Who Saved the Parthenon?: A New History of the Acropolis Before, During and After the Greek Revolution - cover image


William St Clair

Published On





  • English

Print Length

896 pages (xviii+878)


Paperback156 x 61 x 234 mm(6.14" x 2.4" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 47 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.85" x 9.21")


Paperback1660g (58.55oz)
Hardback1417g (49.98oz)



OCLC Number





  • HBLL
  • 1DVG
  • 1QDT


  • ARC005020
  • HIS042000


  • DF287.P3


  • History of the Parthenon
  • From the modern era to the present day
  • Cultural icon
  • National identity

Who Saved the Parthenon?

A New History of the Acropolis Before, During and After the Greek Revolution

In this magisterial book, William St Clair unfolds the history of the Parthenon throughout the modern era to the present day, with special emphasis on the period before, during, and after the Greek War of Independence of 1821–32. Focusing particularly on the question of who saved the Parthenon from destruction during this conflict, with the help of documents that shed a new light on this enduring question, he explores the contributions made by the Philhellenes, Ancient Athenians, Ottomans and the Great Powers.

Marshalling a vast amount of primary evidence, much of it previously unexamined and published here for the first time, St Clair rigorously explores the multiple ways in which the Parthenon has served both as a cultural icon onto which meanings are projected and as a symbol of particular national, religious and racial identities, as well as how it illuminates larger questions about the uses of built heritage. This book has a companion volume with the classical Parthenon as its main focus, which offers new ways of recovering the monument and its meanings in ancient times.

St Clair builds on the success of his classic text, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, to present this rich and authoritative account of the Parthenon’s presentation and reception throughout history. With weighty implications for the present life of the Parthenon, it is itself a monumental contribution to accounts of the Greek Revolution, to classical studies, and to intellectual history.


This rich and rather odd volume is the product of decades of collecting, compiling, and ruminating on the part of the literary scholar and champion of open access publishing, William St. Clair. Sadly, St. Clair died before he could complete manuscript revisions, and thus we owe thanks to his admirable editors, David St. Clair and Lucy Barnes, for weaving together the pieces and making this valuable, if rather anarchic, book available to readers by open access [...] In the end, I am not even sure that St. Clair is particularly pleased that the Parthenon was saved (and he certainly does not seem to like the historically cleansed, Pausanian look of the acropolis today, though he does praise the new acropolis museum for restoring some of the site’s history). In saying that today the built heritage “is at least as influential as words in constituting and changing mentalities,” he goes so far as to suggest that monuments should be seen not as incidental to conflicts, but as among “the causes and the weapons” (658). Was the ‘saving’ of the Parthenon simply a Frankish quest, whose consequences included the sacrificing of many Greek and Turkish lives and the stripping of the monument of the very history that has made it meaningful? Are the Franks the very people from whom the Parthenon has needed saving? This book poses these uncomfortable questions.

Suzanne Marchand

Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2023.

Additional Resources

[image]Images from this book on Wikimedia Commons

All the public domain images in this book have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, as William St Clair wished, so that others can use and enjoy them freely.



(pp. xiii–xvi)
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2. The Place

(pp. 21–64)
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3. The People

(pp. 65–80)
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4. The Encounter

(pp. 81–140)
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6. The Evidence

(pp. 151–180)
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10. The Choices

(pp. 251–276)
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12. The Surrender

(pp. 287–304)
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14. The Living

(pp. 315–336)
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15. The Dead

(pp. 337–358)
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17. The Secret

(pp. 379–392)
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18. The Bargain

(pp. 393–410)
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19. The Silence

(pp. 411–426)
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20. The Stories

(pp. 427–436)
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23. Whose Parthenon?

(pp. 585–624)
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25. Heritage

(pp. 655–660)
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William St Clair


(7 December 1937 – 30 June 2021) was a British historian, senior research fellow at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.