The buildings of the hilltop citadel of the Acropolis have dominated the skyline over Athens, Greece, for two thousand five hundred years, but they have suffered the worst damage and deterioration in the last 25 years.
The buildings of the hilltop citadel of the Acropolis have dominated the skyline over Athens, Greece, for two thousand five hundred years, but they have suffered the worst damage and deterioration in the last 25 years. Since the Second World War the stone and marble of which they are built have suffered extensively form the chemicals and dirt now polluting the air over the Greek capital.
The Environmental Society of Greece recently gave a warning about the seriousness of these twentieth century threats to the fabric of the buildings. They also pointed out that the massive increase in the number of tourists walking around the buildings each year, and the vibrations from aircraft flying over the Acropolis were also causing damage.
In 1968 and 1969 a special Commission from INESCO made two visits to examine the deterioration of the Acropolis buildings. In their subsequent report they listed two series of causes for the damage. The first was the environmental pollution in which chemicals - mainly carbon and sulfuric acid from car exhausts and factories - became deposited in cracks and fissures in the stone and marble. The second source of damage mentioned by the Commission was the inadequacy of previous attempts at restoration where improper materials had been used. Many of the early restorers, for instance, had used iron and concrete.
The Commission recommended three necessary steps for preserving the ancient masterpieces. The most urgent was for the buildings and sculptures to be cleaned regularly so that harmful deposit were not given time to inflict permanent damage. Secondly, there had to be a more frequent maintenance process which would remove salt from the fabric left by the breezes blowing in from the sea. The third and most difficult recommendation was that eventually the sculptures and reliefs on the buildings should be removed and replaced by reproductions. The replicas would remain in place until a method had been found to protect the carvings from the harmful elements of the atmosphere.
The word Acropolis is the ancient term for any citadel built on top of a hill or on a well defended site. The Athens Acropolis therefore includes several buildings, and one of the most famous, the parthenon, is now thought to be in danger of total collapse.
A recent report from the Professor of Geology at Athens University, Mr. Iannis Tgrikallinos, said that the building, erected as a temple to Athena, is threatened by rock fissures and caves underneath.