When an Earl from ‘Elgin’ visits the Acropolis with a Neapolitan artist, it sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the theft of monuments from the sacred Acropolis. Taken away, never to be seen again in Athens.

The curse of the Stolen Marbles and artefacts leads to a series of twists and turns that seemingly brings together, the ‘Aegean Seven’ to help reunite the artefacts with their homeland. The Aegean Seven are a composite group of Hellenes and Philhellenes such as Lord Byron.

The new historical fiction from Billy Cotsis asks the questions, what would happen if the Aegean Seven attempted to take property from the Earl, including his own personal marbles from his body? What would happen if they enlisted Lord Byron to help bring the Marbles home?

Cotsis wrote the novel as a way to draw attention to the fact the Marbles were taken from Greece with a fake Firman (a permit from the Sultan) and why the Marbles need to come home.

Lord Byron. Image: Georgios Kolidas/Supplied

“One aim of the book is to highlight how the Firman wasn’t real. The Sultan did not issue an order to let the British Ambassador take priceless artefacts from the Acropolis and other parts of Greece. The Sultan had jurisdiction over temples and ancient ruins, these were treated as his own personal property. You can call the Ottoman Sultans what you want, many were ruthless, but they did not go around giving away their ‘property’ to appease the British. He simply did not issue a directive to give anything to the Scottish Earl of Elgin. If anything he likely allowed the Ambassador free reign to make busts and copies and take any small, loose bits of fragment. That’s it.”

Cotsis explains the Earl, otherwise known as Thomas Bruce, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, acted in concert with others. “Bruce was not alone. He was funded by his wealthy first wife, who ended up cheating on him with his bestie. He was aided by his onsite supervisor, a famous artist from Napoli, who died in mysterious circumstances in Athens a few years later. Then, there is his Reverend. This apparent Holy Man likely pushed Bruce to steal as much as he could!”

Along the way, the Aegean Seven stumble across an array of important historical figures in Europe as they cross Greece, Alexandria, Cyrene, Romania, Italy, Geneva, France and London.

“This is a fast-paced dramedy, providing the reader with an entry point to a range of historical milestones in Europe between 1801-1817 and set against the backdrop of the looming Greek Revolution. “As the journey to recover the Marbles unfolds, the reader will see a few points about the Filiki Eteria and how it came about. I have visited their Headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine, which helped inspire me to draw to draw the looming Greek Revolution into the novel.”

The Aegean Seven is led by Alcibiades and Melina. Other characters include Eleftheria from the real Greko town of Galliciano in Calabria. This is significant as the writer is trying to draw attention to the English speaking reader what and who the Greko and Griko are. There are numerous references to the towns in Calabria and Apulia including a chapter devoted to the region.

Photo: Billy Cotsis

Other characters are from places such as the Greek founded Alexandria and Cyrene in Africa, where Alcibiades and Melina visit, an appearance by the legendary Bouboulina on her ship and the brilliant poet, Lord Byron. The poet, of course, was a sworn enemy of Thomas Bruce in real life and made sure all of Europe was aware of what Thomas did in Athens. “Byron knew that Bruce had stolen the Marbles. He was devastated and he made sure people were learned of this betrayal. Make no mistake, Bruce betrayed his position as an Ambassador, and he betrayed the good people of Scotland and England due to his appalling actions. Scottish people are known to be kind and fair, Bruce was the antithesis of Scottish. He was a monster.”

The novel eventually takes the Aegean Seven to London and a showdown for the Marbles. The writer describes it as An Ocean’s Eleven minus Brad Pitt meets Dan Brown, Byron and Thucydides. Its similar in style to Cotsis’ previous historical fiction, 1453: Constantinople & the Immortal Rulers.

The Acropolis Museum, built with dedicated space intended for the return of the ‘Parthenon Marbles’. Photo: Billy Cotsis

For those who want to know more about this period and how the Marbles were taken, despite many of the characters being purely fiction, the novel lays out what happened and how it happened on the eve of the Greek Revolution and freedom. There is of course no freedom for the Marbles until they return.

Pressed on why the book is being released independently, Cotsis told Neos Kosmos, “I had two offers internationally to publish the book including one from a global name. However, the wait would be too long and there was no guarantee I would keep editorial control. I really need the message to get out there. I really need people to read the book. This project, just like every project I am involved in, is a loss making exercise. If you cant get a copy, post about it; we need people talking about the Marbles and we need the British Museum to rebuke the novel. Most importantly, we need the Marbles to return. The Museum, perhaps they can keep some pieces as a gesture of goodwill, however, 95% of artefacts taken from Greece MUST return. We have our differences with the Turkish Government, yet no Government has ever concurred with the lies of the fake Firman. None.”

The writer goes on to explain he hopes not to tread on the toes of the Committees worldwide and in Australia who work hard lobbying for the Marbles’ return. “I’m just a writer taking in a range of histories from the era. The Aegean Seven is a novel with some controversy as it involves a reverse heist and some violence. I did not want the novel to be a burden to those who work hard on the restoration committees.

The Aegean Seven Take Back the “Elgin” Marbles is available through Amazon, the Greek Bilingual Bookshop https://bilingualbookshop.com.au and anywhere else a good Greek book is sold on demand.

Image: Supplied/Billy Cotsis

*Billy Cotsis is the author of the 1453: Constantinople & the Immortal Rulers