Exploring European Roots at the Heart of Ancient Athens

Storytelling has been a part of human DNA from the beginning of time. We tell stories to calm ourselves down, to fall asleep, to better understand the world around us, and to give meaning to the every day… These narratives have shaped our identities and, combined, they serve as the collective recordings of our existence. In the year dedicated to celebrating Arts and Entertainment across Europe on the European Heritage Days, we are taking a stroll back in time as we revisit the origins of European theatre art.

Origins, one of the ten selected European Heritage Stories for 2018 is taking us back to Classical Greece, to explore the development of European values at the European Heritage Label Site – The Heart of Ancient Greece. Democracy, the rule of law, rhetoric, philosophy, inclusion of and openness to other cultures - Philoxenia, and the visual and performing arts were some of the common European values and disciplines whose basis were formed thousands of years ago in Greece.

The European Heritage Stories Initiative

The Origins project was developed and presented by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, Ephorate of Antiquities of the City of Athens, custodian of the European Heritage Label site "The Heart of Ancient Athens," for the call for European Heritage Stories. As a part of the framework of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, the initiative celebrates the communities and their united efforts in keeping European heritage alive, by promoting the inspiring stories which relate to shared values and by providing support and assistance for the future development of the communities. The European Heritage Stories initiative, led by the European Commission and the Council of Europe, was launched in 2018 as part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. It will now continue as a yearly activity which gathers EHD communities, EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award winners and the European Heritage Label storytellers around the idea of representing the stories behind their European heritage. Recognised by the European panel of judges as one of the ten most engaging narratives, Origins received a grant and an opportunity to be developed into a project ensuring valuable benefits for the community and the heritage site involved.

Mapping the Origins of the European Civilisation

Bridging the gap between Ancient and the modern day Greece, and Europe in general, Origins presents a multifaceted and artistic exploration of the ways in which Greece’s tangible and built heritage can be understood in a wider European context. The Acropolis and the Theatre of Dionysus, Agora, the Pnyx, Kerameikos, Roman Agora, and Library of Hadrian are seen through the eyes of a teenager and filmed using contemporary digital technology. The story showcases the multiple ways of understanding shared heritage by reinterpreting the heritage sites and the history behind them. From exploring the origin of the concept of ‘Europe’ and the world’s first theatre – the Theatre of Dionysus, to the birth place of democracy at the Hill of Pnyx, the story maps the origins of European civilization as seen through the eyes of a new generation of heritage custodians.

The Legacy of the Project

In order to raise awareness about European heritage among young people in Europe, the project involved participation of school groups. The legacy of the final project is centred around the inclusion of heritage in education. To that end, the final product of the project – the film, the digital leaflets and activity sheets will be organized into a "Kit of Europe" in English and Greek. The material will help to provide schools with means of introducing discussions around common European values to school children by encouraging them to explore their local built environment.

Origins reminds us of the rich histories we can read in the monuments and sites around us in Europe... Ancient buildings and physical monuments are seen as more than mere physical objects – they serve as a testimony of the legacy, heritage and values which our culture was built on. A representative of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the City of Athens and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports shared with us: 'We wish that “Origins” will travel all over Europe and may be a contribution towards empowering youngsters to determine themselves and to choose their role in the European society.'