Astonished by the Acropolis
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The Acropolis Museum in Greece is a reminder of the lost Elgin Marbles and a rebuke to the British. It could also be an inspiration for India
What the strike is to the Greeks is akin to what the bandh is for us — a way of achieving results from the government when action is required. I suspect the Greeks have a strong, determined side to them that takes them to the heart of a matter with great clarity. Think of their response to the challenge thrown by the British, when the Greeks recently asked for the return of the Elgin Marbles — large sections of the Parthenon frieze, pediments and metopes carried away two centuries ago by Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Such a demand had been brought into prominence in the '80s by Melina Mercouri, the actress, singer and forceful culture minister.
It can be argued by cynics that national treasures having been spirited away by colonisers and invaders is a common — albeit traumatic — occurrence, demonstrated by centuries of turbulent global history. We, as proud Indians, would not hesitate to compile a long list of valuable artifacts plundered from our land from very early times. Few dwell on the important issue of whether we would respect, nurture and preserve these riches, were they ever returned to us, once the initial triumph of recovering them is spent. We are famously infamous for the callousness and indifference shown to the innumerable treasures that are still with us in museums and
This is not quite the situation with the Parthenon and with Greece, for both have a unique trajectory that resonated into the many centuries that followed. The Parthenon belongs to the time when classical Greece was young and vigorous, when Socrates, Euripides, Sophocles and so many others of this extraordinary period were empowered by the tremendous intellectual and creative possibilities inherent in mankind. The time was around 440 BC and Sophocles established the spirit and achievements of the period by declaring: "Many marvels there are, / But none so marvelous as Man." And the symbol of what this marvel called man could do was to create the Parthenon, establish scientific thought, literature, architecture and philosophy that would forever, in the minds of all future generations, epitomise the word "classical". This period was the naissance (birth) of what was much later in the 14th century to be the renaissance (rebirth) of art and learning. And while the Greek naissance happened, the Parthenon glowed on the flat summit of the Acropolis, a rallying point for Classical Greece, its symbol and its inspiration.
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