Welcome to the site of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. These pages contain detailed information on the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles, together with the case for their return to Athens, Greece. If you would like to find out about the various ways to get involved with the campaign, or simply to learn more about the subject, then please read on.
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2016 a significant year for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
2016 is a significant year for the Parthenon Marbles and for campaigners all over the world that have campaigned tirelessly, selflessly for the reunification of a peerless work of art.
The Parthenon temple on the Acropolis of Athens, constructed between 448 and 432 BC, with its sculpted pediments, metopes and frieze is universally regarded as the high point of classical art.
It survived largely intact until suffering bomb damage in 1687 during the Ottoman occupation of Greece. Thereafter the damaged structure and fallen masonry lay relatively untouched.
In 1801 Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman court, obtained limited licence for his agents to collect some pieces of stone from the acropolis to adorn his home in Scotland.
They thereupon set about cutting sculpted blocks from the metopes, pediments and frieze of the Parthenon. Between then and 1805, when the authorities in Athens forbade further collecting, they collected numerous shiploads of sculptures which were dispatched to England. There was much contemporary criticism of Elgin’s actions on grounds of dubious legality and moral impropriety.
In 1811, financially stressed by the costs of his enterprise, Elgin offered to sell the marbles to the nation for £62,400. The matter was considered by a Select Committee in 1815 and in 1816 they were purchased by Act of Parliament for £35,000 and placed in the trust of the British Museum.
The Greek State has demanded the repatriation of these marbles since it gained full independence in 1832. Currently they demand specifically 92 pieces held by the British Museum including 15 metopes, 17 pedimental sculptures and 80 metres of frieze. These amount to over 50% of the surviving sculptures. Apart from a few isolated pieces in other museums, the remainder is in Athens.
Neil Kinnock once famously described the Parthenon with its missing sculptures as “a gap toothed smile”. This description applies no less to the current display of the Parthenon Sculptures in the glass walled Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum. This has been described as “the one place on earth where it is possible to have a simultaneous visual and aesthetic experience of the Parthenon and its sculptures”.
The Parthenon is a fixed monument. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its sculptures are integral structural components. Half have been removed with cutting equipment and are now displayed 1500 miles away in the British Museum. This is a unique cultural outrage. The onus of justification is on NOT reunifying them.
The Parthenon and its sculptures are iconic symbols of Greek cultural identity. There are strong cultural, ethical, and museological grounds for reunifying them. If this cannot be done consensually, let it be determined by a process of mediation.
The Parthenon Marbles: To litigate or not to litigate?
The Parthenon Marbles: To litigate or not to litigate?
In an ideal world the issue of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles would be settled on cultural grounds, to restore the integrity of a single work of art of rare importance. Recourse to litigation ought not to be necessary.
The BCRPM, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles however is not purist about this. If the matter were to be resolved through litigation we would be gratified. Litigation however must be treated with care.
In the case of the Parthenon Marbles litigation has much in common with the Trident nuclear deterrent. Its value is more in its threat than in its use, for a number of reasons, including:
a. Certainly there is much evidence that Lord Elgin exceeded the authority granted to him by the Ottoman authorities in amputating large amounts of structural components from the Parthenon, but much of it is circumstantial and not necessarily adequate to satisfy judicial standards of proof. The onus of this proof is on the plaintiff. Thus the judicial hurdle facing the plaintiff (presumably Greece) is higher than that faced by the defendant (the British Museum or the British Government).
b. Add to this the legal technicalities which could thwart even the presentation of the circumstantial evidence. Such as:
- the demise of the Ottoman State under which Elgin’s alleged illegalities took place.
- the fact that the Greek National State did not exist nor had ever existed at that time.
- the statute of limitations after the passage of over 200 years.
c. Much of the massive public sympathy for the demand for reunification derives from the strong impression of illegality and moral dubiety in Elgin’s actions. A single act of suicide by litigation could seriously erode this sympathy vote.
Thus litigation is of more value as a threat in the repertoire of recourses available to the Greek Government as it pursues the matter through diplomatic and other means.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution
In October 2013 the Greek Ministry of Culture hosted the 3rd Annual Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property. The conference opened in the Acropolis Museum and the chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles was invited to deliver the opening address on the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles. He concluded with reference to the recent UNESCO initiative inviting the British Museum and the British Government to submit the dispute to mediation, to which he urged a positive response and a successful outcome.
The rest of the conference was held in the conference centre on the site of Ancient Olympia where it was addressed by a wide range of academic, legal, law enforcement and cultural experts from all five continents. The conclusions of the conference were embodied in a conference resolution which ranged over disputed ownership, illicit removal, the "black" art market, lack of due diligence in the legal art market, the risk to cultural sites and objects in areas of armed conflict and the need for governments and cultural institutions to cooperate with each other and with cultural organisations such as UNESCO. Given the coincidence in timing with the UNESCO initiative on mediation over the Parthenon Marbles dispute this was referenced in the final clause of the resolution.
On December the 9th 2015 following an initiative by the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution with broad international support on the same areas of concern as covered by the conference of experts at Ancient Olympia. This duly included the reference to the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles.
Artemis Papathanassiou, MFA of Greece and Member of the National Consultative Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures commented: “of a major importance, is operative paragraph 7 of the Resolution, which, for the first time, recognizes the recent institution of International Conferences on the Return or Restitution of cultural property (Seoul, Ancient Olympia, Dunhuang, Nevsehir), as well as their concluding documents. Among them, the 'Ancient Olympia Recommendation' of 2013, which calls, among others, for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures. It is for the first time that a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution, in its operative part, refers to this issue, even indirectly.”
More on the Olympia Conference here
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Friday night jazz in the restaurant of the Acropolis Museum
Starting this Friday 27 November 2015, the Acropolis Museum will stays open from 8am in the morning until 10pm in the evening and the restaurant will remain open until midnight, with dinner menus on offer from 8 pm onwards.
On Friday 27 November, plus 04, 11, 18 & December 2015, Acropolis Museum visitors will be given an opportunity to listen jazz and savour exquisite cuisine based on classic and traditional recipes - simultaneously soaking up the magnificent views of the Acropolis at night.
The Acropolis Museum restaurant will host a musical ensemble consisting of three well-known musicians from the Athens jazz scene - guitarist Elizabeth Mitsos, pianist Pantelis Mpenetato and Harry Pantazi on contrabass. This jazz trio will provide a memorable collection of music from iconic jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington.
28 October, a special day for young visitors at the Acropolis Museum
Let them have a great day @ the Acropolis Museum!
On the 28th of October, the Acropolis Museum is holding a special day for children. Younger visitors to the museum fascinated by mythical creatures will have access to archaeologists happy to answer questions and recount fascinating stories.
Children also will have an opportunity to use their vivid imagination to illustrate colourful cards and then embark on a path of discovery, to find the myths and creatures among the exhibits of the Museum. Archaeologists will be available from 12 noon until 6 pm on the second floor of the Museum, on the balcony overlooking the Archaic Chamber.
On Wednesday, 28 October, the Acropolis Museum will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with free admission.
Acropolis Museum among the best museums in the world
TripAdvisor, one of the largest travel site, announced its Travellers’ Choice™ awards for museums around the world in September 2015. For a complete list of the top 25 visit: http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Museums.
Award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews for museums around the world, gathered over a 12-month period.The superlative Acropolis Museum, in Athens, Greece is among the best museums ranked 11th in the world and 8th in Europe attracting hundreds of tourists every year and receiving great reviews.
"Honouring nearly 600 institutions worldwide, the Travellers' Choice awards have recognised the favourite museums that serve as cultural treasure troves for our community of millions," said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor.
Have you visited the Acropolis Museum? If so, have you written your review on TripAdvisor?
European Heritage Days and World Tourism Day 2015
Athens, the Acropolis Museum 26 & 27 September 2015
To celebrate European Heritage Days and World Tourism Day, the Acropolis Museum will give visitors the opportunity to discover the landscapes, the people and the great archaeological exhibits of Samothrace with the assistance of archaeologists-curators.
On Saturday 26 September and on Sunday 27 September 2015, archaeologists will be available in the gallery of the temporary exhibition 'Samothrace. The mysteries of the Great Gods', between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., so that visitor can ask questions. On these two days, the weekly gallery talks about Samothrace will be held as usual by Museum Archaeologists (participation to the gallery talks is free of charge, as is the entrance to the temporary exhibition).
GALLERY TALKS – PROGRAM:
Friday 25 September:
‘The Great Gods of Samothrace and Athena of the Acropolis’: 8 p.m. Greek & 6 p.m. English (for this gallery talk the general admission fee to the Museum is required).
Saturday 26 September:
'Samothrace. The mysteries of the Great Gods': 11 a.m. English and 1 p.m. Greek
Sunday 27 September:
'Samothrace. The mysteries of the Great Gods': 11 a.m. English & French, 1 p.m. Greek
Participation is limited to 40 visitors per session on a first-served basis. For registration details, please refer to the Museum Information Desk.
On Saturday 26 September and on Sunday 26 September the Museum will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and admission will be free for visitors between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.