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A new edition of Mary Beard’s book “The Parthenon”

Anyone who read the first edition of Mary Beard’s [1] book; The Parthenon [2], will be pleased to hear that a revised version of it is planned, which will take into account the fact that the New Acropolis Museum discussed in the first edition has now opened & is quite liked by the author [3].

The Times Blogs [4]

January 15, 2010
The “new” Parthenon, my new edition?

I wrote my little book on the Parthenon about a decade ago. It looked at the material of, and from, the temples in all its different locations — from the Acropolis itself to the diaspora of the Parthenon in London, Paris, Rome and Wurzburg and other places.

Things have changed a little since then. A small fragment of the Parthenon frieze (and I mean very small) has been sent “back” to Athens from Heidelberg (thanks, largely to a Greek then in the administration of the University of Heidelberg); another, slightly larger piece, has gone back from Palermo.

But the biggest development since I wrote is the opening of the new Acropolis Museum last year. You can hardly have a book on the Parthenon on sale, which laments the fact that the new museum has still not yet opened after years of delay, when any visitor to Athens see a great pile the size of a multi-storey car park standing about 300 metres from the Acropolis.

So a new edition is called for.

I am actually quite a fan of the inside of this museum, as I have said before — and I think that the display of the archaic sculptures from the Acropolis is particularly good.

But, in the new edition of the book, I am also wanting to capture something of the controversies that have surrounded it. (Everything about the Parthenon, you might say, turns to controversy — which is part of its wondrous status!)

That is partly a question of the long stop/start process of getting the building off the ground in the first place, and the various architectural competitions held…and the wildly different proposals. Daniel Libeskind, for example, put in a scheme, which won second prize — but flagrantly disregarded the rules. The brief was to construct a museum which incorporated the Parthenon marbles in as close a relationship as possible to the original layout on the building. Instead, Libeskind — in a typical up yours gesture — disaggregated them and paraded the individual sections of sculpture rather as if they were paintings in a gallery. The award of second prize was to say that he would have won if he played by the rules.

But there have been good controversies since the construction too — not only the on/off (now off) demolition of the two large houses that stand between the museum and the rock, but also the fuss about the museum’s information video on the history of the Parthenon (it is said — how true I am not sure — that the Orthodox church objected because it showed iconoclasts who looked for all the world like orthodox priests HACKING at the Parthenon metopes).

Of course there’s the question too of what kind of experience it gives you of the Parthenon. If anyone’s who’s visited has any reaction, I’d love to hear.