Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis is backing a city council decision to send a letter to the British government calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
The Greek sculptures, removed from the Parthenon in the 1800s and sold to the British Museum where they attract millions of visitors each year, have been the subject of heated dispute between the two countries for decades.
The Athens municipality initiative comes after the Greek government’s decision to introduce a clause in the EU’s Brexit trade negotiations which obliges the UK to return all “illegally removed cultural goods” to the countries they rightfully belong to and is aimed at putting a stop to the illicit trafficking of cultural property.
Greece’s claim is picking up speed and support. Speaking earlier this year during an Athens event for the reunification of the Marbles, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni referred to Greece’s renewed campaign for the return of the sculptures, which she said were “violently” and illegally removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum.
The city council’s letter is scheduled to be approved in the coming session.
Meanwhile, an op-ed in the Washington Times titled “Give Iris Her Body Back” is calling for the issue to be reconsidered particularly in view of the UK’s decision to set itself apart from the European Union.
The story is just one of many bringing the issue of the Parthenon Marbles’ return to the forefront.
It should be reminded that UNESCO has offered to mediate for the return of the 2,500-year-old sculptures, which was however turned down by the British Museum. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly – with the support of 74 countries, including a number of EU states, Latin American nations and Arab and African countries – has also supported Greece’s claim, accepting its proposal for the return of cultural property unlawfully removed as part of ongoing efforts to protect the world’s cultural heritage.