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The Other "Parthenon": Antiquity and National Memory at Makronisos

From: Journal of Modern Greek Studies
Volume 20, Number 2, October 2002
pp. 307-338 | 10.1353/mgs.2002.0025

Abstract

Makronisos, the small, uninhabited island off the Attica coast, was the location of the most notorious concentration camp set up by the Greek government during the Civil War (1946-1949). It was a place of brutality, torture, and death, but its distinctive feature was its role as an indoctrination center for many thousands of political dissidents (mostly left-wing soldiers and citizens, but also ethnic and religious minorities) who, after they were "re-educated" in the national dogmas, were sent to fight against their ex-comrades. Classical antiquity was one of the main ideological foundations of this "experiment," the audience for which was the whole of Greece and the international community. In the island, still known as "The New Parthenon," the "redeemed" inmates were encouraged to build replicas of classical monuments, and the regime's discourse emphasized the perceived incompatibility of the inmates' "destiny" (as descendants of ancient Greeks) with left-wing ideologies. Paradoxically, many of the counter-discourses of the Makronisos inmates and their supporters also subscribed to the essentialist discourse of continuity and ancestral glory. This paper situates this phenomenon within the broader context of the role of antiquity in modern Greek society; it also examines the topological construction of Makronisos as a heterotopia where the panopticism of classical antiquity (the watchful eye of History and Destiny) merged surveillance with spectacle.



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