With European elections looming and the euro-skeptic front aiming to storm the Strasbourg parliament, the presidents of Greece and Italy, this year's European Union duty presidents, have chosen this critical moment to inaugurate a show with a clear political message, titled 'Classicism and Europe, the Destiny of Greece and Italy' at Rome's Quirinale presidential palace.
''At a time when many citizens question the future of the Union, the Italian and Hellenic presidencies have wanted to bring together some of the great masterpieces from both our countries'', President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano said in a statement.
The 25 works on view ''express the complex elaboration of a European consciousness through the millennia, which germinated in Greece and in Italy and which is marked by that respect for the individual and his freedoms, which the ancients celebrated so much'', the statement said.
Defending these conquests and values of Antiquity seems necessary more than ever in the current climate.
''It's a difficul time for Europe'', presidential artistic heritage advisor Louis Godart admitted at a news briefing. ''This initiative aims to underscore the message that the classical civilizations sent to Europe'' said Godart, whom Greek Culture Ministry Secretary General Lina Mendoni, who was also present at the ceremony on Friday, called the show's ''spiritual father''.
That message, said Godart, is based on two fundamental points: ''Man as History's center, and the values of democracy, which Pericles invented in ancient Greece''.
This is why the exhibit opens with a statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, known as the Tyrannicides after they killed the tyrant Hipparchus, who were the preeminent symbol of democracy to ancient Athenians.
In 514 AD, ''they made the wind of liberty blow in Athens''.
''In the past two years, Greece, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries have been at the center of concerns such as: do these countries have a place in the European family? Our common answer is crystal clear: there can be no Europe without Greece and Italy, since European civilization rests on Greek-Roman foundations'', said Mendoni.
Greek President Karolos Papoulias, who was in Rome on Friday to meet with Napolitano and Pope Francis, echoed her words: ''Due to the economic crisis, Europe is going through a period of skepticism and introversion. Now more than ever, European citizens should look at their own history and recapture the roots and values that hold them together''.
On the sidelines of the exhibit launch, Godart issued the following appeal to Italian euro-skeptics, from the Northern League to Beppe Grillo's anti-euro 5-Star Movement: ''Reflect.
Democratic conquests are not irreversible''.