The Founding

In 1836, Athens was still a village that wished to be called a city. Greeks would move to Athens from everywhere, so new people were added to the inhabitants and made the city grow quickly. This growth was devastating for antiquities. New roads were opened, houses were built, the ancient ruins were unprotected and served as building materials, while Kyriakos Pittakis tried to rescue, whenever he could, the mobile antiquities that were emerging in excavations conducted in a city extending to all directions.

In this city, a Greek traveler from Vienna, Baron Konstantinos Bellios, arrived in December of 1836. He was wealthy and educated; he was also related to Pittakis, with whom he visited Acropolis and the city's other monuments. Witnessing their condition and the needs to excavate and protect antiquities he decided, after discussions with Pittakis, to establish a Society for excavations and the discovery of antiquities. He informed the Minister of Education Iakovakis Rizos Neroulos of his decision, as he also did with Alexandros Rizos Rangavis, Head of Division of the Ministry of Education. Rangavis embraced the idea and prepared the founding document of the Society called Archaeological Society. On January 6 of 1837, the day of the Epiphany, he went to meet Bellios, accompanied by Pittakis. Bellios described the meeting and the signing of the founding of the Archaeological Society in his diary:

“January 18th, Wednesday. Today on the 12th hour of the day, Mr. Alexandros Rangavis accompanied by Mr. Pittakis came to me fetching the documents concerning the excavation and discovery of antiquities, that is the founding of a new society. After I signed the name of my nephew Alexander Bellios and the name of my friend Zenobios Pop, we went out to meet Panagiotakis Soutzos, in order for him to sign and pay him a visit at the same time. On the way we met Mr. Gropius, consul of Austria, and Nikolaos Theocharis, who were coming to visit me and I urged them to sign, as well, as members of the Society."

Thus, it was the state of antiquities in 1836 Athens, the lack of state provision and protection and the fact that the classical Greek world was the foundation on which the ideology of the new State was based that led to the foundation of the Archaeological Society. The arrival of Konstantinos Bellios in Athens and his acquaintance with Pittakis triggered this important action.

The first organization

The early structure of the Society reflects the state of archaeology at the time. The first and most important task was to accelerate excavations, restorations and additions to ancient monuments in order to enrich scholarship. To meet this goal, the Society was to assist the State which did not have in itself the necessary resources. So its first aim, like other public associations of the 19th cent., was the strengthening of the inadequate government effort. Becoming a member of the Society was free and the only obligation of each member was an annual fee with a minimum of 15 drachmas, an amount not insignificant as it represented the monthly remuneration of the first part-time usher of the Society. The Society accepted donations (money and archaeological publications) and accepted prominent foreign scholars as associate members, without a subscription fee. The annual general meeting for the election of the Bureau and the Ephorate was to take place on the anniversary of Parthenon’s founding. All tasks that were decided, excavations or restorations, were to be performed in collaboration with the curator of the Central Museum – a professional title given to the head of the Archaeological Service. The antiquities that were to be found during the excavations as well as the overall work of the Society were to be the property of the State, recorded on public lists "at the expense of the Society." The scholarly aims of the new Society were modest. They left the task of publishing the findings to the young and short-lived state Archaeological Committee, which in 1837 issued the Ephemeris Archaiologike.

Assembly on the Acropolis

The Society’s foundation was ratified by the RD of 15/27 on January 1837 and the first gathering of its members took place on the Acropolis on 28 April 1837. Bellios had already left Greece and only 24 out of the 66 founding members attended that meeting and elected the first board, the Ephorate. The Minister of Education Iakovos Rizos Neroulos served as Chairman of the meeting. Alexandros Rizos Rangavis enthusiastically spoke about the Society's future projects, about the excavations and restorations that were anticipated; he also stressed that European scholars were expecting them to bring to light new material for study. Iakovos Rizos Neroulos was elected President, Ioanis Kokkonis Vice President, Alexandros Rizos Rangavis Secretary, A. Kombatis Treasurer, while the members of the Ephorate were Kyriakos Pittakis, G.C. Gropius, P.Epitis and D. Photilas. G. Ainian and Iakovos Rizos Rangavis, the father of Alexandros, were elected substitute members. All of them were members of the new capital’s elite – Phanariots, members of the government or the administration, bankers, scholars, or leading figures of the liberation War. Gropius was the Consul of Austria and was closely interested in the ancient monuments.