The constellation Draco (from the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon) is identified--funnily enough--with some dragons in Hellenic myth but not others. There are quite a few creatures, after all, who would qualify as a dragon in Hellenic myth. For a dragon or hydra not connected to the constellation, think of the one Kadmos vanquished, for example, or the one Apollon vanquished at Delphi, or even the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece and was slain by Iásōn. In truth, only two dragons were associated with the myth in ancient times, most notably by Hyginus in his Astronomica: Drakon Hesperios, the Hesperian Dragon, and Drakon Gigantomakhios, the Gigantomachian Dragon.



The first of the myths associated with the constellation is the legend of the Drakon Hesperios (Δρακων Ἑσπεριος), who was slain by Hēraklēs during one of his Labours. I will tell the whole myth of the labour soon enough, but I will share what Hyginus wrote about this labour, and Hēraklēs' encounter with Ladôn (Λαδων), as the dragon was often called.

"This huge serpent is pointed out as lying between the two Bears. He is said to have guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, and after Hercules killed him, to have been put by Juno [Hera] among the stars, because at her instigation Hercules set out for him. He is considered the usual watchman of the Gardens of Juno. Pherecydes says that when Jupiter [Zeus] wed Juno, Terra [Gaea] came, bearing branches with golden applies, and Juno, in admiration, asked Terra to plant them in her gardens near distant Mount Atlas. When Atlas’ daughters kept picking the apples from the trees, Juno is said to have placed this guardian there. Proof of this will be the form of Hercules above the dragon, as Eratosthenes shows, so that anyone may know that for this reason in particular it is called the dragon." [II.3]

The sole other dragon this myth is linked to is Drakon Gigantomakhios (Δρακων Γιγαντομαχιος), who rose up during the Gigantomachy. When the Olympians rose to power, they first fought the Titans during the Titanomachy. Vanquishing them, the Theoi thought They had won. Yet, there was one who sought revenge for the defeat of his father: Typhôeus, the most-feared son of Tartaros and Gaea. Some versions of the myth say that Typhôeus was actually the Drakon Gigantomakhios, or one of his offspring. Hyginus shares what happened to the dragon:

"Some also say this dragon was thrown at Minerva [Athena] by the Giants, when she fought them. Minerva, however, snatched its twisted form and threw it to the stars, and fixed it at the very pole of heaven. And so to this day it appears with twisted body, as if recently transported to the stars."

The constellation Draco is visible at latitudes between +90° and −15°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July. Tomorrow, we will talk a little more about the types of dragons in Hellenic myth, because I suddenly realized the association with medieval dragons is very easily made when reading 'dragon', but I assure you, the ancient Hellenes were unaccustomed to giant, fire breathing, lizards.

With the stories of heroes triumphing over gods, the appearance of spine-chilling ancient beasts, and a variety of other-worldly locations, mythology in games is a trend that is sure to never cease, with fans being treated to a variety of great titles over the years. The Gamer put together a list of games based on real-world mythology

For players looking to brush up on their Hellenic mythology, there are plenty of games out there that will deliver you to the dazzling temples of Olympia, or delight you with their lore and references based on their ancient tales. From stories of the mythological gods, valiant fabled protagonists, fearsome beasts, and modern games with a Grecian twist, here are some of the best games with lore-based within ancient Hellas.


10 - Theseus

Theseus is an immersive VR experience that places you straight into the story of the Minotaur. The Minotaur, a mythical creature with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, was born from King Minos of Crete's wife, Pasiphae, after Poseidon made her fall in love with a bull as revenge on the King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was then placed into an elaborate labyrinth constructed at King Minos' request by Daedalus and his son Icarus.

The game almost perfectly recreates the legend, with you playing as Theseus, the Athenian Hero who traverses the maze and slays the Minotaur. It mixes exploration of the maze with survival, combat, and some cinematic story elements before your eventual run-in with the large foe.


9 - NyxQuest

NyxQuest sees you playing as Nyx, the embodiment of night within ancient Hellas. Nyx befriends Icarus when he flies into her realm within the sky, but when he disappears without warning, she then heads to the surface to search for him in the crumbling ancient Hellenic landscape.

The mesmerizing setting and game design seem to jump straight out of the artwork of Grecian amphora and temple friezes from the time. Nyx is aided on her journey by the Olympians as she traverses crumbling ruins and defeats ancient monsters like the Hydra with special powers such as manipulating objects, controlling the wind, and casting powerful rays.


8 - Kid Icarus

Kid Icarus first jumped onto screens in 1986, quickly becoming one of the more popular games for NES. It's a cult classic and often centers around the protagonist Pit and his quest to equip sacred treasures, traverse platforms, and defeat bosses in order to save the Grecian-inspired world of Angel Land and the Goddess Palutena, who is thought to be based on Athena.

Kid Icarus has come a long way from his humble NES beginnings, with 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising being released in 2012 and Pit, Dark Pit, and Palutena becoming recurring characters in the Smash Bros franchise.


7 - Persona 3

Persona 3 is the game that set the tone of what was to become the success of every Persona game to follow it and is still thought of today as one of the best JRPG's of the 2000s. You play as a character that attends a modern Japanese high school during the day whilst exploring Tartarus in the evening. Tartarus was a location in Hellenic mythology, described as the deep abyss used for the torment and suffering of the wicked, and the prison for the Titans.

Persona 3 has a vast collection of characters you need to maintain relationships with, all of which have Personas based within Hellenic and Roman mythology. Journeying to Tartarus also puts you face to face with a plethora of monsters, including the final boss Nyx, the embodiment of night.


6 - Okhlos

In Okhlos, you play as a mob of ancient Hellenic civilians, warriors, slaves, and animals who have become sick and tired of the abuse and antics of the Gods, and so take up arms to destroy every building, temple, Grecian monster, and Olympian in their path.

Okhlos embodies the scenery and settings of ancient Hellas with lush temples and large fearsome Gods, but that's nothing but an obstacle to your mob of toga and sandal-wearing ruffians. Okhlos is a one-of-a-kind battle game, and can even see you wielding the power of iconic Grecian figures such as the hero Heracles, Pandora, and even Socrates.


5 - Apotheon

A 2D action-adventure game that sees you playing within the minimalist artwork from the pottery of ancient Hellas. Apotheon sees you playing hero Nikandreos as he traverses a vibrant artistic world to ascend Mount Olympus and take on the Pantheon of Gods to save humankind.

In Pantheon, the Gods of Olympus have abandoned the humans, leaving you to traverse Artemis' forests, Apollo's palace, and climb Mount Olympus to take their powers for yourself. The heroic narrative is a direct look into the heroic tales of ancient Hellenic lore, with the game even tying in excerpts from famous stories like the Iliad.


4 - Assassins Creed: Odyssey

Assassins Creed Odyssey places you onto the lush streets and volcanic islands of ancient Hellas, moving from an unknown outcast to a living Spartan legend amongst humans and Gods as you play through a struggling, war-torn world during the mythological Peloponnesian war.

Assassins Creed Odyssey sees you forge your own path and destiny through ancient Hellas, influencing the history of the stories and land around you as you fight a list of formidable Grecian foes from Aegean naval fleets on the sea to legendary beasts of myth such as the Minotaur, Nemean Lion, and even Medusa, the legendary Gorgon.


3 - Immortals Fenyx Rising

Immortals Fenyx Rising is a new take on ancient Hellenic lore, as you play as Fenyx, a newly recruited winged Demigod on a quest to not destroy the Hellenic Gods, but save them! There is also the DLC 'The Lost Gods' which sees you play as Ash, a mortal hero who ventures to the Pyrite islands in order to locate the missing Gods.

This is a grand open-world Hellenic myth adventure brought to life, giving you the ability to wield the powers of heroes and Gods alike from Achilles Sword to Daidalos' wings to battle monsters such as the Cyclops, Cerberus, and Gorgons, as well as encountering rare mythological creatures such as Griffins.


2 - God Of War

The God of War franchise has recently seen lore-based within Norse mythology but began its journey in ancient Hellas, following the story of protagonist Kratos.

Kratos was a war general forced to kill his wife and daughter unknowingly under Ares command. After exacting revenge on Ares and ascending to godhood himself, he then goes on to seek revenge against the Olympians, Titans, and his own father for their betrayal. God of War is based in an alternate 495 BC Hellas, and as well as Gods and beasts also features critical moments from Grecian tales such as Heracles' 12 Labors, Jason and the Argonauts, and the sinking of Atlantis.


1 - Hades

Hades is a rogue-like dungeon crawler where you defy your father, Hades. You'll battle your way through a vivid reimagination of the Grecian Underworld as the immortal prince Zagreus, This game is renowned as one of the best games of its kind to have come out in recent years.

Hades is a new take on the Grecian theme, seeing you hack and slash your way through the underworld to break free of Hades' grip. Zagreus is helped on his journey by the Olympians, who grant him an assortment of powerful boons that help you take on the Underworld's monsters, courtesy of Gods such as Zeus, Athena, and Hade's wife and Zagreus' own mother, Persephone.

Untold stories recounting the glories of ancient Hellas contain the name Pausanias, who lived in the second century AD. But few people appreciate the man behind these ancient chronicles, focusing instead on the subjects he portrayed in his works.

The historian was born approximately 110 AD into a Hellenic family who most likely lived in Lydia; he was certainly familiar with the western coast of Asia Minor, but his travels extended far beyond the limits of Ionia. Before visiting Hellas itself, he had been to Antioch, Joppa, and Jerusalem — even to the banks of the River Jordan.

In Egypt, he had seen the pyramids. While at the temple of Ammon at Siwah, he had been shown the hymn once sent to that shrine by Pindar. In Macedonia, he appears to have seen the tomb said to be that of Orpheus in Libethra (modern Leivithra). Crossing over to Italy, he visited some of the cities of Campania, as well as Rome. He is one of the first known to write of seeing the ruins of Troy, Alexandria Troas, and Mycenae.

Pausanias’ Description of Greece, or Periegesis, is in the form of ten books, each dedicated to some portion of Hellas, with a heavy emphasis on the glories of ancient Hellas — although he lived at a time of Roman domination of the area. 

His many works are geared toward a Roman audience, since Romans wanted to know everything about the glories of ancient Hellas — and many times adopt Hellenic ways for themselves. The project is more than topographical; it is a cultural geography of ancient Hellas — in a way, a snapshot taken in time to capture what was left of the height of Classical Greece.

Pausanias often digresses from his description of architectural and artistic objects to review the mythological and historical underpinnings of the society that produced them, giving us today a much clearer picture of how mythology and culture are interwoven into the Hellenic landscape. He begins his tour in Attica, where the city of Athens and its demes dominate the discussion.

He describes what he saw at Athens’ Temple of Olympian Zeus, which is of course still extant in the city, although of course greatly changed over the millennia.

“Before the entrance to the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus – Hadrian the Roman emperor dedicated the temple and the statue, one worth seeing, which in size exceeds all other statues save the colossi at Rhodes and Rome, and is made of ivory and gold… before the entrance, I say, stand statues of Hadrian, two of Thasian stone, two of Egyptian. Before the pillars stand bronze statues … The whole circumference of the precincts is about four stades, and they are full of statues; for every city has dedicated a likeness of the emperor Hadrian, and the Athenians have surpassed them in dedicating, behind the temple, the remarkable colossus. Within the precincts are antiquities: a bronze Zeus, a temple of Cronus and Rhea and an enclosure of Earth surnamed ‘Olympian.’ Here the floor opens to the width of a cubit, and they say that along this bed flowed off the water after the deluge that occurred in the time of Deucalion, and into it they cast every year wheat meal mixed with honey.”

Pausanias’ subsequent books describe Corinthia, Laconia, Messenia, Elis, Achaea, Arcadia, Boetia, Phocis and Ozolian Locris (Λοκρῶν Ὀζόλων).

As a Hellenic man writing at the zenith of the Roman empire, he was in an awkward cultural space, between the glories of the Hellenic past he was so keen to describe and the realities of a Hellas that was now beholden to Rome as a dominant imperial force.

He was not technically a naturalist, although he commented on the physical aspects of the Hellenic landscape. He notices the pine trees on the sandy coast of Elis, the deer and the wild boars in the oak woods of Phelloe, and the crows amid the giant oak trees of Alalcomenae.

He says “Among the sights of Thesprotia are a sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona and an oak sacred to the god. Near Cichyrus is a lake called Acherusia, and a river called Acheron.” However, he tells things as he sees them with a bit of an insult here and there, saying “There is also Cocytus, a most unlovely stream. I believe it was because Homer had seen these places that he made bold to describe in his poems the regions of Hades, and gave to the rivers there the names of those in Thesprotia.”

Pausanias even touches on the natural bounty of Hellas, including the wild strawberries of Helicon, the date palms of Aulis, and the olive oil of Tithorea, and remarking on its animals, such as the tortoises of Arcadia and the “white blackbirds” of Cyllene.

The chronicler makes history come alive when he says that the Phocian War was concurrent with a man who won a race in the Olympics, saying “In the tenth year after the seizure of the sanctuary, Philip put an end to the war, which was called both the Phocian War and the Sacred War, in the year when Theophilus was archon at Athens, which was the first of the hundred and eighth Olympiad at which Polycles of Cyrene was victorious in the foot-race.”

Placing them firmly into the rich cultural history of the country, he then relates “The cities of Phocis were captured and razed to the ground. The tale of them was Lilaea, Hyampolis, Anticyra, Parapotamii, Panopeus and Daulis. These cities were distinguished in days of old, especially because of the poetry of Homer.”

Even in the most rural corners of Hellas, he is fascinated by all kinds of depictions of deities, holy relics, and many other sacred and mysterious objects. He makes a note on the ruins of the house of Pindar, and the statues of Hesiod, Arion, Thamyris, and Orpheus in the grove of the Muses on Helicon, as well as the portraits of Corinna at Tanagra and of Polybius in the cities of Arcadia.

One of Pausanias’ modern editors, Christian Habicht, stated: 

“In general, he prefers the old to the new, the sacred to the profane; there is much more about classical than about contemporary Greek art, more about temples, altars and images of the gods, than about public buildings and statues of politicians. Some magnificent and dominating structures, such as the Stoa of King Attalus in the Athenian Agora (rebuilt by Homer Thompson) or the Exedra of Herodes Atticus at Olympia are not even mentioned.”

Unlike a mere travel guide, in “Periegesis” Pausanias stops in many places around the nation for a brief excursus on a point of ancient ritual or to tell a myth, in a genre that would not become popular again until the early nineteenth century.

Pausanias is fond of digressions on the wonders of nature, the signs that herald the approach of an earthquake, the phenomena of the tides, the ice-bound seas of the north, and the noonday sun that at the summer solstice, casts no shadow at Syene (Aswan). As scientists know, the observation of the noonday sun at this very place enabled the great scientist Eratosthenes to determine the circumference of the earth.

While he never doubts the existence of the deities and heroes, the cultural geographer sometimes criticizes the myths and legends relating to them. His descriptions of monuments of art are plain and unadorned, but crucially, their accuracy is confirmed by the extant remains that one can often see today.

Pausanias is perfectly frank in his confessions of ignorance in his works. When he quotes a book at second hand he takes pains to say so. This is an invaluable aid to the modern reader, who can become troubled by the fantastic observations and sometimes fabrications of ancient writers.

His life’s work, however, left only faint traces in Hellas for many centuries after his death. “It was not read”, Habicht relates; “there is not a single mention of the author, not a single quotation from it, not a whisper before Stephanus Byzantius in the sixth century, and only two or three references to it throughout the Middle Ages.”

The only manuscripts of Pausanias are three fifteenth-century copies, full of errors and lacunae, which all appear to depend on a single manuscript that survived to be copied. Niccolò Niccoli had this archetype in Florence in 1418. At his death in 1437, it went to the library of San Marco, Florence. A part of the manuscript is held at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana.

Until twentieth-century archaeologists realized that Pausanias was a reliable guide to the sites they were excavating, the peripatetic chronicler had been largely dismissed by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century classicists.

Modern archaeological research, however, has tended to vindicate Pausanias in his many descriptions of his beloved country, which have gone on to form an invaluable cultural record of the glories of ancient Hellas.

 I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.



"Is the agathos daimon a ouranic or chthonic being?"

I would say it's complicated? If I had to make a choice, I would say Ouranic, but like heroes, His worship has a link with, and a touch of, death. I wrote a detailed piece about Him long ago that might help?

~~~

"What power over mortals do heroes have? It is, of course, important to honor them because of the things they did in their lifetime, but what about now, when they're dead? How can they influence mortals?"

Heroes are complicated. Hero worship was very specific and it's a concept that translates with more difficulty than straight-up deity worship. In essence, heroes are the bridge between mortals and Gods. They were born  mortal (although often with a bloodline to the Gods) but through their deeds, they were rewarded with immortality themselves. They became Gods. Still, the lessons they teach us are all mortal lessons. Heroes were honoured more than worshipped, and we do that today as well. So heroes, like Gods, can be called on for counsel and aid, and like the Gods, you can establish kharis with them. But they don't judge us, not like the Gods anyway, because they were all just like us once.
 
~~~
 
"Tomorrow is Hekate's Deipnon. I've seen some posts about the calendar on your blog so... We should pray to Hekate tonight and not tomorrow's according to the Hellenic way, right? It's a bit confusing..."

I got this e-mail on the 17th, and yes, that was the evening of the Deipnon. For those of you confused by the placement of the Deipnon in relation to the moon, perhaps this post will help make the schedule clearer. I think it boils down to the fact that Hekate is a Khthonic deity and is thus worshipped at night, after dusk. Since the Hellenic day spreads from dusk on day one to dusk on day two, rituals for Kthonic deities need to be held in the night of day one, and ritual for the Ouranic deities during the daylight hours on the second day. 

~~~

"During my Hecate's Deipnon ritual, do I kneel when worshiping Hecate (she is, after all, a chthonic goddess, though I've heard she can be 'interpreted' in more than one way)?"

I tend to kneel for Hekate, yes. Her worship has gone through many stages of evolution, however, so a case can be made for either. She most certainly started out as an Ouranic deity, but with the introduction of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter--composed somewhere in the late seventh century BC or the sixth century BC--she becomes an Underworld Goddess, and She receives a Khthonius character. By the fifth century BC, as the Eleusian Mysteries are in full swing, Hekate's association with the crossroads emerges and by that time, she becomes an appropriation Goddess, associated with the cleansing of the home and whole-animal sacrifices. As this version of Her is associated mostly with the Deipnon, I tend to kneel, and I keep Her worship away from my main shrine, choosing a low altar instead to make the sacrifices.

~~~

"I would have a question, which is more to do with theology, than with worship and religious practice. Why do you think our gods are not perfect and can change, not just in character, but also in their domains, like Hecate?"

Hekate is an extreme example, of course, but many Theoi, indeed, change(d) throughout the years. I would not say this means They are not 'perfect' (what is perfect anyway?), simply that the Gods adapt with Their people. Life becomes more complicated, the wishes of worshippers change. Domains are divided between existing Gods and those added to the pantheon, imported from other places around the world. To quote Malcolm Reynolds: 'It's getting awfully crowded in my sky' ;-)
 
The Theoi adapt because we need Them to adapt. Look at modern worship: who do we pray to when we need a new job? Or when our computer breaks down? Who do we pray to we travel by airplane? Based on the domains we know the Theoi had in ancient times, we make assumptions and guesses, and eventually, domains shift and evolve to include our modern lifestyle: Zeus to guide us towards a new job, Hephaestos to help us with our computer issues, and Hermes to watch over our journey by plane, for example. And the Gods tend to be willing to adapt to the change out of Kharis with their worshippers.

The study of the largest ancient cemetery for infants found on Astypalea island in Greece continues, shedding light on the worship of the goddess of childbirth and the Earth mother. The Dodecanese Ephorate of Antiquities that is carrying out the study has found that almost all the infants buried there were newborns or, at most, a few months old. There are also a few toddlers that were up to two years of age.

The bodies of the babies were placed in ceramic containers, mainly amphorae or hydrias, whichwere buried in shallow pits with stones on top, which indicated that there was a tomb there. Burial of newborns and babies in such receptacles was a rather common way of burial in ancient times. What distinguishes the infants’ cemetery of Astypalea is the huge number of tombs and its use for almost an entire millennium. So far, a total of 3,000 vessels containing the skeletons of babies have been excavated, but many more are buried in the cemetery.

With few exceptions, the tombs did not contain favorite objects of the dead, which was common for newborns and infants since they were not considered “full” persons at that point, thus were not buried ceremoniously and traditionally as all adults were.

The number of tombs and the fact that the containers come from various parts of the Mediterranean indicate that it is possible that many of the infants did not belong to  Astypalea’s inhabitants.

The uniqueness of the ​​Kylindra area on the island lies in the fact that it is a burial ground exclusively for newborns and infants, most of whom died at birth. Such a large cemetery for infants is certainly not justified by the size of the island’s population. There was a city there, but it was not one of the most important in ancient Hellas.

The most realistic theory for the existence of a cemetery for infants on the island is that there could have been a sanctuary on Astypalea where women went to give birth. Indeed, inscriptions have been found on the island that mention not only Asclepius, but also Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. She helps women give birth and endure its great pains. She is also worshiped as a goddess who takes care of newborns.

The latter seems more likely to be associated with the presence of newborns and infants on the island. Such sanctuaries existed in other parts of the Hellenic world, but perhaps that of Astypalea was one of the most famous and had pan-Hellenic significance. Thus, women who were not from Astypalea would prefer to give birth there, much like, for example, patients from all over Greece would visit the Asclepieion of Epidaurus for cures of their diseases.

It is even possible that there were doctors specializing in obstetrics in the sanctuaries of Eileithyia, something that would be especially helpful to midwives at a time when childbirth was particularly dangerous and many newborns and mothers died in the process. Even under these conditions, many newborns would die in the sanctuary, and perhaps these were the ones who were buried in the cemetery of Astypalea.

Eileithyia had many sanctuaries in Crete. The most famous places of her worship were in Amnisos, Olounda, Diktynnaio and Inato, but the main seat of the Goddess was in ancient Lato.

I am fairly swamped right now. May I interest you in the words of Sophocles on Aphrodite and love? I'll give you something more tomorrow.



“Children, the Cyprian is certainly not only the Cyprian
But she is a being of many names.
She is Hades. She is immortal life.
She is mad insanity. She is desire undiluted.
She is lamentation. In her is everything
Earnest, peaceful, all that leads to violence
She seeps into the organs of everything
In which life resides. Who is ever sated by the goddess?
She enters into the fishes’ swimming race,
She is in the four-limbed tribe on the land
And guides her wing among the birds.
Among beasts, mortals, among the gods above.
Whom of the gods has she not thrown three times?
If it is right for me—if it is right to speak the truth,
She rules Zeus’ chest without a spear or iron
The Cyprian certainly cuts short
All the best plans of humans and gods.”
[fr. 941 [=Stobaeus 4, 20.6]]

Plans for a major renovation project to the western entrance of the Acropolis have met with strong opposition from archaeologists in Greece and across the world. In an open letter to the public, the signatories, including figures from the universities of Oxford, Durham and Brown, called for the -cancellation of a project they believe will lead to the “devaluation, concealment and degradation of the greatest archaeological and artistic treasure that has been bequeathed to modern Greece”.

The Acropolis has been subject to continual restoration and excavation projects since the emergence of the independent Greek state and the choice of Athens as its capital city

The Acropolis is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the most visited archaeological site in Greece, welcoming more than three million visitors in 2018, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority. The site has been subject to continual and regular restoration and excavation projects since the emergence of the independent Greek state and the choice of Athens as its capital city in the early 19th century. These have variously affected both access to, and the appearance of, the site.

This latest renovation is intended to improve access and traffic management of visitors and, according to a statement from the ministry of culture, “remove erroneous interventions of the past”. However, for the opposition, the plans are “contrary to the internationally recognised and established principles concerning the preservation, conservation and safeguarding of antiquities” and “mark an extremely dangerous path”.

The plans were unanimously approved by the Central Archaeological Council on 3 February, after a proposal made by the architectural restorer Manolis Korres, the president of the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Committee (ESMA). Following this approval, the ministry announced that a comprehensive scientific study will be carried out in the autumn.

The focus of the plan is on the -restoration of the ascent to the Acropolis, including a large marble staircase constructed in the first century AD, the return of an ancient southern access to the terrace and the removal of what ESMA deem to be incorrect -restoration work.

The plans show the government again at loggerheads with the archaeological community following a recent dispute regarding the legal status of Greece’s five largest archaeological museums. The signatories fear that these interventions “will change dramatically the form of the Acropolis Monument”, and will cause serious functional and conservational problems.

A major concern is what constitutes the “correct appearance” of the site. According to the critics, the planned work places a modern framework of renovation which has no basis in history. Most notably, they question why the specific form of the western access to the Acropolis in the fifth century AD has been chosen as the “correct form” of this part of the site, while for the plateau, it is the form of the fifth century BC.

The works apparently also bypass “international and national legal frameworks and standards”. In particular they state the Central Archaeological Council “examines and decides only on completed studies and not mere proposals”. This follows criticism of restoration work already done in 2020, whereby the old pathways to the Acropolis were paved with reinforced concrete and a new, larger lift access was added to upgrade access and accommodate people with disabilities.

Heavy rains in December 2020 led to flooding on the site, which the signatories state was a “predictable consequence” of the new paving. These interventions were also criticised for their negative aesthetic impact and the damage caused to the ancient architecture and the rock itself, as well as not “fulfil[ling] the stated justification” to improve disabled access. Ultimately, they say, the focus of the works was “to accommodate even larger crowds of summer tourists”.

Open-air archaeological sites were finally reopened in Greece on 21 March, following the ongoing national lockdown that began in November 2020, allowing the public and the wider archaeological community to see the impact of the works so far.

The Greek government is desperately trying to push forward with its typical summer season-—despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic—that is a vital part of the national economy.

The ministry of culture could not be reached for comment; but, in a statement released on 15 March, ESMA rejected the claims of the letter, stating that the new paving is “easily reversible” and that the interventions to the Propylaea gateway will return it to its “original ancient form” of the first century AD, based on “exhaustive archaeological-architectural documentation”. They also state that the “oldest traces will not be covered but will remain visible and accessible”.

However, speaking with The Art Newspaper, Tasos Tanoulas, an architect and member of the technical staff of committee for the restoration of the Acropolis Monument since 1977, refuted these comments, in particular the reversibility of these works.