The Parthenon Marbles will never be handed back to Greece on cultural grounds. That would upset the status quo of museums and collectors worldwide. But any reference of artefacts to present day religious significance sends tremors down the spine of curators of museums, as it would, undoubtedly encroach upon issues of Human Rights.
This must be the basis of the argument for Greece to regain the Parthenon Marbles. In 1801, Greece was under the occupation of the Turks. The Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time, bribed the Turks in order to get permission to hack away at the sculptures of the Parthenon. Elgin filled over 100 large packing cases with friezes, metopes and figures from the pediments and shipped them to England where they were sold to the British Museum in 1816 for £35,000 to pay his debts.
Over the years they were desecrated with hammers, chisels and wire brushes to make them white so they fitted in with the British concept of classical sculptures of ancient Greece. There have been ongoing attempts to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles on the grounds of “nationalism”, “culture” and “heritage”. These arguments have been unsuccessful and the tourist pound continues to fill to the coffers of the British Museum and the British Government in general. For the legal precedent for the repatriation of any artefacts to have effect, two issues must be proved.
Firstly, the artefacts must have a continuous connection with an identified group and secondly, the artefacts need to have a present day unbroken religious connection with that particular identified group. The relevant identified group consists of persons who are Greek nationals living in the European Union. This would invoke the right to seek justice from the Human Rights laws of the European Union of which both Britain and Greece are member states.
The present day religious connection with the Greek Orthodox Church would, at first, seem to scream blasphemy, given that the Parthenon Marbles were completed 432 BC and they depict the old gods of ancient mythology. However the Parthenon Marbles do, in fact, have a proven unbroken spiritual connection with the present day Greek Orthodox Church and that link is unbroken from ancient mythology, Moses, through the era of the philosophers, Jesus Christ, Saint Paul, Saint John, early Christianity, the Greek Fathers through to the present day.
This connection has always existed but now takes on relevance that becomes a valid argument for the Parthenon Marbles to be returned to Greece under the laws of the European Union. Throughout the 20th century, religious artefacts were returned to the Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maoris and the North American Indians because they could prove a continuous religious connection with their present day life. “How The Greeks Can Get Their Marbles Back” proves a continuous religious connection between the Parthenon Marbles, which were completed in 432 BC and the present day Greek Orthodox Church which sets the archaeological and human rights argument in place for Greece to regain the Parthenon Marbles from Britain.
Therefore, to begin the case we have: 1. An identified group – Members of the Greek Orthodox Church living in the European Union. 2. A proven unbroken link from the Parthenon Marbles to the present day Greek Orthodox Church – with a letter written to me from His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Supreme Head of the Greek Orthodox Church dated 22 March, 2004. 3. Evidence that Britain has broken its own laws. 4. Evidence that Britain is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. By retaining the Parthenon Marbles, the British Government has broken not only their own laws, but also the Human Rights laws of the European Union.
Public international law (between states) is binding on member states of the international community (United Nations). Heritage laws fall between customary law and laws established by treaty. L. Prott, a former director of UNESCO’s Division of Cultural Heritage, stated that “sacred and secret objects of minority and foreign communities are now the subjects of special concern in a number of national legal systems.” The European Convention on Human Rights is for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights established an international judicial organ with jurisdiction to find against States that do not fulfil their undertakings. Both Britain and Greece have signed and ratified the Protocols that are binding. As a Member State, Britain has violated the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). There is no substantive conflict of values since the legal orders of Britain and Greece accept the ECHR as a basic core that cannot be transgressed. The Acropolis and the Parthenon must now be seen as sacred to the Greek Orthodox Church and as the foundation of the Greek Orthodox religion and beliefs.
The thread of the continuous religious connection to the Greek Orthodox Church is crucial for the Parthenon Marbles to be returned to their Greek homeland. There has been successful repatriation with religious artefacts that have a continuing connection to the Australian Aborigines, the New Zealand Maoris and the North American Indians. “How the Greeks Can Get Their Marbles Back” proves a continuing religious connection between the Parthenon Marbles and the present day Greek Orthodox Church.
In 2004, I wrote to His All Holiness Ecumenical Bartholomew, the Supreme Head of the Greek Orthodox Church who resides in Istanbul. His letter to me gave enough to win the religious connection in a court of law. The way is now clear for Greek nationals living in the European Union to take on the British and win. It is highly unlikely that any lawyer for the British government would be able to argue against the theology of the Greek Orthodox Church and His All Holiness, the Supreme Head of the Greek Orthodox Church, without causing a racially motivated and international incident.
Finally, the British case to keep the Parthenon Marbles in Britain will fail. Excerpt of letter from His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Supreme Head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Istanbul. 22 March 2004. Prayers and blessings to you (Kathryn-Magnolia Feeley)… the Parthenon Marbles are the search for the ultimate truth…(Greek Orthodox Christianity)… every success with your book.
* Kathryn-Magnolia Feeley is a human rights and archaeological lawyer at John O’Keefe Lawyers in Canberra, Australia. Prior to law, she was an archaeologist researching in Greece. Kathryn-Magnolia Feeley was the barrister in a major Native Title case that gave her the foundation for preparing a case for the Parthenon Marbles to return to Greece and she is now writing the documentary. “How The Greeks Can Get Their Marbles Back – the legal argument for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece” by Kathryn-Magnolia Feeley. $US9.95. Available at Amazon on-line books and major on-line book stores firstname.lastname@example.org