NEWS

Glory once more for old Walk of Fame in Athens

One of the most popular sites in Los Angeles is the Walk of Fame, on Hollywood Boulevard, where all the legends of the silver screen have their names in stars. In Athens, there is a much older version of this landmark: Tripodon Street in the Plaka district, ancient Greece’s «Walk of Fame.» In Lysicratous Square, the entire 6.5-meter width of the ancient road has been opened for the first time, a broad thoroughfare laid with a special material that prevents weeds from sprouting. The first phase of the work in Lysicratous Square is currently being completed under the supervision of the Ephorate for Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, under a design by the architect C.N. Kazamiakis. This first phase included pinpointing this 50-meter stretch of the road, carrying out the required demarcation so that the foundations of four choregic monuments were visible, along with part of the bordering arcade, a wall that is a unique remnant of the Roman era and part of a 19th-century olive press. Also restored are two inscribed Neoclassic columns supporting the railings erected in the 19th century by French archaeologists around the monument to Lysicrates. A column stating that Lord Byron once stayed in the area has also been re-erected. The next phase provides for the partial restoration of the pediments of the choregic monuments, part of the bordering arcade and the Christian graves at the southeastern end of the site. Lighting and information boards have also been installed. Tripodon is perhaps the most important ancient street in Athens, along with Panathinaion Street, according to archaeologists. Kazamiakis, whose design formed the basis for the renovation of the site, acted as our guide to the area and emphasized its great archaeological value. «This is my personal opinion, but I believe that Tripodon Street is the most important pre-Christian street of all time. Just think about it. It had [traditions of] theater, philosophy and architecture. And there is something else that helps us understand its importance: Tripodon Street was not built to service city traffic.» According to Pausanias, it stretched about 800 meters from the Prytaneion, in the Agora, to the theater of Dionysos, which seated 17,000 people. Kazamiakis tried to give us an idea of what the imposing road must have been like. «This is the road Athenians took on their way to watch performances of plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes and others. In ancient Greece, plays were staged by rich citizens, the choregoi. They paid all the expenses, the actors, the chorus, the musicians, as well as all the stage sets. If the play won the annual theater competition, the city gave the choregos a bronze or gilt tripod which he would place upon a choregic monument in honor of Dionysos,» he explained. This meant that the entire length of Tripodon Street was gradually decorated with impressive, majestic monuments that reminded Athenians of the names of the winners of theater competitions. The only one of these monuments still standing, that of Lysicrates, refers first of all to the name of the choregoi, then the origin of the actors, the name of the dramatist and on the last line, the ruler of the city. The monuments were mainly built within the site of the theater of Dionysos, but also along the street itself. As for what remains from that time, in Lysicratous Square the foundations of four of the monuments have been found during excavations, and, of course, the Lysicrates monument, the most important of all, which has been preserved in situ. Outside the archaeological site, excavations over the past 30 years have brought to light the foundations of more than 10 of the monuments in Bachhou, Vyronos, Shelley and Tripodon Streets, within the houses themselves or in courtyards. «Because our excavations enabled us to precisely determine the course of ancient Tripodon Street, we know where we should expect to find traces of the monuments. So when people come and tell us that they want to renovate their houses or build on a site on one of these roads, we are able to warn them about the likelihood of finding important antiquities on their properties,» said Kazamiakis. During the 11th and 12th centuries (in the Byzantine period) and the 13th and 14th centuries (during the Frankish occupation), the site where this square now stands was a Christian cemetery, as evident from the mass graves and the tile-roofed mausoleums. The modern square emerged with the demolition of the 1669 Capucine Monastery by Omer Pasha’s troops in 1924. In 1868 the site came under the ownership of the Greek State. At the same time, during the the city’s rapid reconstruction, the road network in front of the square was laid out, with the construction of Shelley and Lysicratous streets as extensions of the existing Vyronos and Epimenidou streets respectively. Choregic monument stands test of time The Monument of Lysicrates was built in 333-334 BC when Athens was governed by Euainetos. It consists of a tall rectangular base on which rests the main section in the shape of a small dome surrounded by six Corinthian columns of Pendelic marble, attached to a cylindrical trunk of grey Hymettus marble. On top of the architrave and pediment, on which scenes in relief depict the god Dionysus, there is a cornice and a monolithic roof with scales and anthemions, also in relief. At its center was the apex that reached a height of 10.30 meters, on which the tripod rested. On the architrave are inscribed the names of those connected with the theatrical performance. Also of great interest is the use of the Corinthian style and its extremely refined architectural forms characteristic of trends in the fourth century BC. For many years it was the only known example in Europe of Corinthian architecture of the Classical period and the only preserved circular building of that period, so it was copied both in Greece and abroad during the revival of the Classical style. It was also known as «Diogenes’ lamp» and was depicted as incorporated within the Capuchin Monastery in many lithographs and drawings by travelers during the Turkish occupation and into the 19th century.