Ministry offers weak denial on temple fears

The Ministry of Culture yesterday denied plans to allow the development of a prime central Athens plot containing the scant remains of a celebrated fifth-century-BC temple, but indicated that this could still happen. The ministry had decided three times in the past 40 years to expropriate the piece of land in the Mets district, behind the Temple of Olympian Zeus, where the marble building sacred to Artemis Agrotera (Artemis in the fields) once stood. But each time the enterprise proved too costly. Press reports yesterday said Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis had asked the ministry’s Central Archaeological Council to rule whether a building permit should be issued to the owners of the plot. While denying that, the ministry admitted that if further excavation of the site yields little in the way of ancient remains, a permit could be issued. Most of the temple was destroyed by the Turks in 1778.

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