Acropolis Museum Opening Thoughts
After the Walkthrough and still in admiration of the achievements of the ancient Greeks you automatically wonder about the empty spaces and copies exposed on the third floor where the Parthenon Marbles are exposed.
British Colonial Barbarism
When in the 19th century the British Colonial power controlled Athens, many crimes were committed against what today is considered as a cultural heritage of humanity. Not only did they knock off all the sexes of male sculptures ( wonder what the colonials had to fear when having to stand comparison …Â :-)), but the famous Thomas Bruce Elgin decided to grab some of the most beautiful marbles from the Parthenon (main temple) and other monuments of the Acropolis and to ship them back to England. ( A whole shipload sank on the way and has never been recovered.)
Vandalism: Thomas Bruce Elgin
“Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799â€“1803, had obtained a controversial permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Acropolis. From 1801 to 1812 Elgin’s agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum.
The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, Elgin was criticised for his actions, labeled by some as vandalism, and some contemporaries described him as a looter. However, following a public debate in Parliament and subsequent exoneration of Elgin’s actions, the marbles were purchased by the British Government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery.
The legality of the removal has been questioned and the debate continues as to whether the Marbles should remain in the British Museum or be returned to Athens.” (Wikipedia)
Absent Turkish Prime Minister
In short: The Turks who at that time still occupied Greece authorized the English to loot Greek cultural heritage; no wonder the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan found a last minute excuse for not attending the opening ceremony of the Acropolis Museum yesterday.
To the Turks’ defense let’s note that during their 400 years of occupying Greece, they did not harm the cultural heritage from the 5th century BC until the vandals from Britain showed up.
Absent: British Government
No wonder either that no British government member showed up either amongst the over 400 guests from all over the world; the Brits sent down Bonnie Greer deputy chair of the British Museum’s board of trustees. The poor lady seems to be one of the last defenders of British colonial looting and barbarism, but then she has not much of a choice: if the Brits had to return all objects of theft to former colonies and war opponents they accumulate in their British Museum, the remains would most likely not justify her job.
Criminals usually like to return to the scene of crime but not for the reconstitution of the same.
Diplomatic Karamanlis at the Opening of the Acropolis Museum
The absence of the Turks and the Brits has been noticed even if Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis, diplomatically, didn’t express clearly what 10 million Greeks felt.
Greek Culture and theft of Artifacts
The Marbles exposed at the British Museum are the live testimonial of colonial robbery. The question is: why did colonial powers grab, steal and export artifacts?
It seems, that the colonials were aware of the power of art and culture the more that the Brits had never created anything comparable worth while envying them fore. Who had ever the idea to go and grab a few rocks from Stonehenge?
Greek Culture has spread all around the Mediterranean basin, throughout Europe and deep into Asia. Brits, Spanish, Portuguese and French brought it to the Americas.
What did we get back in exchange? Rock ‘n’ Roll and Hamburgers; not sure the Rock-Burger-Culture will last for 2500 years.
During 2000 years of occupancy by Romans, Turks, Venetians and many others, Greece and Greek culture has survived due to the strong roots, the cultural heritage and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Nevertheless, theft of art and artifacts has a long tradition. In recent years we have seen other acts of cultural barbarism in Afghanistan for example, where the Taliban destroyed systematically cultural heritage.
Second World War was another period where cultural goods were stolen (many have been handed back since). First the Germans looted Museums in conquered lands, then the occupants stole German Heritage as well as what the Germans had stolen first. Ask the Americans, Russians and French.
Further Back, Napoleon was another ace as well as his successors: the Louvre in Paris is a beautiful example of colonial looting. One day may be excuses will not be enough and objects will be returned to where they had been taken away from.
The Role of Museums
The Acropolis Museum is a showcase of ancient Greek Art and Culture. It’s purpose is, amongst others, to collect and preserve testimonials of a cultural past, of the roots of THE Culture which is at the base of Western, Jewish and Christian evolution.
The British Museum, as well as the Louvre are places where Governments have created showcases of political, colonial and strategic achievement. A showcase of conquest. A demonstration of power and submission of other people.
Museums of colonial powers have a similar role as the Roman tradition to bring back home riches, material signs of conquest … and slaves.
“Evolution” is when a woman of African origin becomes a Trustee of a collection representing British Colonial Power, Barbarism and Looting and claims that the Greek Marbles should remain in London.