Archaeologists and residents are at odds over Philopappou works

Archaeologists and residents of the Philopappou area are at odds once again over work being carried out on this idyllic 70-hectare site in the historic center of Athens. Construction of the perimeter fence, work in the old quarry and cementing part of the hill as a continuation of the cobblestone footpath designed by Dimitris Pikionis have aroused the strong opposition of the committee coordinating the protests. The archaeologists maintain that the finds on the historic site are of exceptional importance and say the fencing has been approved with reluctance. «We know that the decision is far from pleasing, and that’s why the archaeologists have their regrets. The railings that have been put up along Apostolou Pavlou are tasteless; we’ll remove them when we secure the rocks which are at risk of falling,» said Yiannis Kalantidis, president of the company for the unification of archaeological sites (EAXA), speaking at a public meeting in the offices of the Hellenic Association for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage. Half-hearted measures Another argument cited in favor of the perimeter fence is that lack of funds makes proper guarding of the area impracticable. The solutions proposed to block traffic (such as tourist coaches) seem half-hearted: «We put up two marble columns at the entrance to Philopappou, but they were knocked down. We thought of putting up a chain to which only the fire brigade, ambulance service and the priest on duty at Loumbardiaris church would have keys,» says Kalantidis. Local residents insist that the fence is not acceptable, and oppose the open-air exhibition EAXA is preparing. They describe the roads intersecting the cobblestone pathways as «outrageous boulevards» and suggest that EAXA and the Culture Ministry spend their lavish funds on other things, such as completing the fire protection system, propping up rocks on the southern slope, paying fees for antiquity guards, ridding the area of cement roads and prohibiting vehicular traffic on the site. Responding to heavy pressure concerning house construction on Philopappou, the EAXA president promised to propose the removal of existing buildings, while noting that none of them encroached on Pikionis’s cobblestone paths. Residents fear that worse is in store for Philopappou. The coordinating committee says there are plans for a theater along the lines of the one on Lycabettus, for private owners to take over Loumbardiaris and the Dionysos restaurant and that Philopappou may be included in the archaeological sites for which a uniform entry fee will be charged.

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