Greece accuses UK of using Parthenon Marbles as a political tool

Greece has slammed the UK for using the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, as a political tool to boost the popularity of Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of the next general election. The Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said that the UK’s decision to loan one of the sculptures to a museum in Sunak’s constituency was a “provocative act” and a “violation of international law”.

The Parthenon Marbles dispute

The Parthenon Marbles are a collection of ancient Greek sculptures, friezes, and architectural elements that once adorned the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena on the Acropolis of Athens. They were removed from the site by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the early 19th century and brought to Britain. They are currently displayed in the British Museum in London.

Greece has long demanded the return of the Parthenon Marbles, arguing that they are part of its cultural heritage and belong to the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which was built to house them. The UK has refused to give them back, claiming that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin and that they are better preserved and accessible in the British Museum.

The loan of the head of the river god Ilissos

The latest controversy erupted when the British Museum announced that it would loan the head of the river god Ilissos, one of the Parthenon Marbles, to the Bowes Museum in County Durham, England, for six months starting from November 2023. The Bowes Museum is located in the constituency of Sunak, who is widely seen as a potential successor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Greek Culture Minister Mendoni said that the loan was a “political move” by the UK to boost Sunak’s image and popularity ahead of the next general election, which is expected to take place in 2024. She said that the UK was using the Parthenon Marbles as a “bargaining chip” and a “tool of propaganda” to divert attention from the Brexit-related problems and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Greece accuses UK of using Parthenon Marbles as a political tool

She also said that the loan was a “violation of international law” and a “disrespect to the international community”, as the Parthenon Marbles are considered as a “symbol of democracy and Western civilization”. She reiterated Greece’s demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles and urged the UK to engage in a “constructive dialogue” on the issue.

The response of the British Museum and the UK government

The British Museum defended its decision to loan the head of the river god Ilissos, saying that it was part of its “commitment to sharing the collection as widely as possible across the UK”. It said that the loan was a “wonderful opportunity” for the visitors of the Bowes Museum to see the sculpture and to learn more about the ancient Greek culture and history.

The British Museum also said that the loan was not a political gesture and that it had nothing to do with Sunak’s role as the Chancellor or his constituency. It said that the loan was arranged before Sunak became the Chancellor and that it was based on the “artistic merit” of the Bowes Museum and its exhibition on the classical world.

The UK government also denied any political motive behind the loan, saying that it was a “cultural exchange” and a “generous gesture” by the British Museum. It said that the UK’s position on the Parthenon Marbles remained unchanged and that they were the “legal property” of the British Museum. It said that the UK was open to “cultural cooperation” with Greece, but not to the “unconditional return” of the Parthenon Marbles.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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