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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Should they stay or should they go?
Wadham College's debate chaired by Peter Thonemann at the British Museum resulted in a majority win for the 'remainers', those supporting that the Parthenon marbles should remain in London. It is 'painful' that such a debate highlights support for the continued division of a peerless work of art, surely the sculptures from the Parthenon deserve everyone's respect.
To read more on the debate results, you can view that here.
Not sure that Lord Elgin was a 'saviour' despite Dominic Selwood's well thought out arguments. Had Lord Elgin left the sculptures where they were, they might still be in Athens with the other surviving halves.
Agree with Tiffany that 'squabbling over the past is not necessary' but disagree that that the average visitor makes meaningful connections between the randomly acquired objects held by encyclopaedic museums. Indeed, given the choice between viewing the Parthenon Marbles within the contexts applied to them by British Museum curators and experiencing them in the city of Athens from which they originate, the overwhelming evidence is that the majority of the public would prefer to see them returned to Athens.
Paul Cartledge and Edith Hall do agree that the Acropolis Museum allows all visitors from all over the world to best appreciate the sculptures in context and with views to the building they once belonged. A building which despite the wars and destruction over millenia, still stands. The Parthenon continues to be regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and western civilization, and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments.
The Acropolis Museum in Athens is a world-class museum with first-rate conservation and curatorial expertise. It is the most appropriate place in the world in which to display the Parthenon Marbles. Its proximity to the ancient monument would return to them some measure of their architectural significance. While they remain in London, this aspect of their importance is steadily being erased from the cultural memory.
The BCRPM wishes to thank Peter Thonemann for chairing this debate and all four speakers: Professor Paul Cartledge, Professor Edith Hall, Dominic Selwood and Dr Tiffany Jenkins for their contributions to this debate. Not least those that participated too.
This debate may not have been won by those that wish for the Parthenon marbles to be reunited but it is a debate that will continue to go on until the fragmented pieces might one day, join their other halves in the Acropolis Museum, Athens.
Melina's campaign for the return of the Parthenon marbles to be aired at the Acropolis Museum on Monday 06 March
It was 35 years ago that Melina Mercouri started the campaign for the return of the Parthenon marbles, currently displayed mainly between the Acropolis Museum in Athens and the British Museum in London.
For those that were caught up in Melina's enthusiasm and passion, it is tragic that she did not live long enough to see the Acropolis Museum or experience the views inside the superlative Parthenon Gallery and marvel at the views looking out to the Parthenon itself.
Her great contribution to raise global awareness for the reunification of the sculptures from the Parthenon is remembered time and tine again. Her passion inspired many more campaigners, not least BCRPM's founder James and Eleni Cubitt and current Chairperson Dame Janet Suzman.
To hear Dame Janet Suzman speaking about Melina's passionate appeal for the marbles, here is a link to an ERT1 programme that was first aired in October last year and presented by Labis Tsirigotakis.
The Acropolis Museum has produced a video about the removal of the sculptures from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin and Melina Mercouri's international campaign, with material from the Melina Mercouri Foundation.
The 23-minute video will be shown at the auditorium on the ground floor of the Museum on Monday 06 March 2017, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
On this day, entry will be free for visitors to both the auditorium and the Museum exhibition areas. The Museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Parthenon Marbles: London or Athens?
Should they stay or should they go? Join the discussion ahead of Wadham's Circles' Debate on 1 March 2017, which is to be held at the British Museum.
Wadham Circles members are invited to join the debate at the British Museum on 1 March 2017. The discussion will be chaired by Peter Thonemann (Forrest-Derow Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at Wadham). Four prominent public intellectuals will lay out their very different positions on the future of the Parthenon marbles: Professor Edith Hall (King's College London: Wadham 1978); Professor Paul Cartledge (University of Cambridge); Tiffany Jenkins (author, Keeping Their Marbles); Dominic Selwood (barrister, journalist and historian).
Those arguing for the Marbles' return claim moral and artistic grounds.
The main stated aim of the Greek campaign is to reunite the Parthenon sculptures around the world in order to allow visitors to better appreciate them as a whole. Presenting them in their original historical and cultural environment with the friezes shown as a single work of art would permit their "fuller understanding and interpretation". The cultural connections between the Parthenon sculptures and other western art in the British Museum could be demonstrated just as well by casts of the marbles, whereas the original context of the marbles cannot be replicated within the British Museum. There is also a strong moral case for the return of the marbles, grounded both in the questionable ethics of the original removal by Elgin (licensed by the Ottoman Turkish government, but opposed by Greeks even at the time), and in the central place of the Parthenon marbles in modern Greek cultural identity.
Arguing for the return are Professor Edith Hall
and Professor Paul Cartledge
Those arguing to keep the Marbles in London claim legal right, asserting the role and function of museums.
Scholars, political leaders and British Museum spokespersons over the years have defended the retention of the Elgin Marbles by the British Museum. They assert that fulfilling all restitution claims would empty most of the world's great museums; the return of the Parthenon marbles to Athens would establish a precedent for the return of countless other artworks to their countries of origin. They also argue that the Greek intention would be to put the marbles into the Acropolis Museum in Athens, not display them in their original position on the Parthenon – what then is the difference between seeing them at a museum in Athens rather than a museum in London? The law also appears to be on the side of those who argue to keep the marbles, in that Elgin was granted permission to take them by the then government in Greece (the Ottoman state), and British law would need to be changed for the marbles to be returned.
Arguing against the return are:
and Dominic Selwood
Florence conference addresses the Parthenon Marbles and Italian Committee adds it's voice to the campaign
17-19 February in Florence, at the Palazzo dei Congressi in the 19th Century Villa Vittoria, surrounded by historical gardens, the tourismA 8th International meeting's Part III was also dedicated to the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.
Louis Godart, advisor of the President of the Italian Republic for Culture for the past 15 years and recently elected Chairman for the IARPS (International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures), has now formed an Italian Committee to campaign for the marbles on home ground. Louis Godart addressed the conference on the issue of the Parthenon Marbles alongside Greek Minister of Culture Lydia Koniordou.
For Minister Koniordou the marbles are important not just for Greece but for world heritage as a whole. She stressed the importance of integrity for works of art, with the sculptures from the Parthenon being a prime example of the need for integrity.
"There is the commitment of the Greek Government to continue to seek the reunification of this unique symbol, which is also the symbol that upholds democracy and freedom of speech and provides us all with the acceptance of the each other." Commented Minister Lydia Koniordou.
"I ask that the newborn Italian Committee along with the other 25 Committees around the world unite their voices to campaign for what most people would like to see, a reunited display of the Parthenon marbles" concluded Minister Lydia Koniordou.
Louis Godart added: "Italy and Greece must wage a joint campaign. If we think about it, it was Rome that presented to Italy and the world, the message of classical Greece. It is therefore imperative that in this struggle for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles, Italy stands firmly beside Greece. We must consider that the Parthenon is not just a monument but one that represents our democratic Europe" concluded Godart.
An Italian article that reviews the conference and both the comments made by the Greek Minister Lydia Koniordouand Louis Godart can be read on this link.
Stefania Berutti, the Secretary for the newly formed Italian Committee was interviewed in Italian, on a radio programme called 'Let's Dig Again' and you can follow this by clicking on this link.
Architecture and a very specific building, the Parthenon that has history and great cultural significance
The founder of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, James Cubitt, was a British architect.
On 02 December, 2008 at the RIBA, architect Bernard Tschumi and Professor Pandermails headed up the event: 'Presenting the new Acropolis Museum'.
In 2009 Tom Flynn as a member of BCRPM, wrote to the RIBA to seek their advice on the BCRPM's on-going campaign and because the Parthenon, a landmark building, still stands.
The BCRPM's campaign explains that the sculptures removed by Lord Elgin in the 19th century were integral architectural members of the Parthenon, the building which still stands on the Acropolis.
'As every human life is unique and no one can predetermine how it will be carried out, it could be said that the human being bears a historical duality: the individual history, or education, and the collective history, or culture.
Both dimensions, education and culture, constitute the conceptual basis of all human action, defining values and the most appropriate means to achieve them. These dimensions can be viewed materially in cities through the urban landscape, the preservation of buildings and other heritage. Thus, the city is a record of human actions that remain in time, and architecture is a concrete example of the knowledge accumulated by countless individuals over successive generations. For that reason, architecture is a tool for understanding a certain period of time in the history of a people, culture or even civilization, since it shows the evolution of mankind's ingenuity, as well as its sense of harmony and values.'
When most of us visit Athens, even if we aren't there to see the Acropolis or its museum, we may catch a glimpse of the Acropolis as we ride a taxi or bus in the centre of town. We may be fortunate enough to be dining in one of the centrally located Athenian hotels with top floor restaurant and stunning views by day or night, year round - to the Acropolis. Magical views.
Before the Acropolis was a temple complex, it was a city - another great article in Arch Daily, worth reading too, from here.
'Although the marble stonework of the Parthenon had proven its durability against the ravages of time, it was not indestructible. In 1687, Venetian forces laying siege to Athens shelled the ancient city, igniting a powder magazine stored inside the Parthenon. The resulting explosion was catastrophic, obliterating the cella and the elaborate frieze that had adorned its exterior. Attempts by the Venetians to remove statues from the pediments were similarly disastrous, as multiple sculptures fell to the ground and were shattered beyond repair. Most of the remaining statues and reliefs (known as the "Elgin" or "Parthenon Marbles") were later spirited away in the early 19th Century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Controversially, these pieces are displayed in the British Museum to this day. Meanwhile, the Parthenon itself has since undergone rigorous restoration and preservation work, with much of the damaged peristyle reassembled to give modern visitors a glimpse of the temple's ancient splendour atop the hill where it has stood for over two thousand years.'
Professor Katherine Schwab on ancient hairstyles and drawings that continue to engage museum visitors
Professor Katherine Schwab, was interviewed by one of Greece’s newspaper websites, Greece Is, about her research on ancient Greece’s most famous hairstyles, those of the Caryatids, the sculptures that stand in place of columns in the south porch of the Acropolis in Athens.
The Erechtheion or Erechtheum, Acropolis, Athens (Greece)
In the Greece-is.com article, Schwab, who is an art history professor and expert in Greek and Roman art and architecture, said she first noticed these intricate hairstyles about a decade ago while studying archival photographs taken at the Greek temple by the German photographer Gösta Hellner.
The marble sculptures, whose female figures where carved nearly 2,500 years ago, are remarkably well-preserved and their hairstyles provide a wealth of information about the role that hair had and continues to have in societies today.
Professor Katherine Shwab
"Among the most remarkable things we discovered during this project is that hair has a great significance. Hair can symbolize rites of passage, personal identity, status, cultural identity and much more. Research on these ancient hairstyles can lead in many directions and result in a wealth of information about the role of hair then and now. The hairstyles worn by the ancient Caryatids, are unusual and seem to belong to an earlier tradition. This is probably why they would have been worn only for very special occasions. In part, these hairstyles linked these maidens to past traditions within Athenian society, forming a bridge across time and generations." Commented Professor Schwab.
As part of her research project at Fairfield University where she teaches, Schwab invited students to have their hair styled in the historic braids, which was captured in a video that documented the recreation of six individual hairstyles of the Caryatids.
Schwab’s research also includes drawings of the Parthenon, where she devised a technique to show what remains of ancient sculptures in order to determine the original compositions. Copies of her drawings are part of the permanent installation in the Acropolis Museum’s Parthenon Gallery.
The Caryatids in the Acropolis Museum, Athens (Greece)
Fashionable fishtale braids, created by the ancients, continue to be recreated today for special occassions
Schwab’s notes, and the originals were obtained for a travelling exhibit in the U.S. that began in 2014 in New York City. The exhibit toured many colleges and universities.
Professor Schwab will receive the 2017 Distinguished Faculty award at Fairfield University’s annual dinner and awards event in NYC in March this year.
Professor Schwab continues to visit the Acropolis Museum every year.
“Grayscale scans of my metope drawings are part of the installation in the Parthenon Gallery and to have them included is a great privilege for which I am very thankful. You can see them on the frames holding the east and the north metopes. My hope is that the drawings bring attention to the metopes which were originally highly visible in antiquity. The scans of my drawings, combined with the original metopes, engage the museum visitor in considering the original composition and what has been lost. Thanks to Professor Pantermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum, it’s possible for me to draw in the Parthenon Gallery for many hours each day during my research trips to Athens. Sometimes visitors come over and talk to me to ask what I’m working on and they become quite curious about the Parthenon’s sculptural programme and the research conducted by archaeologists. They’re often surprised that research on the Parthenon carries on and will do so for many more years to come.” Concludes Professor Shwab
Portrait of Emperor Hadrian in the Acropolis Museu up to, the 31th of March 2017
The Acropolis Museum honors the anniversary of the 1900 years since the ascent to the throne of Emperor Hadrian, a friend and benefactor of Athens, with the presentation of an exquisite portrait of the Emperor found in Syngrou Avenue, and an interesting video, produced by the Museum, which showcases the Emperor's immense building programme for the city of Athens in the 2nd century AD. Hadrian's work signifies the revival of Greek Letters and Science during the time of the Roman Empire.
This presentation will be on display at the Museum ground floor from 15 January up to 31 March 2017, daily during Museum opening times, with free admission to allvisitors.
A presentation of the building program of the Emperor Hadrian in Athens in the 2nd century AD in the Acropolis Museum.
Free access and during the Acropolis Museum's opening hours
Fom 15.1.2017 – 31.3.2017
1. The year 2017 sees the 1900 year anniversary of the ascent to the throne of Hadrian, an admirer and benefactor of Athens. The Acropolis Museum pays tribute to the immense program of the Emperor who renewed and expanded the urban planning of Athens, and signaled the revival of Greek Letters and Science during the time of the Roman Empire.
2. Above the ancient road leading from the Acropolis to the Olympieion, a two-story gate was erected, marking the boundary between the old city of Athens (the city of Theseus) and the new city (the city of Hadrian). The Athenian Neapolis stretches under the Zappeion and the National Garden. To date archaeological excavations to the site have located luxurious mansions, baths and a gymnasium.
3. In 131/2 AD, in a magnificent ceremony, Hadrian inaugurated the temple of the god in the ancient Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus, for which construction had begun in the 6th century BC but was concluded with the generous donation of the Emperor. The gigantic temple of the Corinthian order across from the Acropolis was twice the size of the Parthenon and its interior housed the chryselephantine statue of Zeus.
4. The temple covered a surface of approximately 5,000 sq m and was symmetrically positioned in a rectangular enclosure with a perimeter of 673 m. Along the precinct hundreds of bronze statues of the Emperor were erected, dedicated to him by the Greek cities. Behind the west side of the temple, a colossal statue of the Emperor facing the Acropolis and visible from a great distance was dedicated by the city of Athens
5. In 131/2 AD Hadrian gathered the Greek cities to participate in a permanent “Conference of Panhellenes” to be based in Athens. The aim of this Pan-Hellenic program was to revive classical Greece and reinforce the prestige of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Emperor himself was worshiped as Panhellenios.
6. A very important building constructed by Hadrian in Athens was the Pantheon (θεοῖςτοῖς πᾶσιν ἱερόνκοινόν) where records of all the sacred buildings, the dedications, and the Emperor’s donations to the Greek but also the barbaric cities, were engraved. The impressive remains of a three-aisle temple on Adrianou Street in Plaka havebeen identified as the Pantheon.
7. In the heart of Athens, between the Agora and the Acropolis Hadrian built, in an area of 10,000 sq m, the renowned complex of the Library that contained -in addition to the three stories housing books - reading rooms, teaching rooms, porticoes for philosophical walks, gardens and a pond for recreation. The Emperor’s goal was to create a place of academic study worthy of the reputation of Ancient Athens in Letters and Science.
8. Hadrian tackled the issue of water supply to the new city of Athens by constructing an aqueduct 18 km in length,which transported water from the springs of Parnitha to the Lycabettus. A water cistern with a capacity of 500 cubic meters and embellished with a facade of 4 ionic columns was built there. The inscription etched on the epistyle is located today in the National Garden.
9. Hadrian had a special regard for the Eleusinian Mysteries in which he himself was initiated on his first visit in 124 AD. In order to facilitate the course of the Sacred Procession to the Sanctuary he built a monumental bridge over the Eleusinian Kephisos River, which often flooded. The bridge was 50 m in length, 5.30 m in width and was supported by 4 arches. It is one of the few bridges that is still preserved.
10. In the courtyard of the sanctuary of Eleusina two monumental gates were erected by the Panhellenes: one at the end of the road coming from the Peloponnese and the other at the end of the road coming from the port of Eleusina. Both were exact replicas of the gate of Hadrian in Athens. The inscriptions, engraved in large letters on both sides, informed visitors that the gates were erected in honour of the two goddesses of Eleusina and the Emperor, referring to the Olympian Emperor Hadrian.
11. Hadrian is the first Emperor depicted with a philosopher’s beard. His eyes are averted from life on earth and he gazes to the sky. The oak wreath crowning his head bears the emblem of Zeus, the eagle. This “political wreath” characterizes the Emperor as the savior of citizens.
It was found on Syggrou Avenue in 1933, is safeguarded in the National Archaeological Museum and can be dated to 130-140 AD.
Production: The Acropolis Museum
Texts: Dimitris Pandermalis
Image and editing: Kostas Arvanitakis
Translation: Lydia-Antonia Trakatellis