Mount Athos: Monk bearing a Sanis or Semantron

Department Archive
Collection SPHS BSA Image Collection
Reference No. BSA SPHS 03/1767.4430
Level Item
Description Glass lantern slide, standard 3.25 x 3.25 inch square.
Dimensions 8 x 8 cm
Place Mount Athos
Dates Latest 1908
Creator Ainslie, Miss Gladys
Ainslie, Mr Ralph St John
Scope and Content The original description in the SPHS register reads: "Athos: Monk bearing Sanis".
Notes Latest date based on the death of the photographer (Mr. Ralph St John Ainslie) whose daughter donated his images to the SPHS in 1921. See 'Proceedings of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. Session 1921-1922': The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 42, Part 2 (1922) p. xxii. It was photographed at an unknown monastery. SPHS Lectures & Slide Sets:This image appears in (no author), ca. 1932. The Greek Church, slide number 11. No specific monastery is mentioned.
Further information Scenes from Modern Greek Life
Historic images often show scenes from modern life. These are not modern in the current sense, but reflect a time they were taken. Some were captured unintentionally, recording an aspect of contemporary activity while composing scenes of other interest such as ancient or historical monuments. However, many were taken with the express purpose of recording folk life, part of a trend in the latter part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The process of categorizing these ethnographic scenes of everyday life in image collections reflected contemporary folklore categories: material life (eg. domestic architecture, dress, craft and agricultural production), social life (eg. games, festivals) and spiritual life (eg. superstitions, religious activities).

However, a significant idea encapsulated in these ethnographic images was the 19th-century concept of continuity - relics or survivals - of ancient social life and practices in the present. In Greece, this concept of continuity was notably promoted by the scholar of folklore (laographia), Nikolaos Politis, and held by many British classicists and archaeologists of the time. In fact, the Irish classical scholar, J.P. Mahaffy encapsulated this idea in his 1876 travel book, Rambles and Studies in Greece: "Everywhere the modern Greek town is a mere survival of the old". These survivals were often linked to classical literature, cult and myth by scholars of the Greek world.


It is clear that these images are not simply quaint historical scenes, but they embody principles inherent in the discipline of Hellenic Studies in the recent past.

Reference 1922 JHS 42: 8th accession to 1913 slide catalogue. xlix.SPHS 4430.