John Oliver blasted the British Museum over its refusal to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in his latest show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired by HBO on Sunday.
He offered his distinct perspective with humor and sarcasm on an issue that has strained relations between Greece and the United Kingdom for decades.
The Parthenon Marbles, known in England as the Elgin Marbles, were hacked away by Lord Elgin, he said.
“A British Earl entered your house, stole the Marbles, and then sold them to a museum 1,000 miles away,” he said. “Greeks are understandably furious about it. They were not lost. They were taken.”
Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece, says Oliver
He noted that Greece has been demanding the return of the Marbles for decades, but the response of the British Museum has been “unbelievably patronizing.”
“The Marbles should absolutely be returned to Greece,” Oliver stressed and added that the Parthenon antiquities are “the tip of the iceberg.”
If you are ever looking for a missing artifact, nine times out of ten, it is in the British Museum. It’s basically the world’s largest lost and found with the words lost and found in the heaviest possible quotation marks, he said.
British Museum linked to slavery and colonialism
Antiquities from all over the world have been taken and are displayed in European and American museums, and a 2018 report, commissioned by the French President, found that over ninety percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is held outside Africa by major museums.
Oliver referred to British aristocrat Hans Sloane who offered his collection for the founding of the British Museum. Sloane was married to an heiress of a sugar plantation in Jamaica worked by enslaved people. He bought many artifacts with the wealth he accumulated from slavery.
“The British Museum foundation is inextricably linked to slavery and colonialism,” Oliver said.
He noted that The British Museum Act of 1963 forbids the giving away of artifacts owned by the British Museum. “But laws can be changed,” he concluded.
Greece hopes for an agreement with Liz Truss on Parthenon Marbles
Greece will seek to strike an agreement with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss over the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview published on Sunday with The Sunday Times.
“At a time when Truss will be looking to build her credibility and when the UK is sort of cornered in terms of its overall image after the [Queen’s] funeral, it will be a fantastic gesture, and that’s what I’ll tell her,” said Mitsotakis to The Times‘ Matthew Campbell.
The Prime Minister shared his belief that King Charles, with whom he purportedly has a good personal relationship, will have to remain neutral on the issue due to his position. However, King Charles is supportive of the initiative to re-unite the Parthenon Marbles.