“The marbles belong in the Parthenon. In these difficult times, universal cultural heritage should uplift humanity, not divide it. #ParthenonMarbles” European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas posted on Twitter.
As reported on GCT, last week British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed Greece’s call to return the Parthenon Marbles to the country, arguing that the 2,500-year-old cultural treasures are “legally owned by the British Museum’s Trustees.”
“I understand the strong feelings of the Greek people – and indeed Prime Minister Mitsotakis – on the issue,” Johnson said during an interview with Ta Nea.
“But the UK government has a longstanding firm position on the sculptures which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s Trustees since their acquisition,” he added.
Greece’s Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni responded to Boris Johnson’s statements.
“Upon careful review of the statements made by UK Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, it is clear that he has not been properly informed by the competent state services of his country of the new historical data regarding Greece’s occupation by the Ottomans that show that there was never a legitimate acquisition of the Parthenon sculptures by Lord Elgin and, therefore, neither has the British Museum ever acquired the Sculptures in a legitimate manner,” she said.
“The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people that the British Museum possesses the sculptures illegally.”
“For Greece, the British Museum does not have legitimate ownership or possession of the sculptures. The Parthenon, as a symbol of UNESCO and Western civilisation, reflects universal values. We are all obliged to work towards this direction,” Mendoni concluded.
The Greek minister has since contacted the international associations for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and proposed immediate action to inform Johnson and the British public that the British Museum’s possession of the sculptures is illegal.
According to the Culture Ministry, Mendoni’s letter prompted a swift response from the national associations, as well as the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.
The Chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures Christiane Tytgat congratulated Mendoni for her swift response: “This proves, once again, that despite the fact that Prime Minister Johnson has studied the classics in depth, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of informing people, even here in Greece, as they do not know exactly what it is we are asking to be returned and are not aware of the precise circumstances of its looting. And we will do it! …Neither Athens, nor Rome, were built in a day…”
The international association’s honorary chair Louis Godart congratulated and expressed “deep gratitude” to Mendoni for her “wonderful reply to Boris Johnson” and pledged to continue the struggle for the return of “the sculptures of Pheidias and I have no doubt that we will ultimately succeed.”
The deputy chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Paul Cartledge, also thanked the minister for the swiftness of her reply.
A group of 10-year-old students from the 5th Elementary School of Our Lady of Sion in West Sussex, England, last year 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.”