“Respect the gods”, Alexandre Mitchell, 2023 (50 x 70cm, Indian ink)

The Athenian acropolis has had a turbulent history since antiquity. Lately, it has been in the news because of the ongoing battle between the Greek and British governments to reunite the extraordinary Parthenon marbles, most of which are still in the British Museum.

This drawing is inspired by Antigone’s convictions to respect the gods and their laws, and in particular to bury the dead. I chose a key event, the sack of Athens in 480 BCE The temples of the Athenian Acropolis were destroyed and their divine images defiled by the Persian armies of Xerxes I during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Once the foreign armies had returned to the East, leaving the city in ruins, the Athenians had no choice but to bury their divine images and dozens of dedicated korai deep in the rock, as they could no longer be venerated or moved in a secular context. To keep the landscape sacred, the injured living gods were buried in sacred soil. This painful buried memory gave rise to one of the most exceptional buildings ever created, the luminous Parthenon.