The Lysicrates Choragic Monument ΤΟ ΧΟΡΗΓΙΚΟ ΜΝΗΜΕΙΟ ΤΟΥ ΛΥΣΙΚΡΑΤΟΥΣ
The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates was erected by Lysicrates, a wealthy patron of musical performances in the Theater of Dionysos, to commemorate the award of first prize in 335/334 BC to one of the performances he had sponsored. The choregos was the sponsor who paid for and supervised the training of the dramatic dance-chorus. Unfortunately, this fine sculpture, possibly inspired by a Homeric hymn, is very badly mutilated. The conic roof of the monument consists of one single piece of marble! On its summit rises a wonderful acanthus ornament, one meter high; on it a bronze tripod was placed, a prize won by Lysicrates.
A 1915 photograph of the site during the archaeological excavations of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates.
In order to visit The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, this jewel of Attic architecture and most ancient and purest example of the Corinthian orderof architecture, we take either the Lysicrates Street, opposite Hadrian's Arch, or Vyronos Street, from the Areopagitou pedestrian street. In the middle of a small square now surrounded by cafes and shops, stands the choragic monument, in the form of a small circular temple, called, according to popular tradition, the "Lantern of Demosthenes" or that of Diogenes. Its cubic base 4 m (13 ft) high and 3 m (10 ft) broad is built of porous stone and crowned with a cornice of Hymettos marble.
The Cupola of the Lanthorn of the monument (here wrongly identified as that of Demosthenes) by Richard Dalton, 1752.
On this base rests a monoptere rotunda of Penteli marble 6.5 m (21 ft) in height and 2.8 m (9 ft) in diameter with Corinthian-style half-columns which support an architrave divided into three fillets and a frieze with sculptures. On the SE side of the architrave, where the ancient Tripodon Street still runs along, an inscription may be read with some difficulty, here translated: "Lysicrates, son of Lysitheos, from Kikineus, was the choregus; the Acamantide tribe won the prize of the boys' chorus; Theon was the flute player, Lyciades, the Athenian, was the master of the chorus; Evainetos was the Archon in charge".
The French Capuchin monastery incorporating the Monument of Lysicrates in an old engraving.
Evainetos tenure in office dated 335-334, that is to say during the second blooming of Attic art, in this case attested by the exquisite taste and decoration of the frieze. A tragic episode of the adventurous god of wine is represented on it. Sailing from the island of Icaria to that of Naxos, Dionysos was arrested by Tyrrenean pirates who wanted to sell him as a slave. However, the god, guessing their designs, changed the masts and oars of the ship into serpents and the pirates themselves into dolphins, and thus saved himself and his companions. The god is represented as a slender youth, sitting on a rock and caressing a panther, six young satyrs serve him wine out of two craters. Other satyrs armed with thursus, torches and clubs, pursue and chastise the pirates, cudgel, chain and submit them to all sorts of torture, on the West side of the frieze two of these highwaymen, already half-dolphins, precipitate themselves into the sea.
This lovely monument, that historian Pausanias does not mention, owes its relative preservation to the French Capuchin monks, who founded a convent in 1658 by the site. In 1669 the monastery succeeded in purchasing the monument and incorporated it with the library of their convent.
The British architects James "Athenian" Stuart and Nicholas Revett published the first measured drawings of the monument in their Antiquities of Athens, London 1762. The monument became famous in France and England through engravings of it, and "improved" versions became eye-catching features in several English landscape gardens. It is in this Library of the Convent of the French Capuchin monks where Lord Byron found hospitality for several months in 1810, and where his famous poem "The Maid of Athens" was written.
In 1818, friar Francis planted the first tomato plants in Greece in its gardens. In 1829, the monks offered the structure to an Englishman on tour, but it proved to be too cumbersome to disassemble and ship. Lord Elgin negotiated unsuccessfully for the monument, by then an icon in the Greek Revival. The convent, which had enclosed the monument, used as a storage for books, was burned during the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman occupation, and subsequently demolished, and the monument was inadvertently exposed to the weather. French archaeologists cleared the rubble from the half-buried monument and searched the area for missing architectural parts. In 1876–1887, the architects François Boulanger and E. Loviot supervised a restoration under the auspices of the French government.
On one of the side streets around the monument, Epimenidou Street, you will find Amygdalo, a little store with fine coffee, tea, chocolate, but also nuts, hand-made health bars, etc. Standing service only. We do suggest you try it!