Thursday, 13 March 2008

Megalopolis: 'A quarrel is a capital thing'

The interpretation of the theatre at Megalopolis caused a major disagreement between the British excavators and Wilhelm Dörpfeld. Eugénie Sellers wrote a letter in support of Dörpfeld (and critical of Ernest Gardner, the Director of the BSA) to the Athenaeum ('The Theatres of Megalopolis', July 4, 1891). In addition, a short note from her, dated March 29 [1891], was published by the Classical Review (5, 5, May 1891) along with a summary of Dörpfeld's comments summarised by Louis Dyer.

Sellers' letter, and the wider dispute, was noted in the weekly theatrical newspaper The Era ('Theatrical Gossip', July 11, 1891).
A quarrel is a capital thing in a family, but, like all other good things, it should come to an end some time or other. There was a theatre built several hundred years B.C., of which a good deal still remains to be quarrelled over; but we must say that we think it would show better taste if people just dropped the subject now. The theatre (or its ruins) is at Megalopolis; but it is quite a long time since there were any performances there—a thousand years, very likely. Probably the Megalopolitan Lord Chamberlain would insist on its being relicensed if they wanted to play the Agamemnon or the Seven Against Thebes there now; and, anyhow, we think Mr Gardner and Dr. Dörpfeld might leave off squabbling about it in the highly respectable page of the Athenaeum. No doubt the point they are fighting over is one of supreme importance. Dr. Dörpfeld says that the lower steps could not possibly, any more than the wall at the back, belong to the original structure, and Mr Gardner says contrariwise. But, after a thousand years or so, even a subject like this palls, unless, indeed, it is treated by Mr Rider Haggard; and Mr Gardner's obstinacy has actually brought a pretty girl into the controversy. Miss (or Mrs) Eugénie Sellers—we do not know her, but she must be pretty with that name—has only last week written a letter to say that Mr G. is a bold, bad man and has no right to chaff Dr. D. about the scænæ frons when he makes such gross errors himself about the logeion. Eugénie even goes so far as to say some very cross things about certain Skenengebäude mentioned by Mr G.
© David Gill

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