Parthenon Marble: A bitter question like never before

Two parents are holding a fragment of the Parthenon sent from Palermo to the Acropolis Museum on January 10, and its director, Nikolaos Stanpolidis, is watching over it. [ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS/REUTERS]

When I recently visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens, I was deeply moved.

The usual wonderful sensations and cultural feelings that always occur when looking at the marble of this magnificent museum, designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, are by looking at the marble shards that arrived from the Salinas Museum earlier this year. It was enhanced. Palermo. This is known as the Fagan fragment.

This fragment, part of the eastern freeze of the Parthenon, depicts part of Artemis’ feet and peplos and was acquired by the British Consulate Robert Fagan in Sicily in 1816. After his death in 1820, he was sold to the Royal University Museum of Palermo, where he was handed over to the Salinas Museum.

The top floor of the Acropolis Museum is a virtual reconstruction of the Parthenon, whose location and glass not only reflect this reconstruction, but also visually represent nearly 2,500 original works. Designed to link to. -An old building on the Acropolis Hill. Fagan shards are now housed in a glass case, in a reconstructed location and overlooking the actual historic site.

The fragments arrived in Athens in the first few weeks of January 2022 and were part of a cultural exchange program, initially offered as a long-term loan and later donated to a Greek museum. In return, the Greek loan is a headless statue of Athena in the 5th century BC and an amphora in the 8th century BC.

This trip was “stolen” by Thomas Bruce in the early 1800s, and was later made Sir Elgin, the British Constantinople ambassador, the way to the much more important and long-awaited journey of Beetball from the British Museum. Hope to open.

During the Ottoman occupation in Greece, Elgin apparently obtained Sultan’s permission to remove the marbles. These were then distributed in different locations (the same Fagan fragment was taken directly from Elgin). Some marbles were lost at sea during transportation, but most arrived at the British Museum.

This process, which is not considered a valid and genuine acquisition method in some areas, has sparked fierce international debate and has launched official requests for the return of marble by various Greek governments.

The top floor of the Acropolis Museum is a real reconstruction of the Parthenon, designed to be visually linked to the 2,500-year-old original building on the Acropolis Hill.

Nobel laureate Nadin Gordimer wrote in the preface to Christopher Hitchens’ wonderful book, Parthenon Marble, how the presence of marble in London represents the arrogant stone manifestation of the British colony, and marble. Emphasized how much they belong to. Their DNA in the art of the Greek people.

These sculptures by Phidias were wasted for almost 40 years in interviews on British television from various Greek governments (first by Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri in 1984) and more recently by Prime Minister Kiriacos Mitsutakis. I’ve been.

As a student, it should be noted that Boris Johnson wrote in an Oxford article: [these marbles] It is woven into the Greek identity. It would be great if they were returned. Later, Ed Vaizey, a former Minister of Culture of the Cameron government, recently said they should be in Athens.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens has moved the 10 pieces of the Parthenon to the Acropolis Museum, strengthening the unification process and sparking new debate about the restless demand for the return of marbles.

We hope that the exchange program with Sicily will lead to a solution for the return of marble, which will help strengthen Greece’s cultural identity and perhaps politically and economically. The country has made every effort to successfully re-emerge from the serious crisis of the last decade.

Perhaps as another sign that the flow is in favor of the return of marble, the Museum of Civilization and the Museum of Berlin Ethnology in Paris are returning African crafts that were improperly taken away during the colonial era to Nigeria. It was started. Benin City.

As a footnote, when I left the museum, I took the subway to my house at the Acropolis station. When I got off the platform, I was greeted by a huge photo of Melina Mercouri in front of the Parthenon. Wrapped in an elegant trench coat, with a bunch of wild flowers in hand, there is a huge, shining smile that looks even more today. radiation. The return process she began dreaming about probably gained some momentum.

Alfredo Cafasso Vitale is a freelance journalist and tour guide.

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