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.
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
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.
Friday 1 July 2016, 18.30–20.00 @ British Museum's BP Lecture Theatre a 'special event' for the 200th year anniversary of the British Museum’s acquisition of the Elgin collection.
Chaired by Curator Ian Jenkins, British Museum, panellists include David Bindman, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at UCL, Athena Leoussi, Associate Professor in European History at the University of Reading, and author and historian Dominic Selwood. Introduced by Lesley Fitton, Keeper of the Department of Greece and Rome, British Museum.
For more information and price for tickets, visit British Museum page.
And a reminder to Dominic Selwood that if he believes Lord Elgin 'saved the Parthenon marbles - BCRPM's response is as follows:
1. Whether or not Elgin "rescued" the Parthenon Marbles, that is no excuse for holding on to them now;
2. The Greeks fought their war of independence in the name of Hellenism, a concept and a spirit preserved and transmitted through their language throughout centuries of conquests and occupations;
3. The Parthenon is a monument of unique significance not just for Greece but for western civilisation;
4. The Parthenon is a fixed monument and it is in Greece;
5. The sculptures are integral architectural elements of it;
6. Both the Parthenon and it's other sculpted elements lack artistic integrity while they are separated;
7. Admittedly, the sculptures can no longer be re fixed to the Parthenon or indeed displayed anywhere in the open. However in the glass walled Parthenon Gallery of the magnificent Acropolis Museum, glassed walled and in line of sight of the Parthenon, and only there, they can be viewed simultaneously with the building to which they belong. Thus the case for reunification of the Parthenon marbles is not a legal one about rights of ownership, current or historic, but cultural and ethical. The onus of justification should be on those who resist restoring the integrity of the sculptures from the Parthenon - the Parthenon a UNESCO World Heritage monument, the very emblem of UNESCO itself.
Commemorative Event 07 June 2016, Senate Room, Senate House, London
This conference will mark 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. Two weeks later the Acropolis Museum will be celebrating its 7th anniversary.
And the programme:
As spaces are limited, kindly register by sending an email to:
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.
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.
ATHENS 27 July 2015
The tumultuous events of the past twelve months have had mixed implications for our campaign. On the one hand they have brought unprecedented press coverage drawing our case to the attention of a vast cross section of the public including areas normally far beyond our reach. Such publicity is the oxygen of the campaign and, sure enough, a pair of opinion polls demonstrated an increase in support. On the other hand it has shown up tensions within the campaign which need be resolved, it has produced reactions from the British Museum which need to be addressed, and it has distracted us from priorities which we ought to have been addressing almost a year ago.I shall address each of these in turn.
TENSIONS WITHIN THE CAMPAIGN: These properly should be addressed elsewhere than in this paper or in this colloquy. There is however one issue which I must address, litigation. First and last, whether or not to have recourse to litigation is for the Greek Government alone to decide. The responsibility of supporters is to support them in whatever course of action they choose. Personally, I wish to see the Parthenon marbles reunited on cultural and ethical grounds. Nevertheless, pragmatically, if the Greek Government were able to secure a favourable adjudication through litigation I would welcome it. However the position of the BCRPM on litigation is encapsulated in the excellent paper delivered by Andrew Dismore at our colloquy in 2012 and available on our website. The factual, practical and legal impediments after 200 years to securing a safe adjudication on the legality of Lord Elgin’s acquisition of his collection are insuperably immense. Resolution is however possible through legislation, through the reform of the British Museum Museum Act 1963.
There is another matter. The widely held perception of something dubious about Lord Elgin’s actions lends strength to our campaign. A suicidal act of litigation initiated by the Greek Government would throw this away and indeed bolster the BM’s position . The other possible ground for litigation is human rights. At time of writing the case remains to be made for this.
REACTIONS FROM THE BRITISH MUSEUM: At first it looked as if the BM was uncertain how to react to the tidal wave of publicity. It had sat tight on the invitation to submit to the UNESCO mediation process. Then a tightly coordinated set of initiatives emerged. First the loan of Ilissos to the Hermitage, then the formal announcement of the Defining Beauty exhibition in which selected pieces from the Elgin collection are used, simultaneously with synchronised announcements by both the BM and the British Government of the rejection of the UNESCO mediation initiative. In all this the BM appears to be using the Parthenon Marbles to underpin, revamp and relaunch the concepts of cultural diplomacy and the universal museum in their justification for retaining them. I am not sure that we have yet articulated a clear and adequate response to this. We may however be encouraged by the recent poll by the Museums Journal of its readers in which 81% voted that the response to the UNESCO mediation initiative should have been more positive.
DISTRACTION FROM PRIORITIES: In the summer of 2014 my mind was turning to the enhanced campaigning required in the lead up to the 200th anniversary in 2016 of the British Government’s purchase of Elgin’s collection. I was thinking initially of identifying as many prominent supporters from as many professions as possible, journalism, literature, broadcast media, music, theatre, the arts, sport, academia, with a view to deploying them serially or en masse. Instead I found myself swept along by all that was happening around us. However this colloquy gives us the perfect opportunity to address these preparations with renewed vigour. It is the launch pad for Campaign2016. We have a colloquy in London planned for 2016. It should be commensurate with the occasion. For this it needs to be fully supported and properly resourced in terms of administration and funding. It need not be seen in isolation. It could be the focal point or climax of a continuous stream of diverse initiatives in the intervening period. I invite a brainstorming of ideas to this end.
But ideas need to be turned into reality. If ever there was a need for a campaigns officer this is it. 200th anniversaries are too rare to waste. Let us not waste this one.
I end on another encouraging note: as I write these words the most recent opinion poll has just closed. It was run by the Daily Telegraph, a newspaper noted for its extreme reactionary views and readership. It was placed online not at the end but in the middle of a hostile article (“Greece knows that it has no legal right…”) full of misrepresentations, opinions and errors presented as facts. For the unwary it even reversed the normal order of questions so that NO indicated that the marbles should be returned to Greece. Despite all this 58% voted that indeed they should!
Ateni Samjak, is a novella written by Michael Reppas and Emanuel Comino. It is the story of a grandfather’s visit to the British Museum with his grandson; and the tale of a family living in Athens during Turkish occupation and their part in the fight to preserve the Greek language, cultural, Orthodox faith and the Parthenon.
Emanuel Comino as Founder and Chairman of the International Organising Committee - Australia- for the Resititution of the Parthenon Marbles, launched the novella on Saturday 26th of July 2014 with Professor Vrasidas Karalis, Head of Department of Modern Greek and Byzantine studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Dear BCRPM, this is marvellous.
What a great weekend, I am reading St Clair’s overview with great interest.
Good to hear about a campaign from Greece ‘REturn, REstore and REstart’! I thank you for forwarding it to me, because until now although so committed.... sometimes at this age…… I had been asked by Graham Binns (Chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles) to develop my public debate speech of 11 November 1985 at Trinity and All Saints University (college ) against the 7th Earl of Elgin, into an article for publication. Publishing the article in December 1997, being thanked for it by Melina Mercouri, being welcomed in the Foundation in Athens by Jules Dassin (Melina’s widower) who asked me to keep writing – was memorable. Also invited to the Televised programme at the Ealing studios then in 1999 by the Minister of Culture for the Olympic committee to join the pre-Olympic games preparation Committee as the expert on culture, developing the article based on my 1996/7 research which is now, on the websites of the BCRPM and Melina Mercouri Foundation...
After all that hope and commitment, I must admit I am overjoyed that with some posters and a little help from my friends, I could lend my support for the 5th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum this June, by visiting the British Museum… on an important mission.
Thank you also for your input on cycling and the sculptures from the Parthenon. Joy to be able to combine my love of cycling, the Tour de France in Yorkshire and my commitment to the campaign for the reunification of the sculptures!
Efficient communications, devotion to the cause : Graham Binns, Melina Mercouri , Jules Dassin, the Olympic committee , (not to mention the support of My MP G Mulholland) and more. I am glad that even from #Yorkshire ( where the best things do happen!) I can be relied upon to be used in this worthy CAUSE.
Two Greek foundations, the Marianna Vardinoyannis Foundation in collaboration with the Melina Mercouri Foundation, yesterday Thursday 26 June 2014, in Athens, launched a new campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures: Return The Marbles, Restore Parthenon, Restart History.
The conference at the superlative Acropolis Museum, which took place on Thursday 26 June 2014, was introduced by Marianna Vardinoyannis, the Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and president of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, moderated by erudite journalist Pavlos Tsimas. The Greek Minister of Culture, Konstantinos Tasoulas and Minister of Tourism, Olga Kefalogianni also gave their respective addresses. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova sent a message in support of the new campaign.
A number of guest speakers addressed the audience on various aspects surrounding reunification starting with the very charismatic Mounir Bouchenaki, Honorary Special Advisor of the Director-General of UNESCO. Mr Bouchenaki spoke about cultural heritage as the 'soul' of every nation. In the journey to the conference, he had spoken about the times he had met with the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor and made his own appeal for the sculptures of the Parthenon. Mr Bouchenaki feels that such a magnanimous gesture would make a great difference to the world.
Professor Pandermalis, President of the
Acropolis Museum, gave the background on the creation of the museum and the issues they faced when they were displaying the sculptures of the Parthenon - how they dealt with the fact that half are in Bloomsbury, in the British Museum. He went on to show and explain the ambitious digital restoration program of the Parthenon sculptures that the Acropolis Museum has started on the 5th anniversary of the Museum. Horse riders of the west frieze are presented in 3D digital images with additions of copper weapons and bridles, with alternating light and colour testing.
William St Clair, Senior Research Fellow Institute of English Studies, School of advanced Study, University of London referred to the return of the sculptures of the Parthenon as a 200 year old case, a paradigm. He discussed the firman, intellectual property, the language and stewardship of the British Museum, integrity.
Mark Vlasic, Professor of Law at Georgetown University gave a talk on fighting impunity from war crimes or corruption and how this might also extend to stolen antiquities.
Manouella Pavlidou, Secretary General of the 'Melina Mercouri Foundation' paid tribute to the late Melina Mercouri and her passion for the return of the sculptures to Greece.
Christoforos Argyropoulos, President of the Melina Mercouri Foundationand the Greek Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, upheld a word we often use, respect. And respect with reference to what continues to be symbol of values in society. And he also mentioned that light, that Athenian light which makes viewing the sculptures of the Parthenon, so special. We could not agree more!
David Hill, Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, a ten year old organisation which has an international community of 16 member countries including Britain, all campaigning in favour of reunification, emphasised this association’s ongoing commitment to the cause and working closely and in co-operation with the Greek government.
The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM), presented the rich history of the campaign which was started in the UK in 1983 by James Cubitt, a British architect and whose wife Eleni Cubitt was Secretary for nearly three decades and continues to be the founder. The presentation explained the various level of campaigning plus highlighted just a few examples how individuals had made their own stand. Starting with swimming and cycling, Dr Christophe Stockdale; Greek students in the courtyard of the British Museum singing, dancing, reciting poetry, Sofka Smales on Trafalgar’s Plinth; Mary Phillips and her memorable stand. Then there followed clips from a selection of BCRPM members and supporters speaking at the International London Colloquy in 2012, including Professor Judith Herrin,British archaeologist and academic of Late Antiquity, Professor Emerita of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College London. Judith explained the tough job the BCRPM faced in the 80’s and 90’s praising Robert Browning and Eleni Cubitt. Judith went on to say that she continues to be a committed member to the cause would like to see both the British government and the British Museum face up to their responsibilities.
Christina Borg, literary Journalist and a member of BCRPM paying tribute to the late Christopher Hitchen's and his 2008 edition of The Parthenon Sculptures: A Case for Reunification, providing a very old cause with a new direction. The nub of the argument was that with the opening of the new Acropolis Museum (2009) the sculptures of the Parthenon must be seen as a unified whole, as part of a continuous narrative, in their original context. Christina emphasised that Hitchens deployed his extensive knowledge and reason to advance the Parthenon campaign. In his view Greece’s domestic and political position was irrelevant. This was a matter of principle.
Eddie O'Hara as Chairman of the BCRPM and Honorary President of Marbles Reunited, on BCRPM’s stand, immunised against the floodgates argument based on the story of the fragmented sculptures as unique. Eddie feels that there is no other example of a UNESCO world heritage fixed monument, so defaced and so ‘unreunified’, therefore to “reunify the Marbles would not open any floodgate because there is not a lot of precedent it could set. The onus is on those who do not support the reunification. And the beauty of literally reunited ‘other halves’, pieces of the same block, to be seen by the world in the Acropolis Museum, is the one place on earth where it is possible to have a single and aesthetic experience simultaneously of the Parthenon and its sculptures.”
Tom Flynn, art historian and BCRPM member, explained the concept of the Universal museum. He stated that the current display of the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum’s make a mockery of BM’s claim to coherent educational purpose. The contrast between the two galleries – London ad Athens - is enough to reduce anyone to tears. Museums will have to listen to what their public say and act upon it. He concluded that Neil MacGregor ought to do the right thing, cover himself in glory and reunite the marbles now.
Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member, former Labour MP for Hendon, feels that arguments about ownership are sterile, dangerous and that a court case would put back the political and cultural case. He concluded that legislative change could be effected if there is the political will to do it.
George Bizos, also a BCRPM member and human rights advocate and author, highlighted how we are all involved in this campaign and whilst the MacGregor’s of this world and those that think like him, say ‘well Greece is in a sad state, they can’t do nothing’ –they don’t understand Greek history, the number of occasions Greece was practically burned down, but rose like a Phoenix…. And we are confident he said, ‘that it will happen again’.
Marlen Godwin concluded the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles presentation by saying:
“The background and history was shown not because we need to dwell on it but because it is important to know where the campaign to reunite the sculptures of the Parthenon has been so as to inform where the campaign goes in the future. We do need to recognise the current political dispensation in the United Kingdom and working within that, noting Britain's recent essays in Europe. There is no doubt that the armoury is full, every single and possible argument has been rehearsed and addressed, not least as we soak up the display of the sculptures, right here in the amazing Acropolis Museum - it is imperative that the focus of any campaign continues to harness the positive energy gathered over the decades from civil society and to find a way forward with legislative change. Key too is orchestrating the diverse voices from the many parts of the globe, all equally passionate for the cause. We thank the Marianna Vardinoyanni and her foundation and the Melina Mercouri Foundation for inviting us to speak and every success with this new campaign."
Fabrizio Micalizzi, Secretary of the Swiss Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles, spoke about the reunification cause as a strong European concern. That a creative proposal would provide the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum, with a ‘win win’ situation for Parthenon Marbles.
Aggelos Devorrias, Director of the Benaki Museum, also spoke mentioning Eleni Cubitt and Professor Anthony Snodgrass, past Chairman and Honorary President of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. He emphasised the cause, its supporters and the need to have Greece as firm player in the reunification campaign and congratulated the two foundation on organising today’s event and launch of a new campaign.
Illias Nikolakopoulos, Professor of Social Theory & Sociology, University of Athens had carried out pools and conducted a study amongst Greeks to gauge the level of information geographically, socially and within different age groups. Considering the perceptions of different socio-economic groups towards the Greek state, cultural foundations and the international media. This critical information gathering could be used to raise awareness of this cause and cultural mobility.
Rounding up an intense, yet creative day moderator Pavlos Tsimas, journalist and presenter, thanked everyone that had attended and in particular Marianna Vardinoyannis, the Marianna Vadinoyannis Foundation and the Melina Mercouri Foundation for this initiative, the campaign: Return The Marbles Restore Parthenon Restart History. He remembered the emotional moment in 1993 when he interviewed for the last time, the late Melina Mercouri and how this interview continues to haunt him. The elation he felt when Professor Pandermalis opened the museum. His visit to Lord Elgin's home in Scotland, Cavafy's writing from Alexandria and more, stressing society's moral values; our obligation to maintain these values; garnering support for the cause in Greece and globally; and the launch of this new campaign.