LONDON – A war of words broke out yesterday between the United Kingdom and Greece over the Parthenon marbles. The diplomatic imbroglio led to the cancellation of a meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The Parthenon Marbles are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures that originally adorned the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. These sculptures were created by the ancient Greek sculptor Phidias and his assistants in the 5th century BCE.
From a pagan perspective, the Parthenon Marbles are rich in stories relevant to modern Hellenistic paths and revivals. The marbles include depictions of mythical stories and figures, such as scenes from the Panathenaic procession, which was an important religious festival in ancient Athens. These scenes often involve gods, goddesses and mythical creatures. The marbles also feature scenes of religious rituals and ceremonies, reflecting the importance of religion in ancient Greek culture. These scenes often depict individuals engaged in various aspects of worship and sacrifice.
In the early 19th century, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed a significant portion of these sculptures from the Parthenon while he was British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which then controlled Greece. Elgin claimed to have obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities, who then ruled Athens, to remove the marbles.
The Elgin Marbles include friezes, metopes and statues depicting various scenes from Greek mythology and religious rituals. The British Museum has owned them since 1832 and their collection represents the majority of the surviving marbles.
The ownership and display of these marbles has been a source of controversy and a subject of ongoing debate between Greece and the United Kingdom, with Greece advocating for the repatriation of the marbles.
In a BBC interview on Sunday, Mitsotakis compared the British Museum’s conservation of the marbles to splitting the Mona Lisa in two. The Greek government has maintained that the Parthenon Marbles belong to and within the Parthenon.
Sunak walked out of the meeting after Mitsotakis refused to assure that the meeting between the two leaders would not be an opportunity to push for the return of the marbles in a “public forum”.
We also hate to keep asking, but this is serious. The costs also hit us.
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A spokesman for Sunak said the Prime Minister believed discussions with his Greek counterpart after the BBC comment were likely to be “dominated” by the row over the sculptures. “There were assurances that it would not be used as a public platform. We saw this happen during a previous visit with a previous Prime Minister in 2021. The assurances were not met and so the Prime Minister took the decision,” the spokesperson said.
“Obviously ministers and leaders are able to express their views as they wish, but I think the Prime Minister believes that if assurances are given as part of agreements before a meeting… they should be respected and I think that’s what the public would want. expect in any area of life.
Mitsotakis’ aides called Sunak’s last-minute cancellation “wrong and outrageous”. The cancellation of the meeting limits dialogue on international events. In a statement, the Greek Prime Minister said: “I (wish) to express my displeasure that the British Prime Minister canceled our planned meeting a few hours before the scheduled date… Greece and Britain are united by traditionally strong ties. of friendship and the framework of our bilateral relations is exceptionally broad. Greece’s views of the Parthenon sculptures are well known.
“I had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss this with my British counterpart as well as other international challenges: Gaza; Ukraine; the climate crisis; migration,” he added.
Mitsotakis concluded his statement by criticizing Sunak for failing to rise to the challenge of addressing the fate of antiquities, which has given rise to the longest-running cultural conflict in the West. “Those who believe in the rightness and justice of their opinions never hesitate to confront opposing arguments,” he says.
The back-and-forth criticism also raised the breach of protocol by the Greek delegation during its meeting with Labor leader Keir Starmer.
The new diplomatic row is also generating tensions in relations between the EU and the United Kingdom. An EU official was quoted as saying: “If you want to be a global Britain, open to the world, based on international values and diplomacy, you keep talking to your friends because of a problem that has been going on for 200 years old. Not committing is a problem.
“I understand the game being played in Britain, which will probably hold elections in 2024… (Sunak) is struggling, as the polls clearly show,” a Greek government spokesperson said.
In Pagan Community Notes we noted that George Osborne, the president of the British Museum has recently made statements which perhaps reflect a change in attitude among the trustees of the British Museum. Osborne said in an interview that “a deal has to be made so that we can tell both stories in Athens and in London if we both approach this issue without a bunch of preconditions, without a bunch of red lines… Sensible people could arrange something that gives up most of the Parthenon marbles, but if either side declares that there is nothing to give up, then there will be no deal. »
The Wild Hunt already commented on this issue in an editorial Theft and woes at the British Museum should lead to change.