Wednesday, January 26

Boris Johnson rules out the return of Parthenon marbles to Greece | Parthenon marbles


Boris Johnson has used his first interview with a European newspaper since he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to issue a resounding rejection of the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece.

Johnson insisted that the sculptures, taken out of Greece by Lord Elgin in circumstances that have since sparked one of the world’s most famous cultural disputes, would remain in Britain because they had been legally acquired.

“I understand the strong feelings of the Greek people and indeed the Prime Minister [Kyriakos] Mitsotakis – on the subject “, told the Greek newspaper Ta Nea when asked to comment on his counterpart’s offer, made in an interview with The Observer in 2019, to loan priceless artifacts to London in exchange for displaying the marbles in Athens this year.

“But the UK government has long held a firm position on the sculptures, which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the relevant laws of the time and have been the legal property of the trustees of the British Museum since their acquisition.” .

Johnson’s intervention, while clearly aimed at drawing a line under the dispute, is bound to ignite further controversy. Last year, Greece’s culture minister, Lina Mendoni, called Elgin a “serial thief” who used illegal tactics to seize the marbles.

The prime minister, who posed for Ta Nea in his Downing Street office next to a plaster bust of his “personal hero,” Pericles, spoke within weeks of Greece marking the bicentennial of its war of independence.

In the run-up to the celebrations, Athens has revitalized its campaign to repatriate the 5th century BC carvings. C., considered like a culminating point of the classic art.

The Parthenon marbles on display at the British Museum in London in March 2020
The Parthenon marbles on display at the British Museum in London in March 2020. Photograph: Neil Hall / EPA

Greece has long argued that the reunification of sculptures, which are on display in museums across Europe but primarily in London, is critical to understanding works of art in the context of the temple they once embellished.

Of the monumental 160-meter-long Parthenon frieze, executed by the master sculptor Phidias at the behest of Pericles, more than 80 meters are on display in the British Museum. Fifty meters of the 115-block frieze is on display in the Acropolis Museum, specially built to house the treasures at the foot of the masterpiece.

Highlighting the importance of the issue to his center-right government, Mitsotakis proposed shortly after taking office that treasures that had never been shown abroad before be displayed in London in exchange for the marbles being returned to Athens this year.

“I don `t believe [Britain] I should be fighting a losing battle Eventually this will be a losing battle … At the end of the day, there will be mounting pressure on this issue, ”he told the Observer, referring to repeated polls showing the vast majority of Britons expressing their support for the Greek cause.

As a monument of cultural importance worldwide, the Acropolis did not belong solely to Greece, he said. “It is a monument of world cultural heritage. But if you really want to see the monument in its unity, you have to see what we call the Parthenon sculptures in situ … it is a matter of uniting the monument.

To an extent that some believed could put Britain to shame, France agreed to return to Athens part of the frieze that the Louvre had long regarded as one of the most precious pieces in its possession, in exchange for spectacular bronzes being loaned to the museum. Greeks who had never met before.

The positive response, made with unexpected speed, came after Mitsotakis submitted the application in July 2019 during talks with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, on his first official visit to Paris.

Johnson described himself as “a keen scholar of Greek history” in the Ta Nea interview.

Activists dressed as Lord Elgin and a Parthenon marble demonstrate outside the British Museum in October 2020 calling for the sculptures to return to Greece.
Activists dressed as Lord Elgin and a marble from the Parthenon demonstrate outside the British Museum in October demanding the return of the sculptures to Greece. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau / PA

But while extolling the contribution of ancient Greece to Western civilization and emphasizing “the crucial role of Great Britain” in the Greek war of independence of 1821, the prime minister avoided any mention of the antiquities loaned to Athens.

Instead, he told the newspaper that the UK was focused on deepening ties with “a peace-loving international partner” that the British politician, a former foreign secretary, said played an important role in Europe, NATO and the “fundamental region” that connects Europe with the Middle East.

In addition to boosting a trade relationship worth 6.5 billion euros, “last year more than 1.5 million euros in British lemons were exported to Greece,” he said his government was also working to protect the rights of thousands of citizens. Brits who had made the country. his house. Johnson’s own father Stanley, who owns a villa overlooking the Aegean Sea, is among them.

“This is the beginning of a new partnership with our European friends, building on our common ties of friendship and cooperation, but with the UK acting with an independent voice to speak out about the things that matter to us,” he said.

“2021 is, of course, an important year for Greece and a very exciting time to reinvigorate our relationship with the Greek people.”

The British Museum acquired the sculptures from the then-ruined Elgin, who, as Great Britain’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte, had ordered that they be pulled down from the Parthenon in 1816.


www.theguardian.com

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