Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Worship of Ancient Greek Gods still around
Greece: Pagans call on Athena to protect the AcropolisHelena Smith in Athens
The Guardian, Monday September 1 2008
Thrusting their arms skywards and chanting Orphic hymns, Greek pagans yesterday made a comeback at the Acropolis as they added their voices to protests against the imminent inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum.
Ignoring a sudden rainstorm and irate officials, white-clad worshippers gathered before Greece's most sacred site and invoked Athena, the goddess of wisdom, to protect sculptures taken from the temples to the new museum. It was the first time in nearly 2,000 years that pagans had held a religious ceremony on the site.
"Neither the Romans nor the Ottomans or any other occupational force ever took anything from this holy site," said Yannis Kontopidis, one of the high priests who officiated over the affair.
"It's scandalous that antiquities of such value, carved in honour of Athena, should be wrested from their natural environment and moved to a new locale."
Not since Pericles oversaw the construction of the Parthenon had any of its classical artworks been officially removed - until last year, when thousands of items were transferred by crane to the New Acropolis Museum beneath the citadel.
The £94m glass and concrete edifice, designed by the Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece's Michalis Photiadis, has divided Greeks.
Supporters praise its cavernous space and have claimed the building will offer better protection of the antiquities and a superior viewing space for spectators, who previously had to negotiate the confines of a tiny museum atop the hill.
Government officials said its opening later this year should end the British Museum's argument that Athens has no place decent enough to house its classical artworks, including the Parthenon sculptures on display in London since Lord Elgin seized them from the temples more than 200 years ago.
An Ipsos-Mori poll, conducted before the new museum's inauguration, recently showed that 69% of Britons believed the marbles should be returned to Greece.
However, opponents, including architectural purists, have argued that the new museum insults Greece's cultural heritage, it being in the wrong location and far too big in grandeur and scale.
Yesterday's ceremony represented a major coup for Greek polytheists whose faith, which is described by the powerful Orthodox church as a "miserable resuscitation of a degenerate dead religion", has long been banned in the country that gave birth to the gods of Mount Olympus.