It loves the smell of gunpowder, the assaults, the victory. Very young, Francesco Morosini enlisted in the armed forces of the venetian, where he distinguished himself by resisting for twenty-three years to the Ottoman turks in Candia, the capital of Crete. But in 1669, Francesco was forced to capitulate and he will never forget this affront. The most Serene either. The Republic was only waiting for an opportunity to take revenge. It is where a war was being waged between the Turks in the Holy roman Empire, in 1683.

With a force small in numbers, the Morosini campaign to reclaim a few islands and fortresses lost. And then with his lieutenant, the earl of Kœnigsmark, a Swede in the service of Venice, he will attack the Peloponnese. Pylos, Modon, Argos and Nafplio are removed. In 1687, the whole Morea was conquered, and the warlord decides to attack Athens.

Disembarking by night at the Piraeus with nine thousand eight hundred men, he invests the lower city, establishes a camp and outposts. Holed up on the Acropolis, the Ottomans are determined to resist until the arrival of relief. In haste, they dismantled the temple of Athena Nike to install a battery doubling that of the Propylaea and turn them into book crenellated with arrow slits surmounted by towers.

For his part, Kœnigsmark has its own guns on the Pnyx and the hill of the Muses. The mortar fire began on the 23rd of July. They seek the two batteries in turkey, but do not start the resistance of the ottoman. The troops of Morosini tries to tackle the wall of Themistocles. In vain.

Kœnigsmark then decides to move his guns to bombard the fortress. On September 26, 1687 an explosion violent sounds while a huge fire engulfed the Parthenon, where the Turks had transported their arsenal of powder. The sanctuary of Athena is cut in two. In the north, eight columns of the peristyle have collapsed. The other Six on the south side, are pulverized into a thousand pieces. The besiegers howl of joy, while the number of Athenians and break down into tears. A white flag is hoisted on the ruins of the Parthenon. Morosini exults to hear that the pasha and his sons are dead. The garrison request, the cease-fire. Hostilities are suspended.

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Venice does not even mention the destruction of the Parthenon

The Ottomans are going to get the life saved. They can take what they can carry themselves. The agreement is concluded on the 29th of September in the morning while the flag of St. Mark floats over the ruins of the Propylaea. Francesco Morosini announced in Venice: “Athens is fallen into your hands.” It does not even mention the destruction of the Parthenon.

The Turkish garrison, as well as two thousand and five hundred civilians, leaving the Acropolis. On the way of the ancient Long Walls, they are reviled by the population, often deprived of their property, while the Venetians took possession of the hill. Morosini and Kœnigsmark consult and come to a fast decision to abandon Athens. It is impossible to repair the fortifications destroyed. Impossible to take the city when the Turks will come back with reinforcements. One last question is coldly discussed between the two men: the downfall of Athens to the bottom to make the city uninhabitable or leave it in the state.

Francesco Morosini decides not to waste his time to undermine the Acropolis and the neighbourhoods of the lower city. He is looking forward to celebrate its victory in Venice. But he does not want to leave without taking away some memories of his feat. The statues of Athena and Poseidon on the pediment of the Parthenon on the appeal. His troops are trying to get them off, but they are as boorish and the front collapses.

Morosini will take a number of lions. They will be placed at the entrance to the Arsenal. The Serenissima will grant the warlord the title Peloponnesiaco and him have been erected a bronze bust, which is not common for a man of his living.

In 1688, Morosini is elected doge of Venice. But five years later, the Serenissima the rename to general and he will in combat. His character is irascible and his foucades old veteran has grown tired of the senators as much as his compatriots. It will still be several victories and a few defeats, but his forces abandon him in 1694. Transported to Nafplio, it will die on the 6th of January at the age of seventy-four years. Without ever having expressed the slightest regret for having a wall in the Parthenon.

Figaro Hors série

The miracle athenian

Its heroes by the names of Themistocles, Pericles, Socrates, Aeschylus. Among the gods of Olympus, she chose Athena, and he has dedicated the most beautiful of the temples, a miracle of architecture that sculpts to him alone, on the rock of the Acropolis, the idea of civilization. Le Figaro Hors-Series celebrates this immense white city, which extends like a sea, between its seven hills. Alive, as its millennial destiny, haunting as the genius Greek, that adversity does not turn off but reinforces, this walk through the centuries and neighborhoods takes you in the footsteps of illustrious personages, in the heart of the traditions, to the discovery of the site of the current culture. Athens yesterday and today, as you’ve never seen it.

Le Figaro Hors-série : Athens eternal, 164 pages, 12,90€