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Editorial

A Major Step towards the Repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles

After centuries, to paraphrase the headline of the New York Times, the Parthenon Sculptures have become a front-page story for a New York newspaper with international influence.

This, obviously, is no accident. On the contrary. It is proof of the progress made in the – secret, of course – negotiations between the Greek Prime Minister and the British Museum, despite the serious differences that still exist.

Moreover, it is proof of the international interest in this case.

Otherwise, one of the world’s leading newspapers would not have placed this issue in such a prominent position, indeed with a 4-column headline, on its front page.

The question that arises is, why now? Is it because the issue has finally matured?

Without any inclination to politicize a national issue, the answer is that such issues do not… mature on their own. They are the consequence of the engineering of relevant circumstances in which the party concerned is forced to react.

In other words, it is not enough to give passionate speeches, inspiring ecstasy in an audience or setting aflame public opinion for the return of the sculptures. We have had several cases of this in the past.

Instead, a prerequisite is the invalidation of the arguments of the opposing side, the crushing of their ‘weapons’.

The main arguments of the British Museum for keeping the Sculptures were twofold:

First, the lack of a suitable museum in Athens to house them, compared to the world-famous British Museum, and second, the unattractive general situation in Greece.

Their first argument collapsed with the creation of the Acropolis Museum, now one of the leading museums in the world, which maintains a specially designed space for the return of the sculptures.

And the second has been dissolved by the effectiveness of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture, as well as with the general orientation in which Kyriakos Mitsotakis has set the country.

Thus, the British, lacking arguments, are forced to negotiate with Greece in the hope that they will secure whatever consideration can be obtained regarding the repatriation of the Sculptures.

It is a position that is full of holes, and which over time will be drained of more and more of its substance. And in the end – assuming the situation in Athens remains positive – they will be forced to listen to the voice of reason and the global outcry and return the Sculptures to their rightful owners.

Note: This commentary expresses my personal opinion and not the views of the Acropolis Museum, which I serve as a member of its Board of Directors.

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