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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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
Wishing you all a peaceful festive season
23 December 2016
As the Christmas weekend is nearly with us, we would like to thank our many supporters for all your encouragement during 2016.
Message from our Chair, Dame Janet Suzman, DBE
To all our warm wishes for a Festive season. This year has brought many challenges to us all - with the next one promising all sorts of surprises. But at least we are joined in like-mindedness on our mission. A small but beautifully formed mission, if I may say so, in its essential contrast to a world that has lost any sense of what remains important. Have a peaceful festive season wherever you might be.
And from BCRPM's Vice Chair, Professor Cartledge
Best season's greetings, happy holidays to you all and warmest wishes for 2017 - which post-Brexit, post-Trump and post-Truth must be better than 2016!
Link to interview carried out by Janet and Paul for ERT TV on the occassion of the 200 year anniversary of the purchase by the British government of the Parthenon Marbles from Lord Elgin (1816).
And the link to BCRPM's event on the 07 June 2016 to mark the date, 200 years ago, when British Parliament voted to purchase from Lord Elgin his collection of sculpted marbles collected from the Parthenon and elsewhere on the Athenian Acropolis.
The event, 01 July 2016, at the British Museum to mark 200 years of the Parthenon marbles in Britain.
Sabine Weyer, soloist pianist performs at the Acropolis Museum
09 December 2016, the Acropolis Museum welcomes Sabine Weyer from Luxembourg. At 20.00 the soloist pianist will treat visitors to a special, evening piano recital, dedicated to famous composers including Schubert, Liszt, Beethoven, Scriabin and Debussy.
Sabine Weyer is a young and super talented pianist. In February 2015, Sabine won the first prize at the 'Grand Prize Virtuoso' competition, and performed in the Royal Albert Hall in London on March 13th.
On Friday 90 December, the Museum exhibition areas will continue to remain open until 10 p.m. and the restaurant until 12 midnight with special menus based on classical and traditional recipes, giving particular emphasis on local products from regional Greece.
On the same evening, famous jazz music ensembles will commence their Christmas jazz nights at the Aacropolis Museum restaurant.
Museums: letting the genie out of the bottle
Tristram Besterman was the keynote speaker at the London 07 June 2016 commemorative event organised by the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in conjunction with:
The International Organizing Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles Inc. (IOC-A-RPM) and the South African Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (SACRPM).
The event marked 200 years from the date in 1816 when the British Parliament voted to purchase from Lord Elgin his collection of sculpted marbles collected from the Parthenon and elsewhere on the Athenian Acropolis.
To date and despite many requests made by Greece, the British Government and the British Museum are not looking to find ways to reunite what is a peerless work of art. For more information on the UK Government and British Museum's position, please click here.
Keynote speaker for the event was Tristram Besterman and his paper entitled, Museums: letting the genie out of the bottle, provided all that attended with food for thought.
Placing the debate around the contested Parthenon sculptures in the context of the 21st century museum, Tristram reflected on the democratically accountable museum, his own involvement in repatriation and how we should open up the museum as a space where other voices are heard. Far from a betrayal of Enlightenment values, museums are true to their roots when they challenge orthodoxy and reframe authenticity.
To read Tristram's paper, please click here.
Tristram Besterman is a freelance adviser and writer on museums and issues of cultural identity, dispossession and restitution. He draws on over forty years of experience of leading, managing, and developing museums in the public realm in the UK.
Following a brief stint with the BBC in London, Tristram's first job in a museum was in Sydney in 1974. There he discovered that his interest in public communication also called upon the scientific training he'd received at Cambridge. On a visit to Canberra, Tristram witnessed the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside the national Parliament building, a scene that raised his own awareness of Aboriginal rights in Australia.
On his return to the UK, Tristram's subsequent museum career took him via Sheffield, Warwick and Plymouth to the Manchester Museum, where he was director from 1994 until 2005. In 2003, the Manchester Museum repatriated a number of human remains to Australian Aboriginal representatives, one of the first UK museums to do so. To read more on this, click here.
For over two decades Tristram was influential in the development of museum ethics in the UK and internationally, and was Convener of the Museums Association Ethics Committee from 1994 to 2001. He redrafted and renegotiated the definition of a new kind of socially reflexive museum for the profession. This underpinned the publication of the Code of Ethics for Museums which was adopted by the Museums Association in 2002. A radical departure from the object-focus of its predecessor, at the heart of the new Code was the museum's accountability to society.
He has served on a number of national bodies in the cultural sector, including the UK Government's Ministerial Working Group on Human Remains from 2001 to 2004. Trained as a civil mediator, Tristram has been an advocate for and instrumental in the repatriation of human remains to source communities in Australia and New Zealand from Manchester, Brighton and the British Museum. He contributes to the literature on cultural restitution and is currently involved in an academic study of the cross-cultural understanding and friendship that can develop between participants in repatriation.
Obama in Athens with views on democracy
The world watched and listened on Wednesday 16 November, as President Obama fulfilled a childhood wish to visit the Acropolis in Athens.
Adding photos of President Obama walking around the Parthenon on BCRPM's facebook page some commented that President Obama was 'fortunate to have the Acropolis to himself'. But for a US President with great understanding, we thought he deserved the exclusive visit as a worthy fulfilment of his dream.
President Obama's visit to the Acropolis Museum was also a highlight - seen below walking with Professor Pandermalis along the magical Parthenon Gallery (many casts of the original pieces, still in the British Museum) and views to the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
And today, as this week comes to a close, we reflect on the many clear and concise refrerences that President Obama and others have made about democracy.
BCRPM's Vice Chair Professor Paul Cartledge published a book on that very topic earlier this year and Benjamin Ramm interviewed Professor Cartledge about democracy post Brexit:
Today we're also inspired by Edith Hall's article, aptly entitled 'Making democracy thrilling'.
Edith concludes: 'Cartledge has an unrivalled eye for detail, as the sensitively selected visual images reveal. But what makes this book most memorable is his true ear. Time and again, he points out how the democratic phrase or mot juste has been instrumental in changing history, from the slogans inscribed on ostraka (the pottery shards used in Athenian ostracism), to Rainborough’s ‘the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he’ and Lincoln’s incomparable formulation ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’. The restatement of these resonant phrases leaves Cartledge’s reader not only informed, but inspired.'