The remains of the ancient school where philosopher Aristotle taught his pupils nearly 2,500 years ago are to be turned into an outdoor museum thanks to a donation from a betting company, Greece's Culture Ministry says.
The project in central Athens is slated for completion next year at a cost of $5.9 million. But it will not use funds from the government, which has promised spending cuts amid the global financial crisis.
Aristotle, who lived from 384 to 322 B.C., studied under Plato and tutored Alexander the Great. Later, in Athens, he taught in the grounds of the Lyceum, a public sports complex frequented by the city's young men.
The outdoor museum will involve building a translucent roof over the site, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said Wednesday.
"Saving money from the (ministry) budget is very important," he said.
Funding for the venture will be provided by Greek betting company OPAP, which is partly state-owned.
Greece has promised wide-ranging spending cuts in 2009 after the budget deficit last year exceeded EU limits.
Samaras said the sponsorship money had helped revive the long-delayed venture.
The scant remains are mostly foundations and lower courses of walls from a wrestling hall, as well as parts of Roman-era baths used by the athletes after workouts. They were discovered in 1996 during construction for a planned modern art museum that was later abandoned. Plans to open the site to the public have languished for about a decade.
"This is a big project," Athens archaeological service official Aris Koronakis said at the site Thursday. "The arc-shaped roof will cover the entire area which is 50-by-48 meters (yards)."
The official said construction is the main source of archaeological discovery in Athens.
"That's how antiquities are found: The archaeological service inspects all main construction sites in Athens," he said.
"All of the city is under scrutiny for possible archaeological remains."
Standing in what was once a wooded, riverside location outside the ancient city walls, the Lyceum was considered one of the three greatest schools of philosophy in ancient Greece and archaeologists had sought its remains for more than 150 years. Ironically, it was finally found at the end of a modern street named after the ancient school.
Samaras said he hopes the new outdoor museum would eventually help expand a network of ancient sites in the capital — including Plato's Academy — that are easily accessed by visitors touring the city on foot.
Athens underwent a major redevelopment project ahead of the 2004 Olympics, with a cobblestone walkway built around the Acropolis Hill. A long-awaited museum which will house ancient masterpieces from the Acropolis is to be inaugurated in June.