In the years between about 1810 and 1840, Edinburgh - long and affectionately known as 'Auld Reekie' - came to think of itself and be widely regarded as something else: the city became 'Modern Athens', an epithet later turned to 'the Athens of the North'. The phrase is very well-known. It is also much used by those who have little understanding of the often confused and contradictory messages hidden within the apparent convenience of a trite or hackneyed term that conceals a myriad of nuanced meanings.
This book examines the circumstances underlying a remarkable change in perception of a place and an age. It looks in detail at the 'when', the 'by whom', the 'why', the 'how', and the 'with what consequences' of this most interesting, if extremely complex, transformation of one city into an image-physical or spiritual, or both-of another. A very broad range of evidence is drawn upon, the story having not only topographical, artistic, and architectural dimensions but also social, cerebral, and philosophical ones.
Edinburgh may well have been considered 'Athenian'. But, in essence, it remained what it had always been. Maybe, however, for a brief period it was really a sort of hybrid: 'Auld Greekie'.