April 7, 2007

Will the Elgin Marbles be the next Greek antiquities to be returned?

Posted at 12:37 pm in Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

Now that the Getty has started to hand back Greek artefacts, have reasons for keeping the Elgin Marbles in Britain disappeared?

Spero News

Greek antiquities returned: Elgin marbles next?
The Getty Museum has returned two looted artefacts to Greece. Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis says that UK’s excuses for not returning Elgin marbles have “evaporated”.
Friday, April 06, 2007
By Karolos Grohman

Greece displayed two ancient, looted artefacts on March 29 that had been returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum and said the recovery of its most famous antiquities – the Elgin Marbles – was only a matter of time.

The Los Angeles-based Getty gave back a 4th century BC Macedonian gold wreath and a 6th century BC marble statue of a woman as part of their deal with Greece to return four objects from their collection that were the result of smuggling and illegal sale.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said their homecoming would strengthen international calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles, which are called the Parthenon Marbles in Greece.

The marble friezes and sculptures were removed from the Acropolis above Athens some 200 years ago by Lord Elgin, Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire which then ruled Greece, and are currently housed in the British Museum.

Lord Elgin acquired his collection between 1801 and 1810. It was bought by the British Museum in 1816 and has been a major attraction there since.

“The ecumenical demand for uniting the marbles of the Parthenon is gaining in strength and reach,” Karamanlis said, flanked by the wreath and statue inside the National Archaeological Museum.

Britain has refused to return the marbles, claiming they are better preserved in London.

Karamanlis said the completion of the new Acropolis Museum and the return of two fragments from the ancient monument by Sweden and Germany last year “evaporate the vague excuses for their non-return”.

“It is our urgent priority to reclaim every ancient artefact that was illegally exported to museums and collectors abroad,” the prime minister said.

Culture Minister George Voulgarakis said the government’s work “will some day lead to the return of the Parthenon Marbles.”

In December last year Getty, embroiled in an international scandal involving their former antiquities curator Marion True, had agreed to return the two objects that Greece has long said were the result of illegal excavation and smuggling.

This is the second batch of ancient artefacts the Getty has handed back to Greece.

The Getty, one of the world’s richest institutions, approved the return of all four items saying they were indeed illegally obtained and then purchased by True, who now faces criminal charges in Italy and Greece. She has denied the charges against her.

A 2,400-year-old, black limestone stele – grave marker – and a marble votive relief dating from about 490 BC were returned in August as the first instalment of the deal.

Karolos Grohman appears here through the courtesy of the Athens News.

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