A group of 10-year-old students from the 5th Elementary School of Our Lady of Sion in West Sussex, England, sent open letters to the Greek ambassador to London, Ioannis Raptakis, asking for the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum to be returned to Greece.
Mr. Raptakis has been a strong supporter of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to their motherland, Greece, especially after Brexit, with the depart of the UK from the European Union.
He specifically said that he was “pleasantly surprised” when he opened his correspondence this week, in his office in Holland Park, and saw letters from elementary school students, expressing their heartfelt support for him and his campaign for the Parthenon Sculptures.
Without prior contact with the embassy, the students at the Our Lady of Sion School discussed the issue in their class and decided to show their support to Greece by saying that “the Greek sculptures should not remain imprisoned in the British Museum in England.”
10-year-old Rose, a student from Wringing, a seaside town in West Sussex, 79 km south of London, wrote in her letter to the Greek ambassador: “I am Rose, I am 10 years old and I completely agree that the Parthenon Sculptures must live in Greece. Marbles should not be in England, they should be in the Greek museum, because it is part of Greek culture and it is like stealing a part of your Greek past! I believe that Lord Elgin did not take the Marbles of the Parthenon legally.”
“The English protected the Parthenon Sculptures for enough time,” Rose added.
“I vote in favour of sending the Parthenon Sculptures back to Greece. The Parthenon was made for the Goddess Athena. Your ancestors built it many centuries ago and the Greeks have the right to take back the sculptures. Another reason is that I do not think that the Turkish had the right to give Lord Elgin the sculptures even though they ruled Greece at that time. What would happen if the Greeks took a piece of Big Ben or from our Parliament?” 10-year-old Miya wrote in her letter.
“I think we should give back the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece because they created a beautiful historical building and deserve the sculptures back. I think there is no piece of paper saying Lord Elgin could take them. We would not like it if the Greeks took Elizabeth Tower and would not give it back! We cannot take things from other countries that we do not own,” student Daisy wrote to the Greek ambassador.
It has been 204 years since Lord Elgin, Britain’s ambassador to the High Gate, sold the sculptures and sculptures he extracted from the Parthenon temple to the House of Commons in England.
Elgin, who at the time was designing his mansion in Scotland, was looking for ancient Greek sculptures and artefacts to decorate his property, and conducted excavations in Greece. After negotiations with the Turks, he removed 50% of Parthenon’s sculptures, while damaging the majority of them.
The questionable legitimacy – and according to many, vandalism – of this aggressive removal of the Parthenon friezes from the Acropolis, was firstly discussed by a British Member of the Parliament, Hugh Hammersley, who called for the return of the “Elgin Marbles” to Greece back in 1816.
Later, in the 1980s, when Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, initiated the global campaign International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and started the first movement for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
Since then, the reunification call has been backed by international figures, such as Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Stephen Fry, Sean Connery, and George and Amal Clooney.
Additionally, over the years, polls from the BBC, Sky News, The Telegraph, The Guardian and many more British media outlets, have shown that the majority of the British public has always sided with Greece and with the return of the Greek sculptures to the Parthenon.
This time, among the British supporters were the Our Lady of Sion School children, who sent numerous letters to the Greek embassy as part of a school discussion with subject “Let’s take the sculptures back to Greece!”
Edith Hall, a leading scholar of ancient Greek culture and studies, professor at King’s College in London, and a member of the British Committee for the Reunification of Parthenon Sculptures, stated that: “As someone who visits schools in Britain on a weekly basis to talk to students about the wonders of ancient Greece, I’m very happy to learn that the younger generation is so enthusiastic about reuniting the Parthenon Sculptures with the Parthenon. It gives me hope that when these children grow up, they will finally be able to achieve what should have been done more than 200 years ago.”
The Greek ambassador, Ioannis Raptakis, who took office in London in October 2020, also said that: “It is moving that children educated in the British education system understand both Elgin’s indecency and the tolerance of the Turks, as well as the British obsession to illegally withhold parts of a monument of Greek culture.”
“As long as there are such voices, there is hope that at some point, the voices of the marbles that are far from the place in which they belong, will be heard and they will return to reconnect with the monument in Greece.”
“These children fill us with pride and affirm the universal values of Greek culture and law,” he added.