Thursday 4 December 2014

herostratic fame

Naturally there is a big difference between street art and graffiti and senseless vandalism, and certain landmarks are particularly attractive targets for both rage and expression.

It’s bad enough that Hans Christen Anderson’s Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is routinely decapitated, I learnt that contrary to the popular account, the nose of the Sphinx was not accidentally damaged by stray canon fire from Napoleon’s advance on Egypt but was rather defaced by a religious zealot who wanted to put a stop to the idolatry (real or perceived) of the farmers along the flood plains of the Nile, who prayed to the colossus for a good harvest. Horrified, the farmers lynched the extremist for this act. These willfully destructive acts strike me as very sophomoric, something that ought be intolerable even among rival college sports teams. Herostratus (auf Deutsche, Herostrat is a criminal hunger for glory) is the name of the arsonist who infamously burned down the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and proudly owed up to the act, hoping for immortal notoriety. Herostratus was immediately put to death for this heinous deed and decreed that his infamy never be mentioned again, but that did not quite work out according to plan as his example has not exactly gone unfollowed. One can hope, though, that tearing down is ultimately up-building.