It’s rare you encounter a bombshell in the well-ploughed fields of classical scholarship, but the 21st-century proof that the Parthenon sculptures were once coated in bright paint certainly qualifies as such. Johann Winckelmann, father of art history, celebrated Athens’s greatest monument as the ripe fruit of Greece’s new democracy with a picture of pure, unsullied stonework in mind. The Western world sees democracy as white, not as a montage of garish colour. No one would have employed Jackson Pollock as a decorator at the White House.
But is ‘democracy’ not just another idea with which the Parthenon has been whitewashed? Over the centuries, the structure has been used as a mosque as well as a church. Although the construction of the monument that today sits atop the Acropolis coincided with the age of Pericles and the