May 6, 2004

Parthenon Lost – A Socratic dialogue

Posted at 5:25 pm in Elgin Marbles

Philosopher & playwright Constantine Sandis has written a Socratic Dialogue about the Parthenon Sculptures. This play, Parthenon Lost is due to be performed in Oxford, as part of the Oxford University Greek festival.

Oxford Greek Festival news

Parthenon Lost
A Dialogue about the Parthenon Sculptures
By Constantine Sandis

Parthenon Lost is a one-act playlet of intelligence and revealing humour, which uses the form of Socratic dialogue to illuminate the moral and philosophical questions raised by the Parthenon marbles.

MICHAEL PENNINGTON, the veteran British actor renowned for his performances in Shakespeare and Chekhov, will be playing Socrates. The play will be presented in the form of a rehearsed reading.

The dialogue, is set in modern-day Athens and takes place between Romia (a Greek nationalist), Curtis (an English scholar of Classics) Dion (a reporter from the continent) and Thallos (a beautiful art-loving Greek youth). These characters have recently returned from visiting the Parthenon (having gathered there for some occasion) and consequently their discussion naturally drifts towards the question of the marbles.

Each of the characters represents a position (or an amalgam of positions) currently held about the marbles. Thus, Curtis insists on the legalities of ownership and the current good care of the works, Thallos reminds us of their energy and beauty, Romia claims that the pieces are linked to the democratic politics of the city and Dion is a cynic who distrusts the very notions which the others use.

Occasionally interrupted by Romias’ in-house Albanian maid Drita (who cannot speak much English) they begin to ponder the question of return and only to find themselves become confused and entangled in their own arguments. It is then that Socrates makes an unexpected appearance, explaining that he has argued himself back into existence. He then proceeds to guide the discussion. The speakers argue towards an increasing climax during which Socrates manages to both mock their impatience and prejudices, and extricate what is right in their arguments, ending with a great aria about what belonging means – in terms of identity, meaning, place, roots, and the way universality is planted in a place and time.

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