Since 2010, Greece has been suffering from an ongoing economic crisis consisting of crippling debt. However, this has not stopped the extensive restoration efforts at the Acropolis. How did this continuous “money pit” come to be and how exactly is it impacting the Greek State?
Figure 1: Of all the historic remnants of Ancient Greece, the Acropolis has arguably been one of the most famous for centuries. In order to preserve this monument, the Acropolis Restoration Project was established. However, this ongoing endeavor has backfired and now is further contributing to the debt crisis plaguing the Greek State.
Figure 2: Established in 1975, the Project (also known in Greece as the YSMA) began with the intent to reverse the decay caused by environmental and man made degradation. This includes damage from air pollution and warfare, including bombardment by the Venetians in the 17th century. It also corrects previously misguided restoration attempts that included misassembling columns of the Parthenon. The restoration efforts have been consistently ongoing for the past 40 years, racking up budgets amounting to billions of euros. (1)
Figure 3: According to Greek preservation laws, any and all cultural assets are to be protected and preserved by the Greek State. To further protect more valuable parts of the Acropolis, some artifacts and sculptures have been moved to the Acropolis Museum. This includes the Caryatids, with their place of origin, the Erectheion, now housing replicas that have been reinforced with metal rods and pillars of new marble. (2)
Figure 4: Over the years, 2,675 tons of architectural remains have been restored, the most recent having been concluded in 2010. Past reconstruction has been done using stone fragments from the Acropolis slopes or new Pentelic marble, which can be easily distinguished from the original marble. However, it’s the staggering financial cost of this that contributed to the project halting in 2017.
Figure 5: Shortly after construction efforts came to a halt, the YSMA announced a new phase in the project that requires a budget of 5 million euros. This includes reconstructing the roof of the Propylaia, complete with re-painting motifs that mimic the ones that originally decorated the space.
Figure 6: Over half of the money that funds the restoration comes directly from the European Union (EU). Further funding was requested by the Greek government after extensive talks with the EU and the condition that they continue to pay for half of the budget. (3)
Figure 7: One of the main points in arguing against the venture is that it negatively impacts tourism. While there hasn’t been any major declines in annual visitation, the presence of scaffolding and cranes is seen as a detractor to tourists who may see it as being a eyesore or ruining photographs.
Figure 8: While tourism is helping to bring Greece out of bankruptcy, there are concerns that it still will not cover the Acropolis’ bill. This also impacts workers who are hired on contract. Nikos Toganides, an Acropolis worker, stated that the project is taxing because people “don’t know when the next lot of money is coming.” He also claims that he and his team had not been paid in three months. (3)
Figure 9: Only time will tell if the Acropolis Restoration Project will continue on this track. As it stands, current work will conclude in 2020. Despite this, it is the tip of the iceberg with no clear end in sight.
Sources for further reading:
1.) “Healing the Parthenon: Inside the Mammoth Restoration Project.” Greece Is, 26 Sept. 2017, http://www.greece-is.com/healing-parthenon-inside-mammoth-restoration-project/.
2.) Law 3028/2002 – On The Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in General
3.) Smith, Helena. “Repair of Acropolis Needs 20 More Years and £47m.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2005, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jun/10/arts.artsnews.