The Beulé Gate
to the Athens Acropolis
has the unique distinction among the city's ancient monuments of being named after an archaeologist: the French archaeologist, politician and author Charles Ernest Beulé (1826-1874). Having worked as professor of rhetoric at Moulins for a year, in 1851 he went to work at the French Archaeological School at Athens (l’École française d’archéologie d’Athènes) , and discovered the gate and the stairs up to the Classical Propylaia
entrance during excavations in 1852-1853.
Early modern visitors to Athens, including Jacob Spon and George Wheler (17th century) and William Martin Leake (early 19th century) had reported an inscription commemorating a Roman named Flavius Septimus Marcellinus for presenting the gate to the city (in 280 AD), but it was Beulé who realised the significance of the late Roman defensive gateway, and freed it and the grand stairway from centuries of accumulated rubble.
Beulé's discoveries were not only a considerable boost to his own personal reputation but also to the status of the French archaeological school, which was losing ground to German and Greek archaeologists, and was apparently in danger of being closed down.
He wrote about his investigations of the Acropolis in L'Acropole d'Athènes
, published in two volumes, 1853-1854. Republished by Firmin Didot frères, fils et cie, Paris, 1862. A scan of this book is available in several formats at: archive.org
He also undertook pioneering excavations at Carthage in 1857-1859, the conclusions of which appeared in Fouilles à Carthage
(Excavations in Carthage
), éd. Imprimerie Impériale, Paris, 1861.
His success as an archaeologist gained him fame and favour in high places, and when he returned to France he was rewarded with several honours and offices, including being made a doctor of letters, a chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur, professor of archaeology at the Bibliothèque Impériale (1854), member of l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (1860) and perpetual secretary of l'Académie des Beaux-Arts (1862).
A member of the right-wing Orleanist party, in 1871, following the turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War, the Revolution of 1870 and the Paris Commune, Beulé was elected as a deputy to the National Assembly for his home department Maine-et-Loire. In 1873 he was appointed Minister of the Interior, but was only able to remain in this post for six months.