ANCIENT NEMEA, GREECE – Britain should the return the Parthenon marbles to their home in Athens in order for the surviving sculptures to be reunited, Stephen Miller, the renowned American Classical Archaeologist from the University of California at Berkeley told New Europe.
“We have to hope while I don’t see it happening recently,” Miller said, commenting on the possibility of the return of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.
“But, you know, I’m writing a book in two volumes about my life here at Nemea and I was just reminded – I went through it today – of a period back in the late 1990s when there was an effort by Melina (Mercouri, Greece’s former Culture Minister and Academy Award nominated actress), she was pushing for the marbles and what have you. And I’m sort frustrated with all things, so I wrote a letter to the Herald Tribune, which they published, which I saw again yesterday, I said. “The Parthenon is arguably the most important monument in Western tradition – it certainly is one of the most important ones. Whether you say it’s the most or not – but it’s split. You have part of it here and part of it in London and that’s no the way to treat such an important monument.,” Miller told New Europe at his office in Ancient Nemea.
Mercouri, who died in 1994 after world renowned acting career and two stints as the Greek Culture Minister, campaigned hard for the return of the marbles.
The Parthenon Marbles are a collection of Classical Greek marble sculptures made by sculptor Phidias in the fifth-century BCE. They were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.
Some refer to the collection in London as the Elgin Marbles, after the British aristocrat Lord Elgin, who removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum, and transported them to Britain in the early 19th century.
The half not removed by Elgin is now displayed in the new Acropolis Museum, aligned in orientation and within sight of the Parthenon, with marked spaces left for the missing elements.
“And my suggestion is that because archeologists would really appreciate it if it were all in one place – the building and the marbles – that we should persuade the Greeks to send the Parthenon to England,” Miller said, laughing.
“And I got a little note from Melina’s husband, (American film director) Jules Dassin, He and I were friends, I got a little note that said – ‘HA! HA! HA!’ And there were splatters – he said, ‘Those are tears,’” Miller said laughing.
“I don’t know. It really deserves this, not because it’s Greek, but because it’s an important monument to humanity. It deserves to be all together in one place,” Miller quipped. “I published an article once with a picture of the British Museum with some of the marbles in there and then over in this corner was a large hand with a torch in it – The Statue of Liberty!”