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Lord Byron’s two trips to Greece



Lord Byron’s two trips to Greece


13 November 2021


On his first visit to Greece in 1809 to 1811, Lord Byron was fascinated by modern Greece’s foreignness and the personal freedom the region allowed him; during his stay, he did everything from experiment with his sexuality to study Romaic, a language largely unknown in Europe. Only 12 years later, in 1823, when Byron travelled to Greece to assist with the war of independence, the poet had to shift his mentality and begin to see Greece not as the foreign topos of his more carefree youth, but as a potential nation that could take its place within a broader Europe. This talk compares Byron’s two trips to Greece and examine how, and to what degree, his views on Greece and Greeks changed. Should we view Byron’s trips as completely different (one for pleasure, the other for business) or can we detect parallels between the two visits? Does Byron transition from a 23-year-old university student intrigued by klepht culture to a 36-year-old would-be statesman who knew that the Western-educated Alexandros Mavrokordatos, rather than Theodoros Kolokotronis, was better suited to the task of creating a Europeanised Greece – or does this simplify Byron’s mindset and the geopolitical moment he encountered? These kinds of questions, and more, will be discussed in a chapter that seeks to broaden current critical discourse about Greece’s (supposed) transition from orientalised, Romaic community to Europeanised Hellenic nation. What Byron understood keenly, this talk will argue, is that a modern Greece would need to balance and merge Romaic and Hellenic identities, an insight that continues to inform the ways in which we discuss the Greek nation and Greek identity even today.

(Edited abstract from conference website)

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