Scene Showing Orthodox Defacement of Parthenon Cut from Museum Film

From the AP:

A scene from an animated film shown to visitors at the new Acropolis Museum that depicts Christian priests destroying parts of the Parthenon has been deleted following protests by the Greek Orthodox Church. The creator of the segment, Greek-born French filmmaker Constantin Costa-Gavras, has demanded that his name be taken off the film credits in protest.

The film is a computer-generated short showing the vicissitudes endured by the Parthenon over the centuries. We see the famous explosion of 1687 and the looting of the relief sculpture by Lord Elgin – but there’s also a few seconds (at 1:36) showing an earlier period, when Orthodox Christians defaced the sculpture as part of the process of converting the building into a church. Given the significance of the Parthenon to Greek nationalism – and continued annoyance in Greece at British justifications for not returning the sculptures on grounds of preservation – the Orthodox Church would doubtless rather this point were glossed over. However, the Church denies that any protest was made, just that the film was discussed at the Holy Synod. Culture Minister Antonis Samaras then made the decision to cut the film; the museum’s director, Dimitris Pantermalis, initially defended the scene, but – emulating the building itself – he eventually crumbled:

Pantermalis later released a statement defending the cuts in the film as “an effort to eliminate misunderstanding and not censorship at all.”

Samaras has been Culture Minister since January; according to Balkan Insight:

Samaras has long been a hardliner on the “Macedonian Question” and other Greek national issues, and was publicly behind the idea of an “Orthodox axis” in the Balkans during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Mary Beard’s book The Parthenon relates (p. 55):

At the sacred east end, the scene of the birth of Athena would hardly have suited the new church and was promptly removed from the pediment. The old metope panels presented a trickier problem. It would have required a major demolition to take them down, so along most of three sides of the building they were systematically defaced, hacked away until their subjects were unrecognisable.

Other sculpture survived, perhaps because it was difficult to see or because it could be given a Christian or secular interpretation. The figures depicted in the film may or may not be priests, but the defacement would almost certainly have had official church approval.

Costa-Gavras’ outraged reaction to the cut was to be expected; his film Z is set in a fictional European dictatorship loosely based on Greece under the Colonels, and ends with a news report of various characters being killed or imprisoned, followed by a long list of authors and cultural expressions banned by the regime:

(Hat tip: Bill Weinberg. First video via GRReporter)

5 Responses

  1. Next week the revisionists visit the Inquisition!

  2. Thanks a lot for this version of the news, it’s the most complete one I’ve found…
    When I see this kind of things I understand why the Gods made me Hellenic without living in Greece.

  3. […] July, as I blogged here, a film which depicts Christians destroying pagan sculpture on the Parthenon provoked the ire of […]

  4. I hope you would not mind if I posted a part of this on my univeristy blog?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.