On Wednesday evening 29 March, the venue of the Pallaconian Brotherhood of Melbourne and Victoria “Leonidas,” was full of people who gathered to attend a lecture on the return of the Parthenon Marbles, given by Mr Emanuel Comino.

Mr Comino’s lecture captured the audience, with a presentation of impressive slides and hard evidence, leaving no room for doubt that the Sculptures were stolen.

He is also the founder and Chairman of the International Organising Committee – Australia – For the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles (IOC-A-RPM) and is also the Vice-Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

The so-called “Father of the Marbles Campaign,” who is 90 years old today, says he is determined to continue this fight.

“I will not stop until Britain sends them back to Greece,” he said during his speech.

Emanuel Comino at the Acropolis in 1976. Photo: Supplied

This promise was sealed, when he met Melina Mercouri, one of the greatest female figures of Greece in the 20th century.

“My boy, never stop fighting for the return of the Marbles to Greece,” she said to him back then.

“I promised her. I will continue to fight for this cause until the day they return or until the day I die,” were his words now.

The speaker was introduced to the audience by the president of the Youth of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, Miltiadis Paikopoulos, who pointed out that Emanuel Comino, was the man who started the international campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, by founding the first committee worldwide, with the aim of their return.

As written by Giannis Andritsopoulos for the Greek newspaper Nea, Mr. Comino’s campaign started way before Melina Mercouri’s global crusade, as he set up his committee in Australia 10 days before the Cannes-Prize-winning actress got involved with the Ministry of Culture.

Emanuel Comino with Melina Mercouri. Photo: Supplied

Nea wrote about his love for the Sculptures:

“His first contact with the Sculptures was in 1976, when he visited Greece for the second time.

“I clearly remember the moment I saw the Parthenon. I was dazzled by its grandeur. It was magical,” he tells me in fluent Greek.

“I immediately realized the damage Elgin had caused and, having visited all the European museums that house Greek treasures, I decided to seek the reunification of the Marbles.”

He then read everything that had been written on the subject and began to make speeches around the world. In 1981, he founded the first committee for the return of the Sculptures.

“In early 1982, I read in the newspapers Melina’s statements about the Marbles. She deplored the British government’s refusal to return them, adding that she wanted to launch an international campaign for their return,” recalls Comino.

“I sent her the constitution of our committee and wrote to her that we wanted to be part of a concerted global effort. She replied that she enthusiastically supported my initiative.”

The following year, Melina travels to Sydney and Comino is invited to a reception in her honour.

“I approached the official who accompanied her and showed him her letter. He found it and gave it to her. She read it and her face lit up. She stretched out her arms, crossed the room and put them on my shoulders.”

“She asked me not to stop fighting for the Sculptures. I looked at her and replied that I would fight for their return until England promises to send them back or until the day I die.”

“She squeezed my hand and hugged me, tearfully. She kissed me on the cheek and left.”

The two maintained contact until Mercouri’s death.

Photo: Supplied


Emanuel Comino was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, on 13 May 1933, after his parents migrated from the Greek island of Kythera to Australia.

In 1937, at the age of four, he loses his mother.

The following year, Emanuel’s father travels with his two sons to Greece for a holiday.

Following a the outbreak of war, they are forced to stay in Kythera, and nine years later, they return to Sydney where Emanuel works various jobs and in 1965, he opens an insurance agency.

For 45 years Mr. Comino travelled around the world, giving speeches and lobbying politicians for the Marbles.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard wrote to him in 2002 that “the Parthenon Marbles are an irreplaceable part of Greece’s heritage and identity”, and shortly after, raised the issue with his British counterpart, Tony Blair.

A lot of Australian politicians demonstrated their support through similar statements.

“In 2016 we went to London. My wife and I took a tour bus to see the sights. When we were passing outside the British Museum, the tour guide said to the group, ‘I don’t know why they call it that. There’s nothing British about it. Everything in there is stolen,” said Mr. Comino during his lecture on Wednesday night.

He explained that Elgin, stripped Greece of the most glorious monument mankind has ever seen, The Parthenon.

He ripped apart the legendary Parthenon marbles, which he then sent to Britain from 1806, along with other artifacts of ancient Greek civilisation, including a Caryatid (a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support).

The British revealed, that Elgin proceeded with his shameless act, due to a firman or royal mandate, granted by the Ottoman Empire.

However, according to Mr. Comino in 2019, Turkish investigators revealed that no evidence was found to support any proof of such an order, and that it is highly unlikely that the mandate was issued to begin with.

Photo: Supplied

Which in Mr. Comino’s words, means that Elgin is nothing more than “a thief,” a description used by Lord Byron.

It should also be stressed than when referring to the “Parthenon Marbles,” we are essentially talking about a collection of sculptures.

This collection includes some sculptures of the pediments and metopes, depicting battles between the Lapithians and the Centaurs and the Parthenon frieze that adorned the upper part of the walls of the temple’s cella along their entire length. As such, they represent more than 1/2 of what remains of the Parthenon’s surviving sculptural decoration: 75 metres of the original 160 metres, 15 of the 92 metopes, 17 segmental figures from the pediments, as well as other parts of the architecture.

Elgin’s stolen artifacts also include objects from other buildings of the Athenian Acropolis: The Erechtheion, which was reduced to ruins during the Greek War of Independence (1821-33), the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike. Lord Elgin took about half of the Parthenon sculptures and from the rest casts were created in plaster.

Mr. Comino is convinced that all his hard work will be vindicated.

“Only when the Marbles are reunited in the Acropolis Museum will they be able to tell their glorious story. There are no more excuses. Together we will make the dream of many generations a reality,” he told the Greeks of Melbourne.