COMMENT

Priceless

Can you put a price on a monument of universal renown? Can you put a price on a monument that symbolizes an entire nation and state? Can you put a price on a monument that constitutes the roots of the entire Western civilization? Can you put a price on the Parthenon? Yes, you can. When it's about reconstructing the monument, that is. In order to restore the Parthenon, Greece would have to spend 70 million euros by 2020. With 70 million euros, we can get a fully restructured Parthenon, Propylaea and Temple of Athena Nike - free from scaffolding's bondage. That would be 4.4 million euros per year for the next 16 years. Yet, stunning as it may sound, the Greek state cannot come up with that money. And it is looking to sponsors in order to get on with restoration work. Greece is unable to complete the work, which is co-funded by the European Union, and has decided to trim state funding by half. The Greek state says it cannot spend 70 million euros on the Parthenon over the next 16 years. That's a shame. Not because the state is looking for sponsors or because we think sponsorship is a bad thing, but because the state must finally realize that some obligations are simply inelastic. The state must live up to its historic duty. The Parthenon is not just another monument, one of the many monuments that spot this historic place. It's a symbolic reference point for Greeks, Europeans, Americans and Asians - for anyone who shares the values of the Greek civilization, for anyone who is touched by classical beauty and the democratic values that enabled it to flourish. The Parthenon was the central core of a state that now admits the inability to restore it. The Parthenon inspired enlightenment, thinkers and philhellenes. It was on the rock of the Acropolis that romantic thinker Renan composed his prayers; it was the Parthenon that thrust Freud into ecstatic vision and it is where Japanese tourists and Russian immigrants now pay homage. The Parthenon belongs to the world. But the responsibility for its protection lies with us, the modern Greeks. Sure, we can come up with 70 million euros - even 270 if we had to. Besides, we never shirked when it came to grand shows (such as that prepared by Vangelis or the «Labors of Hercules» in Moscow), or when we decided to write off soccer club debts amounting to dozens of millions in euros. More importantly, we could instantly raise the money by setting up a national fund for the Parthenon that would be open to private contributions. But, in the name of Pallas Athena, let's not shame ourselves for the sake of a paltry 4.4 million euros a year.

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