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by Archaeology Newsroom

Public Land: A Factor for the Location of Public Buildings in Ottonian Athens

Immediately after the transfer of the Greek capital to Athens, the government declared its intention of defining the location of public buildings and of starting their erection as soon as possible. However, it soon became apparent that its plan stumbled over the almost complete absence of public land in Athens and the lack of financial resources for purchasing the necessary land, the price of which skyrocketed when the city became the capital of the modern Greek state. Thus, the basic source of land in Athens became the donations as well as the expropriations in arbitrarily low prices. Nevertheless, the financial weakness of the state in combination with the lack of organization resulted to the accumulation, even for decades, of numerous applications for indemnity, submitted by the affected landowners. In order this unhappy, complex situation to be handled, an attempt was made the use of private land to be avoided. The few public buildings, which had to be erected by the government immediately after its arrival in the new capital, should be built anywhere where public ground existed or could be bought in the lowest possible price. This information that public land in the new city was almost non-existent may explain the confinement of the first public buildings in the old sector of Athens. Later, however, the high prices of the central plots played a decisive role in the gradual transfer of the public buildings away from the center. As a result, none of the interiors concerning the rational and uniform planning of the location of public buildings, as they were expressed in every town plan, was materialized. In addition, the lack of financial resources led to the shrinkage of the town plan, through the reduction of the width of streets and public areas as well as of grounds to be excavated, in order the cost of indemnities to be decreased. In a state with limited potentials, such as Greece, the financial factor had the final word.