Peace & Quiet
The Elgin Marbles
Pericles hired the renowned sculptor Pheidias to oversee the work on the Parthenon, including the building's remarkable friezes. In 1801 the Acropolis buildings were in ruins, neglected by the Ottoman rulers. The British Lord Elgin negotiated permission to remove some of the ancient remains. In fact, he removed more than he should have. He then sold what are now called the Elgin Marbles to the British Museum, who have resisted all Greek pleas to return them. Lord Byron
The British poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) is a revered figure in Greece, and many places have streets named in his honour (Vyronos). He was a high-profile campaigner in the Greek War of Independence, and was prepared to fight, but instead died of a fever in Missolonghi. He first visited Athens in 1809 when he was 21, and was inspired to write two works that helped make him famous: 'Maid of Athens' and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
Like Ronald Reagan, Melina Mercouri was an actor turned politician. Born in Athens in 1922, she achieved great fame on both stage and film, initially in Greece but then worldwide, with starring roles in films such as Never on Sunday and Topkapi. When she turned to politics she proved to be both an extremely able and extremely popular politician. She never lost her sense of the theatrical, a quality the Greeks admire, and she became the country's Minister of Culture in 1981. She suggested the idea of highlighting a different capital city each year as the European City of Culture, an idea which has transformed many cities. Athens was the first to be chosen, in 1985. Mercouri also mounted a continuing campaign to retrieve the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum and return them to Athens. She died in 1994 and is buried in the First Cemetery.Pericles
Pericles was born in about 495 BC and became the greatest statesman in Athenian history. He was a visionary, with an interest in the arts and sciences, who transformed the look of the city to such an extent that the period between 461 and 429 BC became known as the Golden Age of Pericles. By 461 BC he had become the leader of a democratic party, and by 443 BC he was both ruler and military leader of Athens. Having transferred the Treasury to Athens from Delos, he persuaded the Athenians to invest in a programme of building and rebuilding, which brought together the best contemporary architects, sculptors, artists, scientists and builders. The results can still be seen today. Most notable are the buildings on top of the Acropolis, with the Parthenon representing Pericles's outstanding legacy. Pericles was also an adept military leader, combining bravery and diplomacy. He died in 429 BC after contracting the plague that swept through the Athens he had done so much to beautify.