Many people have joined the fight to return the iconic Parthenon Marbles to their rightful home in Athens – but no one is more passionate than my father.
The Parthenon marbles must be returned to Greece.
I don’t know why there is even a debate about this. I don’t know why people like my dad George Vardas have spent years and years raising awareness and fighting for something that shouldn’t even be a fight.
It’s a case that caught the attention of renowned human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who bluntly admits they were robbed. Fellow human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her husband, actor George Clooney, have also been involved in supporting the cause.
“Now is the time,” says my father, the co-vice-president of the Australian Parthenon Association, who works alongside former ABC president David Hill, who is the committee chair.
The group is pushing for the return and reunification of the Parthenon sculptures, at the Acropolis Museum in Athens. They are active on social media, publish articles and are featured in national and international media, advise the Greek government with which they have a close working relationship and, above all, educate the public on the issue and the importance of restoring of looted cultural artifacts back to their place of origin.
This is a debate that has been going on for years. Now the campaign for their return is back in the spotlight, as the Australian Parthenon Association calls on Australian restitution supporters to join the cause.
APS launches its restitution campaign in the wake of UNESCO’s recent historic and unanimous decision in favor of the return of the sculptures to Greece, with a seminar, “Everything you always wanted to know about the Parthenon sculptures” to be held during the Sydney Greek Festival this Sunday at the University of New South Wales.
Famous Australian businessman, author and APS President David Hill will present the case against the British Museum which has claimed the Parthenon sculptures for 200 years.
“As global calls for the return of important cultural heritage artefacts grow, we urge all Australians to seize the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Parthenon sculptures and join the fight for their restitution. We now live in a world where we increasingly accept historical truths and move collectively towards righting the wrongs of the past,” said Mr. Hill.
So what’s the problem ?
The Parthenon stands atop the Acropolis, a two thousand five hundred year old fortress in Athens. It is one of the most iconic buildings on the planet and in its splendor featured incredible carvings of gods, goddesses, elaborate and intricate scenes, all in marble.
But when the Greeks were under Ottoman occupation, Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, abused his diplomatic position and allegedly bribed local officials to allow his workers to remove around half of the decoration. existing sculpture on the Parthenon. He shipped them to London, and after an inquiry in the British parliament, the British government purchased his collection and transferred the sculptures to the British Museum in 1816, where they have been held ever since.
The Greek argument
Proponents of the cause have argued that the fragmented parts of the sculptures from London should be reunited with the surviving sculptures from Athens in the new museum, close to the Parthenon and in sight of the sacred rock, the Acropolis.
“We are talking about a mutilated monument that is brought together so that all known surviving sculptures can be appreciated in their own context,” says Vardas.
Greece has renewed its calls for dialogue with the British government and the British Museum over the years, but to no avail.
The British argument
The British argue that the sculptures were legally obtained by Elgin and actually tell a different story in London where they have been for over 220 years. It is further argued that the British Museum is a universal museum and that the sculptures form an important part of their entire collection. They are prohibited by the British Museum Act by disposing of any part of their collection. The British government has repeatedly stated that it has no intention of changing this law and that it is up to the administrators. “It’s a classic cultural trap,” says Vardas.
I have been to the British Museum. I stood in the gallery where the sculptures are. There is nothing inspiring about the way they have been presented, and I could tell how truly glorious they would be if they were sent back to Athens, to the new Acropolis museum built especially for them, but remains empty and waits.
And to my father’s credit, he doesn’t stop at the marbles – he is passionate about other projects such as the Benin bronzes and closer to home, the Gweagal shield taken by Captain Cook. His work and his passion are honestly inspiring, and I am constantly impressed. Needless to say, I’m a very proud girl. He’s right – the time has come. It’s time for the Parthenon sculptures to go home.
Australians wishing to join the restitution cause can sign up for ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures’ here.