A Golden Coin for Ancient Messene
Petros Themelis, son of novelist George Themelis, was born in 1936 in Thessaloniki. He completed his undergraduate studies at the elementary and high school levels in the Experimental School of the University of Thessaloniki. He received his BD in History and Archaeology from the University of Thessaloniki and then, in 1972, he received his PhD from the Archaeological Institute of the University of Munich with his thesis on “Frühgriechische Grabbauten” (“Early Greek Funerary Monuments”). His thesis was published by the Zabern Verlag publishing house in Mainz in 1976.
After paying 30 months of military service as Pilot Officer in the Greek Air Force he joined the Archaeological Service of the Prefecture of Thessaloniki and took part in excavations in western Macedonia, mainly in Pella and the Vergina palace as a research assistant of Antiquities Curators Haralambos Makaronas, Fotis Petsas and Manolis Andronikos.
Between the years 1963 and 1980 he served as Curator of Antiquities in the Archaeological Districts of the Prefectures of: a) Ileia-Messenia based in Ancient Olympia, b)Attica-Euboea, based in Athens, and c) Fokis-Lokrida-Aitoloakarnania (1976-1980) as curator and director of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
He carried out excavations in the aforementioned areas with prominent among them those in Akovitika of Messinia (1969), Epitalio in Ileia (1966-1968), Kallio in Fokida (1976-1980) and Eretria (1974-1985).
At the same time he worked for the re-opening of the Museum of Vravrona (1970) and the Museum of Delphi with the reconstruction of the monument Daochos and the 1978 inauguration of the hall of gold and ivory artifacts found in Iera Odos.
From 1980 to 1984 he served as chief Curator of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of Greece, based in Athens. In 1984 he was elected Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Crete in Rethymno, where he taught until 2003. In the period 1987-1989 he was Vice Rector of Academic Affairs in the same University and Chair man of the Research Committee.
Since 1985, he has been conducting the University excavation in Sector I of ancient Eleftherna in Crete. In 1986 the Archaeological Society at Athens, with academician George Milonas as its Secretary after the passing of Anastasios Orlandos, assigned the excavations at ancient Messenia to Professor Petros Themelis. The work of the excavations and restorations in ancient Messene which continues until today received two honor awards from the Europa Nostra (2005 in Madrid, 2011 in Amsterdam).
Petros Themelis has published over two hundred scientific treatises, related to issues of architecture, sculpture, topography, iconography, religious and funerary customs, as well as numerous reports of excavations in the Archaeological Bulletin and the Minutes of the Archaeological Society. He has also published individual monographs (related to his researches in Messinia and ancient Messene, in ancient Eleftherna and the tombs in Derveni of Macedonia), book reviews, prefaces to editions, guides for archaeological sites and Museums of the Peloponnese, articles in encyclopedias and translations from German into Greek.
He has written and is still writing many articles on various topics that appear in daily newspapers and magazines. In 2011, some of his colleagues from Greece and abroad dedicated to him two honorary volumes titled “Travelling in Classical Greece.”
He is a member of various scientific Societies in Greece and abroad and has received honors from municipalities, local communities, schools, universities and research institutions. He is an honorary citizen of the cities of Messina and Androussa, lifelong partner of the Athens Archaeological Society, an Associate Member of the United States Institute of Archaeology, member of the Society of Euboean Studies, life member of the German Archaeological Institute, member of the Archaeological Institute of Austria, of ICOM and ICOMOS , of the Salzburg-based European Academy of Sciences and the Arts, vice president of the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Committee, president of the Society of Messinian Archaeological Studies, vice president of the G. Psaropoulos Foundation of Late Pottery, and vice president of the DIAZOMA association. From 2004 to 2008 he was a permanent member of the Central Archaeological Council of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
In 2005 he was awarded the golden Taxiarch of the Order of Phoenix medal by the President of the Hellenic Republic Konstantinos Stephanopoulos for his teaching, scientific and excavation work.