Ancient Greece Architecture was the passion of Sir Arthur Evans whose life's work was the archaeology of Knossos in Crete, Greece. He restored, and in many places reconstructed, the site and added touches of colour to the Palace of Knossos which remain controversial to this day.
Here in our biography of Arthur Evans we explore his early life before he arrived in Crete and Greece and made such a significant contribution to ancient Greece architecture.
This account below follows on from our previous biography, covering Arthur Evans early life here...
In 1871, when only 20 years old, Evans travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina. At this time, Bosnia and Herzegovina where under Turkish rule. Arthur became a Liberal and followed the ways of Gladstone, a man his father detested. In 1872, Arthur went mountaineering in Rumania and Bulgaria with his brother Norman. In 1873, he toured Sweden, Finland and Lapland. In 1875, he returned to Bosnia with his brother Lewis, where they were arrested as Russian spies. The Slavic people and their struggle for freedom connected with Arthur.
Evans had decided that he did not want to pursue the family business. Instead he pursued an academic career. After a few rejections from various colleges for conventional roles, Arthur became Special Correspondent in the Balkans for the Manchester Guardian. He was chosen by then editor, C.P. Scott. Evans was based in Ragusa. Over many years, his letters to the magazine where seen to be so potent they were published as a book. While on the field as a journalist, he still made the time to excavate Roman buildings in the Balkans.
During these years, he took to using a walking stick come to be known as 'Prodger'. This was to assist Evans due to his near sightedness. They were to never be separated.
The British Consul was far from fond of Evan's work, due to their brutally honest depictions of events transpiring in the region. This made their slow, ineffective diplomacy look bad. When they criticised Evans, he lunged deeper afield for more proof. He went to burnt out villages, made lists of the dead and names of victims. He put himself through great physical danger to obtain the information he wanted to reveal. Just one illustration of this was his crossing near-frozen rivers whilst naked to access remote villages, to report on the local situation. This new evidence could not be ignored.
An old Oxford friend, Freeman, came to visit Evans at Ragusa. His sister Margaret, also came on this trip. She met a tanned and toned Arthur Evans, who she came to fall in love with. They were to eventually marry, celebrating their engagement by visiting Schliemann’s Antiquities of Troy in London.
Soon after their marriage, Arthur and Margaret bought a Venetian house in Ragusa, Casa San Lazzaro, where they were to live for a number of years.
Still correspondent to the Manchester Guardian, he delved into the history, antiquities and politics of the Slavic people, and also began directed a portion of his focus on archaeological excavation and buying Greek and Roman coins.
Ultimately, Margaret could not settle in Ragusa. The conditions too difficult for her. Although, as fate would have it, they would leave Ragusa, but not as Arthur would have liked. Austria, the now ruler of this region, kept a keen eye on Arthur Evans. They held him in the same regard as the Ottoman empire did. After they confirmed that he was meeting with insurgents at his home, both Margaret and Arthur were arrested. They were both later released yet expelled from the country.
In a tour of
Greece in 1883, Evans met the infamous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Evans was
fascinated by ancient Greece architecture and especially with the gems
found at Mycenaean sites. These seemed older than science had suggested
to Evans, and not made by Mycenaean hands, as the approach and style was
altogether different. In not, then by who?
Evan’s curiosity led him to Crete, and luckily for those of us with a love of ancient Greece architecture and Cretan history, it led him to Knossos. Evans would ultimately spend the next 30 years excavating, reconstructing and annotating his finds at Knossos, as well as rediscovering the long lost Minoan civilisation.