Lysicrates Monument, Plaka area

Here’s an ancient architectural marvel dating from 335 BC that was replicated many times in British and French gardens over the last few centuries, with renditions reaching the US and Australia as well. The Lysicrates Monument in the Plaka area was commissioned by Lysicrates, a rich patron of artistic performances, to honor a prize-winning performance that he had sponsored.

This is the first time that the Corinthian order or architectural style was used on the outside of a building. It is sadly the only remaining choragic (sponsorship) monuments on Tripodon Street, which in ancient times led directly to the nearby Theater of Dionysus (excavators have unearthed the foundation of other monuments that were lost over the centuries).

It was thanks to a French monastery built around the monument in 1699 that kept it protected. The monument was almost pilfered away by the then British emissary Lord Elgin who took the Parthenon Marbles to Britain. Luckily his bid to rob Athens of this architectural masterpiece did not succeed.

On the monument itself, you’ll still find an Ancient Greek inscription that acknowledges the sponsorship of Lysicrates and relates how “the Akamantid tribe carried off the victory in the boy’s choirs, where Theon was the flute-player, Lysiades of Athens the choir-master, and Evainetos the archon”. There are also friezes from the story of the god Dionysus and the pirates – specifically the Tyrrhenian pirates being transformed into dolphins by Dionysus, as well as much detailed work on the Acanthian columns.

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