The Parthenon and the Acropolis: A New Point of View

Well, it’s new to me anyway. Mostly, the Acropolis and Parthenon are viewed as stunning achievements of Greek art and architecture. Occasionally, Pericles is mentioned along with the propaganda aspects of the two structures. Bill Caraher, at The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World offers another take. The Acropolis and Parthenon as destroyers:

From the 19th century on, efforts have been made to purify the history of the Parthenon through the systematic destruction of its post-Classical phases (see the work of Y. Hamilakis); more recently, the construction of the new Acropolis museum in one of the most archaeological sensitive areas of Athens has caused its own kind of destruction without mentioning the high-profile controversy surrounding the need to destroy a nearby art-deco style building to ensure the museum’s view of the “sacred rock”. It is a testimony to the power of the Acropolis that the recent episodes have captured the modernist roots of archaeology and broadcast them so globally. A the Parthenon, perhaps more than anywhere else, destroying the past and collapsing it into an permanent present has become the key method for transcending it.

Read the rest, it is quite interesting – especially the bits about how the temples were stripped of all their post classical additions without regard to recording any kind of chronology. I guess those post classical impurities weren’t part of the Greek national patrimony – not that that has anything to do with the post I linked too. The post certainly changed the way I look at the Acropolis and I highly recommend it.

2 Responses

  1. Similar things happened in the UK under the Ministry of Works – everything from old ruins having rubble and plant overgrowth removed in a pattern that fit the excavator’s preconceptions about the site, to stately homes having interiors removed because they weren’t from the ‘right’ period. I heard the chief exec. of English Heritage give a talk about it a couple of years back – interesting how much of our view of the past is a 19th-early 20th century construction.

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