Monuments falling victim to tourism

No doubt ancient monuments are a comparative advantage for their surrounding regions. The problems begin when a monument is considered a product of the tourism industry and used as an attraction, perhaps in an inappropriate, if not outrageous, manner. At a recent meeting of the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), it was decided to allow the use of the smaller ancient theater at Epidaurus for further performances after the conclusion of those already scheduled as part of the Hellenic Festival, which ended last week, despite objections raised by the Epidaurus Restoration Works Committee and the local Antiquities Ephorate. The latter are aware that the Little Theater is an extremely vulnerable monument, and necessary restoration work on it has not been completed. That is why its use by the Hellenic Festival had been granted for just four performances for its Musical July season. Until today, no one had even dreamed of going against the experts’ advice but now, the Little Theater at Epidaurus is to be used four more times in August for theater productions. The ancient drama festival at the larger Ancient Theater of Epidaurus had already been extended, falling victim to the demands of the local taverna owners and the rest of the tourism industry – as if there weren’t enough sites in the area where cultural events can be held. The problem is that we aren’t looking after the things we have and, above all, we are using them as if there is no tomorrow. Politicans, who have a shorter life span than the monuments, sometimes exploit their local history and monuments for short-term benefits, organizing festivals and other «cultural» events but are indifferent to what they are actually dealing with. (Naturally, this does not apply to all of them.) In this way monuments and other protected sites often find themselves surrounded overnight by canteens and parking lots, and are scattered with plastic chairs, plastic bottles and cigarette butts, always in the name of «culture» and linking the past with the present. The other major problem is that the power centers often bow to these opportunistic and shortsighted demands from the provinces. The Central Archaeological Council had the authority to prevent the Little Theater from being used by just anyone who requested to do so (whether the municipality or any other organization). It did not exercise that authority, however, and let it be known that it was open to pressure, giving the impression that scientific and professional criteria are flexible and unstable. However, the council members forgot (yet again) that they represent the state, which, apart from making laws, also needs to educate its citizens to be more responsible.