2013 Archived News

FILE OF THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS

Informing the public about this work

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The late Nikos Pantazopoulos, my professor of Roman Law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, passed on to all his students many precepts and principles of the Law, as well as an observation derived from great knowledge and profound study: the view that Western civilisation rests on three pillars: the Acropolis, the Capitoline and Calvary. The Acropolis symbolises intellect and beauty, the Capitoline order and law, and Calvary faith and religion.  

It is to the Acropolis – the ageless cultural reference point and symbol of intellect and beauty, a monument identified in people’s minds with the knowledge and culture of the Greeks and with Athens – that this publication, of which it is my delight and honour to be publisher, is devoted. 

This File contains archival documents reproduced for the first time using the facsimile technique, which corroborate the fact that ever since its founding, the Greek State has claimed the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum. 

There is official correspondence between Greek state services, but also between Greece and other states. Dated 27 November 1836, the File and all its documents lend a dramatic tone, highlighting the concern on the part of the Greek state in its effort to restore and preserve a unique monument. This becomes obvious particularly in the official document written by the state employee sent by king Otto to Britain. In these documents, the Greek demand for the return of the Sculptures that Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon and sold to the British Museum is corroborated beyond all doubt. 

The Acropolis passed definitively into Greek hands in 1822, and Odysseas Androutsos was appointed first commander of the garrison. Under the newly-constituted Hellenic state the philosophy for dealing with the Acropolis changed. It was proclaimed an archaeological site by Otto’s government. All building remains that were unrelated to antiquity were removed, the restoration of the monuments began and excavations were carried out.

This philosophy and the desperate efforts to apply it are recorded in 21 hitherto unknown archival records of the newly-constituted state regarding the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis, and are contained in the file entitled “The Acropolis of Athens”. 

For the first time, archival records reproduced using the facsimile technique prove that: From its very inception, the modern Greek state has claimed the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum. 

The file covers the period from 1834 to 1842 and the documents it contains were written in three languages (French, German and Greek). 

Twenty-one documents were selected that constitute representative records of the early efforts to preserve, restore and enhance the Acropolis and repair the damage caused by previous interventions. These documents include discussions of the budget for carrying out the archaeological works, the actions taken to guard the monument, and the efforts on the part of the Greek government to secure the return of the reliefs from the temple of Apteros Nike. The publication of these records – and in particular the report by Iakovos Rizos, Secretary of the Secretariat for Ecclesiastical Affairs, regarding the negotiations in London for the return of these reliefs – corroborates, beyond all doubt, the demand in this regard expressed by all the Greek governments to date: the return of the Sculptures that Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon and sold to the British Museum. It was then (1801-1802), that the most serious harm was done to the Acropolis monuments, which between the 13th and early 19th century, had already sustained multiple damages. 

In addition to the first official record of the Sculptures removed by Lord Elgin, the following are also significant documents regarding: 

a) The progress of the works to restore the four sections of the frieze from the temple of Apteros Nike, which had been removed and taken to the British Museum. 

b) Mobilisation of the Greek Ambassador in London in the cause of retrieving the sculptures (1836) and information about possible obstacles to the success of this mission. 

c) Report by Greece’s envoy to the British Museum regarding the identity of the British exhibits with the missing parts of the frieze from the temple of Apteros Nike. The numbering of these exhibits in the British Museum catalogue is included, and Lord Elgin is referred to as the person who removed the Sculptures. 

d) The direct order to make casts of the Sculptures. 

Melina Mercouri, a significant political and cultural figure, made it her mission in life to bring the Parthenon sculptures back to Greece, which has since then become a constant claim by Greek governments in the 20th and 21st century. 

By publishing this File for the first time with its technical specifications, Alithia Publications aspires to make known the earliest efforts by the newly-constituted Greek State to preserve the Sacred Rock and through this unique publication, to make these efforts known to the largest possible number of scholars, researchers and ordinary lovers of learning, giving them all visual, tactile, emotional and intellectual contact with these efforts. 

TECHNICAL FEATURES of the File 

Dimensions of the file:  25 cm wide x 35.5 cm high 

File cover: Paper of exceptional quality, using the facsimile printing process, with absolute dedication to the aim of replicating the original. Our success in reproducing this file is as high as 98%! A true publishing achievement. 

Letter paper: The paper was created especially to ensure that each letter would replicate the original. The Italian mill in which this paper was mainly produced was established in 1224 and has been operating uninterruptedly since then. 

Binding:  The inside pages (letters) have been reproduced in a special way on pieces of paper similar to that used in the original File. In the entire “system”, wherever these pages are bound, they have been stuck to the body of the File with special glue. 

The Facsimile Reproduction of the File is accompanied by a small independent booklet 25 x 17 cm., which contains the printed texts of the letters, translated into English and Greek, as well as scholarly commentary in both these languages. The Facsimile Reproduction of the File and this small volume coexist in an attractive handmade case. 

My profession of journalist, reporter and researcher played its own role in the creation of this project, as a great deal of systematic work was required at the research level. 

This effort could not have been realised without the support of its mainstays, Greece’s General State Archives, which made available groups of scholars, archivists and researchers to create the work, together with specialists in Facsimile Reproduction and technicians. 

The uniqueness of this particular FILE is undisputed. In addition to being a significant publication and an educational tool for students of all ages, the ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS FILE could also, we believe, prove to be an important negotiating instrument in the effort by the Hellenic State to retrieve what is rightfully Greek: the sculptures stolen from the Parthenon. 

Assistance was forthcoming in support of this gallant effort to achieve the national goal. Through the sponsorship of Hellenic Postbank, a major Greek bank, this publication is already present in the libraries of all cities and towns in Greece, and in the libraries of all state secondary schools and all technical and trade schools throughout the country. To awaken minds in the remotest corners of Greece, and in the whole world as well. 

 

Thank you, 

Kostas Tsarouchas 

London, 18 June 2012