Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ancient Wreath Returns to Greece

By Malcolm Brabant BBC News, Athens

A spectacular golden wreath dating back to the 4th Century BC is due to go on display at the National Archaeology Museum in Greece. The Macedonian wreath was returned to Athens at the weekend by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Greece fought for 10 years to prove that it had been illegally spirited out of the country. The restitution of the wreath is part of a campaign aimed at restoring the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles to Greece.

Now restored to its rightful home, the wreath is one of the most exquisite treasures in Greece. It is a floral crown, a confection of realistic leaves and flowers made of gold foil attached to a slender headband 28cm (11in) in diameter.

It was probably made after the death of Alexander the Great and worn on ceremonial occasions. Experts believe it was buried with the remains of its owner in northern Greece.

The Getty Museum purchased the wreath from a Swiss dealer in 1993 for just over $1m (750,000 euros; £500,000).

Last year, the Americans finally agreed to return their prized possession after the Greeks convinced them that it had been illegally excavated and smuggled out of the country.

The Getty's director, Michael Brand, told the BBC in a statement that everyone was saddened to see the wreath leaving, but that returning it to Greece was the correct action to take.

Greece hopes that other museums will now follow the Getty's example. In particular, it wants the British Museum in London to hand back the frieze known as the Elgin, or Parthenon, Marbles.

Greece claims they were stolen by Lord Elgin in 1801, but the British Museum insists that Lord Elgin legally obtained the Marbles from Greece's then rulers, the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Moral pressure on Britain is due to increase later this year when Greece opens the new Acropolis Museum, complete with an empty space designed to show off the marbles in Aegean light, instead of what critics call "a gloomy cellar in London's Bloomsbury district".

Story from BBC NEWS.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Greek Critics Rip '300,' but Audiences Love It

THERMOPYLAE, Greece (AP) -- Greece's critics hated "300," but moviegoers here are lining up to watch the gory recreation of the Battle of Thermopylae in record numbers -- happy to lap up the Hollywood thrills and take an indulgent view of what detractors call a butchery of their ancient history.

The film had a record opening weekend in Greece with 325,000 ticket sales. That easily exceeded the previous mark set last year by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (220,000).

Inspired by Frank Miller's graphic novel, the movie directed by Zach Snyder is about 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas holding off hundreds of thousands of invading Persians -- and the odd imaginary monster -- at a mountain pass in Greece.

Critics dismissed the movie as gratuitously violent and historically inaccurate, one magazine describing it as a "bloodlust videogame."

They were soon drowned out by moviegoers.

"The film was incredible on all counts. It's the first time I've heard a cinema audience clap at the end of a movie," said Nikos Mastoris, who owns a comic bookstore in Athens. "The photography, the music, and all the scenes are really brilliant. The movie is very faithful to the comic book."
Haris Antonopoulos of distributors Village Roadshow said ticket sales of "300" in Greece have topped the 1 million mark -- out of a population of 11 million -- and is on course to beat the record-setting "Loufa kai parallagi: Sirines sto Egeo," a movie about life as a Greek army conscript which sold 1.4 million tickets in 2005.

The movie is showing at some 70 screens in the Athens area alone and double that nationwide. Cinemas in rural towns have added special midnight screenings to cope with demand.
The village of Thermopylae, population 250, lies about 125 miles north of Athens, and is marked by a modern monument near the country's main highway to the battle fought in 480 B.C.
Most villagers still haven't seen the movie because the nearest cinema is in the city of Lamia, an hour's drive to the north, but are still proud of its success. (The film has grossed more than $162 million in the United States alone so far, had a two-week run at No. 1 and after its third weekend still was No. 2, according to box office tracker Media by Numbers LLC.)

Local archaeologist Elena Froussou watched "300" and couldn't help being impressed.
"The movie was great spectacle," said Froussou. "There were many inaccuracies, but the movie (generally) does base itself on reality."

In the battle, King Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler) led a small force which fought to the death against the invading Persians, to give Athens valuable time to prepare its defenses and ultimately defeat the army of Emperor Xerxes I (Rodrigo Santoro).

Historians believe Leonidas was not a young man, unlike the way he's presented in the movie. And Sparta, of course, was not a democracy as it is depicted in the movie but a fearsome military power ruled with absolute authority.

Greek movie fans didn't seem to mind the history-bending or the comic-book style. And Greek Internet bloggers zealously defended the fantasy-laden movie -- many arguing that "300" stands up historically, although it is spiced up with allegorical interpretations. Xerxes' colossal proportions, they say, represent his inflated ego and monsters in his army represent an invincible force in the eyes of Greeks.

The Iranian government, which has drawn international condemnation over its nuclear program, has objected to the film's depiction of ancient Persia as barbaric and for what it sees as a politically loaded, West vs. Iran story line.

Copyright 2007 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Remember the... Souli

Reminder... Sunday is March 25th!

While the big, fat Greek parade does not hit NY streets until April 15th, there are a number of Greek Independence Day celebrations taking place throughout the tri-state area this weekend.

Stay tuned for a highlight of some of the key functions, as well as other opportunities to support the Greek Independence Day parade that will take place (and be TELEVISED) on April 15th, 2007.

Zhtw to '21!

P.S. Remember the Souli... as in Remember the Alamo, but instead the Souli, where the ladies danced their way off the cliff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

YouTube, MyTake - Turkey and censorship

While the commentary may be delayed, I wanted to acknowledge the ironic turn of events that recently took place on YouTube earlier this month and brought into focus problems about the Turkish (and by that I mean government) reality.

While the original video was likely posted by an ill-educated man, the absurdity is that this act simply demonstrated that the Turkish government holds Turkey and its people hostage under third-world terms. To compare, the entire world alludes to sexually compromising assumptions when it discusses key Greek historical figures, from Alexander to the philosophers, but there is a greater recognition that no such discussion can diminish the greatness of their successes... neither does the government decree against the will of others to discuss their opinions.

It is fitting perhaps... one is known as the cradle of democracy - the other is still trying to (re)write its history.

While the Turkish government and its tourist boards employ high-brow PR and advertising agencies to lure tourist dollars, euros and yen to Turkey and lobbies the EU for membership, it simultaneously invokes laws into action that make freedom of speech a crime. The same law criminalizes the country's own greatest minds and insults the intelligence of its people by suggesting that they cannot partake in discourse to defend Turkish ideals.

What is the Turkish government so worried about? It's own people?

What's worse? In the global quest to democratize other nations, this bastardization of the democratic essence is accepted by silence... a benefit granted by the "Great Powers" - US, UK and others, and enjoyed by the Turkish government for all too long a time... just ask Armenians, Pontians, the diaspora of Smyrni and Constantinople...oh wait, asking is not an option... most are tragically gone.


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