France was the first country to establish a school for the study of language, history and antiquities in Greece in 1846, but their main ongoing excavations at Delos and Delphi did not begin until 1873 and 1892 respectively. The German School was founded in 1874 and excavations soon began at Olympia; Heinrich Schliemann’s famous excavations at Troy and Mycenae preceded this but were privately undertaken.
The American and British Schools together occupy a large walled compound on the site of a former monastic olive grove on the lower slopes of Mt Lykabettos, the highest part of Athens, over a mile from the Acropolis. Originally on the outskirts of Athens, the city has since grown far beyond this oasis of academe. Occupying a succession of buildings begun in 1886, the American School began excavations at Corinth in 1896 whereas the British, always strapped for cash, lacked a major excavation site until Sir Arthur Evans donated his site of Minoan Knossos to them in 1926.
The Italian School was established in 1909 in the shadow of the Acropolis but the most significant Italian excavations were undertaken on the islands of Crete and Rhodes which were not yet part of Greece.
Since Gilbert Bagnani’s mother was Canadian and he had attended school in London for three years, it is not surprising that he frequently availed himself of the substantial library facilities at the British School. It also served as an escape from the personnel at the Italian School. The British School was warmer and he could smoke there but the food wasn’t as good. Sometimes Gilbert would ingratiate himself by asking his mother in Rome to arrange for Italian books to be sent to the other schools. Although he liked Carl Blegen, the Assistant Director at the American School, he found it devoid of life, a marble sepulchre, an archaeological equivalent of the “ivory tower.”
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