Tractors head for the Acropolis

Don’t be surprised if you see a tractor heading for the Acropolis soon; it will be helping shift large pieces of marble needed to restore the Propylaia. Though new problems keep cropping up, work continues apace and considerable progress was made last year, as Haralambos Bouras, chairman of the Acropolis monuments conservation committee (ESMA), told the Friends of the Acropolis in his annual report. The Belvedere, a 14th-century tower in the northeast corner of the Acropolis (from which the Greek flag flies), has not been researched yet and nobody knows what is inside it. The plan is to use it to house inscriptions, many of which have been rendered illegible due to acid rain that has corroded the marble. Another possible location for the inscriptions is the north tower of the Beule Gate at the entrance to the Acropolis. Three major projects are under way on the Parthenon. The first, Bouras explains, is «a restoration program researched by Manolis Korres for the completion of 19 column drums, the addition of 12 completely new ones and the restoration of their epistyles. The construction or completion of two Doric capitals proved exceptionally time-consuming and the disintegration of the sixth column, the last on the left, caused new problems.» When Phidias’s frieze was removed from the rear porch and the cracked columns were secured, the figures from the frieze were restored. All that remains to be done is to restore the epistyles and capitals, put copies of the frieze into position and replace all the fragments. The restorers removed the epistyles, but they were in poor condition because of a fire in antiquity, the explosion in 1687 and earthquakes. «One of the epistyles was in 18 large and 80 small pieces,» says Bouras. The third project is on the north side of the Parthenon. The series of columns that were restored by Nikolaos Balanos in the 1930s were on the point of collapse, says Bouras, «due to rusted crossbars and joints, and also to corrosion of the column drums, which were made of concrete.« This was an arduous task which called for supplementary studies, the installation of a new crane and dismantling of the cornices that suffered considerable damage during an earlier restoration, 70 years ago. Bouras also reported on the dismantling of the Athena Nike temple and the Erechtheion, the restoration of the southeastern corner of the Propylaia and the laser cleaning of the western frieze of the Parthenon. The intersection at Doukissis Plakentias was redesigned after a stretch of Attiki Odos 750 meters long was sunk partially underground on the boundary between Vrilissia and Halandri, with the result that 4 hectares of land were returned to these municipalities.