About The Lord Byron Statue
The Lord Byron Statue is a memorial to Lord Byron’s role in the Greek War of Independence.
History of the Lord Byron Statue
In England, Lord Byron is mostly remembered as a bombastic literary celebrity who spent his time womanising and gallivanting around Europe with his blokey friends. In Greece, the memory of him couldn’t be more different. A serious artistic and political influence, he is hailed as a war hero.
Born George Gordon Byron in 1788, the poet lived here intermittently from 1809 to his death in 1824. He wrote reams of poetry in praise of the country, including The Isles of Greece, and was an outspoken critic of Lord Elgin, whose theft of the Parthenon marbles he lambasted in The Curse of Minerva. (Famously, there are still gaps in the Archaeological Museum where the marbles should be, demonstrating Greece’s aptitude to house them in the event they are returned from the British Museum).
Byron is best known in Greece for his role in the Greek War of Independence. By 1823, the Greeks had been under Ottoman rule for over four centuries. Troops were gathering to rebel, and they invited Byron to take an active role. Byron accepted: he was struggling with something like an existential crisis at the time, having spent his life engaged in mostly abstract ideas.
He spent a large amount of his savings repairing ships of the Greek fleet and set up his own military squad comprised of soldiers from Souli. He was also instrumental in acquiring financial support from England via the London Philhellenic Committee. Seeing how controversy was spilling out among different leaders of the Revolution as a result of these funds, he specified that they should only be used for the purpose of liberating Greece.
By 1824, Byron was preparing to fight himself when he caught a fever. According to the medical practices of the time, doctors decided to leech him. He died at aged 36, either from the fever or the blood-loss itself, before he was ever able to go into the field. Greece toppled the Ottomans and gained their independence in 1832.
Lord Byron Statue today
Following Byron’s death, Greece mourned him as one of their own. Today, the statue outside the National Garden commemorates a political influencer who helped the country in its fight for freedom. It mixes Classical Hellenic influences with 19th century Romantic ideals: the poet looks up at a young woman representing Greece, frill cuffs poking out of his frock-coat, as she crowns him with a palm leaf, a symbol of immortality.
Was Byron a narcissist with a problematic attitude towards women? Yes. Did he have a tendency to exoticise other cultures, fetishize eating disorders and reportedly fall in love with a 12-year-old? Yes. But he was also one ‘Brit abroad’ who somehow made a good impression. Let’s cling to that.
Getting to the Lord Byron Statue
The Lord Byron Statue is a 5 minute walk from the Akropoli metro station, just past Hadrian’s Arch. The statue is situated in what is now a busy area: right outside the National Garden, along the main road.