Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.02.07


KERYGMATA: Papageorgiou-Venetas, Athena

Eds.' Note: the following begins a series of publishers' blurbs (grace dicta, 'kerygmata') of new Athenian publications, followed by comments by Natalia Vogeikoff, archivist at the American School for Classical Studies. No full substitute for reviews, these notes seek to increase awareness of current work of interest to classicists published abroad.


Athens. The Ancient Heritage and the Historic Cityscape in a Modern Metropolis, by Alexander Papageorgiou-Venetas. xiii + pp 445, figs. Athens: The Archaeological Society at Athens Library, no. 140, 1995. Drs. 13,000.

"The problem of integrating the urban heritage in the complex townscape and the variety of functions of today's city life has not up until now been sufficiently investigated. There has been little interdisciplinary research in this field; the connexions and interdependent relations among the study of ancient settlements, archaeological investigations, the tasks of contemporary town planning and dealing with tourism, as well as the cultural reevaluation of the ancient heritage are very rarely examined.

The lack of interdisciplinary communication and attempts to formulate a suitable policy of integrated conservation is particularly obvious in the case of Athens, a city with almost four million inhabitants today. The central area, where the architectural and urban heritage of Athens is to be found and where features of ancient topography are still recognizable, is described in this work as the cultural-historic area of Athens, a crescent-shaped zone including from west to east: the ancient Academy area, the Kerameikos Excavations, the hills of Pnyx range and the Areopagus, the classical Agora and the Roman Agora, the Akropolis and its slopes, the old town district of Plaka, the area around the Temple of Zeus Olympius, the rebuilt Panathenaic stadium, the inner-city parks and the replanted hill of Lykabettos.

The present study endeavours to present a comprehensive overview of the problems related to the ancient heritage of Athens. This means examining among other things the possibility of effectively including historic buildings and ruins in the living fabric of a developing modern city. It is the aim of the Author to examine the historical conditions governing the gradual evolution of the cultural-historical area of the city. The social and ideological forces acting as determining factors are accounted for and the functional conflicts and social difficulties which attended its formation are described. Furthermore the advantages and disadvantages for the inhabitants created by the presence of this historical landscape in the midst of a frenetically active city will be set forth. The question is also discussed as to whether a basic consensus on the town planning and cultural goals to be set for the integration of the ancient heritage into the city of Athens can be defined. Finally an attempt is made to outline a suitable policy for future archaeological investigations in Athens."


Comments by Natalia Vogeikoff, ASCSA

The book is divided into four chapters. The first (ch.1: 3-129) discusses the historic setting in a retrospective study of the green spaces, the archaeological excavation areas, and the historic site in the town planning schemes for the city of Athens. Chapter 1 also includes a photographic documentary of Athens in the 19th and 20th centuries. The second chapter (ch. 2: 133-201) presents the twelve sectors of the cultural-historic area of Athens seen through their historic remains, urban functions, and land use patterns. In the third chapter (ch. 3: 203-355) the author is concerned with the issue of the preservation of the monuments in Greece (e.g. legislative framework, preservation trends), the archaeological research in Athens, and the landscaping of the archaeological sites. Of special interest is a chronological outline of the excavations in Athens from 1828-1988. Finally, the fourth chapter (ch. 4: 359-406) discusses the social and cultural aspects of the ancient heritage of Athens (e.g. commercial exploitation of the classical heritage). At the end of the book there are two important appendixes: Appendix A (pp.407-426) is a selection documents, from 1832-1863, concerning the preservation of the architectural heritage of Athens in connection with the planning schemes for the new capital; and Appendix B (pp.426- 428) comprises a list of articles published in the Allgemeine Bauzeitung, Vienna, between 1838 and 1864, concerning architecture, town-planning, archaeology and preservation of monuments in Greece during the reign of king Otto.

This is an important book with excellent photographic documentation that should not be read only by archaeologists interested in the ancient remains of Athens, but also by all those scholars (art-historians, city-planners, and architects) who are concerned with the development of modern cities in relationship to their ancient heritage.