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US Lawmakers Call for the Return of Parthenon Marbles to Greece

Parthenon marbles
A resolution in the US Congress calls for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikipedia Commons

US lawmakers introduced a resolution in Congress on Thursday calling on Britain to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, introduced a resolution just prior to the 200th anniversary of Greece’s independence.

“As we celebrate the bicentennial of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire this year, we cannot forget that Greece continues its fight to have the Parthenon Marbles – some of the country’s greatest examples of artistic expression and beauty – returned to their rightful home,” said Congresswoman Maloney.

“The Parthenon Marbles are vital pieces of Greece’s history and the people of Greece and those who visit from all around the world to see the magnificence of the Acropolis should be able to enjoy the Marbles in their rightful home. This bipartisan resolution calls on the United Kingdom to finally return these treasures.”

“Art provides a window into history and its expression is liberty,” said Rep. Bilirakis.

“The Parthenon Marbles were made by the citizens of Athens under the direction of renowned artist Phidias to celebrate the pride and majesty of the City of Athens.

“To not house and view these citizen contributions in the city they were originally intended does a disservice not only to the people of Athens, but also to the civilization that paved the path for modern democracy and freedom.

“I sincerely hope to see these original works and other important elements of Hellenic history finally returned to their rightful owner for future generations of proud Greeks to enjoy,” Bilirakis said.

Britain rules out return of Parthenon Marbles

Last week Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in a statement to a Greek newspaper.

Speaking to Ta Nea, he said: “The British government has a firm and long-standing position on the sculptures: they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin, in accordance with the laws in force at the time.”

He added that he understands the strong feelings of the Greek people and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on this issue.

However, he opines that “The rightful owners are the commissioners of the British Museum since they came into their possession.”

Greece hits back at Johnson

Greece responded to Johnson through a statement by Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni.

She said that the British PM is is not aware of the new historical data, which prove that Lord Elgin did not legitimately acquire the Marbles.

“It is clear that he has not been properly informed by the competent state services of his country of the new historical data regarding Greece’s occupation by the Ottomans,” Mendoni says.

She adds that the new data “show that there has was never a legitimate acquisition of the Parthenon Sculptures by Lord Elgin and, therefore, neither has the British Museum ever acquired the Sculptures in a legitimate manner.”

“The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people that the British Museum possesses the Sculptures illegally,” Mendoni says in her statement.

She concludes by stressing that the “British Museum does not have legitimate ownership or possession of the Sculptures.

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