῆς Ἀφρικῆς ἔθνη, τὰ ὁποῖα δὲν γνωρίζουσι μήτε καλὰ μήτε κακὰ γραμματικὰ, δὲν ἥθελαν πράξει χειρότερα.

Ἀσπλαγχνία μεγάλη ἥθελεν εἶσθαι νὰ λυπήσω τοὺς ὁμογενεῖς διηγούμενος τοσαύτης αἰσχύνης ἄξιον κακὸν, χωρὶς νὰ δείξω ἐντάμα καὶ τὴν θεραπείαν τοῦ κακοῦ. […]

Ἰδού λοιπὸν τί προβάλλω ταπεινῶς καὶ εἰς τὸν Παναγιώτατον Οἰκουμενικόν Πατριάρχην, καὶ εἰς τὴν περὶ αὐτόν σεβασμιωτάτην τῶν Ἀρχιερέων Σύνοδον, ἣτις καὶ χωρὶς ἐμοῦ ἥθελε πρὸ πολλοῦ θεραπεύσει τὸ κακὸν, ἄν ἦτο δυνατὸν νὰ γνωρίζῃ τί γίνεται εἰς τὴν Ἑλλάδα, μὲ τὴν αὐτήν εὐκολίαν, μὲ τὴν ὁποίαν εἰς τὰ φωτισμένα τῆς Εὐρῶπης [μ] ἔθνη κηρύττουσι καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν αἱ πολιτικαὶ καὶ φιλολογικαὶ ἐφημερίδες ὃ,τι γίνεται εἰς ὃλον τὸν κόσμον.

Α. Ἀπὸ τῆς σήμερον εἰς τὸ ἑξῆς νὰ ἐμποδισθῇ διὰ πατριαρχικῆς φιλοστόργου πρὸς ὃλον τὸ γένος συμβουλῆς, καὶ, ἄν ἡ χρεία τὸ καλέσῃ, διὰ τῶν ἐκκλησιαστικῶν ἐπιτιμίων, τὸ νὰ δίδωται, ἢ νὰ πωλῆται, ἀπ’ ὁποιονδήποτε εἰς ὁποιονδήποτε ἄνθρωπον ἰδιώτην ὁμόφυλον, ἢ ἀλλόφυλον, ἀντίγραφον εἰς Ἑλληνικήν γλῶσσαν γραμμένον.

Β. Ὃστις ἔχει ἀντίγραφον παλαιὸν, νὰ ἦναι ὑπόχρεως νὰ τὸ ἀναγγέλλῃ εἰς τὴν ἱεράν Σύνοδον ἀμέσως, ἢ, ἄν ἦναι μακρὰν τῆς Συνόδου, διὰ τοῦ Ἀρχιερέως, ἢ τοῦ Πρωτοϊερέως τῆς πόλεως, ὃπου κατοικεῖ. Ἡ δὲ Σύνοδος νὰ τὸ ἀγγοράζῃ παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἀβιάστως, πληρόνουσα τὴν ἀξίαν καὶ ἀνάλογον τιμήν μὲ τὴν ἀρχαιότητα καὶ σπανιότητα τοῦ ἀντιγράφου.

Γ. Ἂν ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀντιγράφου δὲν θέλῃ νὰ τὸ πωλήσῃ, νὰ ἦναι ὑπόχρεως νὰ τὸ δανείζῃ πρὸς καιρὸν εἰς τὴν Σύνοδον. Ἡ δὲ Σύνοδος νὰ φροντίζῃ τὴν ἀντιγραφήν ἀπ’ ἄνδρα λόγιον, καὶ, ἀφ’ οὗ γραφθῇ, τὴν παραβολὴν κατὰ συλλαβὴν καὶ λέξιν ἀπὸ δύο λογίους ἄλλους ἄνδρας, παρόντος καὶ τοῦ ἀντιγράψαντος.

Δ. Τὄνομα τοῦ δανείσαντος τὸ ἀντίγραφον νὰ σημειοῦται εἰς τὸν Κώδικα τοῦ Πατριαρχείου, καὶ ἀποθανόντος αὐτοῦ, τὄνομα τοῦ κληρονόμου, διὰ νὰ ἔλθῃ τέλος πάντων εἰς τὴν ἐξουσίαν ὃλου τοῦ γένους τὸ μερικὸν κτῆμα, χωρὶς βίαν ἥ ζημίαν τοῦ κτήτορος, ἢ κἂν νὰ ἐμποδισθῇ τοιουτοτρόπως ἡ μετακόμισις αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔθνος ἀλλότριον.

Ε. Ἡ ἱερὰ Σύνοδος νὰ στείλῃ Πατριαρχικόν Ἔξαρχον, ἄνδρα [μα] λόγιον, καὶ ζηλωτὴν τῆς δόξης τοῦ γένους του, εἰς τὰ ὑπό τὸν Οἰκουμενικὸν θρόνον μοναστήρια, νὰ συνὰθροισῃ τὰ εὑρισκόμενα ἔτι εἰς αὐτὰ Ἑλληνικὰ ἀντίγραφα· νὰ παρακαλέσῃ πρὸς τούτοις τοὺς κατὰ πόλεις Ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ Ἐπισκόπους, καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς τρεῖς Μακαριωτάτους Πατριάρχας νὰ κάμωσι τὴν αὐτὴν ἔρευναν, ἂν ἀκόμη σώζεται κἀνὲν ἀντίγραφον εἰς τὰς διοικήσεις των.

ΣΤ. Νὰ διορισθῇ τόπος, ἢ βιβλιοθήκη, ἐξαίρετος καὶ χωριστὴ ἀπὸ τὴν βιβλιοθήκη τῶν τυπωμένων βιβλίων, μὲ ὄνομα ἙΛΛHNIKΟN ΜΟΥΣΕΙΟΝ, εἰς τὴν ὁποίαν νὰ τεθῶσι ὃλα τοῦτα τὰ ἀντίγραφα, ἀφ’ οὖ πρῶτον καταγραφῶσιν εἰς κατάλογον.

Ζ. Τὸ Ἑλληνικὸν μουσεῖον νὰ ἔχῃ δύο ἐπιστάτας λαϊκοὺς, ἄνδρας πεπαιδευμένους, ἢ τοὐλάχιστον φίλους τῆς παιδείας, ἀμίσθους, καὶ τρίτον ἄλλον μισθωτὸν, καὶ τοὺς τρεῖς διωρισμένους ἀπὸ τὴν ἱερὰν Σύνοδον, ἣτις τὴν ἀρχήν ἑκάστου ἔτους νὰ ὀνομάζῃ ἕνα τῶν Ἀρχιερέων, τὸν λογιώτερον, διὰ νὰ ἐξετάζῃ μὲ τοὺς τρεῖς ἐπιστάτας, κρατῶν εἰς χεῖρας τὸν κατάλογον, ἐὰν ἕκάστον ἀντίγραφον εὑρίσκεται εἰς τὸν τόπον του.

Η. Ἡ καταγραφὴ εἰς τὸν κατάλογον πρέπει νὰ γίνεται διεξοδική· ἥγουν πρέπει νὰ περιέχῃ τὴν σημείωσιν τοῦ ἔτους τοῦ μηνὸς καὶ τῆς ἡμέρας, ὅταν τὸ καταγραφόμενον βιβλίον ἐφέρθη εἰς τὸ Μουσεῖον, τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ πωλητοῦ, καὶ τῆς ποσότητος τῆς τιμῆς, ἂν ἠγοράσθη, ἢ τοῦ χαριστοῦ, ἂν ἐδόθη δωρεὰν εἰς τὸ γένος, τῆς πόλεως ἢ χώρας, ὅπου εὑρέθη, καὶ ὅθεν ἦλθε τὸ βιβλὶον. Παρὰ ταῦτα, ἐπειδὴ πολλάκις εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ σῶμα καὶ ἀντίγραφον εὑρίσκονται [μβ] πολλῶν ποιητῶν ἢ συγγραφέων πονήματα, ἢ μέρη πονημάτων, πρέπει εὐθὺς νὰ γίνεται ἡ σημείωσις καταλεπτῶς τῆς ἐπιγραφῆς ἑκάστου πονήματος.

Θ. Ἔξω τῶν ἀντιγράφων, οἱ ἐπιστάται καὶ προστάται τοῦ Μουσείου νὰ συναθροίζωσι, μὲ ὄχι ὀλιγωτέραν ἐπιμέλειαν, ἀρχαῖα Ἑλληνικὰ νομίσματα, ἀγγεῖα, σκεύη, λίθους πολυτίμους, κίονας καὶ στήλας, ἢ κλάσματα στηλῶν, ὅπου εὑρίσκονται Ἑλληνικαὶ ἐπιγραφαὶ, καὶ ἁπλῶς ὃ,τι ἄλλο λείψανον Ἑλληνικῆς τέχνης ἢ ἱστορίας εὑρεθῇ, καὶ νὰ τὰ θέτωσι καὶ αὐτὰ εἰς τὸ Μουσεῖον. Τούτων ἡ καταγραφὴ εἰς τὸν κατάλογον πρέπει νὰ ἦναι ἀκριβεστέρα· ἥγουν πρέπει νὰ σημειοῦται ὄχι μόνον ἡ πόλις, ἢ χώρα, ὅπου εὑρέθη τὸ λείψανον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔκειτο, καὶ τὰ περὶ τὸν τόπον καταλεπτῶς· ἐπειδὴ ἀπὸ τοιαύτας εἰδήσεις ἐξηγεῖται ἢ εἰκάζεται πολλάκις καὶ ὁ χρόνος καὶ ἡ χρῆσις τοῦ λειψάνου, καὶ, τὸ ἀξιολογώτερον, ἡ τοιαύτη ἐξήγησις συμβάλλει πολλάκις εἰς τὸ νὰ ἐξηγήσῃ τὰ δυσνόητα ἢ ν’ ἀνὰπληρώσῃ τὰ ἐλλείποντα τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς ἱστορίας.

I. Τὸ Ἑλληνικόν Μουσεῖον, διὰ τὰς συχνὰς πυρκαϊὰς τοῦ Βυζαντίου, νὰ ἦναι οἰκοδόμημα πετρόκτιστον, μακρυσμένον ὅσον εἶναι δυνατὸν ἀπὸ ἄλλας οἰκοδομὰς, καὶ περιωρισμένον ἀπὸ γῆν πολλὴν ἔρημον.

Continuation of the Improvised Reflections on Greek Culture and Language

translated by Yiannis Plastiras and Eleonora Vratskidou

[…]

One of the many factors leading to a nation’s barbarization is not only the absence of remorse for what is lost, but also the fact that it ignores the value of even the smallest good that may have remained, and lets it slip through its fingers every day, thus enriching foreigners by increasing its own poverty.

Around the beginning of the fifteenth century, when the last great wound was inflicted on the Greek people, Italy was in a very similar situation to the one in which Greece is today. For a long time deadened because of the destruction of the Western Roman Empire and the invasions of many barbarian nations, it started awakening from its deep slumber, seeking remedies from all sides to cure its wounds. From all the treatments it tried out on its long-term illness, the most efficient no doubt was collecting copies of the writings of ancient Greek writers and poets, studying them, and publishing them through the art of printing, which was invented the same century.

A few years before the fall of Constantinople, as well as immediately after, many Greek scholars, having foreseen or witnessed the events themselves, crossed to Italy, bringing their works with them. After their death, these works remained in the libraries of foreign European nations. At the same time, the governing family of the Florentine democracy, the famous Medici, dispatched people all around Greece with the express mission of purchasing copies of works by Greek poets and authors. They were imitated by many others, rulers and private individuals alike, and to this day they have never stopped accumulating copies from Greece with a level of meticulousness comparable only to the level of our own negligence, and to the point of stripping it of almost every trace and relic of its ancient glory.

To this day, despite the sadness and great shame this situation provoked on the Greek side, there was also a kind of consolation, and, instead of envying the foreigners enriched by our ignorance, we should even in a way owe them a favor, for having preserved evidence of our ancestral glory, evidence that, if left to us, we perhaps would have eliminated altogether. Yes! We must owe them a favor for anything they have taken until now, not against our will, but by buying, the wise men that they were, the works of wise men from people whose hands were unworthy to keep them.

But it is a favor only up to today. From now on, even if they may be forgiven for tempting us with money, stubbornly insisting on our barbaric reputation, for us, it would be a dreadful shame if we failed to convince them that the time of our barbarity has passed, and is never coming back. And what other indisputable evidence of our own rebirth, what other proof could we give them, in what other way could we silence the accusers of our nation, if we do not inform them, with a steady and immovable determination, that we neither give away nor sell our ancestral assets?

I imagine the earth opening to swallow me when I narrate, and it is nothing other than the collective shame of the nation that compels me to narrate the indignation that I experienced when, not many years ago, I read in the French political and literary journals the following:

Here is the list of the Greek manuscripts brought to London by Clarke from Patmos, Naxos, and other places in Greece. From Patmos, A. The complete works of Plato, in-folio, beautifully written on vellum paper, annotated in small capitals. This book is written in year 6404 since the Creation, during the reign of Leo, son of Basil. B. The dictionary of Saint Cyril of Alexandria. C. Greek poems with old Greek music notation. D. Two other similar copies. E. The complete works of Gregory Nazianzen. From Mount Athos, A. Demosthenes’ Speeches. B. Speeches of the ten Attic orators, of which several are still unknown. It’s worth observing that Patmos’ Plato, the one that professor Porson names a monument of literature, is the oldest among the Greek manuscripts that exist in the world with a precisely defined date.

[…]

Who among the reasonable Greeks that reads this, would not feel the same shame, indignation and sadness as I did? Who would not cry both for his country’s misery and for the foolishness of those who are willing, driven by who knows what holy anger, to push Greece back to the very same pit of illiteracy from which it is trying to rear its head? […]

Without a doubt, Patmos and Mount Athos are the best centers of Greek learning. […] But it was these two very sources of good learning that deprived the whole of Greece of its valuable manuscripts and gave our ancestral possessions away to a foreign nation, most likely for very little money. The barbaric nations of Africa, having no learning whatsoever, either good or bad, wouldn’t have done worse.

It would be ruthless on my part to sadden my compatriots, speaking of this evil so absolutely shameful, without indicating at the same time the remedy for it. […]

Here then is my humble proposal to his All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch and to his eminent Synod of Hierarchs, who, even without my contribution, would have already cured this evil a long time ago, had they been able to know what is happening in Greece as easily as in the enlightened nations of Europe, where political and literary journals announce every day what happens all over the world.

A. From today on, the giving or selling of Greek manuscripts, from one private individual to another, whether compatriots or foreigners, should be prohibited by charitable patriarchal recommendation to the whole nation, and, if needed, by clerical penance.

B. Whoever has in his possession an old copy should be obligated to report it immediately to the Holy Synod, or, if they are too far away, via the hierarch or first priest of their city. The Synod should buy the manuscript straightaway, paying the value and price corresponding to the age and rarity of the copy.

C. If the copy’s owner is not willing to sell, he should be obligated to loan it to the Synod for some time. The Synod should make sure it is copied by a scholar, and, after the copy is made, that it is cross-checked word by word, syllable by syllable, by two other scholars in the presence of the copyist.

D. The borrower’s name, and, after his death, their heir’s name, should be noted in the Register of the Patriarchate, so that, at the end, this private asset may come under the control of the whole people, without violence or financial damage to the owner, or at least prohibiting thus its translocation to a foreign nation.

E. The Holy Synod should dispatch a patriarchal Exarch, an erudite and zealot of his nation’s glory, to each and every monastery under the Ecumenical Throne, in order to collect all the Greek manuscripts that may still be found in them. It should also appeal to the local Hierarchs and Bishops in every city, as well as to their Beatitudes the other three Patriarchs, so that they do the same search, in case any copies are still preserved in their territory.

F. A special repository or library, separate from the printed books library, should be established under the name GREEK MUSEUM and be appointed as the gathering point of all copies, after they have been written down in a catalogue.

G. The Greek Museum should have two keepers, laymen, educated men or at least with a love for learning, not salaried, and a third one, salaried, the three appointed by the Holy Synod. At the beginning of each year, the Synod should name one of the Hierarchs, the most erudite, to verify, accompanied by the three keepers, catalogue in hand, if every copy is to be found in its place.

H. Record-keeping in the catalogue should be meticulous. Each entry should include the exact year, month and date of the registered book’s arrival in the Museum, the name of the seller, the amount of the price, if it was purchased, or the name of the donor, if it was donated to the people, the city or region in which it was found or came from. As works of many poets or writers, or part of their works, are often to be found bound together, the title of each work should be noted in detail.

I. Beside the copies, the keepers and trustees of the museum should collect no less meticulously ancient Greek coins, vases, vessels, precious stones, columns and steles or fragments of them, with Greek inscriptions, and simply any other recovered relic of Greek art or history, and place them also in the Museum. The cataloguing of those objects should be even more precise. It should be noted not only the city or region where the relic was found, but also the location in which it originally lay and everything regarding the location minutely, because from information like this we may be able to understand or presume the time and the use of the relic, and, what is more important, this estimation may often help explain what seems incomprehensible or fill in gaps in our knowledge of Greek history.

K. Having in mind the frequent fires in Byzantium (Constantinople), the Museum should be built of stone, be situated as far away as possible from neighboring buildings, and have a vast deserted land around it.

Brief biography

One of the major figures of the Greek Enlightenment, Adamantios Korais (Αδαμάντιος Κοραής, 1748–1833) was born in Smyrna (now Izmir), into a wealthy family of merchants originating from the island of Chios. After a sojourn in Amsterdam as partner in an import-export firm, Korais studied medicine at the University of Montpellier, and in 1778, he settled in Paris to pursue a literary career. Remaining in the French capital until the end of his life, he made a name for himself as a leading classical scholar among the European humanists of his time, while propagating his political vision for a regeneration of the Greek nation, through familiarization with the classical writers of Antiquity and more broadly the re-appropriation of Greece’s classical heritage.

Commentary – Adamantios Korais’ plea for a »Hellenic Museum«

Among Korais’ major contributions as an editor of ancient Greek writers is the 17-volume Library of Greek Literature, published in Paris between 1805 and 1826. In the long prefaces of these editions, Korais elaborated his political, educational and linguistic views, persistently drawing parallels to the contemporary situation of the Greeks living under Ottoman rule. These texts count among the most powerful articulations of the emerging Greek liberal nationalist discourse and have laid the ideological foundations for the uprising against the Ottoman Empire, which ultimately led to the creation of an independent Greek state in 1830. The preface to his edition of Isocrates’ speeches, an extract of which is commented here, represents a typical example, raising issues of cultural heritage and its protection.

In 1801, the Cambridge naturalist and antiquarian Edward Clarke (1769-1822) purchased and brought to England a significant number of Greek manuscripts from the island of Patmos, Mount Athos and other parts of Greece. Drawing on French reports of the events in the daily press, Korais dedicated part of his preface to Isocrates, to firmly condemn this massive loss of »ancestral assets« from his home country. He pleaded for the creation of a centralized collection: a »Ηellenic Museum« (Eλληνικόν μουσείον), that would register and preserve manuscripts, as well as antiquities, from all over Greece. His intervention is one of the first vigorous reactions on the part of the Greek intelligentsia against foreign depredations.

Korais’ project for a national museum was conceived in Paris, where the Greek scholar was connected to the circles of the Idéologues such as Constantin-François de Chasseboeuf, comte de Volney, Antoine-Louis-Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracey, Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis or François Thurot, the late-Enlightenment philosophers who crafted the cultural politics of the new-born French Republic during the crucial decade of the 1790s. Involved in the committee for the creation of the Collège de France, Korais followed closely the reforms proposed by the Idéologues regarding the transformation of the Royal Library, and royal collections at large, into non-monarchical, national institutions (Koumarianou 1984).

In the proposed measures he enlists regarding the creation of a »Hellenic Museum«, Korais describes in great detail the practices of localization and collection of manuscripts across private and ecclesiastic libraries, the making of copies from private holders, their cataloguing and documentation, as well as the documentation of other historical artefacts (§B–I). He even indicates the type of building necessary to house these holdings, and its security features (§K). In the omitted passage, he further considers the means for expanding the collection and devises a financial plan for the museum, proposing the founding of an investment, a system of collective donations or even a small tax on merchandises, appealing thus to the class of wealthy merchants as major patrons of education in Greece (Korais 1807, p. μγ). Τhe acclaimed editor of ancient texts also reflects on the new Hellenic Museum as a possible source of financial profit, particularly for indigent Greek scholars, who could earn a living by collating manuscripts for humanists based abroad (Korais 1807, pp. με–μστ) – Korais’ own bread and butter during his first years in Paris.

Infuriated by the removal of Greek manuscripts, Korais interestingly makes no mention of the colossal statue of Ceres from Eleusis that Clarke also brought with him to Cambridge (Hamilakis 2011, pp. 49–53), or of Lord Elgin’s ongoing activities on the Athenian Acropolis. Although material remnants of the past, such as coins, vases, or inscribed steles, are taken into account in his vision for a centralized collection, Korais’ primary concern seems to be the literary heritage. Moreover, material artefacts are considered as means for the study and research of Greek history rather than as objects of aesthetic appreciation (§ Ι). The envisaged museum is not conceived as a place for aesthetic education or recreation. It seems that Korais was not familiar with the rise of aesthetic thought in Germany or, more specifically, with the work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann and the special significance of Greek art in this context (Matthaiou 2011, p. 126). In a broader sense, beyond the self-evident need to protect and preserve Greek literary treasures and historical artefacts, Korais’ pragmatic approach to the creation of such an institution in Constantinople does not embrace more detailed reflection on its actual users and its social relevance.

Korais’ program of cultural politics and heritage protection is not addressed to a then still inexistent sovereign state, the Greek-speaking regions that would later form the territory of an independent Greek Kingdom, being at that time part of the Ottoman Empire. His motion is addressed rather to the leadership of the Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which was the political representative of all Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire. The Greek humanist’s relation to the Church was highly ambivalent. While acknowledging its role as central vector of Greek learning and identity during the centuries of Ottoman rule, Korais’ belief in reason and his radical republicanism made him a fierce critic of religious obscurantism and the anti-liberal conservatism manifested by a significant part of the clergy (Kitromilides 2013, pp. 282–283). In his preface to Isocrates’ speeches, he diplomatically draws a distinction between the enlightened leadership of the Church in Constantinople, allegedly apt to take action even without his intervention, and the local authorities in Patmos and Mount Athos, who, as he contends, treacherously gave away major literary treasures to the English (Korais 1807, pp. λη–λθ: »But it was these two very sources of good learning that deprived the whole of Greece of its valuable manuscripts and gave our ancestral possessions away to a foreign nation, most likely for very little money.«). It is revealing to set Κοrais’ published text against a letter he wrote to his close friend Alexandros Vasileiou, a Vienna-based merchant and scholar from Ioannina, dated June 22, 1807. In a context of absolute trust, Korais bluntly confessed to his friend that in his preface he was of course lying when referring to the Church’s previous initiatives and sensibility on the question of heritage preservation (in order, as he explains, not to further disgrace the Greek name, Korais 1966, p. 395).

Korais most probably ignored the reactions and measures taken upon Clarke’s removal of the manuscripts in Patmos, both by the Patriarchal Throne, with its ex-communication of the responsible priest, and by the local monastic community. The latter did act for the reorganization of its library and better preservation of its collection. They even installed an inscription on the wall of the library alluding to the incidents of Clarke’s visit, declaring the invaluable nature of their holdings and conjuring the keepers to guard them better than their own life (Fragkiskos, Florentis 1993, pp. μστ–μζ). Ignoring such signs of a new awareness for literary assets, enraged at the possibility of further losses, in his letter to Vasileiou Korais vehemently castigated the avaricious and ignorant monks (Korais 1966, p. 395). He demanded that monastic libraries be stripped of their literary assets altogether, except for those strictly necessary to the spiritual education of the monks: that is, he notes in a condescending manner, »saints’ lives and sayings of the desert fathers« (Korais 1966, p. 394). Korais’ project of a centralized collection implied indeed a massive relocation of the literary valuables of the nation to Constantinople – an internal translocation. The struggle to protect cultural assets from foreigners raised the question as to the legitimate custodians and users of those assets within the Greek community.

The letter to Vasileiou also reveals that it was only upon the purchase of the manuscripts by Edward Clarke that someone with the erudition of Korais discovered the very existence of such literary treasures (Korais 1966, p. 394). The moment of removal triggers awareness and at the same time despair over the loss. Be that as it may, Korais’ public discourse marks a turning point in the understanding of the role of foreigners in recovering or safeguarding Greek heritage. Building a historical narrative that stretches back to the fall of Constantinople and the Italian Renaissance, Korais acknowledges previous relocations of Greek manuscripts to a Europe avid for ancient Greek wisdom as acts of protection and loudly declares due gratitude of the Greeks in this respect. In this, Korais’ position seemingly mirrors what would be, some years later, Lord Elgin’s main argument for his removal of the Parthenon marbles – and that of the British Museum thereafter. Nevertheless, it is clear that Korais puts the argument in a different use. Reference to the benevolent role of Western Europeans does not serve to justify further foreign trusteeship of Greek cultural assets, but rather to herald its end (»But it is a favor only up to today«) and to announce a new era of Greek custodianship, as the Greeks themselves become aware of and begin to reclaim their ancestral legacy.  Korais exhorts his compatriots to a radical change of attitude, intimately linked to their spiritual renaissance: »From now on, even if they [foreigners] may be forgiven for tempting us with money, stubbornly insisting on our barbaric reputation, for us, it would be a dreadful shame if we failed to convince them that the time of our barbarity has passed, and is never coming back.«

The emotional rhetoric mobilized by Korais in order to stir up awareness amongst his compatriots and motivate their collective self-transformation relies above all on the traditional value system, in particular the ethics of honour and shame (Peristiany 1965). Failure to live up to what Korais believed was rightfully their own national heritage is not simply sad but shameful – it is impressive how many times the word comes up in the text. Above any other self-referential use, active engagement with the ancestral past and protection of literary and other cultural assets procure »honour to Greece« (Korais 1807, p. με); they serve as a proof necessary to silence the »accusers of the nation« who insisted on its »barbaric reputation«. National awareness was to be forged under the watchful eye of Western Europeans, external observers and judges of Greek efforts. In many ways, this betrays a self-colonizing attitude. Korais remained attached to the universalist notion of civilization promoted by French Enlightenment thinkers and the ideal of progress as a common path of development for all nations – African nations being regarded, as his comment betrays, at its lowest levels (Korais 1807, p. λθ: »The barbaric nations of Africa, having no learning whatsoever, either good or bad, wouldn’t have done worse.«). In the established polarity of barbarism and civilization, Korais’ evocation of Africans as the absolute counterexample for the Greeks reveals the affinities between colonial and national logics.

Eleonora Vratskidou is Visiting Professor at the Institut für Kunstwissenschaft und historische Urbanistik, Technische Universität Berlin.

Sources and literature

Adamantios Korais (ed.), Ισοκράτους λόγοι και επιστολαί, μετά σχολίων παλαιών, Paris 1807.

Adamantios Korais, Αλληλογραφία [Correspondence], vol. 2: 1799–1809. Athens 1966.

Olga Augustinos, »Philhellenic Promises and Hellenic Visions: Korais and the Discourses of the Enlightenment«, in: Katerina Zacharia (ed.), Hellenisms. Culture, Identity and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity, Aldershot 2008.

Dimaras Th. Konstantinos, La Grèce au temps des Lumières, Geneva 1969.

Emanuel N. Fragkiskos, Chrysostomos Florentis, Πατμιακή Βιβλιοθήκη. Κατάλογος των Εντύπων (15ος–19ος αιώνας) [Patmian Library. Catalogue of Printed Works], vol. 1: 1479–1800, Athens 1993.

Emanuel N. Fragkiskos, »Ο πατμιακός κώδικας του Πλάτωνα, ο Villoison και ο Κοραής [The Patmian Codex of Plato, Villoison and Korais]«, in: O Eρανιστής / The Gleaner, 21 (1997), pp. 391–395, available online.

Hamiliakis, Yannis. »Indigenous Archaeologies in Ottoman Greece«, in: Bahrani, Zainab, Çelik Zeynep, and Eldem, Edhem (ed.), Scramble for the Past: A Story of Archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, 1753–1914, Istanbul 2011, pp. 49–69.

Paschalis M. Kitromilides (ed.), Adamantios Korais and the European Enlightenment, Oxford 2010.

Paschalis M. Kitromilides, Enlightenment and Revolution: The Making of Modern Greece, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2013.

Aggeliki Kokkou, H μέριμνα για τις αρχαιότητες στην Ελλάδα και τα πρώτα μουσεία [The Care for Antiquities in Greece and the First Museums]. Athens 1977, pp. 27–31.

Aikaterini Koumarianou, »O Κοραής και η Société des Observateurs de l’Homme« [Korais and the Société des Observateurs de l’Homme], in: Two-day Event on Korais [Διήμερο Κοραή], Athens 1984, pp. 113–142.

Sophia Matthaiou, »Establishing the Discipline of Classical Philology in Nineteenth-Century Greece«, in: The Historical Review/La Revue Historique, 8 (2011), pp. 117–148.

John G. Peristiany (ed.), Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society, London 1965.

Cite this article as:
Korais: Continuation of the Improvised Reflections on Greek Culture and Language (1807), commented by Eleonora Vratskidou, in: Translocations. Anthologie: Eine Sammlung kommentierter Quellentexte zu Kulturgutverlagerungen seit der Antike, https://translanth.hypotheses.org/ueber/korais, published 18.09.2019.

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