Paratext

Note: Greek Wars

October, 1997

Greek Wars


Mary Shelley's The Last Man imagines a remote future in which the Mediterranean region, Greece and the Levant, is still a site of international conflict, as it was when Shelley wrote. In 1820, the Greeks rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, leading in 1821 to the War of Independence that lasted for nearly a decade. In 1827, European allies (including Great Britain) who had earlier supported Turkish forces intervened on behalf of Greece.

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Note: Venice

October, 1997

Venice


Venice, a favorite city of both Byron and Shelley (see the latter's Julian and Maddalo), traditionally celebrated a ritual marriage ceremony symbolizing the union of its doges, or rulers, with the sea. The Turkish dominance of the eastern Mediterranean during the 17th and 18th centuries effectively displaced Venice's long-established power in the region.


Map of Mediterranean region

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Note: Versailles

October, 1997

A key scene in one of Shelley's sources, Mercier's L'an 2440, imagines Louis XIV (1643-1715) returning in 2440 to the palace he built at Versailles. This historical prophecy, written from the perspective of the 1770s, is rendered especially ironic in light of later events during the French Revolution.

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Note: Vathek

October, 1997

Vathek, the notoriously decadent oriental tale by William Beckford, was published (first in French) in 1786. Byron was a great fan of the book. The Caliph Vathek's initial act of hubris (which ultimately earns him damnation) is the building of a gigantic tower.

Beckford himself commissioned a monumental tower for his own home, Fonthill Abbey, that eventually collapsed of structural flaws--in effect of its own weight.

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