As Britain officially departed from the EU yesterday, and changing views with regard to art and cultural heritage, Greece announced this week that it would be intensifying its efforts to bring back the Parthenon Sculptures to their home.
Speaking during an Athens event for the reunification of the Marbles, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni referred to Greece’s renewed campaign for the return of the sculptures, which she said were “violently” and illegally removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the 1800s and sold to the British Museum.
The 2,500-year-old marble sculptures have been the subject of dispute for over three decades, with Greece and the international community repeatedly calling on the British Museum to return them to their place of origin.
Minister Mendoni said the time was right for the return of the Marbles now that the UK will no longer be a member of the EU and supporting its ideals, and at a time when Greece is returning stronger coinciding with the 200 years since its independence from Ottoman subjugation.
“The mentality has changed, the fact that Britain is distancing itself from the European family, it is 200 years since the Greek Revolution. I think the right conditions have been created for their permanent return,” she said.
In view of this, the minister said she now expects the growing support for the cause to increase, even more, adding that Greece will also turn to fellow EU members for cooperation.
At the same time, Mendoni stressed that the Parthenon Marbles issue holds an international, cultural and human dimension. Unlike other looted artworks and monuments which are singular items, the Parthenon Sculptures complete a whole.
“It is now becoming increasingly clear that the British Museum has committed itself to a sterile, counterproductive and long-term deadlocked policy,” said Mendoni.
“On the other hand, Greece has repeatedly stated its sincere intention to assist and collaborate fruitfully with the British Museum, as it has done successfully so with other museums,” she said.
The minister went on to add that Greece has repeatedly offered to lend significant archaeological items as well as temporary shows to the museum so that the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece will not leave a gap in the museum’s program.
Concluding, Mendoni underlined that as long as the British Museum remains negative, Greece, together with an ever-growing number of supporters worldwide will continue to exert pressure until it becomes “unbearable and the Museum will be forced to reconsider its stance”.
Over the years, the British Museum has repeatedly refused to negotiate the return of the sculptures citing a number of arguments, many of which are no longer found, including the fact Greece has no adequate space to house the Marbles. The event was held at the Acropolis Museum, at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens.