New Europe  has published three articles on the Parthenon Marbles. Whilst a lot has changed with the opening of the New Acropolis Museum , current indications are that this has had little impact on the British establishment who are still resolutely looking in the opposite direction pretending not to notice.
New Europe 
British Museum thieves: Return Greece’s Marbles
Author: Andy Dabilis
28 June 2009 – Issue : 840
With the opening of the dazzling 180 million Euro New Acropolis Museum in Athens, under the shadow of man’s greatest architectural and sculpted achievement, the Parthenon, the last of all the lame excuses the British Museum has used over the years to keep the marble friezes stolen by Lord Elgin 207 years ago has vanished, and with it, any sense of honour they had, which was none anyway, just as they have no shame. Whatever happened to the alleged British idea of doing what’s right instead of what makes money?
Somewhere, Melina Mercouri, the late, great Greek actress and former culture minister, is smiling about it too because she was perhaps the greatest champion of getting back the precious stones the British referred to as the Elgin Marbles, but which she was the first to call the Parthenon Marbles, shaming the British out of their foxholes. The new museum was her baby too, along with former prime minister Constantinos Karamanlis. But let’s go all the way and call them what they are: the Greek Marbles, even if they will never be returned.
If not for Mercouri, there wouldn’t be a museum, or a drive to return the marbles to their homeland, because Greece didn’t care about its invaluable heritage and there had only been wishy-washy attempts to pressure the British, who said no as they always do, and Greece walked away without a fight. Not anymore. The new museum was opened with a gala ceremony that featured politicians, but also historians, architects and academicians, and they were unanimous in demanding the British Museum give up its stolen loot.
When Thief Elgin fell into ruin, just like the British Empire, he sold the Marbles to the British Museum, who incredibly say they now belong to them, although if someone tried that trick today there’d be charges of selling and receiving stolen property all over the place. The British had been insisting also that returning the Marbles would set a precedent to return all stolen art (not a bad idea, of course) and that more people could see them in London before those ideas were demolished by intellectuals, only a few of whom are British – like the brilliant writer Christopher Hitchens – who wrote a book explaining why the Marbles taken from a Greek mountain and sculpted on a Greek building in Greece were actually Greek.
“The Greeks don’t want anything else returned to them and indeed hope to have more, rather than less, Greek sculpture displayed in other countries,” he said in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine about precedent. And he said the late film director Jules Dassin, Mercouri’s husband, embarrassed the idea more people could see them in London when he told the British that using their own standard the marbles should be taken to Beijing. And now, with the sterling new three-story New Acropolis Museum, the Greeks have a place to put them, leaving the British with less to stand on than the air under the stilts of the new museum, put there so visitors could see the archaeological treasures uncovered during its building.
Saying they wouldn’t accept borrowing what they own, the Greeks refused an offer to take the marbles on a loan, because Greece would have had to stipulate that the 2,500-year old- Marbles are the property of the British Museum. “Accepting this is tantamount to legitimising the snatching of the marbles and the carving up of the monument 207 years ago,” Tourism Minister Antonis Samaras said. But that’s what the British have always done best, steal someone’s brilliance and heritage, because theirs is just one of plunder and run.
New Europe 
A battle as old as the ages, the fight over who owns the Elgin Marbles
28 June 2009 – Issue : 840
It seems like such a simple argument. Half of the marble marvels known as the friezes that adorned the Parthenon 2,500 years ago reside in the British Museum, stolen property they bought from an English nobleman named Lord Elgin who looted them more than 200 years ago when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and he obtained permission to do what he wanted as he was Britain’s ambassador to the court of the Sultan in Istanbul.
Returning to England and in dire straits, he sold them to the British Museum, which maintains they are now their property and have refused occasional entreaties from Greece and academicians around the world to return them to their rightful home. English writer Christopher Hitchens, long an advocate of returning them, and who wrote a book explaining why, came to Athens to for a preview of the New Acropolis Museum and said he was glad the magnificient structure had once and for all put the lie to British claims.
Hitchens wrote in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine that the British beliefs returning the marbles to Greece isn’t possible because it would set a precedent leading to the return of other stolen artifacts around the world, that more people can see them in London, and that the Greeks had nowhere to display them were inexcusable excuses. As to the idea of precedent, he wrote that, “The Greeks don’t want anything else returned to them and indeed hope to have more, rather than less, Greek sculpture displayed in other countries.” He said the late film director Jules Dassin, who was the husband of famed actress and then Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri, the champion of champions for their return until she died in 1994 until she died in 1994, embarrassed the second argument about where most people could see them when he told the British that using their own standard the marbles should be taken to Beijing.
And now, with the sterling new 130-million Euro three-storey New Acropolis Museum, the Greeks have a place to put them, leaving the British with less to stand on than the air under the stilts of the new museum, put there so visitors could see the archaeological treasures uncovered during its building.
More than half of the surviving Parthenon sculptures were removed from the temple by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th Century, and sold to the British Museum. Greece was then under Turkish rule. Some of the pieces were cut in half, so half are in London and half in Athens, and Hitchens wondered as he wrote, wouldn’t the world want the Mona Lisa re-united if it had been cut in half?
The British government maintains that the sculptures, known as the Elgin Marbles, but which Greece calls the Parthenon Marbles, as they were first called by Mercouri, which include depictions of religious and mythological scenes, legally belong to the British Museum and insists that they will not be returned. Athens says the sculptures were stolen from a monument of such importance that its surviving pieces should all be united and exhibited together.
“We can cooperate with the British Museum. We can compensate the museum with other artefacts on loan. We can talk, we can come to an agreement – but the Parthenon Marbles will be reunited here at the Museum of the Acropolis,” said Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras. “The return of the marbles is an issue of national pride in Greece,” said Greek President Karolos Papoulias speaking before some 300 guests at the New Acropolis Museum opening, among them UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsurra and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The British, apparently too embarrassed, declined an invitation to attend.
Saying they wouldn’t accept borrowing what they already own, the Greeks also refused an offer from the British Museum to take the marbles on a loan, because Greece would have had to stipulate that the marbles, taken from a famed Greek mountain 2,500 years ago and sculpted into the Parthenon, are the property of the British Museum.
“Accepting this is tantamount to legitimising the snatching of the marbles and the carving up of the monument 207 years ago,” Samaras said in an e-mailed statement. He said Greece would be willing to loan other antiquities to the British Museum “to fill the gap when the marbles are returned to the country they belong.” The New Acropolis Museum, constructed to house antiquities from the Parthenon Temple, includes instead replicas of the artworks in London. Successive British governments have declared that the marbles will not be returned. The British Museum’s Director, Neil MacGregor, said in a 2007 interview that objects in the collection could in theory be loaned for three or six months, though this would be impossible while the Greek government refuses to acknowledge that his trustees are the legal owners of the stones and not the country from which they were stolen.
The British Museum politely refers to the theft as its “stewardship,” of antiquities, which, if taken today, would land anyone in jail. The collection includes sculptures from the Parthenon, roughly half of what now survives: 247 feet of the original 524 feet of frieze; 15 of 92 metopes; 17 figures from the pediments, and various other pieces of architecture. It also includes objects from other buildings on the Acropolis: the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike. Greece said the new museum in Athens, itself an architectural wonder in the eyes of its supporters, is where the marbles belong and built the museum just to get them back, even designing the room for where they would go to replace the facsimiles in their place now. Located at the top-floor gallery lies the museum’s centrepiece and probably the Greek government’s best leverage for the marbles’ return. Enclosed entirely in glass and rotated 23 degrees to be aligned parallel to the Parthenon, which is only 244 metres away, a gallery provides visitors with a direct view of the ancient temple. The floor layout mimics the main temple whose 160-metre-long frieze has been mounted in an unbroken sequence, with the original blocks of the frieze coated in a soft brown patina standing alongside the white plaster copies of the pieces removed by Elgin.
As reported by Greece’s public television station ERT, in an effort to stress the marbles’ separation, Samaras took an original bust of Hra, the goddess of peace, during the museum’s inauguration and attempted to attach it to the plaster copy of the frieze.
New Europe 
A long time coming, the New Acropolis Museum opens to history
28 June 2009 – Issue : 840
In what Greeks hope will finally put an end to the British argument that the marbles stolen from the Acropolis nearly 200 years ago by a nobleman named Lord Elgin belong in the British Museum because “Greece had no where to put them,” the 130 million Euro (USD 182 million) New Acropolis Museum opened under the Acropolis it framed through its state-of-the-art glass encasement, allowing a view at one of the world’s remaining wonders.
Crowds of VIPs, academics and other dignitaries got the first view when it opened January 20, but then the doors have been flung open to the public for the rest of the year for the price of one Euro. “All that you see around you … symbolises ideas and values which were born here but are now the property of the whole world,” said Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras. “The marbles of the Acropolis belong to us in order for us to share with the whole world. To share with you … however, we cannot share the ownership of the marbles,” he said.
The museum is at the centre of Greece’s efforts for the return of the Parthenon sculptures, which were part of a 160-metre marble frieze of a religious procession that adorned the top of the temple built in honour of the city’s patron goddess Athena. More than half of the surviving Parthenon sculptures were removed from the temple by Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, and sold to the British Museum. Greece was then under Turkish rule. Since then, the stolen artefacts have been known as the Elgin Marbles, although Greece still refers to them as the Parthenon Marbles, as they were first referred to by the famed late actress Melina Mercouri when she became culture minister and demanded the return of the stones. The museum was her brainchild too, along with the late Constantinos Karamanlis.
Greek officials initially wanted the museum to be ready in time for the 2004 Olympics but protests and bureaucratic delays, including regarding the remains of a millennia-old city unearthed during construction, pushed back the project. The prime ministers of Finland, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia Herzegovina, and the presidents of Bulgaria and the Republic of Cyprus were among those in attendance, as were professors and believers that Greece should get back its marbles.
Following a centuries-old Greek ritual symbolising good luck, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis added a 3rd-Century wine goblet to a collection of the ancient objects on display in the glass floor of the museum’s lobby. Greek President Karolos Papoulias took the first step on behalf of the nation by walking over the ancient goblet – officially opening the museum. Spreading across three levels, the 14,000-square-metre museum displays more than 4,000 artifacts and sculptures dating from the Archaic period. The pieces were previously held in a small museum atop the Acropolis or in other museums across Greece, which British officials snickered at over the years when Greece occasionally made demands for their return, if only half-heartedly.
The museum makes use of natural light and is equipped with elevated ramps. Visitors enter large halls and walk up a wide staircase, reminiscent of the climb up to the monumental Propylaia entrance towards the Parthenon temple towering overhead. The museum is expected to host over 10,000 visitors a day. The competition to design the new museum, which as a modern work of art stands in stark contrast to the marvel above it, was won by Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi, who by all accounts pulled off an impressive accomplishment – a building that is majestic, while complementing the architectural grandeur of the Parthenon. He worked with architect Mihalis Fotiades to pull it off. And unlike other great museums around the world, it really has one display – the Parthenon and its embodiments. “The Acropolis Museum is a local museum. It is a museum solely dedicated to the Acropolis – nothing more, nothing less,” Alexandros Mantis, director of the Acropolis Ephorate, told the German Press Agency dpa. “Unlike other big European museums such as the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London, this museum is the only one of its kind, which includes finds and artefacts from one single archaeological site – the Acropolis.”
Situated on a site filled with ruins from 5th century BC to the 12th century, the three-storey, museum was controversial almost from its conception. Under the watchful eye of hundreds of archaeologists, Tschumi found a way to display the treasure trove of relics discovered during construction by raising the entire building on huge concrete columns or structural supports, which enable the museum’s entry plaza and first floor to hover over the site.
He also added wide expanses of glass that are cut into the floor throughout the museum to allow visitors to look down into the ruins as they move around. “There are two things that Tschumi had to take into account when designing the museum – designing the upper gallery to the exact dimensions and orientation of the Parthenon and accommodating the excavations below – an enormous project,” archaeologist Stamatia Eleftheratou told the Associated Press in Athens.
Pointing to an ancient road from the concrete canopy that extends over the main entry plaza, Eleftheratou said the first level of the museum is actually the dig itself and the subterranean remains of the ancient town it uncovered. Hundreds of archaeologists worked on the excavation for seven years and filled in the site with truckloads of sand for protection during construction. “We wanted the museum to be natural procession that imitates the walk up the Acropolis slope to the Parthenon temple at the top of the hill,” said Mantis. “The idea is to keep the conditions as close to those of the original Acropolis as possible, with natural sunlight and no glass showcases.”
The public opening came a day after a lavish ceremony attended by foreign dignitaries including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, and foreign heads of state and government. Conspicuously, there were no government officials from Britain, which has repeatedly refused to repatriate dozens of 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Parthenon temple that are held in the British Museum.