Pajor, Ferdinand: Eretria - Nea Psara. Eine klassizistische Stadtanlage über der antiken Polis (Eretria XV),
2 Bände, 22 x 30 cm, Bd. 1, 223 S.; Bd. 2, 120 S. (Katalog), 22 x 30 cm
ISBN 2-88474-404-5
CHF 120.00, € 80.00
(Infolio éditions, Gollion 2006)
Compte rendu par Ilona Skupinska-Lovset, University of Lodz

Nombre de mots : 1138 mots
Publié en ligne le 2008-08-19
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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The book reviewed here constitutes number 15 in a series of publications of research conducted since 1964 in Nea Psara on Eubea by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece. The series bears the name “Eretria” as the research programme concerns the ancient town of this name; the present volume, however, adds in the subtitle the name of Nea Psara and thus refers to both, the ancient town and the modern one placed partially on and over its territory. The title also suggests that the book will deal with the reception of  antiquity. And indeed, it does.

The elegant introduction by Alexander Papageorgiou-Venetas gives the picture of the general idea behind the book. The young independent Greece after the years under Turkish rule won its suzerainty and was looking back on its own glorious past in order to find models to build a new identity. In this respect the country was assisted by Europe as the land was depopulated and poor. It was early in the XIXth century, and Europe had been ruled for almost a century by classicism. Classicism looks back on ancient Greece and aspires at harmony, symmetry and rhythm in order to achieve the expression of order and rationalism.

The connection with Germany was natural because of the Greek Royal family. The two pupils of the leading figure in German classicist architecture, the architect K.F. Schinkel, Stamatios Kleanthes and Eduard Schaubert, got the task of planning the “New Athens” - the latter produced in 1834 also the city plan for Nea Psara. Nea Psara was meant to be a little provincial town and lacked the central focus of a royal palace, thus the crossing of the main streets dominates the plan. The symbolic axis was formed on one side by the sea, providing the means for support of life for the inhabitants, and on the other by the historical fortress, remain of their common history. On this axis the public buildings were situated.

The project was, however, multidimensional, as Nea Psara was meant to incorporate the ancient town of Eretria, which - as the later excavations showed for the eight century B.C - gave the evidence of the so-called “settlement of individual houses” (c.f. F.Lang, Archaische Siedlungen in Griechenland: Struktur und Entwicklung, Berlin 1996 pp. 58-59), further, the last “warrior-graves” in central Greece, dating not later than 680 B.C. (C. Bérard, Eretria: fouilles et recherches III: L’Hérôon à la Porte de l’Ouest, Berne 1970), and, first of all, the classical houses with the large and rich “House of the Mosaics” (Ducrey et al. Eretria : fouilles et recherches VIII: Le Quartier de la Maison aux mosaïques, Lausanne 1993 pp.31-48, 85-96).

Archaeological research in Eretria is presented by the author in chapter III. It was started in 1885 by Christos Tsountas followed by The American School of Classical Studies in 1891 and 1895, and the Swiss research from 1964. Before that, only the ruins of the acropolis, the city walls and the theatre were known, besides of artefacts like mainly the class of inscribed stones. The author also gives an introduction to the geography of Euboea (chapter I), its history (chapter II) and as an appendix to chapter III a list of the fragments of travellers’ texts mentioning Eretria, beginning with a notice by Ciriaco of Ancona (5.04.1436) and ending with the description of Eretria by Alfred Philippson, with additions by Ernst Kirsten (10.05.1896). All documents are cited in original language.

Chapter IV describes the period following the War of Independence (1821-1827) with reference to city planning. The author points to the lack of sources of theoretical nature for the documentation of the XIXth century city plan, however, he finds that the so-called “Memoranda” fill these lacunae. Further he presents silhouettes of Stamatios Kleanthes and Gustav Schaubert and their work on the planing of Athens.

In chapter V the city plan of Eretria-Nea Psara is presented. The Vitruvian wishes as the access to fresh water, the sanitation of the place, and the access to nearby sources of nourishment are discussed, the size of the property divisions, the size of population, the size of each individual property (each house should have a parcel of 1000 square meters and give space to ten persons, p. 126). Afterwards, the Nea Psara axis, leading from the acropolis (in the north) to the harbour (in the south), is discussed. Ancient monuments (city walls, street with tombs, the theatre and the acropolis) were separated out on the 1834-plan as one can say in today’s vocabulary “recreational areas” (p.128). Also “green areas” are incorporated in the plan (p.133), and altogether sixteen public buildings are drawn (pp. 133-135).

Chapter VI describes the process of settling the newcomers in accordance with the Royal Decrees of 1836 and 1847, and the Letter of the Colonisation Committee to the Minister of the Interior of 1845 (texts 33, 34a, 34b,35, 36, 37, 38, 39 [text 34a is in Greek, the others are in German language, texts 34b, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 are said to be translations]; pp. 146-156).

Chapter VII describes the development of the town in the late XIXth and XXth century, dealing with street names, public buildings and monuments. Chapter VIII deals with the classicistic architecture of Eretria/Nea Psara in relation to the classicistic architecture of Greece. Of the private houses, numerous chosen examples are given. The houses are in general fairly small and plain, and as a rule two floors high. Ornaments are seldom recorded.

Chapter IX deals with the master plan of Eretria drawn in 1975-1976 by the representatives of the Department of Architecture of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in co-operation with the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece.

The aspect of co-operation and the stressing of the value of cultural heritage is underlined, especially in the planning of the “archaeological zone”, an area designed for tourists in the context of the town and its activities.


Volume 2 contains plates and drawings. There are reproductions of historical drawings and paintings, air photographs, plan, pictures taken by the author and showing existing buildings (among them many plain small private houses), forming so-called “Dokumente 5”. The masterstudium is called “Dokumente 6” and contains a description (pp. 89-93) and the tables no. 3 to 31.


The publication is worth studying, especially since the project has engaged many participants, giving it an interdisciplinary character. It ads a new perspective to the archaeological research and shows how important it is to take care of our heritage, and that we should take better care to properly present the archaeological heritage to the public.

The book is carefully edited, although on some maps and plans (as e.g. Text , Fig. 55 on page 160), a full legend would facilitate the usage of the information; the reader also would care about having full references to several illustrated buildings, especially to their position on the city plan (as e.g. Text p. 179).