Look at the facts and decide for yourself
Justice is blind. And she’s been abducted.
The return of the Acropolis sculptures to Athens has been left pending for decades. The first claim was made by Otto (Othon), King of Greece on 24 June/6 July 1836, Royal Decree #125/46 (General State Archives), who requested the return of the frieze of Athena Nike’s temple to Greece. In more recent years, the Greek claim focused on the Parthenon sculptures (The Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles), while the case became widely known with Melina Mercouri’s appeal at the International Conference of Ministers of Culture in Mexico, August 1982. Despite global efforts and communications on the political level (claim by the State of Greece) and public involvement (polls, petitions, debates, demonstrations, initiatives), the claim remains unfulfilled by the British authorities.
The reunification of the Acropolis sculptures on the basis of good will would restore the meaning of the Acropolis as a monument that represents a movement towards a better state. That would add depth to the gesture itself, because the issue is not simply museological or cultural: the reunification of the Acropolis sculptures is a matter of ethics and justice. It’s about people and unity – setting something right.
Litigation, as a way of securing the return of the Sculptures to Athens, is indeed a possible approach supported both by members of the public and law professionals who are in favour of the return (relevant information can be found in the Books section). Although litigation could prove to be effective, the margins for the reconstruction of the meaning of the Acropolis through good will on behalf of the British authorities are not exhausted yet. It is true that, despite British PM David Cameron’s statement in February 2013, an increasing number of British citizens support the notion that the Sculptures belong to Athens and must be sent back to Greece.
A positive outcome that has certainly been produced by academic and legal research, which has also informed the consideration of litigation as an approach, is the identification of evidence that the removal of the Sculptures from Athens was done illegitimately. Although these facts may or may not be used in a legal case against the British authorities, they shed light on a historical act that had been portrayed differently for years. Thanks to scholarly research (Dr. Elena Korka, unpublished data), the true colours of Elgin’s act are known and the value of undoing such an act has now become even greater.
The essence of the return of the Sculptures does not lie within justice in its enforced delivery, but in its reconstruction as a common value recognised and enjoyed by citizens around the world. Ideally, the resolution of the issue should be reached through understanding, sincerity and respect.
Litigation now? Maybe (if there is no intention from the British side to do the right thing). Good will? Yes! Friendship should come first – either way.
Read the facts: The history of the Acropolis sculptures