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Monument to Lysicrates

Monument to Lysicrates (16)

The monuments called Choragics were built during antiquity, with the purpose of honouring the winners of the contests of theatrical texts in the Festival of Dionysus. The rich promoters sponsoring the drama groups were called Choregos, hence the name of the monuments in their honour. Now, in Athens there only remains a single intact specimen, and it is the one that is before you, the monument to Lysicrates, who also gives his name to this peaceful square.

This square proudly displays this unique piece as it is not only an honour but even a trophy if you consider that the British Lord Elgin made every effort to take the statue to England, as he did with a large number of the marbles from the Acropolis.

You might be interested to know that Choragic monuments, apart from nobly proclaiming the winners of the dramatic competitions, served to house, at the top, the bronze trophies with which they were rewarded. If you look closely at the monument that dominates the square, you will not know where exactly the trophy was housed. Look no further, because, oddly enough, the trophy is the only part that is lost of the monument of Lysicrates.

This simple work dates back to 334 BC Made of marble, it consists of a large pedestal and some steps on which stands a small temple which boasts six columns with Corinthian capitals. On these, there is a marble dome and a basket with acanthus leaves on which the bronze trophy was placed. Although the description sounds like a motley collection of layers of different elements, the monument exudes a simple elegance.

If you look closely, you can admire how the inscription revealing who erected the monument is preserved. It says that Lysicrates was the patron of the winning chorus in the competition, and also tells who made up his team. The temple also has a frieze carved with scenes from the life of Dionysus, as one would expect in a monument devoted to the theatre.

But the history of this monument does not end here; the fact is that in the more recent past it was also linked to other areas of letters. Thus, between 1669 and 1821 this monument housed the library of the Franciscan monks, and inspired authors of the prestige of the romantic Chateaubriand and the likes of Lord Byron, who acknowledges this monument as the source of his inspiration for his poem Childe Harold.

This square, then, is touched by the magic of letters which seems to exude from the one and only monument of Lysicrates. Maybe a coffee on one of the terraces will cause you to dig deeper into your pocket than in any other place in town but if, in exchange, you will find inspiration, it may be worthwhile, don't you think?

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