Forlorn antiquities

Recently there has been much ado about the country’s neglected archaeological sites, with their litter, worn-out signs, and general air of abandonment. Getting ready for the Olympics has shed light on issues that for years suffered from indifference and inaction. Now that we are hurriedly sprucing up the facade, we have noticed that things aren’t quite as they should be on the inside. Letters of protest and photographs of piles of rubble alongside the ancient columns show a world belonging irrevocably to the past. We have almost taken for granted the strategy adopted by all postwar governments in Greece: modern cities are built by destroying memory. Ancient cultural heritage is the first victim of any progress, but relics of more recent history have also suffered. There are many examples of the state’s conception of «protecting national heritage.» Priority has always been given to facades, whatever can be presented amid much fanfare and be counted among the government’s achievements. Cleaning up archaeological sites belongs to the realm of the self-evident. What minister can boast about the good maintenance of Plato’s Academy, for example? Olympic Greece, under the microscope for what is new, does not have to answer for what has been neglected over time. In any case, the burden of our ancient culture has always been excessive. We promote it, but to be honest, it has never really concerned us.