Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Salamis after twenty-five centuries

This article was published by the Sewanee Review.

1. What Salamis achieved 

The marble doorway leading in and out of the Acropolis offers the departing guest a framed view of the Salamis Strait, thirteen kilometers away. The University of California archaeologist John Papadopoulos, who made this observation, believes that is deliberate. 

The Battle of Salamis, which took place twenty-five hundred years ago in that strait, successfully pitted an Athenian-led navy of three hundred ships against a Persian-led one of twelve hundred. It was perhaps the unlikeliest Athenian military victory of all time but gave Athens mastery of the Aegean. She used it to build a maritime empire offering Greek city states Athenian-style democracies and security guarantees against Persia. 

The doorway itself is part of the Propylaia, or foregate, of the Acropolis: a grand, colonnaded passage built, like the temples behind it, with the proceeds of that empire. It also happens to stand on the spot where an aristocratic-led party of landlubbers who, having refused to give up the city and entrust their fate to the navy, erected a wooden palisade against the invading Persian army and were killed beside it. It is irresistible to imagine that Perikles, the Athenian general who commissioned the Propylaia, meant to create a permanent pointer to the city’s greatest victory upon the site of its greatest miscalculation. 

Controversial concrete paths on the Acropolis are part of a grand restoration

This article was published by Al Jazeera

ATHENS, Greece – A concrete controversy is raging over the Acropolis in Athens. 

Architects and archaeologists say that re-paving pathways for visitors on the millennia-old monument with concrete is a barbaric intervention. 

“It’s a crime to wound the Rock, because it’s a monument,” architect Tasos Tanoulas told local newspaper EfSyn, using shorthand for the Acropolis, an ancient fortress and temple complex which towers 150m above the city of Athens. 

“[The pathway] imposes itself aesthetically with its modern appearance and its sheer size, said Despoina Koutsoumba, president of the Association of Hellenic Archaeologists. “The scene of a concrete city that we see from on top of the Acropolis has now climbed up onto the Acropolis itself.” 

Stuck in the waiting room: Albania's years-long bid to join the EU

This article was published by Al Jazeera

TIRANA, Albania – The prospect of Albania’s EU membership has lost its shine for Jonara Hoxha. Six years ago she opted to study medicine in Tirana rather than the foreign universities that accepted her. 

“I really thought that if I left I would lose [my] place in my country, and sometimes I thought that I would lose my place even in my family,” she says. “So I stayed here, and I regret it, that decision of mine.” 

Now in her final-year, she is making plans to go to Germany to specialise as a general surgeon. It’s not just that starting salaries in Germany are many times higher than the $600 euros a month she would earn in Albania. She is disappointed that many of her faculty never showed up for class, leaving students to fend for themselves; and she says doctors in Albania are often viewed with suspicion, suffering verbal and physical attacks. 

All this has convinced her that Albania is far from becoming a truly European society anytime soon.