Then and Now: the Acropolis, Athens

When we were setting up the HEIR project, photographer and archaeology student Persefoni Lesgidi volunteered to rephotograph some of our HEIR images of Athens, with unexpected results.

The upper image shows the Erectheum at the Acropolis, Athens (HEIR ID 38087). Persefoni’s photograph illustrates the changes that have taken place between c1890, when George Washington Wilson recorded the site, and today. There has been considerable ‘tidying up’ and renovation of the structure, and almost all the topsoil around the building has been removed, along with the many pieces of building material which were once lying scattered around the site. The changes to the building itself, however, seem insignificant compared to the background: Persefoni’s photograph captures the extraordinary growth of the city across the landscape.

The urban sprawl is even more dramatic in this second set of images. In the late 19th century, when George Washington Wilson took this view from the Areopagus (Mars Hill), Athens (HEIR ID 39183), the dominant building below the hill was the Acropolis. Today, the Acropolis emerges from trees (largely planted to give shade to tourists), and no longer draws the eye, surrounded as it is by a busy city.

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Sometimes it is difficult for a modern visitor to identify how much of what exists today at a heritage site is reconstructed. A comparison of Wilson’s late 19th century photograph of the West Front of the Parthenon (HEIR ID 38060) with Persefoni’s recent photograph shows just how much has changed.

This is just a sample of the unexplored stories of change lying behind our ‘then and now’ HEIR project.

 

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