The Evliyan Marbles: Ottoman viewers of Athenian antiquities

YouTube logo

All of our lectures are live streamed and are open to anyone to join us online, Fellows and Non-Fellows.

To view any of our past lectures please visit our YouTube channel.

Loading Events

« All Events

Event Series Event Series: Evening Lectures

The Evliyan Marbles: Ottoman viewers of Athenian antiquities

October 3 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


The Evliyan Marbles: Ottoman viewers of Athenian Antiquities

by Dr Elizabeth Key Fowden FSA

Long treated as a fantastical storyteller, the Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi has been taken more seriously in recent years as an attentive interpreter of Athenian antiquities. Evliya belongs to the handful of writers who saw the Parthenon intact as a mosque before Morosini’s bombardment in 1687. In Evliya’s account the City of Sages, as Athens was known in Arabic and Ottoman, is alive with ancient Greek philosophers whom he imagines to be in telepathic communication with the philosophers of Golden Age Baghdad. His enthusiastic descriptions of figural art disappoint any expectations of Islamic iconophobia. Two later Ottoman descriptions of Athens also linger on the city’s wonders – it had, after all, become a tourist destination for Ottomans too by the eighteenth century. A generation after Evliya, an Athenian cleric named Mahmud Efendi in his History of the City of Sages makes inventive use of ancient history drawn from Greek sources combined with autopsy and Muslim practice in order to make sense of the ancient buildings, above all the citadel mosque. As rarely studied evidence of early modern engagement with Greek antiquity, these accounts allow us to bring Ottoman viewers too into our assessment of the universal resonance of Athens.

Elizabeth Key Fowden is a cultural historian interested in the places where Hellenism and Islam meet. Her forthcoming book The Parthenon Mosque explores Ottoman engagement with ancient Greek culture. At the University of Cambridge her research has been supported by both the Faculty of Classics and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies. This bridging of Greece and the Middle East at Cambridge has taken various forms, including her role as Senior Researcher in the ERC Advanced Grant ‘Impact of the Ancient City’ with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (PI); as co-PI with Tim Whitmarsh in the interdisciplinary project ‘Greece between Europe and Asia: regionality, religion, and culture’; as organiser with Lily Farhoud and Claudia Tobin of the exhibition and symposium Jerusalem in exile: Artist’s books by Kamal Boullata at the West Court Gallery, Jesus College; and organiser with Deniz Türker of the international curators’ symposium Eastern Mediterranean Embroideries, at the Mohammed Ali Research Center in Kavala, as a prolegomenon to the 2023 Fitzwilliam Exhibition Mediterranean Embroideries for which she produced, together with Marianna Koromila, the accompanying online film.

This event will be both in person at Burlington House and online. Please select the appropriate ticket below.

Attendance at Burlington House:

  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows, Affiliates and General Public.
  • Places in person will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The event will begin at 17.00 GMT. Please arrive in plenty of time.
  • Tea/Coffee is served from 16.30 GMT.
  • Registration is essential for non-Fellows but we encourage Fellows to register as well.
  • Fellows must ensure they sign the guest book and sign their guests in.

The schedule for the evening if attending in person:

  • Refreshments are served from 16.30 GMT in the council room.
  • The meeting begins at 17.00 GMT with the lecture starting at approximately 17.10 GMT.
  • Lectures run for approximately 45min and are followed by a short Q&A.
  • Sherry is served in the Foyer following the lecture.

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows, Affiliates and General Public.
  • The event will be live-streamed to YouTube here
  • The event will begin at 17.00 GMT.
  • You will receive an email reminder with the link to join the day before the lecture.

Please help the Society continue to deliver our FREE online Lecture Programme by making a donation to cover the cost of upgraded IT and software. We would really appreciate your support. Thank you! 

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

Get tickets online


October 3
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BE United Kingdom
+ Google Map