In the 18th and 19th centuries, many men from the West journeyed to Greece, trading in their comfortable existences in Europe and America for exciting adventures where many risked their lives in the face of pirates, brigands, and plague; and for some of these men, traveling to Greece "was by far the boldest undertaking in their lives" (Constantine 6). They went to see with their own eyes the land which they had heard so much of in school, the educational system of that time being a very classical one, rich in the "mythology, legend, art, and ancient history" of Greece (Andersen xiv). This "vision of antiquity" they were fed created within the minds of these educated men a certain Greek Ideal or Idea, that is, a conceiving of Greece as a pure greatness or perfection (McNeal 1). They came to associate Plato, Homer, Theseus, and the rest of those famous names with a kind of magic quality, placing in such Ancients admirable attributes and values which they longed for in their own time (Constantine 6). And with this Ideal in mind the "neoclassical man" was enchanted, and eagerly accepted the risk of traveling to Greece, being sure to write down everything he witnessed along the way (McNeal, 1).
[...] As Andersen himself exclaimed upon absorbing the Temple of Theseus, unspoiled and grand” in its beauty, actually saw Soon, however, he comes to see Modern Greece, “both gentle and lamenting,” suffering under Turkish rule, and feels if the whole people (61). And yet, he considers this enslaved, miserable, uneducated people as connected with the Ideal Ancients, as intelligent people” rapidly improving their current condition at a rate “like no other in Europe,” at a rate comparable to the “striking progress” in the learning of a young child (50-51). [...]
[...] All the ancient monuments he came across were negatively reacted to with claims of them being & solitary picture[s],” “complete and desolating to the mind” and always covered in a disgusting “yellow tinge” (94-95; 139). Needless to say, Biddle did not respond any better to the present Greeks themselves, overall labeling them as being “little superior to the beasts whom they drive heedless over the ruins”; these barbarians do not even have society by his standards (112; 146). He constantly draws a line to separate the present and the ancient situations of Greece, making it clear that he views them as two individual entities, the latter being in no way connected to the great former which preceded it. [...]
[...] Andersen keeps this idea solidly in his mind even as he steps over the human bones and donkey corpses lying at the foot of these “immortal” ruins (59). And so, when it was time for Andersen to venture back to Copenhagen, he readily admits his sadness and reluctance to depart, swearing that Greece elevated [his] thoughts from the littleness of everyday life” and cleared “every bitterness” from his soul (80). His final impression of Greece is that of sorrowing, mourning Genius of Beauty, [of unforgettable] grandeur and sorrow” whose circumstances are improving to that of its previous state with an unprecedented hope and alacrity (72). [...]
[...] Even if Winckelmann's mind chose to reason like Andersen's and place Greece in a hopeful state of improvement, this still somewhat lowers Greece and the Greeks from Winckelmann's perfect Ideal. Therefore, “taking the emotionally easier course,” Winckelmann unconsciously chose to grasp onto his Ideal tightly and live in his own sort of Greek world, preferring to let others travel to Greece though he often claimed would himself be the best possible traveler” (125). Living in this way, the mind of Winckelmann and others like him could never enter a state of cognitive dissonance concerning the Greece of past and present, for there can be no inconsistency where only one deeply cherished thought resides (118). [...]
[...] On the other side of the mental spectrum, Biddle instead changed his earlier thought of Greece as Ideal, altering this belief by reasoning that the few great men who did exist in Ancient Greece (like Socrates) have been so magnified and exaggerated in their accomplishments that to consider them realistically with the “thousands of bad who also existed during that same time (like the men who put Socrates to death), is to quickly realize how the Western men of modernity are far more advanced and superior than the Greeks ever were and ever will be. [...]
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