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Title: The age of Leonidas : the legend of Themopylae in British political culture, 1737-1821
Author: MacGregor Morris, Ian William James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 394X
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis traces the reception of the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 B.c. during the period 1737-1821. The first chapter analyses Richard Glover's nine-book epic poem, Leonidas (1737). It argues that Glover's poem, ignored by modem critics, was of central importance to not only the Legend of Thermopylae, but the classical tradition as a whole in the eighteenth century. Glover took the idealisation of the battle that had existed since antiquity, and represented it in contemporary terms. By identifying Spartan patriotism and virtue with the manifestation of those ideals in the eighteenth century, Glover made Thermopylae the paradigm par excellence of those virtues. The second chapter analyses the fortunes of Thermopylae in the eighteenth century as a whole. Central to this was the Athens-Sparta debate, in which various thinkers compared and contrasted the relative merits of the constitutional forms of those two poleis. In light of this debate, the reception of Thermopylae can be seen to alter throughout the century. In the wake of the French Revolution, when Sparta's reputation went into decline, that of Leonidas came to the fore, as the one Spartan whose reputation was salvaged from the mirage spartiate. In the third chapter the uses of Thermopylae during the period of the French Revolution and Empire are considered. By now a standard paradigm of patriotism, both revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries sought to use the battle to their own advantage. Within this, the influence of Glover's poem was considerable. The fourth chapter takes the legend to Greece itself. A dramatic increase in travel to Greece in the eighteenth century led to what can be described as a "rediscovery" of Thermopylae. Early travellers attempted to map the considerable changes in the landscape since antiquity, and antiquarians attempted to reconstruct the course of the battle. In the early nineteenth century, travellers inspired by the ideology of Romanticism, imagined Thermopylae as a shrine to the ideals the battle had come to represent. The final chapter analyses the role of Thermopylae in philhellenism and misohellenism. The question of Greek liberation became a point of major debate in the early nineteenth century. Both those in favour of and against Greek Independence interpreted modem Greece in classical terms, and central to this was Thermopylae. The battle was seen to represent the virtue of the ancient Greeks, which the misohellenes believed was lost forever, and the philhellenes urged the modem Greeks to emulate. In the years leading to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the Legend of Thermopylae found its perfect niche.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available