Parthenon is a global monument and a symbol of western civilization. Parthenon stands in the middle of Athens, the city that took its name from the goodness protector of culture and education for 24 centuries. It will always be there, incised in the minds and the hearts of every human being on this earth, and this is what the trustees and the directors of the British Museum fail to recognize. It doesn’t matter what excuses they use for keeping the Parthenon Sculptures away from their natural place. For the people who visit the British museum, the exhibits will always be a result of receiving stolen goods, a result of receiving stolen monuments of the human civilization and that’s it.
I’m proud to be born in the city that has this monument, but I never thought that I own it; I always felt that this monument belongs to everybody. This is why I often write and I strongly believe that a visit to the Acropolis should be free of charge. Everybody should be free to visit this monument and share the pride of being a member of this superior creature called human, be proud of being part of the history and be proud of having this history behind us. You see, I always believed that Acropolis represents all of us, and in the shapes of the marbled men and women are the foundations of our society, our culture, and our achievements.
Parthenon and the whole Acropolis were barbarically victimized during those 24 centuries, because it was often seen as a threat. It was always a symbol of faith, belief, and a way of life that threatened even the mighty Ottoman Empire. Even Christians didn’t dare to build a small church in the perimeters of the Parthenon, but in the end even they respected its quiet force and power. The Nazis, who in the 20th century didn’t respect human life, were forced to respect it and bow in front this magnificent monument.
It took an Englishman to do the worst barbarism of all. Lord Elgin’s crime was not only that he stole part of the Parthenon and destroyed parts of it, but he was fully aware of his act and the meaning of it. Lord Elgin proved that there is always a very dark side to human nature. Most people manage to handle it, but I blame human nature because I cannot believe that he did this act in order to preserve history, as often has been the excuse for it.
If Lord Elgin wanted to preserve history, he could have started in England by protecting Stonehenge, a monument of 44 centuries that has often been vandalized by pagan followers, druids and their rivals. He could have put some of these rocks in his garden, like he did with some of the most beautiful amphora and examples of Greek art. If he wanted something more challenging, he could have gone after the Excalibur; he didn’t have to steal something that didn’t belong to his ancestors. I’m sorry to say, but the only motivation I can see behind his act is envy. Lord Elgin lived during a period when western civilization was searching for it roots, and it had turned to the Greek civilization, which had made royal palaces in Corinthian style, decorated with columns and Greek statuses. So he did what every thief does, he stole what he couldn’t have or create.
Now, whatever Lord Elgin’s family and his heirs want to believe, and whatever the British Museum says, Lord Elgin was judged and sentenced to be remembered as a barbarian in history. Somebody who stole something from all of us, and through his act he destroyed a big part of the rest. But what can you say about the trustees and directors of the British Museum today? They face an international outcry and still they stubbornly insist of being part of a crime, in legal terms being the other part of receiving stolen goods and having paid for it.
The Parthenon Sculptures must return to their home, not only because they were stolen, but because it will be an act of apology for a barbaric act, and the British nation has proved many times that is not a barbaric nation. Lord Byron died in Greece fighting barbarians and protecting the same things Lord Elgin destroyed. T.S. Eliot wrote hymns and Shakespeare was inspired by the same culture. The British museum trustees and directors have no right to ignore their own culture by continuing this crime. The saddest part of all is that the British Museum itself continued the barbarisms over the Parthenon Sculptures. First they destroyed the top layer that was there to protect them, thinking that they were cleaning them by making them …more white. And later, only a few years ago, they used the exhibition hall that hosts the Parthenon Sculptures to organize big parties, where people were smoking cigars, drinking champagne and eating snacks! The trustees and directors not only have to apologize to Acropolis by returning the Parthenon Sculptures, but they have to apologize to the whole world for the stupidity and barbarism of some of their members.
The Acropolis Museum, Melina Mercury’s dream, is open and there is a space there, waiting for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. Over the next days, weeks, months and years, millions of people will be reminded that there is something missing in the museum. Something that was stolen and it doesn’t matter what excuses the trustees and the directors of the British Museum will use. In the minds and hearts of people, the thing missing was stolen by a Brit, and it is now being exhibited brassily in the British Museum!
By Thanos Kalamidas