The Wandering Scholar

3D cover image of A Wandering Scholar in the Levant by David George HogarthIt’s difficult to know how to categorise D.G. Hogarth. A scholar and a gentleman, an archaeologist and a diplomat, a polyglot linguist and a museum director, a wartime lieutenant-commander in the navy and agent of British Intelligence, a student of Flinders Petrie and a teacher of T.E. Lawrence, and the author of six books which we have just reissued, one of which, A Wandering Scholar in the Levant, was described by Lawrence as ‘one of the best travel books ever written’.

Hogarth was born in 1862, and educated at Winchester and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained a double first with no apparent effort, and was also an outstanding athlete. It was a time before specialization in archaeology, and scholars like Wallis Budge and Flinders Petrie worked on sites and carried out surveys all over the Levant. Hogarth first took part in excavations in Cyprus, where a fellow student was M.R. James – who seems to have found libraries more congenial in later life – and where Hogarth admitted that none of the ‘scholars’ had any idea of what they were doing. But before that, he had joined the epigraphist W.M. Ramsay (who later worked with Gertrude Bell on the Thousand and One Churches) at Smyrna (Izmir) for the first of many expeditions seeking out lost classical or pre-classical sites in Asia Minor and buying (where feasible) or copying inscribed stones from the often bemused and suspicious peasants in whose house walls ancient masonry was frequently embedded.

Travel in the Levant at the end of the nineteenth century was no picnic, with bad roads, unpleasant food, problems with water and illness in the party just as problematic as they had been nearly a century earlier for John Morritt – indeed, they may have been worse, because a frequent comment of Hogarth’s is on the extent to which the Ottoman road network, which had been a marvel to earlier western travellers, was now fallen into complete decrepitude, along with most other aspects of the central government of the ‘sick man of Europe’.

However, this first trip, as the apprentice of the master epigraphist of his age, set a pattern for Hogarth’s life: excavation, publication, travel (always with an antiquarian purpose) and more publication. The self-deprecation of his writing (especially in Accidents of an Antiquary’s Life) should not disguise the serious scholarly achievements of his career, not least the thorough excavation of the cave of Psychro in Crete, the sanctuary of Dictaean Zeus.

But in parallel with his scholarly career, Hogarth took a keen interest in the politics of the contemporary eastern Mediterranean. He had taken the opportunity, when appointed Director of the British School of Archaeology at Athens in 1897, to travel to Crete as a war correspondent for The Times, and on the outbreak of the First World War, he was recruited to naval intelligence, putting on hold his keepership of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford for the duration. Part of his work was advisory, but he seems also to have been involved in interrogating Turkish prisoners, and from 1916, he was effectively running the Arab Bureau in Cairo, dealing not only with the gathering and dissemination of intelligence but also with the planning for the post-war emergence of new nations from the wreck of the Ottoman Empire. He attended the Versailles and Sèvres peace conferences, but, like Lawrence and Bell, was deeply pessimistic about the settlements achieved.

Hogarth returned to Oxford in 1919. Almost to the end of his life (he died in 1927), he continued to work on his many archaeological interests, returning especially to the Hittite inscriptions which had intrigued him on his first journeys in Asia Minor.

The other books we have reissued are: Devia Cypria (1889), a description of his travels in the less explored parts of Cyprus (the title of which ‘has deceived more than once, I am told, sanguine buyers of Erotica’); The Nearer East (1902), a survey of the area from the Balkans to Iran, including north-east Africa, which discusses geology, climate, and communication routes, as well as population distribution, ethnicity, and agriculture, and includes prescient observations about the conflicts of geography and ethnicity; The Penetration of Arabia (1904), which again combined his antiquarian and political interests in a survey of ‘the development of western knowledge concerning the Arabian Peninsula’; and Ionia and the East (1909), a series of lectures on the origin of the culture of the Ionian city states. But for a fascinating insight into the attitudes (and prejudices) of a highly intelligent and learned English scholar and explorer, start with A Wandering Scholar in the Levant and Accidents of an Antiquary’s Life: you will not be disappointed.


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4 Responses to The Wandering Scholar

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