chapter  5
Making everyone Greek: citizens, athletes, and ideals of nationhood in nineteenth-century Britain, France, and Germany
ByAthena Leoussi
Pages 26

This chapter explores the multiple Hellenomanias operative in processes of nation-building in Europe and the United States over the long nineteenth century. Developing Hans Kohn’s classic distinction between ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’, or ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ nationalisms, it focuses upon phenomena of Hellenomaniac expression in two distinct spheres: the design and construction of civic buildings and practices of physical culture. At the same time as democratic political monuments—ranging from Laboulaye’s ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ to the parliamentary buildings of France and Austria—were springing up in testament to the universalist, cosmopolitan ideals of ‘civic’ Hellenomania, development in the human sciences—from Winckelmannian neoclassical aesthetics, through historical linguistics and physical anthropology’s characterisation of mankind according to ‘races’—promoted an alternative understanding, which posited the ancient Greeks as a particular, ethnic ancestor to northern Europeans in particular. Both these ideals found resonance beyond the academy, in particular national movements (the German Turnverein, English public school culture, and Hippolyte Taine’s ‘culture musculaire’) as well as internationalist endeavours such as the revival of the Olympic Games. The chapter explores the interplay between different strands of these two Hellenomanias in different national contexts, paying particular attention to the role of alternative conceptions of physical culture in rivalry between French and German culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It ends with a discussion of the further recasting of Hellenomania in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art of the fin-de-siècle, as avant-garde figures such as Cézanne, Renoir, and Picasso turned to the Greeks to paint a new picture of the ‘vie moderne’.