The legendary Melina Mercouri who was a very famous Greek actress, singer, socialist and politician received an Academy Award nomination and won a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award for her performance in the film Never on Sunday. Melina in her determined campaign for the return of the Parthenon marbles to their home in Athens had said to the British Authorities: “You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to us. They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are the supreme symbol of nobility. They are a tribute to democratic philosophy. They are our aspiration and our name. They are the essence of Greekness”.
It seems like everyone is for the return of the Parthenon marbles, except Britain. UK PM Boris Johnson ruled out the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in a statement to Greek newspaper Ta Nea, he stated: “The British government has a long standing firm position on the sculptures, they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin, in accordance with the laws in force at the time, and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s Trustees since their acquisition.”
Boris added that he understands the strong feelings of the Greek people and those of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on this issue. The UK Prime Minister further said “The rightful owners are the British Museum since they came into their possession.”
On Friday, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni challenged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s arguments about the so-called “Elgin Marbles”, alleging that evidence exists to prove how the Parthenon sculptures were ILLEGALLY removed from the Acropolis by Britain’s Lord Elgin in the early 1800’s.
“Upon careful review of the statements made by UK Prime Minister Mr Boris Johnson, 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 that show that there 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,” Mendoni said in an open letter.
“The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people how the British Museum possesses the sculptures illegally,” she said. “For Greece, the British Museum does not have legitimate ownership or possession of the sculptures.”
Boris Johnson’s words seemingly puts an end to speculation that Britain could consider the return or lending of the Marbles at a historical time when Greece will celebrate 200 years of the War of Independence from 1821 to 2021 on March 25, 2021.
The Greek PM, Mitsotakis, in 2019, even called for his British counterpart to engage in a large cultural swap of Ancient Greek treasures that have never been displayed abroad before to be exhibited in London in exchange for the Parthenon sculptures being returned to their home in Athens for at least the 2021 Greek Independence celebrations.
Earlier this month, George Clooney called again for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in communications with Janet Suzman, the Chairwoman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. Clooney told Suzman:
“There are indeed many objects of historical value that must be returned to their original owners. However, none of them is as important as the Marbles of the Parthenon.”