Greek Culture Minister: Britain’s Claim to Parthenon Marbles “Illegal”

New historical data concerning the Ottoman occupation of Greece refutes the British Museum's ongoing legal claim to the Parthenon marbles.

The latest historical research proves that the British Museum has no legitimate claim to the Parthenon Marbles and that their presence in the UK is illegal, Greece’s Culture minister has said.

Lina Mendoni was responding to recent comments by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where he repeated the UK position that the sculptures were legally acquired by Lord Elgin based on the laws of that time and that the trustees of the British Museum were thus their legal owner.

Mendoni said Johnson’s comments made it “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.

“Therefore, neither has the British Museum ever acquired the sculptures in a legitimate manner. The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people that the British Museum holds the sculptures illegally.”

“For Greece, the British Museum does not have legitimate ownership or possession of the Sculptures. The Parthenon, as a symbol of UNESCO and Western Civilization, reflects universal values. We are all obliged to work towards this direction,” she concluded.

Prominent figures involved in the international campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles have applauded Mendoni’s response to the British prime minister.

“Despite the fact that Prime Minister Johnson has studied the classics in depth, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of informing people, even here in Greece, as they do not know exactly what it is we are asking to be returned and are not aware of the precise circumstances of its looting,” said Christiane Tytgat, chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Underling that “neither Athens, nor Rome, were built in a day”, she indicated that the campaign would continue for as long as it takes.

The association’s honorary chair Louis Godart also congratulated and expressed “deep gratitude” to Mendoni for her “wonderful reply to Boris Johnson” and pledged to continue the struggle for the return of “the sculptures of Pheidias and I have no doubt that we will ultimately succeed.”

The deputy chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Paul Cartledge, also welcomed the minister’s swift reply.

Similar messages of support were received from the national committees for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

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