A romance and a tragedy
Antonín Salač and the French School at Athens
in Communities and knowledge production in archaeology

Prague, though near the centre of Europe, is neither its geopolitical centre, nor the centre of Classics. How, then, might a scholar from Prague gain access to the Classical past or contribute to wider – particularly, European – conversations about Graeco-Roman antiquity? This chapter, drawing on archival research on the Czech classicist Antonín Salač (1885–1960), will consider some of the routes traced by knowledge about the Classical past in the Czechoslovakia of the first half of the twentieth century. Antonín Salač was a prominent epigrapher and archaeologist, who lived and worked in Prague for most of his life. But Prague – in fact, most of Czechoslovakia – lacked Classical material; certainly, it lacked in situ archaeological remains. Thus, Salač’s international bona fides were – and had to be – considerable. In his relationship with France, we will see how a scholar from a non-imperial nation might insinuate himself into what was, for the most part, a conversation between empires – through a savvy leveraging of geopolitics. The tragedy, of course, is that Salač’s relationships were never purely ‘political’. So, the loss of contact with his French colleagues after the 1948 coup d’état was also ‘personal’.

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