24grammata.com/ αγγλικά/ ιστορία
As early as the Roman period the Greeks had some knowledge of Ireland, with Ptolemy’s Geography from the 2nd Century AD mentioning the names of towns, tribes, rivers, such as the Shannon and Lagan, and islands in Ireland. However, it is in the modern period that connections between these two countries were developed in a tangible manner. From the 17th century onwards Greece became the destination of travellers from western Europe as part of the ‘Grand Tour’. Among these travellers was Robert Wood, who was born in Co. Meath in the 18th Century. His travels through the Greek east led to architectural accounts of Balbec and Palmyra, while he also produced a study of Homer’s works and the landscape of the Iliad. Other visitors included Mahaffy and Wilde. The First Earl of Charlemont, James Caulfield, funded the first accurate and measured drawings of the Parthenon in modern times.
Interest in Greek mythology has been longstanding in Ireland and Irish versions of the sack of Troy (Togail Troi), of the Alexander Romance and of the wanderings of Odysseus (Merugud Uilix) exist. Greek mythological allusions have played a part in modern Irish literature, most notably in Joyce’s Ulysses, and contemporary Irish writers and poets still find inspiration in Greece’s rich history and mythology, such as Seamus Heaney and Brendan Kennelly.
A more active involvement in Greek affairs was taken by Sir Richard Church, who was born in Cork in 1784. Church served in the British Army, but on an expedition to the Ionian islands met Theodoros Kolokotronis and other Greeks in exile. From 1812-15 he was colonel of Greek troops in the Ionian islands, during which time he formed two Greek regiments in English pay and pleaded the Greek cause in both London and at the Congress of Vienna. In March 1827 he went to Greece to fight in the War of Independence and became Commander-in-Chief of the Greek forces, driving the Turks out of Akarnania in western Greece. After the war he was appointed confidential adviser to Sir Edmund Lyons, first British minister to Greece and became a general in the Greek army in 1854. He lived out his retirement in Athens and died there in 1873.
As the interest in Irish Universities in the study of Greek History and Culture continues to go from strength to strength, connections between the two countries will undoubtedly remain strong in the future.
Shortened version of ‘Cultural Connections between Greece and Ireland’ on the website of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens (www.ucc.ie/iihsa). Reproduced with permisson.