Photo: © George E. Koronaios, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Choregic Monument of Thrasyllos
The Choregic Monument of Thrasyllos is a memorial monument erected in 320-319 BCE, in the middle of the vertical carved rock above the Theater of Dionysus of the south face of the Acropolis of Athens. Thrasyllos was a rich Athenian who built the monument in order to hold the tripod he won in the drama contest he took part. The monument was modified in 272/70 BCE by Thrasycles the son of Thrasyllos, victorious choregos (sponsor) of the theatre competition during the time of Pytharatos' archonship (271/270 BC). The choragic monument consisted of a marble façade in front of the natural cave. The natural hollow in the rock has been enlarged in order to form the interior of the monument. Its façade consisted of two door openings, an ionic frieze and a cornice which supported the bases for the tripods. The frieze is decorated with a single wreath of ivy leaves in the middle and ten olive wreaths, five on either side of the ivy wreath.
The monument along with the cave was converted into a Christian church during the Early-Christian times and was dedicated to the “Virgin Mary of the Rocks”. Remains of this period can still be seen in the interior of the cave. Beautiful wall paintings depicting Saint Spyridon and John the Evangelist and an impressive marble icon depicting the Dormition of the Virgin Mary have been restored and provide useful information on the monument’s double history. Testimony from 17th foreign travelers, confirms the existence of the Christian church and the condition of the monument was displayed in 18th and early 19th century pictorial material. Those drawings testify the existence of a statue of Dionysus. The statue was violently removed in 1802 by Lord Elgin and is now exhibited in the British Museum. The monument stood in a perfect condition until 1827 when it was bombed and destroyed during the siege of the Acropolis by the Ottomans. Parts of the marbles were recurved and reused during the construction and repairs of other buildings like the Byzantine church of Soteira Lykodemou, now chiefly known as the Russian Church. The monument was restored at a great extend in 2017.
The Choregic Monument of Thrasyllos has adorned the Acropolis for over 23 centuries and from whatever angle you look at it, it is very impressive. People walking along the pedestrian zone of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, wonder about the identity of this monument above the Theatre of Dionysus. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public and guards prevent people from getting too close.