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The less tangible side of the destruction August 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.

Recollections of times past are now left to the imagination > Prehistoric remains at Kafkania, some 7 kms north of Olympia, and part of Ileia province, abundant in remnants from various periods.

Amid the terrible loss of human life, as well as the economic and ecological impact of the major fires in the Peloponnese, a further setback has come to complete the overall tragedy, this being the damage inflicted on the region’s cultural network.

For it is not just Ancient Olympia or the temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, one of the most important and imposing temples of antiquity, which, not surprisingly, have attracted most of the attention. The devastation has also struck the unique cultural structure of the region’s villages and larger towns, which has traditionally been the lifeblood of a wider area that stretches far beyond the respective geographical boundaries. The fires have made a mess of the regional infrastructure, including dirt roads, footpaths, cemeteries, excavations, shrines, walls, small and large parts of history, like village churches or oak trees.

“My childhood memories were burnt along with all the photos,” one devastated woman told media crews last Sunday night.

The numerous voids caused by the destruction and the links with the past that have now been destroyed, leaves too much up to the imagination, which will gradually wane.

At this point in time, nobody knows how many families have lost their livelihoods and sense of personal history. Nobody is in a position to judge whether the role of a historic town such as Andritsaina, a pivotal town in the central Peloponnese with an important library, will ever be the same again without an active and organized economy. It is as if this catastrophe has eliminated a network of human journeys that have, on a daily basis, provided the raw materials necessary for culture at a regional level.

Apart from the immediate, tangible loss, this tragedy has also been the cause of a severe loss of culture on an intangible level, things mostly generated on a daily basis.

Now that the daily basis of life is in complete disarray, and the psychology of citizens is overwhelmed, culture, in the broader sense of the term, as generated by daily life and manifested through creativity, has taken a step backward. The inclination and the will for its re-establishment will return, but for the time being all we can do is record a period of great darkness.

Security has been raised significantly at archaeological sites of huge importance, such as Epidaurus and Mycenae in the prefecture of Argolida, following the scare at Ancient Olympia. The Culture Ministry has released a detailed list with information provided by local archaeological officials from all regions affected by the fires. The sites at Mystras and Monemvasia remain closed “for the protection of visitors and monuments,” the Culture Ministry announced in a statement.

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