Syrian cultural heritage a victim of war in Rome exhibition

From 20/6 to 31/8 at Palazzo Venezia, music by Morricone

19 June, 19:06

    One of the pieces featured in the exhibit on Syrian cultural heritage at Palazzo Venezia in Rome One of the pieces featured in the exhibit on Syrian cultural heritage at Palazzo Venezia in Rome

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - The Roman ruins of Ebla and Palmyra and remnants of past Christian and Islamic societies at risk of being destroyed by the ongoing conflict in Syria is the focus of an exhibition that opens on Friday at Palazzo Venezia in Rome and will run through August 31. ''We are struggling against a reigning sense of resignation,'' said former Rome's mayor and former minister Francesco Rutelli, who as head of the Priorità Cultura association has been promoting the initiative to raise awareness about the value of Syrian cultural heritage and the importance of protecting it. Rutelli suggested a number of actions that could be taken, such as the demilitarizaton of important archaeological sites. Presented to the press on Thursday, the exhibition was made possible through close collaboration with Paolo Matthiae, the discoverer of Ebla and head of the Italian archaeological mission in Syria of the Rome university La Sapienza. Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini immediately welcomed the initiative on learning of it, tasking museums superintendent Daniela Porro with supporting it and hosting it in Palazzo Venezia, where about twenty finds from some of Italy's largest museums have been set up to illustrate the splendor of civilizations that have existed in Syria. ''Emperors and popes have come from Syria, the first alphabets arose there - as did important architectonic works - and more than any other country in the world it was the cradle of civilization,'' Rutelli added, underscoring that the Rome exhibition, which was put together with few resources and in a short time, goes against the general trend. ''What is of the greatest concern is, of course, the humanitarian emergency,'' he said, ''the over 150,000 deaths, millions of refugees, and the thousands fleeing the bloodshed who arrive on our coasts. However, the destruction of cultural heritage, with sites that have been looted or turned into battlefields, is a risk that humanity cannot continue to run.

    Once it has been destroyed it will be gone forever.'' Aware of the difficulty of intervening in Syria, the exhibition aims, Rutelli said, to call on the international community to at least try to protect five archaeological sites of fundamental importance: The Aleppo citadel and its souq and the Omayyad mosque, Bosra, Apamea and the Qalaat Al-Mudiq citadel, Ebla and Qalaat Siman (St Simeon). The locations are in urgent need of monitoring, as can be seen in a large satellite photo included in the exhibition that shows how clandestine excavations are happening across the entire country. While music composed by Ennio Morricone for the initiative plays in the background, the final room of the exhibition turns into a madhouse in which monuments and lives are under fire. While the EU responded in a lukewarm manner to the initiative (''every nation has a different view of the situation in Syria,'' Rutelli noted), UNESCO has begun to take action. Matthiae added that some of the sites in Syria had been abandoned by combatants who used to fight there, and that Paris and Berlin were preparing to hold similar exhibitions.


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