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Thursday, December 01, 2011



A German magazine  is on trial in Athens because they published an image of the goddess Athena making a rude gesture.  The charges is 'defamation'.  The publisher of Focus, a weekly magazine, and twelve of its journalists had been accused of insulting a national symbol. The cover of the magazine's February 2010 issue depicted Athena, draped in a Greek flag, raising her middle finger in a rude gesture with the caption " Cheats in the European family."  This offended the Greeks and a group of Greek lawyers launched a law suit.

The Greeks are very defensive of their ancient symbols and treat them reverently.  In museums you are not allowed to pose beside statues as this is considered irreverent.  In archaeological sites like Delphi, considered to be the centre of the earth, there are strict regulations as to behavior, loud music, etc within the sacred areas.  So, just as the Muslims took offence when a Danish cartoonist poked fun at Mohammad,  the Greeks are not amused by this 'defamation' of their chief goddess, and patron 'saint' of their city Athens.

Who was Athena?  She as the daughter of Zeus and was born full-grown and in full armor, springing from his head. (With no help from a mother). When Homer wrote about her in The Iliad, he portrayed her as a fierce and ruthless battle-goddess, but elsewhere is is only warlike when she is defending the State and the home from enemies.  Athena was pre-eminently the Goddess of the City, the protector of civilized life, of handicrafts and agriculture; the inventor of the bridle, who first tamed horses for men to use.  She was Zeus's favorite child. He trusted her to carry the aegis, his buckler and his devastating weapon, the thunderbolt.  She is often described as "grey-eyed" or "flashing-eyed".  Of the three virgin goddesses she was the chief.  They called her the Maiden, Parthenos, and her temple was known as the Parthenon. 
She is extolled by poets as the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity.  Athens was her special city.  She created the olive and the olive tree is her symbol, the owl her bird.

On the Acropolis, between the Parthenon and the Erechtheion are ruins dating back to pre-Persian invasion time, which are believed to be the original Temple of Athena (possibly from about 529 BC)  In ancient times there was a large statue of Athena on this site made of chryselephantine and gold that could be seen from a distance. 

Athena dominated the city then, and she is still very much the favored goddess of the city.  So when the prosecution and defence lawyers of the German magazine appealed to have the charges of defamation dropped, the Greek judges rejected them. The charges carry a maximum two-year prison sentence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In a politically correct sense I can somewhat understand the concern. But should this event actually warrant a two year prison sentence?