Friday, February 16, 2007

Graves of warriors open to the public

Source: IOL

Athens - Ancient Greek graves holding the remains of warriors slain in the Peloponnesian War, one of antiquity's deadliest conflicts, will soon be accessible to visitors in Athens, an archaeologist said on Wednesday.

"We have the remains of Athenian warriors of the Peloponnesian War carried there from battlefield funeral pyres," supervising archaeologist Haris Stoupa told reporters.

"We're not sure of the exact battle as we were not fortunate enough to find engravings," she added.

Discovered in the Athens district of Kerameikos in 1997, the site is part of a one-kilometre-wide cemetery dedicated to Athenian warriors and prominent citizens that still lies mostly buried under modern buildings.

The cemetery was created shortly after the Battle of Marathon against the Persians in 480 BC and remained in use until the Roman Wars against Carthage, Stoupa said.

According to 2nd-century Greek chronicler Pausanias, among heroes buried there is Pericles, leader of Athens during the city-state's golden era that saw the building of the Parthenon.

Archaeologists will place a protective canopy over the site to enable visitors to see into the graves, Stoupa said.

The project will be completed in 2008.

Pitting two superpowers of the era - democratic Athens and oligarchic Sparta - against one another, the Peloponnesian War raged on and off for nearly 30 years (431-404 BC) across Greece,
with related conflicts in Asia Minor and Sicily.

It was a disaster for Athens, and established Sparta as the dominant power in ancient Greece. - Sapa-AFP