Greece’s Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou has sent out a letter pushing British authorities to re-assume talks for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
The letter was addressed to the UK culture secretary and stressed the cultural and moral dimensions of the issue as Lord Elgin, who removed the statues now exhibited in the British Museum from the Parthenon, claiming that he received permission from the authorities of the Ottoman Empire, who occupied Greece at the time, to take them.
Koniordou went on to highlight the recent call for dialogue by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP).
“The Parthenon sculptures are the legal property of the British Museum. They are free of charge to view and are visited by people from all over the world. Decisions relating to their care are taken by the trustees of the British Museum, free from political interference,” a spokesperson for the British government said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the British Museum argued that “the Parthenon sculptures are a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries” and were a part of “the story of cultural achievement throughout the world” which the institution’s exhibits tell.
“The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens (approximately half of what survives from the ancient world) to be appreciated against the backdrop of Athenian history. The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation in the context of world history. Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insight into how ancient Greece influenced and was influenced by the other civilisations that it encountered.
“The trustees firmly believe that there is a positive advantage and public benefit in having the sculptures divided between two great museums, each telling a complementary but different story,” the statement concluded.
Notably, and contrary to the British Museum’s statement, a poll regarding the return of the ‘Elgin’ Marbles which was conducted in the UK back in 2014 showed the British public mostly back the marbles’ return to Greece or are largely ambivalent, the Independent reported.
More specifically, YouGov revealed that 37 per cent think the statues should go back to Greece, 32 per cent did not mind either way, while 23 per cent said they should remain in Britain. Seven per cent said they did not know.