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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Alexander the Great plan sparks row
Artists rendering of the planned sculpture
The sculpture would be financed by Greek-Americans
A plan to carve a 70-metre-high statue of Alexander the Great's head into a mountain in northern Greece has archaeologists and environmentalists outraged.

Some opponents of the plan have vowed to go to court to stop the 30-million euro project, while the Greek Culture Ministry has warned that it will not allow work to begin as scheduled in November.


This will be a grand monument to a great man and it doesn't matter if archaeologists say it's going to be just kitsch

Angelos Frantzis,
local mayor

The plan, from a group of Greek-Americans, would see a rock outcrop on Mount Kerdylio in the northern province of Macedonia changed into a massive monument to the fourth-century BC empire-builder.

Environmentalists fear it will spoil the landscape and harm the area, while archaeologists have called the project a "monstrosity" that they say could threaten a nearby ancient theatre and a Byzantine church.

"This is a serious environmental alteration which then can be copied by other towns and villages," said Dimitris Grammenos, the director of the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.

"The area is protected by archaeological laws, because of the nearby antiquities," he said.

Economic boost

But those behind the monument, which would overlook the Aegean Sea, say it will bring more tourists to the area, and help the economy.

A theatre and visitor centre are also planned, and the US-based Alexandros Foundation behind the proposal says it could be well under way by 2004, when Greece hosts the Olympics.

"This rock with a height of 600 metres is sticking out of the rest of the mountain just waiting for this," said the mayor of the nearby town of Asprovalta, Angelos Frantzis.

"This will be a grand monument to a great man and it doesn't matter if archaeologists say it's going to be just kitsch."

There are also concerns that the impetus behind the project is a desire to claim Alexander the Great as exclusively Greek - something that some fear could increase tensions with the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which shares a name with the northern Greek province.

"The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could do the same thing," Byzantine expert Haralambos Bakirtzis told the Times of London. "Where would that lead?"

Alexander the Great has long been revered for his brilliant military strategy, which saw his empire expand from his birthplace, Pella in northern Greece, all the way to India before he died at the age of 33 in 323 BC.

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Europe
01 Jan 02 | Europe
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