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Letter From Athens: Set in Stone: Greece Will Never See Parthenon Marbles

March 21, 2021

The thieves of the British Museum, their country long used to plundering their colonies and other countries in search of real culture, will return to Greece the Parthenon Marbles stolen more than 200 years ago when:

  • Cyprus is reunited
  • Hell freezes over
  • Pigs fly
  • Greece stops begging, whining, and pleading and uses every means available – including international courts, naming and shaming
  • SYRIZA takes Greece out of NATO
  • None of the above

If you picked #6, bingo, you're a winner! But let's take a shot at #4 too.

British Prime Minister Boris ‘Stooge’ Johnson, who looks and sounds like a character Monty Python dreamed up, pretty much ended any hope or debate when he said the marbles were legally stolen by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin.

Johnson said that the marbles ripped off the Parthenon from 1801-12 are “legally owned by the British Museum's trustees,” because Elgin had permission to take them – from officials of the Ottoman Occupation who didn't own them.

“I understand the strong feelings of the Greek people – and indeed Prime Minister Mitsotakis – on the issue,” Johnson –  told the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

“But the UK government has a firm longstanding position on the sculptures which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s Trustees since their acquisition,” he added.

Eh! Wrong!

Johnson, whose great-grandfather was a Turkish journalist and government official, Ali Kemal Bey, murdered by a Turkish mob during the Greek-Turkish war in 1922, didn't have his facts straight, but then he never does.

In an interview with Greece's Ta Nea newspaper, Johnson – a former student of the Classics and much given to quoting Latin and Greek – reiterated that the British Museum was the legitimate owner of the marbles, as wrong as he was on Brexit.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni – echoing the late actress Melina Mercouri – said the marbles are Greek and added there's legal proof, but didn't explain why Greece isn't using it to go to a European court in the fight for their return.

“It is 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 and, therefore, neither has the British Museum ever acquired the Sculptures in a legitimate manner,” she said, before also being ignored.

Christopher Hitchens, the late, great British writer and champion of returning the marbles – including co-authoring a book – shamed his country's government in a way only he and Mercouri could, but neither of them got anywhere with their brilliance so why does Mendoni think there's a chance now, one New Democracy is afraid to take?

Greek officials like to pretend the Marbles will be returned, but that depends on the British Museum, whose curator Hartwig Fischer – a German probably hungering for the days when the Nazis stole art treasures – said their theft was a "creative act."

Mendoni, in over her head on this one because decency and rationale stand no chance against greed, ruthlessness, and unscrupulous people craving other people's cultural richness to replace their emptiness, thought her words would work as an appeal.

"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 said.

Wow, what a hard-hitting argument. It might have more weight if she were, you know, actually working in that direction, but this was just a platitudinous plate full of yesterday's B.S. with a little chicken spread on it.

Neither Greece nor the wonderful well-intentioned people in international groups – including in Britain – working to convince, press, urge, cajole, or persuade the British Museum troglodytes and politicians like No BoJo Rising Johnson – are going to win this.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a trump card but was afraid to use it – Greece being able to block terms of the UK's exit from the European Union. And even before then he almost begged for the British Museum to loan Greece the marbles for its Bicentennial celebration, offering to put up other artifacts as treasures.

That was no better than the former ruling Looney Left SYRIZA giving up a legal fight in which Greece hired Amal Clooney, the British barrister and wife of another Marbles champion, actor George Clooney, to take the case to court.

SYRIZA said the Marbles weren't Greek but belonged to the world, although they really belong to the British Museum because those stolen goods are gone forever, the British needing something other than Stonehenge, built by the same apes who constructed the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hitchens, now gone, had the last word on this argument when he was still with us.

“The Greeks still speak a version of what you can read in the inscriptions in Athens. There's a continuity to the claim there, and that temple is still their national symbol, as it is of the European Union. So, I think it's a very unique case – a live one, rather than a dead one."

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