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The Parthenon Marbles are Greek: No Loan

The National Herald

Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, at the British Museum. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Marcos Houzouris)

New Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis didn’t want Greece to give away the name of Macedonia but seems perfectly willing to give away the Parthenon Marbles for good and let the British Museum, which houses the stolen goods, keep them.

Mitsotakis – whose father, the late former Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis let a new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991 use the name Macedonia in the acronym Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – said he wants the British Museum to pretty please consider lending Greece its own marbles for part of the 2021 anniversary celebrating independence from the Turks – who let Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin take them.

Asking for a loan for something you own cedes away the ownership to the person who stole them and if he agrees to any deal consecrating that arrangement it would be his Macedonia, his downfall, just as former Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras fell when he let FYROM be called North Macedonia.

If someone steals your car and says you can use it from time to time if you sign a paper stipulating it belongs to them and not you, it belongs to them and not you, and any agreement giving away Greece’s ownership would besmirch the efforts of international and Diaspora groups fighting for decades to get them back, as well as The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, which is on Greece's side.

Since the British don't have a real culture, preferring to colonize other countries for generations and steal theirs, they can only point to the pile of rocks called Stonehenge, which looks like something the ancient Greeks tossed on a pile when they were building the Parthenon, still the treasure of the world.

Under the British Museum's argument, accepting or buying stolen property is acceptable, although if you tried to bring a rock out of Greece from an archaeological site now you'd be in handcuffs faster than you can say, “but Lord Elgin did it!”

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston by two men posing as police officers who got a guard to open the door.

They took perhaps the world's greatest work of art, Rembrandt's painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, finished in 1633, along with his A Lady and Gentleman in Black, and Vermeer's The Concert, one of only 34 in the world by him.

So under the British Museum Rules, if whoever stole it sells it – or already has – then the paintings belong to the person who acquired stolen property, not the Gardner Museum. Why don't other museums use that? What a great idea to get stolen antiquities and art and keep them.

Mitsotakis, in a losing gambit, told the Observer newspaper he's willing to allow ancient treasures to be exhibited in London in exchange for a loan of the Parthenon Marbles – which the British call The Elgin Marbles after the thief who stole them, with the consent of the occupying Ottoman Empire, which didn't own them. Whose idea was that?

“As a first move, loan me the sculptures for a certain period of time and I will send you very important artifacts that have never left Greece to be exhibited in the British Museum,” he said. Your honor, my defendant pleads guilty but declares his innocence.

“Of course our demand for the return of the sculptures remains in place,” said Mitsotakis. “I don’t think (Britain) should be fighting a losing battle. Eventually this is going to be a losing battle,” without realizing he lost it the moment he asked for a loan of what Greece owns, the Brits wanting him to concede legally they are the owners.

In so asking, pleading really, which is beneath him, he showed none of the resolve of the late great actress and former Culture Minister Melina Mercouri who defined for the world that the marbles are great, shaming the shameless British. “The Parthenon Marbles they are. There are no such things as the Elgin Marbles,” she said in a memorable moment at an Oxford Union 1986 debate.

What Mitsotakis needs is what Mercouri had, to bring out the Spartans, 7000 Macedonians in full-battle array, ratchet up the heat, get the Diaspora and Philhellenes around the world to demand the return of the marbles, go back to court with Amal Clooney, embarrass and shame and cajole and raise the sword, not the white flag that Greeks have never done, never relent, never, never surrender, raise a stink even the British can smell.

Listen to Mercouri because her voice still resounds: “You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to us. They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are our noblest symbol of excellence. They are a tribute to the democratic philosophy. They are our aspirations and our name. They are the essence of Greekness.”

So if he insists on a loan, there's a way he can save himself and the treasures and Greece's history. When the time comes to return them – don't. And when the British tell him to send them back he has another answer from Greece's past. Molon Labe. Come and take them.