Famous Greek actress, singer and politician Melina Mercouri worked tirelessly until her death in 1994 to lay the groundwork for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
She was the one who prohibited the use of the name “Elgin Marbles.” And she was right to do so, because these unique marbles never belonged to Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the Scottish nobleman who became known for their removal from the Parthenon in Athens.
Melina decided to make the reunification of the Parthenon marbles her life’s purpose in 1960 when, during the shooting of the film “Phaedra,” the British asked the Greek film crew to pay the museum in order to film the sculptures.
Twenty-two years later, as Minister of Culture and Sciences, she addressed the World Conference of Cultural Policies organized by UNESCO in Mexico and submitted a draft recommendation on the return of Greece’s cultural property to its country of origin.
Melina Mercouri in her tireless campaign for the return of the Parthenon marbles to their home in Athens addressed the British Authorities: “You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to us. They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are the supreme symbol of nobility. They are a tribute to democratic philosophy. They are our aspiration and our name. They are the essence of Greekness.”
Melina said: “I hope that I will see the Marbles back in Athens before I die; but if they come back later I shall be reborn.”
Watch below the video of a chance meeting between Melina Mercouri, Greece’s Minister of Culture and Sciences at the time and the then Director of the British Museum Mr. David Wilson, who was not prepared to deal with the feisty Greek star.