Just about two weeks ago, renovation works happening on the overground electric railway (ISAP) at the centre of Athens (around and along the area of Thiseio and Monastiraki) brought to light a very important archaeological monument that had for a long time laid buried and unidentified under the train lines: namely, the Altar of the Twelve Gods, one of the most famous and important monuments of Antiquity, reported from Thucydides as marking the very centre of Ancient Athens, and praised by Pindar as the brilliant navel of the Athenian Agora. As expected, archaeologists in Greece were absolutely excited with this new discovery, thus proceeding immediately to preliminary research and investigation of the site, whose authenticity was unanimously confirmed. Furthermore, a good and well-supported case for the possibility of further discoveries of great archaeological importance around the same site has been put forward, given the topography and historical information regarding this site of Ancient Athens.
However, what to many of us would appear as a patently obvious case for the primacy of historical discovery and cultural heritage as well as a clear priority of archaeological excavation over whatever tangential functional considerations should be involved in the partial re-adjustment of the rail-lines along this site, given of course the historical centrality and weight of the discovered monument, this has not been thus shared by the corporate agents involved in the reconstruction of the overground. The relevant ISAP agents have not only rejected to consider the possibility of restructuring the design of the rail-lines around this important archaeological site or even re-adjusting the proposed time schedule for the completion of works so as to permit for the appropriate time for certain excavations to take place and possible solutions to be submitted by the relevant archaeological authorities, but have on the contrary been actively sabotaging the very possibility of excavations through pressing forward with the unwarranted re-burial of the site, in negligence of the jurisdiction of the archaeological authorities. Should the ISAP proceed with the reburial of the site in the name of an explicitly irresponsible short-sighted, profit-centred policy which blatantly disregards cultural, historical and archaeological concerns, little chance, if any, will there be for the re-disruption of the trainline, and thus for bringing the monument again to light at a later stage. (For a more concrete and detailed exposition of the discovery of the monument and the issue at hand, please visit http://www.ekathimerini.com/4Dcgi/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite4_1_17/02/2011_379147).
Luckily, a number of archaeological organisations, groups of intellectuals, cultural and artistic non-governmental organisations, as well as a great deal of popular support has been mobilised for putting pressure on ISAP and the relevant authorities in order to preclude the hasty re-burial of the Altar. As part of this effort to hold up the case for the archaeological excavation of the monument, the support of classicists, archaeologists and generally intellectuals from all over the world has been considered as a crucial factor in helping shape public opinion as well as making clearly known to both the public and relevant public authorities the critical historical and archaeological reasons which mandate the protection of this monument and which are necessary to be taken in full consideration before any decisions regarding the treatment of the altar can be made.
Please help save the Altar by signing the petition found at : http://www.thepetitionsite.com/201/help-save-the-sacred-altar-of-the-12-gods/. You can perhaps also leave your comments in order to support the cause and help raise awareness. Your support is crucial for helping protect this monument and for making sure this important event receives the appropriate attention. Please feel free to circulate this message around anyone who might be interested in this case and supportive of protecting cultural monuments of such important historical and archeological significance as this Altar.
DPhil Candidate in Political Theory
Department of Politics and International Relations