Old landmark on the southern slope of the Acropolis is to get a facelift

The Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus, which for years has resembled little more than an abandoned cave in the Acropolis’s flank, will finally be restored, drawing more visitors, enhancing understanding of the area of the rock’s southern slope and bringing back a major historic work. A jewel of the Acropolis’s southern slopes for 2,500 years and one of Athens’s outstanding landmarks, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved the model study by architect and renovator Constantinos Boletis on Tuesday evening. Boletis proposed two versions, «major» and «minor» (they differ over the entablature). A majority on the council approved the latter. Even those who disagreed with some points in the plans praised the quality of the work, which Boletis had, in any case, demonstrated with other monuments. The study, which was carried out in just seven months, was the fourth submitted by the scientific committee for research, providing supports for the Theater and Sanctuary of Dionysus, and the Sanctuary of Asclepius on the southern slope. Low-key intervention means that 84 stones – instead of the original 106 – will be reassembled. Seventeen of these form part of the stepped base, 27 are ancient extant blocks, while 40 will be new blocks. History of the monument The Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus was built – according to the choragus’s surviving inscription on the architrave – in 320-319 BC, while the winning choragus, Thrasycles (son of Thrasyllus), set up his choragic tripods on two inscribed pedestals by the monument’s entablature in 271-270. As Boletis said, the «monument belonged to an epoch in which new elements were being introduced into ancient theater, and contributed to the overall image of the rock of the Acropolis.» The cave was definitely used as a place of worship during the establishment of Christianity, Boletis said, pointing out that the transformation of the interior into a bicameral shrine with the name of Panaghia Spiliotissa used a number of blocks from the monument’s inner gateway. The Thrasyllus Monument was recorded by many a wanderer in the 18th and 19th centuries (Pomardi, Fourmont, Leroy, Hilaire, Stewart, Revett and others). In lieu of Thrasyllus’ tripod, «a marble statue of Dionysus has insinuated itself, in a later Roman style.» The statue, which was removed by Lusieri in 1805 on behalf of Lord Elgin (he of the Marbles fame), is now on display at the British Museum. But the final blow to the monument came during the Greek War of Independence in 1827, when it was blown up, following damage to its facade from cannonballs and shells. Old promises The excavation of the Theater of Dionysus and the restoration of the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus was announced by the Archaeological Society at the beginning of the 19th century – at the same time that monument parts were being used for today’s Russian Church. This huge loss, «which today is a cause for national bitterness, caused a huge outcry in that period as well.» During the study, the whole design emerged through both plans and surviving sections. Many details were clarified, such as the corner capital and the position of the cornice, among others. But crucial to the whole were the surviving parts which were returned to the site by the National Archaeological Museum, in whose possession they were. When – and if – restoration takes place, visitors strolling along Dionysus Areopagitou Street will no longer wonder about the unadorned hole in the Acropolis citadel.