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Frideriko Versakis (or Frederiko Versakes, Φρειδερίκος Βερσάκης, 1880-1921) was a Greek archaeologist born in Piraeus, of Italian parents or descent 
. He was known to his English-speaking colleagues as Frederick, and to Germans as Friedrich.
At the age of 25 he went to Germany to study architecture, but later switched to archaeology. He first studied in Berlin, then Munich and finally in Würzburg, where he submitted his thesis in 1908.
Following his return to Greece, he published studies of ancient monuments south of the Athens Acropolis:
the Theatre of Dionysus
the Odeion of Herodes Atticus
the Temple of Olympian Zeus (1910) 
the Asklepeion and the Stoa of Eumenes
the Choragic Monument of Nikias
In 1910 he was appointed Ephor of Antiquities for Corfu, where he established the archaeological museum. In 1911, during his excavation of the Archaic Temple of Artemis at the Agios Theodoros Monastery, at Paleopolis (today the suburb of Garitsa), Corfu, he discovered the famous Gorgon pediment. The excavations were financed by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who had a villa on the island and who took an active interest in the dig.
Versakis' success in Corfu was somewhat tinged by controversy, particularly concerning his poor relationsip with the German archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld, who had publicly criticized the quality of his archaeological work in Athens 
. Both men considered themselves to be in charge of the Corfu excavations, causing a competitive friction which led to several disagreements.
Eventually Versakis left Corfu to conduct excavations at Messinia (1915) and Lakonia. He also studied Byzantine churches in Epirus (1919).
The few published biographical summaries of his life and work are short, sketchy and rather vague. None reveal what he was like as a person, why he first went to study in Germany at the late age of 25, or why he died so young at 41, apart from mentions of poor health. One recent author wrote of "ill-fated" Versakis without elucidation.
Crtiticisms of Verskis' work by other archaeologists, especially Wilhelm Dörpfeld, are rarely mentioned. It has been suggested that the antagonism between the two men was essentially a political matter. Many Greeks believed that they should be in charge of archaeological matters in their own country rather than foreigners, a cause of tension which had earlier soured relationships between archaeologists such as Kyriakos Pittakis and Ludwig Ross (see Athens Acropolis gallery page 12
Frideriko Versakis in 1911, during an
archaeological excavation in Corfu.
See photo below.
Frideriko Versakis in 1911, during the archaeological excavation of the Archaic Temple of Artemis at
the Agios Theodoros Monastery, Paleopolis, Corfu, where he discovered the famous Gorgon pediment.
Versakis (marked "1" in the photo) poses for the camera among his archaeological finds. The Gorgon
pediment lies on the ground in front of him. In the background is the monastery ("3").
Reconstruction drawing of the interior of the Odeion of Herodes Atticus,
on the south slope of the Athens Acropolis, by Frideriko Versakis, 1912.
Frideriko Versakis, Mnēmeia tōn notiōn propodōn tēs Akropoleōs (Monuments on the
south slope of the Acropolis), Αρχαιολογική Εφημερίς, 1912, pages 161-182, Plate 9.
Αθήναις Αρχαιολογική Εταιρεία. (Archaiologike Ephemeris, journal of the Archaeological
Society of Athens). At Heidelberg University Library.
Reconstruction drawing of the Choragic Monument of Nikias by Frideriko Versakis, 1913.
Image source: Φριδερίκου Βερσάκης, Νικίου Ναός, Αρχαιολογική Εφημερίς, 1913, page 75.
Αθήναις Αρχαιολογική Εταιρεία. At Heidelberg University Library.
|Notes, references and links
1. Information sources
Very little has been written about the life and work of Versakis, merely a few brief mentions by other archaeologists of some of his contributions to particular archaeological investigations.
A brief obituary for Versakis in English:
Sidney N. Deane, editor, Archaeological News, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1922), pages 339-387 (Versakis obituary on pages 341-342). Archaeological Institute of America, 1922. At jstor.org.
An obituary, with brief biographical summary in Greek:
Alexandros Philadelpheus, Φρειδερίκος Βερσάκης, 15th January 1921. Αρχαιολογική Εφημερίς, 1919, page 104. Αθήναις Αρχαιολογική Εταιρεία. (Archaiologike Ephemeris for 1919, journal of the Archaeological Society of Athens). At Heidelberg University Library.
A brief biographical summary in Greek:
Λεύκωμα της εκατονταετηρίδος της Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας 1837-1937 (Centenary scrapbook of the Archaeological Society of Athens 1837-1937), page 10 of the appendix biographies of society members. Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογική Εταιρεία (Archaeological Society of Athens), 1937.
Another brief biographical summary in Greek at www.corfu-museum.gr
2. Versakis on the Theatre of Dionysos, Athens
Frideriko Versakis, Das Skenengebaude des Dionysos-Theaters (The stage building of the Theatre of Dionysos). Jahrbuch des kaiserlich deutschen Archaölogischen Instituts, Band XXIV, 1909, pages 194-224. Druck und Verlag von Georg Reimer, Berlin, 1910. At archive.org.
Versakis's article is followed by a highly critical review by Wilhelm Dörpfeld (pages 224-226).
3. Versakis on the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
Frideriko Versakis, Ο περίβολος του Ολυμπιείου επί Αδριανού, Sakellarios P.D., Athens, 1910.
|Photos and articles © David John|
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