A sort of history-what-if kind of thing …
Brief notice in the Telegraph:
May 18, aged 79. Avant-garde Italian poet, novelist, critic and co-founder, in the early 1960s, of Gruppo 63, a group of experimental writers. Between 1979 and 1983 was a Communist Party deputy in the Italian parliament, and liked to describe himself as “the last Marxist”. An authority on Dante, he taught at universities in Turin, Salerno and Genoa. Translator of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. An unremitting pessimist, he recently complained that “the political situation is disastrous, with a mass of proletarians and underclass proletarians in extreme difficulty, and who no longer are aware that they are”.
In the wake of last week’s chunk of mortar/plaster falling off the Colosseum, Newsweek has an interesting editorialish thing … here’s the last bit:
At the Coliseum, which attracts nearly 4 million visitors per year, pathetic preservation measures like flimsy safety netting and metal braces put in place almost 30 years ago are now inadequate. And a more recent effort—to sandblast the traffic soot off the porous exterior walls in 1992—was abandoned after the city and key sponsors ran out of money. In the meantime, decades of traffic, vandalism, and neglect have taken their toll. “The Coliseum suffers from its 2,000 years of history,” says Adriano La Regina, superintendent of Rome’s antiquities. “It needs constant, intensive surveillance and intervention; it is like a cancer patient with a bad prognosis.” The structure has an annual maintenance budget of just $867,000—half of what the Ministry of Culture says is necessary to save it. Now an emergency restoration plan by the culture ministry is in place, at a cost of $8.4 million. No one knows yet where the money will come from.
The ambitious project, set to begin later this month, again includes a much-needed exterior cleaning and replacement of key support structures—including new metal bands that hold some of the marble in place. Stone archways will be reinforced and safety netting under the fragile ancient ceilings will be updated. The area around the Coliseum will also be cordoned off, and pedestrian traffic near the monument will be restricted in case of further collapse during the work. In 2000, the city of Rome installed a gladiator exhibit on the second tier, complete with an elevator and gift shop. Now, the museum and elevator will likely be removed, and parts of the ancient amphitheater will be permanently closed to the public. Plans to open the third tier and the subterranean tunnel system to attract even more visitors were also in the works before last Sunday’s collapse. Those areas will likely now never be accessible to the public.
The Coliseum is open again, but a quota system is now enforced to control the number of visitors who are in the ancient amphitheater at any given time. This week the city will consider an emergency measure to limit traffic on the busy throughway that passes within a few hundred feet of the building, turning the entire area into a pedestrian island and diverting thousands of cars and buses that pass by each day.
In recent years, the city of Rome has rented out the Coliseum as a venue for special events like concerts to help offset the maintenance costs. But after Sunday’s collapse, all events scheduled for the busy summer season were canceled or moved to other venues. The vibration from loud speakers is simply too risky, according to La Regina. Smaller indoor events were also canceled, including boxing matches in the ancient underground cages and private VIP dinners and fashion shows, which were scheduled to be held on a wooden floor erected above the subterranean tunnels. The lost revenue from renting out the Coliseum will now have to come from other sources.
According to an archeologist for the culture ministry, Francesco Maria Giro, the priorities have now changed. “Sunday’s event was small, but it is yet another wake up call and confirms the need to study the ancient monuments of Rome,” he said during a walking tour of the Coliseum on Wednesday. “A plan of intervention and ongoing maintenance now supersedes everything else.” But until the government realizes that increasing, not cutting, its culture budget should be the real priority, saving Rome’s cherished symbols will be a race against time.
In a similar vein:
- Is Rome’s Ancient Heritage Crumbling? | AOL News (added 05/20/10)
Kouros-style marble statues, dated to the 6th century BC, are displayed on Tuesday at the National Archaeological Museum in central Athens.
The priceless artifacts were recovered by authorities three days ago during a sting operation in the Corinth prefecture of southern Greece, and specifically near the village of Klenia, which is located in vicinity of ancient Nemea. Two local men, identified as farmers, were charged with antiquities smuggling, while another is wanted.
The wanted man is allegedly the mastermind of the ring and has a previous criminal record with antiquities smuggling offenses.
According to reports, the two statues were dug up in the area eight months ago. The emblematic kouros, kouroi in the plural, were presented to the press during World Museum Day.
Speaking at the museum, Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Greek Police (EL.AS) Chief Eleftherios Economou detailed the efforts made by authorities to apprehend the suspects as well as an ongoing probe into possible overseas buyers.
The sculptures, 1.82 and 1.78 meters tall, are considered unique works dating back to the late 6th century BC. According to archaeologists, the fact that makes them unique is that they are almost identical works sharing the same facial characteristics.
The damage observed on them, cut limbs and a head is recent and probably caused by excavation machinery, although archaeologists said the statues will be restored in full.
Plenty of press piling up on this one (I’ll add some more later) … a thought that just occurred to me was that these are probably depicting Cleobis and Biton, no? One or both of them were victors at Nemea and statuary of them might be appropriately found in that vicinity …
Addenda: the Cleobis and Biton claim comes from a paper by M. Miller; see, however: Sophocles S. Markianos, “The Chronology of the Herodotean Solon “Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Vol. 23, No. 1 (1st Qtr., 1974), pp. 1-20, esp. the discussion in note 66 (sorry! had 23 there before … reading on a small screen) (The Miller paper is referenced there as well).
- Greeks Say Two Arrested in Attempt to Smuggle Antique Statues | Bloomberg
- Greek police seize 2 statues from 2 farmers | AP
Oh, those clumsy work crews:
Work crews in Cyprus have accidentally unearthed four rare clay coffins estimated to be some 2,000 years old, the country’s Antiquities Department director said Wednesday.
Maria Hadjicosti said the coffins adorned with floral patterns date from the east Mediterranean island’s Hellenistic to early Roman periods, between 300 B.C. and 100 A.D.
She said the coffins were dug up this week from what is believed to be an ancient cemetery in the eastern coastal resort of Protaras.
Hadjicosti said similar coffins dating from the same period have been discovered. Two such coffins are on display in the capital’s Archaeological Museum, while three others remain in storage there. But she called the latest find significant because the coffins were untouched by grave robbers.
“The undisturbed coffins will help us add to our knowledge and understanding of that period of Cyprus history,” Hadjicosti said.
She said other items found at the site included human skeletal remains, glass vessels and terra cotta urns, indicating that the cemetery was in use over a long period of time.
The official said the cemetery is one of several found throughout island’s northeast, but scientists don’t know which undiscovered settlement the bodies came from.
Crews stumbled on the coffins – or sarcophagi – while working to complete a sidewalk at the resort. […]
Some photos accompany the original AP article …