Brexit may bol­ster EU sup­port for Parthenon Mar­bles

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ARTS & CULTURE -

ATHENS: Greece will step up its cam­paign for the re­turn of the Parthenon Mar­bles from Bri­tain, the Greek cul­ture min­is­ter has said, and ex­pects to win more sup­port from Euro­pean peers as Bri­tish in­flu­ence wanes af­ter Brexit.

Since in­de­pen­dence in 1832, Greece has re­peat­edly called for the re­turn of the 2,500-year-old sculp­tures that Bri­tish diplo­mat Lord El­gin re­moved from Athens’ Parthenon tem­ple in the early 20th cen­tury.

Lon­don’s Bri­tish Mu­seum has re­fused to re­turn the sculp­tures – roughly half of the 160-me­ter frieze that adorned the fifth-cen­tury B.C. mon­u­ment – say­ing they were ac­quired by El­gin un­der a le­gal con­tract with the Ot­toman Em­pire. Greece says they were stolen.

“It is the men­tal­ity that has changed, the fact that Bri­tain is dis­tanc­ing it­self from the Euro­pean fam­ily,” Cul­ture Min­is­ter Lina Men­doni told Reuters re­cently. “It is 200 years since the Greek revo­lu­tion. I think the right con­di­tions have been cre­ated for their per­ma­nent re­turn.”

Bri­tain left the EU on Jan. 31. Greece plans cul­tural events through­out 2021 to mark 200 years since the start of its re­volt against Ot­toman rule.

The Bri­tish Mu­seum has said “the sculp­tures are part of ev­ery­one’s shared her­itage and tran­scend cul­tural bound­aries.”

The mu­seum also used to ar­gue for years that Athens lacked a suit­able place to pre­serve the mar­bles. Greece says that ap­proach smacks of an an­ti­quated and colo­nial­ist ap­proach of dis­play­ing “tro­phies” from ex­pe­di­tions over­seas.

Greece stepped up its cam­paign for their re­turn af­ter open­ing a new mu­seum in 2009 at the foot of the Acrop­o­lis hill, which holds the sculp­tures that El­gin left be­hind along­side plas­ter casts of the miss­ing pieces. The mod­ern glass and con­crete build­ing’s win­dows re­flect images of the Parthenon.

Men­doni said Greece would never give up the cam­paign for the mar­bles’ re­turn, ac­cus­ing El­gin of be­ing noth­ing short of a thief.

“Mo­ti­vated by fi­nan­cial gain, public­ity and self-pro­mo­tion,” she said, “El­gin de­ployed il­le­gal and un­to­ward mea­sures to ex­tract from Greece the sculp­tures of the Parthenon and a plethora of other an­tiq­ui­ties in a bla­tant act of se­rial theft.” –

An orig­i­nal sculp­ture of the Parthenon frieze is on dis­play at the Parthenon Gallery of Athens’ Acrop­o­lis Mu­seum.

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