Article title: 

«Ο θρήνος των Καρυατίδων»: βιογραφία μιας παράδοσης (1803-1902)


European travellers, starting a decade following the violent removal to England of one of Erechtheum’s six Caryatids, recorded an Athenian legend: the “Korai” who had been left behind mourned for the loss of their sister, who answered their cries in a lament of her own. For three centuries, the legend of the “Caryatids’ Lament” has generated different forms of telling and retelling, measuring up to a modern Greek national “myth”. This paper undertakes to outline the tale’s textual life in the long 19th century, pointing to crucial episodes of ideological translation. It questions the scholarly argument according to which narratives such as this represent expressions of an “indigenous archaeology”. Instead, it provides insights into ways colonial imagination and literary discourse have shaped what appear as pre-modern sensibilities. It is also argued that it was mainly at the end of the 19th century, and mostly by virtue of its dramatic and literary renderings that this traumatic tale was reshaped into an allegedly living proof of Modern Greeks’ essential bond with the works of their ancient ancestors.