Save the temple of Aphrodite
A strange secret, a unique document is hidden in the heart of Thessaloniki, Antigonidon Square.
Many of the inhabitants of the area and the members of Friends of Green had as their goal to advance and improve the area and succeeded by creating, with the help of Administration of Green of Municipality of thessaloniki, a beautiful green square. But now they are looking for a way to untangle a field next to the square from the rumble
because it hides a unique treasure! The unique temple of Aphrodite which had been erected in the square of the sacred, centuries ago, to the place the contemporary square is built.
About a year ago, inhabitants, not only of the area, but of the whole Thessaloniki, made a move to expropriate the field and tthe monument to be shown. After almost a year, while the decision of the Expropriation Commitee is taken, the owner of the field hasn`t been comensated yet.
He also resorts to ΣτΕ wishing to reclaim his property, which remains pendingfor many years due to the monument which is located to the particular place.
A square is born,a District in motion
The former Manager of Green and member of the Friends of Green, Christos Apostolidis did the study for the re-creation ofAntigonidon Square, in co-operation withStephano Dagga, motivator of this attempt and also inhabitant of the Antigonidon Square.
"We informed,door to door, the citizens of the area about the attempt of the Municipality of Thessaloniki to advance their neighbourhood but also bout the need for everyone to participate to the quarding of the square from malevolent actions. Besides what has already been done, there is an attempt to put benches and flower beds so as to create a place of entertainment for the citizens who are tired of the constant noise and the heavy traffic. This used to be a quiet neighbourhood. Now, the structure of the population changes gradually. That`s why the attempt has a special value", says in "M" the member of the board of Friends of Green Stephanos Daggas.
The rebirth of Antigonidon Square became real thanks to the money of Green and cost about 5000 euros,it involving plant technique and arbotrist study of the square,while Friends of Green plan to,as President G. Nikolaidis explains,"Have a traffic study",a study of electricity so as the fountain that will be put by the Municipality of Thessaloniki to be shown and it will cost 50000 euros,and in addition,replacement of sidewalk stones and fencing of the arcaeological site.
The inhabitants of the area are determined to shoe off their area,which is at the most central part of the city and it is a reference point of the merchant life of the city.Moreover ,they are willing to pay themselves for the fencing of the field in which the temple of Aphrodite is. Hoever,despite the fact that the"green light "has been given for the compensation of the owner,who `s been suffering many years now due to the laziness of the people who are responsible for this.Everything seems to have come to a stop and the field is being turned day by day into a dump.
"In our area the levels of criminality have increased dramatically.Pilferage is a daily phenomenon.I`m afraid of taking my merchantice out for display",says a shop owner of the area.
"I think that this action of the Green Club, putting flora in Antigonidon Square ,was very important for the whole district.We need green.I return home at night and,despite being tired,I take care of my plants."says a store owner of the area,Kiki Popi.
Aphrodite`s travel from Aineia to Antigonidon Square.
All the same,the treasure which is buried in a field near the square is invaluable for the whole area.The post archaic temple of Aphrodite was known from its scattered Ionic parts throughout Thessaloniki,most of which come from excavations of the foundation ,which took place in 1936 for the erection of the two-storey building which is at the corner of Crystally and Dioikitiriou Street.
In the same area,according to inhabitants testimonies,in the foundations of the building which is opposite the ruins od the temple,there have been found parts of statues,which were hastily buried during the building construction in the 1960s and 1970s.
The area,which is now called Dioikitirio,was known during Roman times of the city as the area of the sacred,since most of the temples dedicated to gods,as well as emperors,were gathered there.
As professor-arcaeologist Giorgos Karatheros,of the depertment of Arcaeology in University, explains:"it seems that this particular temple belongs to the kind of the wanderer temples.In this category belong more temples of the same period.They are temples who were created in one area and then transferred to another one.According to the initial study,Aphrodite`s temple was sisbanded and then re-erected in the same place in the early emperial years of the city.The existance of two huge haphazard letters Δ and ΙΘ in obvious spots of the columns lead researchers to the conclusion that the re-erection of the temple happened for a second time."
This makes one understand that many elements of Roman times were added to Aphrodite`s temple.Moreover,the statues of the goddess Rome and Zeus Aigiohou,which were found at the temple and now are at a special room in Arcaeological Museum of Thessaloniki,leave no doubt that the temple was used as a temple of emperial worship.
But how did Aphrodite`s temple work as centre of worship and what Aineias, who fought in Troy, has to do with it?
It seems Aphrodite`s temple was erected by Aineias,who was said to be her son.At first,the temple was erected at the area that now is at the outskirts of Nea Mihaniona.It is said that Aineias had built his kingdom there,who,naturally,dedicated a temple to his mother to honour her.
But Aineias was creato of the generation of Julos,hence ancestor of Julius Ceasar.So,it is possible that the people of Thessaloniki,who had allied with Antonios(who was,however defeated by Octavian in Aktio),had tried to placate the emperor by transferring the temple ,which was built by the founder of Julos.
In 2000,during the demolition of the two-storey building in the particular field,which is in Antigonidon Square,an excavation took place,organosed by the arcaeologist A.Tasia,who brought to light the hidden rich history of the city.It was then discovered the east part of the crepidoma of the temple,statues of roman years and numerous fragments of architectonic parts,many of which belong together with the already known,which are held in Arcaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
The rest of the temple keeps on going west,under the road surface of Dioikitiriou Street and Antigonidon Square,where nowdays,cars are illigally parked,an area which was never disturbed by construction,fact that gives the certainty thatthe new excavated materialthat will come out will be richer than the already discovered."
Part of the field ,in which ruins of the temple are located, has been excavated,but,as Mr Karatheros explains:"An important part of Dioikitiriou Street and the rest of the field must also be excavated."So it was initially decided that the first findings would be transferred to Arcaeological Museum of Thessaloniki,where they still are till present day.This solution was considered temporary,since, the best solution for the display of the temple is to be placed in its natural space.".The initial decision of Central Arcaeological Council,a little after the excavation of the monument,was for the field in which it was located to be expropriated and to go on with its display.Later,this decision was revised and it was decided to keep some of the findings at the basement of the under construction block of flats.The relevant file of the study for the construction of the block of flats was submitted to ΚΑΣ again,along with the positive recommentation of the responsible tax office.However,the new opinion also was for the expropriation and the attempt of the above mentioned suggested display of the arcaeological relics.Important was the part of the ,at that time, general registrsar of Ministry of Culture ,Chr.Zahopoulos,who played part so as ΚΑΣ to make a new decision about "the expropriation of the field ,having as a goal the continuation of the excavation of the monument and its display".
Finally,last year,the final approval was given for the expropriation of the field.However ,the owner hasn`t been compensated yet.
The Plans for the Use of Antigonidon Square.
"Its architectonic and artistic vallue is great and it could be even greater if we think that the findings so far are only the one third of the findings that can come out with the excavation",says arcaeologist George Karatheros.Before we reach the...hard part of the continuation of the excavation ,what is immediate is for the field to me fenced with bollards and a banner to be put ,which Mr.Karatheros will paint,where the Aphrodite`s temple will be appeared in its initial form.This sole action is very important for the area since it will be totally displayed,while even a bus of ΟΑΣΘ ,the cultural line, could make a stop for the visitors to see where the temple was erected in the general vicinity of the sacred.According to the existing planning proposition,Antigonidon Square can be formed into an airlift,so as the temple to remain visible as a whole and to be re-erected.The temple has six columns, 7 metres high each.The project, as the planning proposition anticipates ,will be placed four metres below the current surface of the road.Huge posters can be placed in the under expropriation field ,informing about the monument,of which the completion of its form,besides the re-erection,can be succeded through holograms."It is a very important monument for the city of Thessaliniki,but also for the whole north Greece ,as well."says George Karatheros as he shows us the field,at the centre of the city,which has been turned into a dump."Its architectonic and artistic vallue is great and it could be even greater if we think that the findings so far are only the one third of the findings that can come out with the excavation"he adds.
Traffic in Antiginidon Square is heavy,as it is every day.The shopkeepers of the area look at the photographer curiously.Perhaps,when the project is completed,a new attraction will be created for Greek and foreign visitors to the hostorical centre of Thessaloniki.