The burden of antiquity: veneration of the past becomes stasis

Originally published in The Architectural Review Dec 2019/Jan 2020 and online at

In November 1944, the Greek artist and poet Yorgos Vassilou Makris announced his plan to destroy the Parthenon. “Detesting the temporal and historical entrenchment of the Acropolis as something unheard of or foreign to life,” and “Hating National Tourism and the nightmareish folklore literature around it, Makris wrote in Proclamation No. 1, “Our first act of destruction shall be blowing up the Parthenon, which is literally suffocating us.”

Makris’ proclamation was written in the aftermath of the Nazi German occupation of Greece, during which the country had been devastated and its people verging on famine. The acropolis and other antiquities, meanwhile, had survived unscathed. While for the re-established Greek national government these sites were symbols of a resurgent Greek identity, for Makris and others they reflected something else. “The Parthenon was the primary symbol for the reconstitution of Greece, suffering the effects of poverty and war, and a focus for national morale,” wrote curator Marina Fokidis in South magazine. “It also symbolised the development of the tourism industry, while serving as a solid excuse for all the iniquities happening in its shadow”…

Originally published in The Architectural Review Dec 2019/Jan 2020 and online at

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