Carl and Elizabeth Blegen Remembered Through Colloquium
June 6, 2013
Carl and Elizabeth Blegen Remembered. Ploutarchou 9, Celebrated.
A Colloquium Organized by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation, May 31, 2013.
Carl W. Blegen, archaeologist and professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati (1927-1957), is best known for his excavations at Troy and Pylos. At Troy, between 1932 and 1938, he resumed the excavations of Heinrich Schliemann and Wilhelm Dörpfeld, and in the course of only seven years he managed to place the site's ceramic chronology on a firm foundation for the first time. At Pylos, in 1939, he discovered the Palace of Nestor, which he excavated systematically from 1953 until 1968, uncovering not only the best preserved Mycenaean palace in Greece but also hundeds of Linear B tablets and unique frescoes.
Blegen was born in Minneapolis in 1887 from Norwegian parents. His father John H. Blegen, who immigrated to the States from Lillehammer, Norway, in 1869, taught for more than thirty years Greek and religion at Augsburg College, and played a central role in the Lutheran Free Church. Until he went to Yale University for graduate school, Carl grew up in an environment with strong Norwegian connections. Blegen first came to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1910. He wanted to continue his studies in Greek classics “with the inspiration that comes from being on the spot.” In 1918-1919 he enlisted with the American Red Cross and offered his services in Eastern Macedonia in the repatriation of Greek refugees from Bulgaria. For his services, Blegen was decorated by King Alexander of Greece. In 1924, he married archaeologist Elizabeth D. Pierce. Their house on Ploutarchou 9, where they lived with Bert and Ida Hill, became “a symbol to generations” of Americans who studied ancient and modern Greece. Originally bequeathed to the American School, the "Blegen House" on Ploutarchou 9 has been the home to the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation since 2008.
To honor the Blegens, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation organized a colloquium at Cotsen Hall, on May, 31, 2013. The list of speakers included (in alphabetical order): Jack L. Davis, Yannis Fappas, Elizabeth French, Vasiliki Florou, Yannis Galanakis, Nektarios Karademas, Robert Pounder, Brian Rose, Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst, and Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan. The speakers presented less well known aspects of the couple’s life and interests in Greece, in addition to remembering Carl Blegen’s contributions to prehistoric archaeology (from his early years in Corinthia, to the re-opening of Schliemann’s excavations at Troy in the 1930s, his involvement with the Marshall plan in the late 1940s, and, finally, to the discovery of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos in the 1950s and 1960s).
In the afternoon of May 31st, speakers and attendees visited the "Blegen House" on Ploutarchou 9, where they were guided by the Director of the J.F. Costopoulos Foundation, Mr. Hector Verykios. Finally, in the evening after the end of the talks, the audience had the chance to hear the voice of Carl Blegen delivering his acceptance speech when he was awarded the first gold medal from the Archaeological Institute of America for distinguished archaeoological service in 1965. It was a touching moment.