One More Greek Tragedy

Temple of Apollo in Didyma
Temple of Apollo in Didyma
Text by Glenn Maffia

I am desperately trying to withhold my boiling anger at this moment, for if I were to vent my spleen, it would serve no purpose. And my purpose is to enlighten some minds which reside within a twilight world of dimness.

The dinner party for members of a company called Koç Holdings in the Pronaos of the Temple of Apollo must be, to any person possessing a sensibility, anathema. Whilst the hoisting in of a Grand Piano by a heavy-duty crane which is contrary to the, albeit rather liquid, regulations in place which define this area as a protected status, is tantamount to silly. Here we have one of the greatest and most famous of ancient structures, one that would have been on the list of the Ancient Wonders of the World if only it were fully completed, hired out to a commercial company. 'Aghast' is probably the least offensive of the words I could summon at this point.

Misplaced authority

Evidently, permission was granted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Ankara, and they do have the authority to issue such an edict.

That thought leads me to suggest, as I have for years now, that having a Ministry of Culture and Tourism is anathema in itself. Culture and Tourism are not, and never shall be, conducive to one another.

Tourism kills what it comes to see, in this case, culture, but also nature and the human habitation, as we continue to witness here in Didim.

Culture, by definition, will be less than tolerant to tourism, as it shall certainly threaten the existence of that which it seeks to preserve. Even a balance is never possible, for the two are incompatible.

Sacrilege in the Temple

There is also the small matter of taste to be addressed. I am fully aware that the ancient pagan religions of the Greeks and the Romans have been long usurped by their present-day variations on a theme. Though isn't it rather tactless to despoil a belief once so highly venerated by such illustrious peoples? A little empathy would not go amiss.

Admittedly, as atrocities go, this event is very low upon the totem pole. Though shouldn't we have a little more compassion for the past which has shaped us today, gave us our ideals of governance and implemented laws for the benefit of all? I could continue this list ad infinitum, but that serves adequately for my purposes here.

Yes, people can point to the concerts performed in, say, Ephesus. That was within the theatre which was designed for that form of entertainment, not in a temple sacred to our ancestors. I went to a performance at Ephesus Theatre and, believe me; it would not have passed any Health & Safety measure in Europe. Positively perilous.

Apologist is mistaken

Speaking in defence of this decision to grant permission for this event, Aydın Province Culture and Tourism Director Murat Yilmaz stressed that the correct protocols were taken with the General Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

He continued, "Our Minster has a serious protocol process. These studies are being carried out in line with the views of our Ministry for international promotion (i.e. tourism). Ninety per cent of the participants of this organisation at the Didyma Apollo Temple consisted of foreign names, top executives from around the world". All of who have a business connection with Koç Holdings.

Mr Yilmaz could not have attended this gathering for he categorically stated that "There is a condition from our Ministry for mats to cover (the flagstones so the) chairs placed there so that the historical texture is not damaged".

I can only surmise this "mat protection" would have included the Grand Piano also. Nice comforting words Mr Yilmaz, except there were no maps laid upon the marble flagstones and I have photographic evidence to back that statement.

Cultural faux pas

I trust that questions shall be asked at the highest rung of the ladder, a few harsh words administered to those responsible. It would be extremely convenient to know who was ultimately responsible. Though those are questions that this country must address, I agree it is not for an outsider to intervene. Nonetheless, the World is watching, we all live in a goldfish bowl these days. Whilst this country’s ambition to have the artefacts which originally resided in this part of the world repatriated from the museums of Europe and America looks a little further away now. Museum executives, directors and trustees will just sigh and say, "If they cannot look after what they already have, how can we return these artefacts which belong to each and every soul that walks upon this planet?"

Do you think they have a point?

The photos of the Koç Holdings event in the Temple of Apollo can be seen on the website of Mavi Didim.