OPINION

Citizen Miller: Into light

citizen-miller-into-light

Stephen G. Miller’s life’s work speaks for itself. The excavations at Ancient Nemea, the restoration of fallen columns of the Temple of Zeus, the museum and beautiful archaeological park, the revival of the Nemean Games, are a rich legacy. But perhaps none of these would be here as they are today if Miller was only a great archaeologist and not also a good citizen.

Without his personal interest and dedication, without his personal charisma, sense of responsibility and persistence, he would not have been breaking down obstacles all the time, he would not have achieved the necessary collaboration of local residents, bureaucrats and foreign benefactors. He would not have fought to keep the archaeological site open to visitors all year, despite shortsighted cuts to personnel funding. He would not have struggled for 25 years to get the sign for the archaeological site on the national highway.

With passion and masterly organizational skills, Miller took a relatively poor (in terms of historical interest) site and put it on the global map. Until it was drained in the 19th century, the Nemea valley was a swamp most of the year. That is why, despite the importance of the Nemean Games in antiquity, significant settlements did not develop there. Miller, however, made the place important, attracting broader interest through hard work, personal proposals and inspired interventions.

The small museum, for example, is not just an adequate exhibition space, it is also beautiful: The great window which places visitors in the archaeological park below them was built at his insistence.

Miller devoted his life to Ancient Nemea from 1973. He lived there until his death this week. He was granted Greek citizenship in 2005. He was outspoken in his defense of Ancient Nemea and spoke with great knowledge and gravitas on issues such as Greece’s poor use of its archaeological wealth and the Macedonia question.

His last book, “Into Darkness” (Fotolio, 2020), depicts conditions in Europe in AD 585, when an injured man, aged about 50, probably a Christian, crawled into the heavily silted tunnel leading to Nemea’s stadium with his life savings, a pot and two lamps. There he died, remaining in darkness until the tunnel was excavated in 1978. Around this man, Miller weaves a gripping narrative of climate change, famine, plague and foreign invasions. On those Dark Ages, too, he casts light.