chapter  6
28 Pages

The Central Archaeological Council

This poem by Nicos Gatsos, set to music by M. Hadzidakis, and written for the ancient sanctuary at Eleusis, devoted to the goddesses Dimitra and her daughter Persephone, was one of the reasons why I embarked on this project. It captures with great and sharp intensity both the deterioration of the modern city of Eleusis (discussed below) and the dilemmas, the limitations and the shortcomings that central state action and state decision-making mechanisms meet with in almost every effort to harmonize new investments with national heritage protection. It means roughly the following:

There, where it smelled of pennyroyal and wild mint and the earth grew her first cyclamen now peasants bargain over cement and birds fall into the blast-furnace dead

There, where with their hands spread first initiates devoutly entered the sanctuary now tourists throw away their butt-ends and go to view the new refinery

There, where the sea was once a boon and benedictory the plain’s bleats now lorries carry to the shipyards hollow bodies scrap kids and metal sheets

Sleep, Persephone in the bosom of the earth on the world’s balcony never emerge again. N. Gatsos, Persephone’s Nightmare

The CAC: A Bureaucratic ‘Lab’

Bureaucratic processes are usually viewed as ideological mechanisms for the justification of political economic power.1 However, if carefully examined, state bureaucracy can be revealed to hold an unanticipated potential for emancipatory social change, as in the case we are about to consider, that of the Greek Central Archaeological Council. The CAC counts among the most respected decision-making state mechanisms in

Greece. It protects national patrimony by regulating the (re)production of images of the past, and of memory in Greek society. In its breast, aesthetic judgments over heritage, urban planning and the environment loom large. Such judgments made in bureaucratic contexts intermingle, and occasionally mask, a variety of processes, including the choice of national or local development trajectories, ideological struggles over national and local identities, relations with foreign powers and influences, and the sense of national self-respect. The symbolic use of ancient monuments, particularly in a country like Greece, is deeply implicated in attempts to establish social coherence through the eternalizing, narrativizing and naturalizing role of ideology.2