Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, September 25, 1927
Ministry of Finance,
I have been on the move pretty constantly since I saw you last, dearest Mildred. I haven’t been in the same place consecutively for a fortnight, and, I am happy to say, my wanderings are not yet over before I go into winter quarters again.
At the June meeting at Geneva I was asked to sit on the Greek Refugee Settlement CommissionRoyall Tyler’s work in Greece involved the League of Nations Refugee Settlement Commission. The commission was concerned with the settlement of refugees from Turkey, Russia, and Bulgaria who had arrived in Greece from Smyrna in September 1922 as a consequence of the provisions of the Treaty of Neuilly of 1919 and the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. See Charles P. Howland, “Greece and Her Refugees,” Foreign Affairs 4, no. 4 (July 1926): 613–23; John Hope Simpson, “The Work of the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission,” Journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs 8, no. 6 (November 1929): 583–604; and Charles B. Eddy, Greece and the Greek Refugees (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1931). for a few weeks this summer, and of course accepted. I dropped into the hottest summer that had been known in Greece for 31 years, but I’m exceedingly glad I went. I stood the heat admirably, taking care to live as the Greeks do, and though I had too much work to do and was unable to devote as much time as I should have liked to seeing things, I got about the country a good deal, and enjoyed it thoroughly. The work had its advantages too. I was able to form some idea of what the Greek Govt. is like and also of the people.
The Refugee problem there is the biggest the world has ever seen. As a result of the Treaty of Lausanne,As a consequence of the Turkish War of Independence, the Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed on July 24, 1923, in Lausanne, Switzerland, that led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey and established the borders of Turkey through a partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. This repartitioning established the Anatolian and East Thracian areas which led to the influx of Thracian refugees into Greece. Greece, a country of 4 million inhabitants, had to absorb 1 1/2 million refugees from Asia Minor and Thrace. Two thirds of these have been settled, more or less, and there is now a fair prospect of being able to settle the rest over the next 3 years. The whole thing will have been done by means of foreign loans amounting to about $65 million. Until the new comers start producing they weigh pretty heavily on the State budget, of course, but before long they will constitute a new source of wealth, and a good proportion of them are already pulling their weight.
When they came, 4 years ago, their plight was frightful. They had been fired out of Asia Minor at a few hours notice, and had nothing but what they could carry. The Greek Govt. was nowhere near prepared to take them in. Over the first year or more there were 3 deaths to one birth among them. Now there are 3 births to one death.
I didn’t see enough of them really to get to know them, but I did get the impression that they are a tough, frugal, hardworking lot, and that there’s no question that they’ll make good. Greece will be much stronger for them, and will make rapid progress. The country is handicapped by its Govt., which is very poor and, through frequent changes of ministers, faithfully adheres to the worst possible political methods. I thought I had seen some pretty discouraging specimens elsewhere, but that crowd beats them all. The task of the CnGreek Refugee Settlement Commission. is a hard one. It’s a great pity HowlandCharles Prentice Howland (1869–1932), a New York lawyer who served as chairman of the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission of the League of Nations between 1925 and 1926. From 1927 until his death in 1932, he wrote on foreign relations as a research associate in government at Yale University and as director of research of the Council on Foreign Relations. See also Charles P. Howland, “Greece and Her Refugees,” Foreign Affairs 4, no. 4 (July 1926): 613–23. couldn’t stay longer. He was liked and respected by the Greeks, and had, by the time he left, built up a position which, at the best, will take his successor (Charles B. Eddy)Charles B. Eddy, chairman of the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission of the League of Nations between 1926 and 1930. See also Charles B. Eddy, Greece and the Greek Refugees (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1931). a long time to achieve. Eddy is a good fellow and is doing well, I think, but his patience with the Greeks wears thin at times (and no wonder), and relations between the Govt. and the Cn are very unsatisfactory. This for your and Robert’s very private ear, of course. I spent most of my time in Athens arguing round in a circle with the Greek Ministers, all to very little purpose, and I can testify that they would drive the most patient and philosophical-minded insane, if one didn’t lose one’s temper now and then and blow up and clear the atmosphere.
Outside of political circles I met people I liked very much. The women I found very attractive, intelligent, cultivated and European-minded, far more so than one would expect in any small country, where people usually imagine that the entire world has its eyes fixed upon their own particular little dump. And, when practiced with moderation, the art of conversation is admirably understood among the Greeks. People actually do enjoy talking, and aren’t devoured by the desire to dance, or play bridge or dash about. Partly because of the climate, and bad roads, I suppose, and because there are few big fortunes, but whatever the reasons, society in Athens has more oases in it than I dreamed I would ever find, there or anywhere else.
What a contrast, between Greece and Hungary! I don’t believe there are two countries less alike. The Greek is frugal, sober, quick-witted, sensitive, mobile, prone to undervalue his own qualities though sometimes aggressive on the surface, not at all ostentatious. The HunkRoyall Tyler’s name for a Hungarian. is, for good and for evil, the exact opposite. I admit that, for a short time, the Greek struck me as refreshing.
What is extraordinarily beautiful about the country is the light, and particularly the light between the moment the sun sets and dark. I never dreamed of such a variety of subtle pearl-gray tones as those one sees at that time when one looks down on Athens from the AcropolisAcropolis, the high city or citadel of Athens famous for its buildings, such as the Parthenon, erected under the leadership of Pericles (ca. 495–429 BCE) in ca. 460–430 BCE. or Lycabettos.Mount Lycabettus, a hill in Athens which, at 277 m (908 ft). above sea level, is the highest point in the city. All the houses are more or less white, and yet in the whole city one can’t find two of exactly the same tone. I understood for the first time where the 10th and 11th cent. Byzantines got their dove-and-oyster heaven from.
There isn’t much Byz. art in old Greece in quantity, but in quality the 11th cent. mosaics at DaphniDaphní, a monastery outside of Athens whose principal church (katholikon) of the eleventh century has the best preserved complex of mosaics from the early Comnenan period (ca. 1100). near Athens and St. Luke in Phocis,Hosios Loukas, a walled monastery near the town of Distomo in Boeotia, Greece. The cathedral church (katholikon) (1011–1012) has the best preserved complex of mosaics from the period of the Macedonian Renaissance (867–1056). (a remote spot between DelphiDelphi, an archaeological site with the god Apollo’s sacred precinct and sanctuary on the southwestern spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis in Greece. and the ParnassusMount Parnassus, a mountain in central Greece that towers above Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth. According to Greek mythology, Parnassus was sacred to Apollo and the home of the Muses.) are supreme. Daphni is a bit later than St. Luke, and very different in style—much more delicate and refined, using silver cubes, and is very lovely. But St. Luke, take it all round, is greater, and has the advantage of not having been restored at all—except for rough daubs of paint. Such colours as those of the Warrior arch-angels at St. Luke’sIt is unclear what he means by “Warrior arch-angels.” He may be referring to the mosaic of the archangel Gabriel or the mosaics of the military saints, such as St. Demetrios. I have never seen anywhere. Cezanne-like blues, and CezannePaul Cézanne (1839–1906), a French Post-Impressionist painter. like drawing. One has to ride for hours on mule-back to get to the place, and one finds bed-bugs when one gets there, and every sort of filth, but its worth it. I had a room decorated with many photographs of former abbots with long white beards, and a coloured post card representing the high-school at Joliet, Ill. My bed was a couple of planks on a trestle, with a horse-blanket on top, and thanks to FLIT,Flit, the brand name for an insecticide introduced in 1923. that greatest invention of modern times, I kept the foe at bay so as to get a little sleep.
PhidiasPhidias (Pheidias) (ca. 480–430 BCE), a sculptor, painter, and architect. means nothing to me. I liked the VIth B. C. fragments in the Acropolis museum,The sixth-century BCE sculptures in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, include the Muscophoros (Calf-Bearer), ca. 570 BCE, and a number of korai figures, including the so-called Peplos Kore, ca. 530 BCE, and the Chian Kore, ca. 510. and the metopes at Delphi.Probably the metopes (relief sculptures from a triglyph-metope frieze) of the Athenian Treasury, Delphi, ca. 500–480 BCE. At Delphi, there are also Archaic-period metopes, ca. 560 BCE, from the Sikyonian Treasury (Monopteros), discovered in 1894. Also the site of Delphi is very beautiful.
Athens [is] very dry as far as dealers are concerned. BenakisAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector in Alexandria. Benakis established the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930 with a collection of more than 37,000 Islamic and Byzantine objects. has succeeded in getting his stuff out of Egypt, and is remodelling a house to contain it all. I saw a good deal of him. I couldn’t spare the time to go to Mt. Athos.Mount Athos, a mountain in Macedonia, Greece, that is home to twenty Eastern Orthodox monasteries under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantiople.
I only returned from Greece in time to spend a few hurried days here and prepare my report for Geneva. Elisina and Bill joined me there for a week, and afterwards we went for another week to Antigny, where Elisina is now, Bill having returned to Harrow.
In a few days Hayford Peirce and I are starting for Bulgaria, where I want to see the Refugee Settlement work and where we will mop up whatever there may be for us archaeologically. Then we are going for a bit to Constantinople, after which I must return here for a good month to prepare for the Dec. meeting, which will be important for my affairs. Now, dearest Mildred, I feel the premonitory symptoms of writer’s cramp, and must stop before you curse me for long-windedness. Love to you and Robert.
The Butler WrightsJoshua Butler Wright (1877–1939), an American diplomat who served as the U.S. envoy to Hungary between 1927 and 1930. are very happy here. B. W. the other day said “I’ve only been here 3 months, and I feel I’ve made many real friends.” Paco (the Spanish Minister, Garcia Real,Paco (perhaps Francisco) Garcia Real, presumed Spanish minister to Hungary, has not been identified.) observed “I’ve been here over 7 years, and there are two people here whom I rather think are sincere friends of mine.”