Today is the anniversary of the parliamentary debate leading to the acquisition of the Parthenon Marbles by the UK government
In the modern history of the Parthenon Marbles, 2016 was the year in which the British Government agreed to acquire them from Lord Elgin in exchange for paying off some of his debts.
June 7th 1816 was a particularly important date, as this was the day of the Parliamentary debate that led to the acquisition of the sculptures. In effect, it was the day the the British Government agreed to the purchase.
Today is also a reminder that requests of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles are not new. During the original parliamentary debate, Hugh Hammersley MP suggested the amendment to the Act that: “…Great Britain holds these Marbles only in trust till they are demanded by the present, or any future possessors of the city of Athens; and upon such demand, engages without question or negotiation, to restore them, as far as can be effected, to the places from where they were taken, and that they shall be in the mean time carefully preserved in the British Museum…”
You can read more about what happened to the Marbles in 1816 here.
Despite previous contradictory statements, Greece is still motivated to pursue legal action if required
Further coverage of the statements by Greece’s Culture Minister, re-asserting the country’s willingness to follow a legal route over the Parthenon Marbles. This route is not their first choice, but will remain as an option if other efforts fail.
Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum[/caption
Greece Looks To Forge New Alliances To Win Back Elgin Marbles
By Elisabeth Perlman On 5/9/16 at 5:58 PM
The Greek government is not giving up in its quest to reclaim the Elgin marbles from the British Museum, where they have resided for almost two centuries.
Greece hopes that forging new strategic alliances might engender change. One option is to take the British Museum to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Alternatively, the southeastern European country could appeal to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and apply for an advisory judgment from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a bid to win back the marble statues. Read the rest of this entry »
Now, in a new interview, Culture Minister Aristides Baltas reveals that pursuing the issue in international courts remains a possibility. They still have a desire to deal with the case by other diplomatic methods, but if such endeavours fail, then it appears that they are open to the option of taking legal action. It is assumed that this reasoning is based on the report produced by a legal team from the UK commissioned by the previous ND government. The team consisted of Geoffrey Robertson, Norman Palmer and Amal Clooney.
I will publish the legal advice in full in a separate post.
David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens
Greece looks to international justice to regain Parthenon marbles from UK
As 200th anniversary of artefacts’ removal approaches, Greek culture minister says government will appeal to courts and the likes of UN
Greece has not abandoned the idea of resorting to international justice to repatriate the Parthenon marbles and is investigating new ways in which it might bring a claim against the British Museum. Read the rest of this entry »
Private citizens’ association sues Britain at European Court of Human Rights for Parthenon Marbles
18/ 02/ 2016
Last update: 14:05
A private citizen’s group called the “Athenians’ Association” said on Thursday they filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights against the United Kingdom over the removal of the Parthenon Marbles by Lord Elgin in the 19th century, the association said in a press conference in Plaka on Thursday.
The association, which opened in 1895 and among whose aims is to research the history of Athens and help preserve of its cultural monuments, said the decision was taken after its board was informed about Britain’s refusal to participate in a mediation procedure, as part of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Goods in the Country of Origin. Read the rest of this entry »
A lawsuit is being brought in the European Court of Human Rights over the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. The case is being brought by The Athenian Association, an Athens based organisation chaired by Eleftherios C. Skiadas, the vice mayor of Athens.
This case is interesting, as it is happening outside of the remit of the Greek Government, although it is unclear what knowledge the government has of the process. The Athenian Association were prompted to take action following the rejection of UNESCO mediation prior to the prorogation of Parliament in 2015.
It will be interesting to find out more details of this case in due course, in particular what arguments they are basing their case on.
APPEAL OF THE «ATHENIANS’ ASSOCIATION» BEFORE THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR THE ACROPOLIS SCULPTURES
The historical “Athenians’ Association” (Syllogos ton Athinaion), which celebrated 120 years of existence this year (1895-2015), instituted proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights against the United Kingdom regarding the Acropolis Sculptures. The natives of the Greek capital set out the array of violations to their human rights regarding the cultural treasures of their city, characterised by Paul the Apostle as the «devotions of the Athenians». Indeed, this is the sole case worldwide of a UNESCO World Heritage Monument (1987) being despoiled through the removal of structural elements, such as the metopes and sculptures of the Parthenon.
Among the statutory objectives of the “Athenians’ Association”, special mention is made to “the making provision for the preservation and conservation of the monuments, works of art, etc., linked to the history of Athens”. Its founding members comprised descendants of the Athenians who stood up against the despoilment of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. Besides, one of the very first actions undertaken by the Association was an event organised in 1896 to commemorate the liberation of the Acropolis from the Ottoman Turks and during which its deputy chairman, professor Theodossios Benizelos (1821-1900) mentioned that the Parthenon was a place of daily worship, the holy of holies, a life good for our ancestors and that the Athenians strongly protested against the despoilment of the Acropolis’ extant statues by Elgin. Read the rest of this entry »
Greek Politics is always intriguing to an outsider. I am whether there is any substance to this decision to strike legal action off the list of possible options for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, or whether there is a sensible basis behind it.
No doubt, in due course, more will be revealed, but I feel that it is a great shame to write off methods of retrieving the sculptures, that have yet to be fully explored, while planning to repeat other methods that have been tried before and failed.
Greece is no longer mulling court action to win back the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum in London, Culture Minister Aristides Baltas said Tuesday, adding that the government would kick-start a diplomatic campaign to repatriate the 5th century BC statues.
Questioned by MPs during a session of Parliament’s education committee, Baltas said that the government was unwilling to put forward a legal claim “most importantly because we risk losing the case.” Read the rest of this entry »
George Zach – Greek Tragedy
Comedy – 15 Nov, 16 Nov at Museum of Comedy
George is a Greek comedian living in the UK. Has appeared in all of the biggest clubs in the UK, as well as on BBC1’s This Week (twice) and The One Show.
In the UK his mates say he’s too Greek, but he’s not Greek enough for his parents abroad; he’s trying to fit in in a world he believes to be more stupid than him. Also, he is dodging his national service. Read the rest of this entry »
British Museum criticised for loaning artefacts to Abu Dhabi organisation accused of abusing rights of workers
Tuesday 02 June 2015
The British Museum has come under fire over plans to loan hundreds of culturally significant artefacts, including some of its much-prized “highlights”, to an organisation in Abu Dhabi which has been accused of abusing the rights of workers.
Curators at the museum have drawn up a list of around 500 objects, a selection of which could be loaned to the Zayed National Museum in the United Arab Emirates for up to five years. Read the rest of this entry »
In the past, Greece has on numerous occasions proposed the idea of long term loans as a solution to the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles – allowing the British Museum to neatly side-step any restrictions placed on it by the British Museum Act, as well as setting aside the issue of ownership. The British Museum has always rejected such requests for a wide variety of different reasons – questioning whether a long term loan is even a valid concept (if it is long term, then it is not really a loan) despite partaking in similar agreements elsewhere. The question has been raised over whether Greece would be trusted to return them, as well as putting forward the argument that they are unable to lend the most iconic pieces from their collection, while at the same time denying the existence of any sort of list of items that can never be lent.
The recent loan of one of the Parthenon Sculptures to Russia just highlights how contradictory some of these objections are.
Now, it seems that the British Museum has agreed to an unprecedentedly large loan to the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. The loan will include many iconic items from the Museum’s collection, including Assyrian reliefs. Some that were purchased with public money through the Art Fund, which aims to make artefacts accessible to the UK public. The loans will last for five years – far longer than the normal duration for inter-museum borrowing.
The Museum will be receiving a substantial fee for the loans.
So – if loans can be long term, if loans can be made of large numbers of items and if loans can be made of iconic artefacts, then why is it not possible for the Parthenon Sculptures to return on the same basis? Clearly, as with corporate funding from BP, money hass a role to play – although I imagine that even if Greece offered financial remuneration, their requests would still be rejected.
Artists impression of the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi
British Museum to send star objects to the Gulf
Assyrian reliefs among the 500 loans earmarked for long stay in Abu Dhabi
by Martin Bailey
2 June 2015
The British Museum’s plan to lend 500 objects to Abu Dhabi for five years has expanded to include highlights of the London institution’s collection—and we can now reveal the list of objects that the museum has earmarked to send.
The loans are to the Zayed National Museum, which is due to open in 2016. The British Museum will get a substantial fee, although it has declined to reveal the amount. Read the rest of this entry »
Disclaimer – I am not Greek, so everything I am writing below might be a load of rubbish. Similarly, I know that in Britain, there are many enlightened individuals, who understand the issues surrounding the Parthenon Marbles and want to see them returned to Athens.
One thing that I noticed while conducting this survey, much of which was done over Twitter, was that many of those who are against the return of the sculptures did not really understand what the issue meant to the Greeks. Not only were there those who dismissed the issue as unimportant and not worth worrying about, but others who merely responded that they were quite happy with the current situation and saw no need to change it. Still more spoke out against return of the sculptures, but when asked further questions realised that they did not actually know many of the details of the case.
All too often, the British press love to portray restitution requests by Greece as nationalistic tub-thumping – something that amounts to its critics as little more than petulant whining having changed their mind over a past decision. Hopefully those reading this website have a more enlightened view, but it does not take long reading the comments below many press articles, to find this flawed understanding is all too common.
A big part of the problem is that we only see the situation through our own eyes – we feel that as we are happy with it, that anyone who wants to change it is disruptive. We do not even attempt to look at the story through the eyes of a Greek – how they feel every time we think about it. The fact that many see the case as too insignificant to have opinions about compounds the issue – the Parthenon Sculptures really do not mean that much to the average person in Britain, whereas from a Greek perspective, the emotion attached to the case is very different.
George Zacharopoulos is a Greek comedian based in the North East of England. Some of his shows contain a sketch on the Parthenon Marbles – which while good for its amusement value alone, does offer a good way of starting to understand how their story is perceived by many in Greece. Looking at the situation in a different way helps to understand just how galling it feels to Greeks to hear mealy mouthed commentators trying to argue that rather than complaining, Greece should be thanking Britain for looking after the sculptures for them.
In the meantime, you can see a clip off him talking about the Parthenon Marbles here (Start watching 6:20 into the clip). He tells me that he has since further developed that part of the act, so it is longer than what you can see here.
Watch the video, and remember to see him while he’s in London if you are able to.
Text of the original press statement by Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis, clarifying the earlier comments about potentially taking legal action over the Parthenon Marbles.
As I already said, it is a great shame that more has not been made of this clarification, or that a more detailed statement was not made sooner. Many newspapers in the UK have already been spinning the original story as the campaigning for the Parthenon Marbles being over – that Britain was acknowledging Britain’s legitimate ownership of the sculptures. This was never the case – not in the original statement and definitely not in this one. This is not an issue that will go away, much as certain elements within Britain might wish that to be the case.
I have given the text as an automatically translated version, with the original Greek below.
05/14/2015 A journalist’s question about the Greek government’s strategy regarding the claim of the Parthenon Marbles, the if. Minister of Culture Mr. Nikos Xydakis made the following statement:
The legal advice is extremely useful and reinforce the arguments of Greece for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, but the Greek government has never stated its commitment in the near future to follow the court proceedings.
I get the impression that of all the UK newspapers, the Daily Express is perhaps the one that is most incandescent with rage at the very thought that the Parthenon Marbles might one day return to Greece. Why this should be the case is unclear, because their articles are sometimes relatively factual, despite what the crazed headlines would suggest.
Here, we learn that Amal Clooney has a “lawyer nose” whatever that might be, and that she has been told to “butt out” (presumably in a different press release to the one covered by all the other newspapers, which did not use this language.
Perhaps Mr Desmond is feeling the pressure now that internal divisions within UKIP are jeopardising his latest stab at offering cash to political parties in the hop of getting a peerage. For the man who made his fortune from Asian Babes magazine, it is unclear why he has taken quite such a dislike to Amal.
Amal Clooney sent packing after she sticks her lawyer nose into Elgin Marbles row
GEORGE Clooney’s barrister wife Amal has been told to butt out of a legal row between Greece and Britain over ancient Greek marble sculptures.
By Helen Barnett
PUBLISHED: 14:20, Thu, May 14, 2015
The international human rights lawyer had told the Greek government to take Britain to the International Criminal Court to reclaim the Elgin Marbles.
The sculptures date back to the 5th century BC and were acquired by Lord Elgin in Athens in the early 1800s when he was a British ambassador in Ottoman… and never returned. Read the rest of this entry »