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Elgin & the Meaning of the Acropolis

hitche(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Christopher Hitchens, The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece?, Verso, 1998 “In 1801 Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Turkish government in Athens, had pieces of the frieze sawed off and removed to Britain, where they remain. Here Christopher Hitchens recounts the history of these precious sculptures and forcefully makes the case for their return to Greece…” Eleana Yalouri, The Acropolis, Berg Publishers, 2001 “This book looks at the meaning of the Acropolis in contemporary Greece. How are global ideas adopted and adapted by local cultures? How do Greeks deal with the national and international features of their ancient classical heritage? How do the global cultural constructions surrounding the Acropolis become part of local practices which project Greek cultural difference?” Mary Beard, The Parthenon, Profile Books, 2004 “The ruined silhouette of the Parthenon on its hill above Athens is one of the world’s most famous images. Its ‘looted’ Elgin Marbles are a global cause célèbre. But what actually are they?”

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The New Acropolis Museum

Making it as good as new…

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Three days remain until the grand opening of the new Acropolis Museum, on June 20. Both the Museum’s organisation team and the Ministry of Culture are working closely to put the final touches on the surrounding area and of course, the Museum itself. The Acropolis Museum Website: www.theacropolismuseum.gr
• THE OPENING: June 20, a night to remember….
Fulfilling the core philosophy the ancient monument represents, the official inaugural event will not indulge in excessive or ostentatious displays, but will become a moderate festivity with artistic infusions. The guest list is long and comprises heads of state and government, royalties, top level officials, eminent academics and presidents of other museums. New technologies will be used to showcase the antiquities, acting as the “artistic event” of the evening. A dinner on the museum’s terrace will close the event and a cruise of the Saronic Gulf has been organized for the day after the inauguration ceremony for the heads of state and government attending. Tune online and watch the opening ceremony on June 20th. New Acropolis Museum Organising Committee: Preparing the museum

• THE MUSEUM
♦ A Museum of Sculpture and Light….

The New Acropolis Museum is a purpose built museum by architects Bernard Tschumi and Michalis Fotiades to house the archaeological findings related to the Acropolis Hill. It is located at the foot of the Acropolis (300 metres -980 feet-southeast of the Parthenon) and the total cost of the museum was €130 million.  The first Acropolis Museum was completed in 1874. Successive excavations on the Acropolis have uncovered many new artifacts which needed additional space for their housing. The initiative for a new museum coincided with Greece’s campaign over the return of the Elgin Marbles. Greece claims that the new museum offers both a technically and historically unparalleled shelter for the Acropolis’ treasures. Quoting the architect, “the museum appears effortless and almost undesigned.” The goal of the orchestrated simplicity is to focus the viewer’s emotion and intellect on the extraordinary works of art. Thus, the extensive use of glass in the Museum. The design allows for the free flow of natural lights into the museum spaces through 50 skylights, while the Parthenon gallery is flooded by light.
♦ Digital Parthenon
The museum’s crown jewel is the Parthenon gallery, where the entire frieze is exhibited in the same order and with the same directional orientation as when it adorned the monument. Visual contact from the gallery to the monument was set as a prerequisite and as a result, the visitor can now relish a breathtaking view of the Acropolis, the surrounding historic hills and contemporary Athens. Speaking to the Financial Times (June 4), the President of the museum, professor of archaeology Dimitris Pandermalis said that the “arrangement and labelling of sculptures, from the freize of the Parthenon to the dozens of free-standing pieces is designed so that people can wander around, stop and look, feel they are engaging directly with the antiquities.” Culture Minister Antonis Samaras stressed the importance of digital technology. “It has a big role to play in explaining not just the ancient world but modern Greek history. We would like to have visitor centres at the main sites that would use virtual reality to recreate scenes from daily life as well as the big battles,” he said. Ministry of Culture: www.parthenonfrieze.gr &  Play with the Frieze Acropolis Restoration Service: Let’s Go to the Acropolis! – Kits
A Symbolic Entrance Fee
Samaras announced that entrance to the museum will cost €1 for the first six months. 2,200 tickets will be on sale online (e-ticketing) for the first three days, while about 2,5 million visitors are expected every year.  The Acropolis Museum was recently selected as the main motif for a high-value euro collectors coins: the Greek Acropolis Museum commemorative coin, minted in 2008.  This coin was issued to commemorate the re-opening of the museum. On the obverse, a panoramic view of the Acropolis can be seen; the museum resides in the base of it.
THE SIZE: The largest and finest one of all…
The words describe the famous sanctuary of ancient Athens, the Acropolis, as it so happened that the Acropolis of the fifth century BC was the most accurate reflection of the splendour, power and wealth of Athens at its greatest peak.  The New Acropolis Museum is 25,000 square metres with exhibition space of over 14,000 square metres- ten times more than that of the old museum.  The glass encased Parthenon Gallery is 7.5 metres high and has a floor space of over 3,200 square metres. It hosts approximately 4,000 artefacts.  The museum will offer all the amenities of an international museum of the 21st century.

THE TECHNOLOGY: The Old Masters; how well they understood

Just as the ancient masterpiece prevailed upon its contemporary monuments worldwide in craftsmanship and technology, the New Acropolis Museum is also designed and constructed based on environmental friendly and functional novel techniques, becoming that as well a monument of dexterity and grace.  In particular, the Museum’s novelties focus on a shell of glass covering the Parthenon gallery which allows natural light, while protecting contents from radiation and maintaining a normal temperature.  The floors of glass – 5 centimetres thick – are designed to provide the visitor with a view to the 2.5 acre area of underground excavations. The special soundproofing materials and the anti- seismic construction standing on 92 pillars are designed to endure a quake measuring up to 10 on the Richter scale.

ACROPOLIS: The lance of Athena’s statue was visible from miles away…

At the entrance of the Acropolis once stood an immense statue sculptured by Phidias, that of goddess Athena fighting in the frontline (Athena Promachos).  The colossal bronze statue is lost, but according to descriptions it was so large that ships approaching the coast of Attica could see Athena’s lance.  For the first time after 200 years of archaeological excavations at the on the rock of the Acropolis, all the significant findings will be displayed together in the one museum, telling the complete story of the Athenian Acropolis and its foothills.  Rich collections dating from prehistoric times through to the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods and up to late antiquity (700 AD) will provide visitors with a comprehensive picture of the centuries-old human presence on the sacred site.  The sculptural decoration of the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike, (the four major monuments built on the Acropolis under Pericles), together with the Propylaea (entrance, the gates) comprise some of the most important Classical architectural sculptures.  Among these, the Parthenon frieze with the splendid portrayal of the Panathenaic procession, the metopes and the pediments, the famous Erechtheion caryatids and others.  Ministry of Culture: The Archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens & The Acropolis Restoration Project National Geographic Channel: The secrets of the Parthenon VIDEO

WORLD MEDIA ON THE MUSEUM

The New Acropolis Museum has been in the spotlight of the foreign media for years. The media report on the museum making references to the historic resonance of the event, the artistic superiority of the museum’s building, as well as to the problems which emerged during its construction.  The Press also emphasises the international campaign over the repatriation of the Parthenon marbles showcased in the British Museum and Melina Mercouri’s personal contribution to the cause of the marbles’ reunification.

PROMOTION AROUND THE GLOBE

The new museum has helped revive the interest in Greece’s classical heritage.  The achievement of creating a new home for something which is considered part of Greece’s supreme legacy has sparked a series of cultural events almost in every continent.  From the United States to China, and from Athens to Helsinki foreign audiences have been offered a vivid, detailed and comprehensive presentation of both the Acropolis treasures and the new museum.  Secretariat General of Information: Press Center for the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum & The Acropolis Museum: Press Kit

PARTHENON MARBLES: THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN
“In the name of the world’s cultural heritage…”

The movement to reunify the Parthenon Marbles, which are situated at the moment in the British Museum, has been gathering remarkable support worldwide over the years and especially during the last months. In fact, in view of the New Acropolis Museum’s opening, Greece’s claim for the restitution of the Marbles has grown all the stronger. Parthenon international“- an association of various national committees from different countries, the “American Friends of the New Acropolis Museumorganisation or the British campaign group “Marbles Reunited” are part of the international campaign sharing the same vision of the marbles’ return. On June 15, Parthenon International sent a letter to both the British Museum and the British Government, communicating their view on the matter.
Melina Mercouri: “Culture is Greece’s heavy industry”

Internationally renowned Melina Merkouri (1920-1994) was a towering figure of Greece’s cultural life of the 20th century. Daughter of an MP and grandchild of Spyridon Mercouris, a former mayor of Athens, the actress, singer and politician Melina Mercouri was an ardent supporter of the Parthenon’s Marble repatriation. As minister of Culture, Mercouri openly claimed the Parthenon Marbles and devote herself to it. Together with her husband Jules Dassin president of the Melina Mercouri Foundation until his passing away (2008), Melina Mercouri led a successful campaign, a fruit of which could be considered the New Acropolis Museum.  Melina Mercouri Foundation: www.melinamercourifoundation.org.gr You Tube: Melina Mercouri describes the Parthenon Marbles [Footage screened on the Greek television programme  “Erevna”  (=Research)]

New Acropolis Museum: Tour of the permanent collections

Karyatides(ANA-MPA) The New Acropolis Museum, which will be officially inaugurated on Saturday, contains five Permanent Collections: The Acropolis Slopes, divided into sub-categories on The Settlement, and The Sanctuary; The Acropolis during the Archaic Period, with sub-categories on The Hekatompedon, The Ancient Temple, abd The Votives; The Parthenon, with sub-categories on The Monument, The Metopes, The Pediments, and The Frieze; Other Monuments of the Classical Acropolis, with sub-categories on The Propylaia, The Temple of Athena Nike, and The Erectheion; and Other Collections, with sub-categories on The Sanctuary of Artemis Vravronia, The Votives of the Classical and Hellenist Periods, and The Votives of the Roman Period. ANA-MPA takes its readers on a tour of the collections, in three parts, leading up to the official opening. The Museum opened its electronic gates (www.theacropolismuseum.gr) on Monday.
New Acropolis museum viewed from AcropolisTHE ACROPOLIS SLOPES
The first gallery of the Museum houses finds from the slopes of the Acropolis. The gallery’s glass floor affords views to the excavation, while its upward slope alludes at the ascent to the Acropolis. In antiquity, the slopes of the Sacred Rock constituted the transition zone between the city and its most famous sanctuary. This was the area where official and popular cults, as well as large and small sanctuaries existed alongside private houses.
The Settlement
Among the sanctuaries, or at a slightly lower level, archaeological excavations brought to light parts of the urban fabric of ancient Athens and gave evidence of its almost uninterrupted settlement from the end of the Neolithic period (about 3000 BC) until late antiquity (6th century AD). Houses and workshops, roads and squares, wells and reservoirs, as well as thousands of objects left behind by the local people in antiquity all provide valuable insight into the past. Most finds are made of clay, as objects made of other perishable materials have been lost to us, while the most valuable objects have been looted. The finds include tableware and symposium vessels, cooking pots, perfume holders, cosmetics and jewelry containers, children’s toys and others.
The Sanctuaries
The slopes, caves and plateaus of the Acropolis hill were sacred to gods, heroes and nymphs. The south slope was home to two of the most important sanctuaries of the city, those of Dionysos Eleuthereus and Asklepios. It was also the site of several other temples, smaller in size, yet of great importance to the Athenians. At a short distance from the Sanctuary of Asklepios was a small open-air temple dedicated to the Nymphe, who was the protector of marriage and wedding ceremonies. There, the Athenians dedicated the nuptial bath vases, as well as other votive offerings, such as perfume bottles, cosmetics and jewelry containers and symposium vases.
THE ACROPOLIS DURING THE ARCHAIC PERIOD
parthenonThe period throughout the 7th century BC, until the end of the Persian Wars is called Archaic. This period is characterized by the development of the city-state and the development of democracy. It is also characterized by great achievements in the economy, art and intellectual life. In the early 6th century BC, the cult of Athena Polias on the Acropolis continued to be pursued in her late-geometric temple. In 566 BC, the tyrant Peisistratos re-organized the Panathenaia, the greatest festival in honor of the Goddess. It is possible that at that time, for reasons of political propaganda, a large temple was erected at the site to be occupied later by the Parthenon. This temple is the Archaic Parthenon or Hekatompedon, dedicated to the military facet of Athena Parthenos, the patron divinity of the city.
The Hekatompedon
The earliest building known on the Acropolis was the Hekatompedon or Hekatompedos neos – meaning 100 feet long, and comes from an inscription referring to the layout of the sanctuary. It is thought that the building was built on the site, later occupied by the Classical Parthenon. The fragments of poros architectural members and sculptures uncovered to the south and east of the Parthenon, reveal that the Hekatompedon was a Doric peripteral temple. The lioness pediment is distinguished by its high-relief carving and its striking size. It depicts a lioness with an unusually bushy mane, rearing on its hind legs and tearing apart a calf. It is believed to have adorned the east pediment of the temple. Two compositions belong to the west pediment. The one to the left depicts Herakles on his right knee, wrestling with the Triton, a creature with a body of a man ending in the scaly tail of a sea monster. The group to the right is the Triple-Bodied Monster, a composite creature consisting of three male figures conjoined at the waist. Each figure holds an object in its left hand: the first has water, the second fire, and the third a bird (symbolizing air).
The Ancient Temple
The Gigantomachy pediment belongs to the decoration of the Old Temple of Athena. It has been argued that the Temple had an earlier building phase (570 BC), involving the poros sculptures that are now assigned to the Hekatompedon, while the marble sculptures were associated with a renovation by the sons of Peisistratos. It is possible, however, that the Temple was built and given its marble sculpted decoration in the last quarter of the 6th century BC. The compositions of the pediments consist of larger than life-size statues, carved in Parian marble, which are attributed to the workshop of an important Athenian sculptor, either Antenor or Endoios.
The Votives
From the time of Peisistratos onwards, the site of the Acropolis began to fill with votive offerings, offered to the Goddess, both as tokens of respect and as marks of financial and artistic development. These important offerings were mostly statues meant to please the Goddess. The human form was at the core of artistic pursuit, and its depiction resulted in technique perfection. On the Acropolis, statues and other expensive artefacts were commissioned by members of aristocratic families and wealthy professionals, manual workers, as well as women, such as washer women and bakers. Clay plaques depicted Athena either as Promachos, fully armed and resting one foot on a chariot, or as Ergane, seated and spinning.
Ministry sponsors children’s film dedicated to the New Acropolis Museum
The education ministry on Wednesday announced that it will debut a children’s film dedicated to the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, entitled “The Parthenon and its Sculptures”. The film will be shown primarily within the New Acropolis Museum’s main atrium, as the entire museum will officially be inaugurated on Saturday. MORE PHOTOS. Continue reading

Marbles Reunited

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Marbles Reunited is a British, membership-based campaign organisation with offices in central London. It co-ordinates a campaign of activities to promote the case for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures currently housed in the British Museum, and commonly known as the ‘Elgin marbles’, with the remaining surviving sculptures in Athens, Greece.  This campaign is based on the belief that the Parthenon sculptures are best seen and studied as a single collection within sight of the 5th century monument they were once an integral part of, namely the Parthenon. On this website one may find information on the reunification debate, background to the campaign and information as to the different ways in which individuals can express their support.  The Australian newspaper “The Age” ran an editorial titled “Britain runs out of excuses for keeping Elgin Marbles” on May 13, arguing that “with most Britons supporting the Greek claim, Britain ought finally to return its ill-gotten ‘marbles’ to where they belong.  

Greece on CNN’s iReport

ireport(www.minpress.gr)  CNN’s iReport features Greece this week. iReporters submitted their favorite vacation photos from Greece and a selection of 25 of them is been presented.   Photos from Santorini, Myconos, the Parthenon etc along with the enthusiastic comments and memories of the people who posted them, constitute a slideshow of some of the most beautiful aspects of Greece.  iReport.com is a user-generated site, where users submit stories, videos, pictures etc. See the photos here

Athens: A New Look for an Old City

Acropolis Museum

(photo: When it opens in June, the New Acropolis Museum will display treasures from the Parthenon /Cameron Hewitt) 
(www.minpress.gr / NBC, 28.04.09)  NBC’s Rick Steve reports on Athens’ dramatic change. The city of about 4 million has made a concerted effort to curb pollution, clean up and pedestrianize the streets, spiff up the museums, build a new airport, and invest in one of Europe’s better public-transit systems.  Athens still has its “big three” sights: the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the remarkable National Archaeological Museum. In June the fourth big sight of the city is opening – the New Acropolis Museum.
The new museum is a world-class space, custom-built to showcase the Parthenon sculptures, a state-of-the-art building worth a look itself.   Besides sightseeing, Athens is ideal for strolls and wanderings through the Plaka district, through the Monastiraki flea market and the Psyrri neighborhood. Read more…

Greek President in Finland

papoulias1(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias had a meeting on Tuesday (5.5) with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen in Helsinki.  Presidents Papoulias and Halonen discussed the global economic crisis, bilateral, international and European issues and according to Papoulias they “shared the same positions.”  The Finnish President backed the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece and the return of all antiquities that are being kept in third countries to their country of origin. On his part, Papoulias invited his Finnish counterpart to formally visit Greece and thanked Finland and the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles for their support. The Greek President will address a special event today hosted by the Committee.  Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) – Greek President’s Speech in Finland; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Bilateral Relations Greece- Finland