Windswept ancient Temples

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June 25th 2008
Published: June 25th 2008
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So, the storm following us has had to give up its water to cross the Adriatic. Did this mean it would give up? No. Of course not.

So the second day after we arrived in Athens, the wind blows up - sunshades wrench at their moorings, and up on the Acropolis, unimpeded by the buildings below, the wind howls through the ruins of temples and ancient monuments, driving stinging dust and a steady stream of dislodged sun-hats before it. And nothing catches dust like sun-creamed legs.

The overall effect, however, was very impressive. The feeling of an abandoned, spirit-haunted, ancient place was inescapable, even through the omnipresent crowds of chattering tourists. The they were all below the notice of the columns towering over them, and beyond the statues impassive, blankly eternal gaze. This was a place who's time was past, but which was content to live in that past, and damn the now to a gale-blown void, sweeping the shuttering sightseers clean from the face of the ages-worn granite.

It was, as you may have gathered, something that affected me quite deeply even as I struggled to simultaneously keep my hat and my precarious footing in the wind, without getting too much dust in my eyes.

However, I have discovered the bane of archological sites. Not time, or rain, or even too many visiters. The problem is scaffolding, and it's nefarious twin, the special event. Now scaffolding is a necessary evil. Even when every other Cathedral spire, and just about every reasonably standing ancient monument, is wrapped in at least some scaffolding, you can see why it's needed, and grudgingly accept that the best you can do is try and find an angle where you can see more stone than plastic sheeting and metal pipe-work.

But the special event is something different. It isn't a necessary part of the conservation or use of the place - it's the result of someone rich or famous co-opting whatever it is for their own use for a time. In the colossium in Rome, the reconstructed part of the arena was covered with a dance stage, and crawling with workers setting up lighting, wires running through arches, and so on. It certainly didn't add to the atmosphere of the place. But there was a conference lecture set up in another ruin only a quater of a mile down the road, roping of an otherwise open area, under some spectacular arches, for a companies private use.

Okay. End of rant.


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