War as Cause of Genesis and Obliteration of Monuments (The Case of the Athenian Acropolis)

  • Demosthenes Giraud


The Persian sea invasion at the coasts of Attica in the 490 b.C, the victory of Miltiades in the marshy battlefield of Marathon, the return of the Persian army under Xerxes ten years later, resulting the burning of the city of Athens and the Acropolis in revenge for the destruction of Sardis, are well known history. The victorious naval battle of Salamis by the allied Greek fleet, brought about a major overturning of the situation, followed by the devastation of the Persian army at Plataea in the summer of 479 BC. From this point onward Athens developed into a hegemonic power among the Greeks.

The abundant spoils of war and the financial contributions that the Athenians imposed to their allies, made it possible for the city of Athens to be rebuilt and to thrive. Acropolis from a local stronghold and refuge, right after the end of the Persian wars started evolving to a major Hellenic religious center, a place of art and culture. The older temples destroyed by the Persians, were replaced by new expensive magnificent monuments in white marble of fine proportions, optical refinements and various embellishments, all applied in a renovative architectonic synthesis of everlasting beauty.

On the other hand, war again is to blame for the destruction of these monuments, a process that took place centuries later, as the power of the Roman Empire in decline, permitted to the various barbarian tribes to raid the Roman provinces, including Athens, pillaging its treasures. After the fall of Constantinople (1454), the Acropolis, center of the Duchy of Athens (1205-1456), passed peacefully from the last Florentine Duce, Francesco II Acciajuoli to the Turks.

Two centuries later, the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1683-1695 proved to be disastrous for all the classical buildings of the Acropolis, which still retained most of their original structure intact, despite the medieval architectural additions, due to its change of use. In 1687, the Venetians occupied Athens and sieged the Athenian Acropolis. The heavy exploding bombs who were lanced by the Venetian cannons, broke the roof tiles and penetrated in the interior of the ancient monuments, destroying them, since the Turks kept there their ammunitions.

The acts of this irrational disaster, which brought no permanent benefits to Venice, are reviewed here, drawing on data found in various historical records and previous researches done in the Venetian archives, with a contemporary critical view based on new observations made at the monuments in Athens and in Venice.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Demosthenes Giraud
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Emeritus director for the Restoration of Ancient Monuments and Technical Projects of the Hellenic Ministry of CultureAthensGreece
  2. 2.Lifetime member of the Archeological Society of AthensAthensGreece

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