Spoils for the New Pyrrhus: Alternative Claims to Antiquity in Ottoman Greece
journal article
This article examines the role of one governor in the Ottoman provinces, Tepedelenli Ali Pasha, in the ‘scramble’ for classical antiquity as it emerged in the early nineteenth century. Drawing upon a wide range of evidence – architectural inscriptions, archival documents, European travel accounts and oral tradition – this project seeks to investigate how Ali Pasha routinely appropriated the ancient past to secure his own political legitimacy in the region. Several of Ali Pasha’s constructions incorporate spoliated stone blocks from ancient sites, and the governor also conducted excavations with European archaeologists travelling through his territory. The case of Ali Pasha dispels the notion often rehearsed in western travel accounts of an Ottoman population indifferent to the antiquities lying at their feet. To the contrary, the vizier laid claim to this antique heritage as his own cultural patrimony. The governor forged explicit connections to local history in public inscriptions and poetic works, frequently referring to himself as the ‘new Pyrrhus’ (the ancient Greek king of Ioannina). The fact that Ali Pasha, an Albanian Muslim, endeavoured to position himself as the rightful heir to the region’s historical past offers an alternative discourse on classical antiquity that has largely been forgotten or even suppressed by modern scholarship.

Keywords: Greece; Ottoman Empire; Tepedelenli Ali Pasha; antiquarianism; cultural heritage; history of archaeology
Neumeier, Emily. "Spoils for the New Pyrrhus: Alternative Claims to Antiquity in Ottoman Greece." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 6, Number 2 (pp. 311-337) , edited by Stephennie Mulder, Bristol: Intellect, 2017.