The Parthenon is an ecumenical archaeological symbol and so is the demand for the return of its marbles to their homeland, archaeologist Anna Marangou has told the Cyprus News Agency in an interview.
Replying to questions in her capacity as Vice Chairwoman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, she said that a process of consultations with the British Museum`s authorities to reach an arrangement for the return of the marbles to Athens in exchange for a permanent loan of antiquities.
The interview with Marangou took place in the context of a campaign which was launched recently by Cyprus News Agency for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, which has so far been signed by hundreds of people.
The Cypriot archaeologist thanked the Cyprus News Agency for its significant initiative 200 years after the marbles were removed from their natural environment.
As Vice Chairwoman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, she said, “I would like to thank CNA from the bottom of my heart for this initiative, which we consider very important. Let us not forget that we are also one of the great parts of Hellenism and the history of the Parthenon is of particular significance to us when one thinks of the great cultural heritage we have and its destruction after the 1974,” Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
“Therefore Cyprus could not have been absent from this effort,” Marangou pointed out.
From an archaeological point of view the return of the marbles is “self-evident because the Parthenon is an international symbol and when you visit it you see thousands of people from all over the world.”
The Parthenon, she explained, “is not just a symbol which belongs to Greece. The Parthenon is now ecumenical and when an ecumenical construction is missing its half, then we have an argument to put forward.”
The International Association, Marangou explained, is not asking for the Caryatid from Erechtheion at the Athens Acropolis back. “Of course we would like it back, if they (the British) gave it to us. What we want is the restoration of the monument as it was,” she said. It is a monument which consists of its columns and the parts that are missing are integral parts of the monument, she added.
The Erechteion had two porches. The roof of the north porch was supported on six Ionic columns, while below its floor the Athenians pointed at the mark of the thunderbolt sent by Zeus to kill the legendary King Erechteus. At the south porch, which was the most well-known, the roof was supported by six statues of maidens known as the Caryatids, instead of the typical columns. Below it stood the grave of Kekrops, another legendary King of Athens. A building inscription of the Erechtheion refers to the Caryatids simply as Korai (maidens), while the name Caryatids was assigned at a later time. The second Korai from the western section was removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 and is today located in the British Museum.
She also explained that Greece does not want to follow the legal route for the return of the marbles as lawyer Amal Clooney, who specialises in international law, human rights and the return of stolen antiquities has suggested.
What Greece wants is mediation and this will be a priority for the new Chairman of the International Association, who is a very important scientist, a Belgian, who is also an adviser of the Italian President on the return of stolen relics, who is also fluent in the Greek language, she added.
“The Greek government will ask the British government for the return of the marbles,” she said, adding that this is something which UNESCO can do only as an inter-state process.
When the proposal was put forward for this mediation, she noted, Britain typically replied that it has nothing to do with the British Museum, which has its own administrative structure and referred us to the British Museum.
According to Marangou the new International Association`s council intends to meet with the British Museum`s administration and put forward the argument giving many examples of the return of many other antiquities.
“What we want is for a win-win situation,” she pointed out, adding that the British Museum should return the Parthenon marbles and Greece will commit to granting the museum important pieces from its collections so that the British Museum will have a continuous relationship with the Greek government for its collections./ΙΒΝΑ