Philanthropy’s benefits

It was a pleasure to read the article (August 6-7) by Niki Kitsantonis based on an interview with Andreas Dracopoulos of the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation. I have great admiration and gratitude for this foundation, and it is good to see recognition for their efforts. My personal encounters with the Niarchos Foundation have been concerned with our reconstruction of the Temple of Nemean Zeus in Nemea. As you will see (photo), two new columns were added to the always-standing three in 2002 and the project continues today with the reconstruction of four more columns. The role of the Niarchos Foundation was critical, with a major and timely gift pushing them to completion. We like to call one of the pair the «Niarchos Column» but the foundation’s support meant more than simply re-erecting a column. (The foundation made donations in 1999 and this year.) The association of the Niarchos name with Nemea was also very useful in persuading other donors to join in the effort. All this made it possible to put those two columns back in place. This snowball effect (especially when a known name participates) is an aspect of philanthropy which is sometimes overlooked, but it is significant. Another result of the Niarchos support has been the unforeseen development of what might be called a «school of limestone reconstruction.» For all its significance and intricate detail, the Acropolis reconstruction work in Athens has one great advantage over a site like Nemea (or Delphi or Corinth or Epidaurus): the wonderful Pentelic marble, which is a joy to carve. Our stone here in Nemea is a porous limestone which is difficult to work, and Athenian stone masons have told me I could not pay them enough to persuade them to work with us in Nemea. But during our reconstruction, a group of 10 local technicians became extremely good at this specialized work because of their native abilities and training from the former head of the Acropolis technical staff, Ioannis Arbilias, and in part because they had never worked with better material like Pentelic marble and so began at a useful level of ignorance. These young men are now a valuable resource available to Greece, and their experience may well be applied to other ancient sites. These talents have been developed thanks to the generosity of the Niarchos Foundation and others. The development of a corps of limestone artists is a tribute to what can emerge from private philanthropy. Stephen G. Miller, Nemea, Greece