Wednesday 1 February 2012

Epigraphic Museum

We had to go and pay yet another unfair, unjustified tax on the flat in Athens yesterday: it was the third yearly property tax we pay on the place we live in, part of a series of taxation policies against the living standards of people in Greece which make bare survival questionable for many. This is in the context of continued tax evasion by the rich while the legal loopholes that structurally allow, encourage even, tax evasion have remained intact. The tax evaders who have been found out owe the state a total of 14.877 billion euros. They are at present being named and shamed - the naming and shaming campaigns that have been organised in the past few months were soon forgotten and there seems no indication that anything will be different this time. Will the named and shamed be prosecuted and the taxes collected rather than the money having to be borrowed from foreigh banks?

But I have gone off the point. We were furious about having to pay this tax while those responsible for the state of the country continue to tax evade, and we wanted to do something nice afterwards - we decided to visit the Epigraphic Museum because it is very near the tax office.

The museum is exactly as I remembered, but not the street outside: there is a real sense of neglect: rubbish, graffitti, real abandonment  - another indication of the inability of the Greek State to look after its citizens or their environment or their cultural heritage.

The little garden at the front is a little oasis in contrast to the wasteland outside

I know this place very well because my father was the Director here. Whenever I was ill or for some other reason could not go to school, I would end up either here or in the lab where my mother worked. So it was a real trip down memory lane visiting here yesterday.

This is a place for academics and scholars - they try to encourage the public to visit but a whole lot of stones with inscriptions on them is of little interest to someone who does not know much about archaeology or who does not understand ancient Greek.

This is where the preparatory work gets done that makes us understand ancient history. When a stone or column or piece of marble is found it is brought here to be studied.

This is an example. Once it is cleaned, wet blotting paper is applied, allowed to dry,

and then it looks like this. By rubbing a pencil gently over the paper one can see the letters even more clearly, and then the scholarly work can begin.

Most stones with inscriptions that are excavated are just fragments and part of the work is finding out which fragments go together. A lot of the writing will have faded away so it is a real skill of scholarship deciding what goes together and then trying to decipher what the fragmented text means.

This piece of marble is the base of the grave monument of Nelonides, made by Endoios, bearing an epigram and the artist's signature

and now we come to the courtyard at the back of the museum


When visiting when I was little, if the museum photographer was there, they would sit me on one of those columns which looked huge to me at that time and they would take my photograph - I have tons of those back at home in the U.K.


  1. I hope you will post some of the photographs of you sitting on the pillars, that would be such fun to see.

    1. The photos are in the U.K. Avril, but I will post some when I get back. It will be fun to see them again....