SEVERAL BLOGS AGO I waxed lyrical about Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt in Crete (‘Crete: the island that tipped’). Well, now I’m gonna tell you a little about him in Lycia (that’s southwestern Turkey – see map at end) and his involvement in the procuring of the Xanthos Marbles …..
Thomas Spratt (1811-1888) … remember him?
In April 1839 the antiquarian Sir Charles Fellows travelled to Lycia in search of antiquities and ancient sites. Perhaps the most spectacular of his discoveries was the ruins of the city of Xanthos. The date of these remains he considered to be ‘a very early one’ and the walls ‘Cyclopean’. He did not clarify how early but three temples at the site have since been dated to the Classical 5th century BC.
Sir Charles Fellows (1799-1860)
The Royal Naval hydrographer, Thomas Spratt and his two colleagues, the naturalist Edward Forbes and the historian the Rev E.T. Daniell, joined Fellows in January 1842 just before the completion of the latter’s work. Spratt’s ship, HMS Beacon then under the charge of Captain Graves, had been “commanded to bring from Syria [actually Anatolia] the remains of antiquity discovered at Xanthos by Sir Charles Fellows.” This may not have been considered an entirely popular venture by some in England as Forbes, although not clarifying, commented:
“There had not been a little discussion too, in London circles, with regard to the doings of the ‘Beacon’ when procuring the Xanthus marbles, and the part Captain Graves took in that expedition had been much misinterpreted.”
Xanthos Neried Monument now in the British Museum (courtesy of Fellows)
It would appear that the monuments of Xanthos were causing as much controversy as the Elgin Marbles had done forty years earlier. Along with Graves, both Spratt and Forbes appeared uneasy about this mass clearance of a site and its removal to England. Spratt himself was to send items back to the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge but not to this scale. In fact, Graves had given orders that two of the large tombs (Harpy and Payava) should not be dismantled until further instructions had come from Malta to construct suitable boats for their transportation down river. These orders were ignored.
Sailors dismantling the Tomb of Payava at Xanthos despite Capt Graves’ orders (drawn by Charles Fellows)
Tomb of Payava resituated in the British Museum
Spratt, Forbes and Daniell intended to travel to Lycia for surveying, naturalist and antiquarian purposes respectively. They came upon some eighteen ancient major cities and several other minor sites and managed to trace the marches of Alexander the Great through Lycia. Unfortunately Daniell was taken ill with malignant malaria and died before the completion of the expedition.
Edward Forbes (1815-1854)
They began their tour at Makri harbour (ancient Telmessus), the nearest safe anchorage to Xanthos, and travelled to neighbouring Caria. It was not long before they came across the Cyclopean conglomerate stone architecture of Pinara. More Cyclopean walls were discovered at Arneae but unlike many other ancient walls of Lycia they bore no inscriptions, possibly indicating an earlier phase of architecture. Likewise at Cyaneae, where they reported, “within the walls was a confused row of buildings of early and late date; but we saw no sculptured fragments, columns or inscriptions.”
5th century BC Tombs at Pinara
Spratt’s and Forbes’ findings were published in their book Travels in Lycia (1847). However, Spratt was obviously unimpressed with the lack of credit he had received for his work in Lycia as his colleague, William Leake, wrote to Sir Roderick Murchison, the President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) on the 15th January 1854:
“Capt Spratt complains that his discoveries geographical and archaeological in Lycia and the adjoining parts of Asia Minor have never [been] noticed by any President [of the RGS] in his annual address, and I think he complains not without reason, those discoveries having been some of the most important that have been made in that country and of a nature particularly fitted to the objects of our Society.”
Lycia in Turkey
Poor old Spratt. In fact, very little has been written about his achievements – until my excellent book, Dawn of Discovery, that is (go to ‘MY PUBLICATIONS’ tab on this blog or just click here).
Next week: Ye Olde Bramber Castle Inn – a Pilgrim’s Progress
Artemus Smith’s Notebooks
I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:
I was in a restaurant the other day and a customer was bothering the waiter. First, he asked that the air conditioning be turned up because he was too hot, then he asked it be turned down cause he was too cold, and so on for about half an hour. Surprisingly, the waiter was very patient as he walked back and forth and never once got angry. So finally, I asked him why he didn’t throw out the pest. “Oh, I really don’t care or mind,” said the waiter with a smile. “We don’t have air conditioning.”